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Monday, August 31, 2015

For the Sake of the One Inside You

A few nights ago I was having trouble sleeping, so my mind wandered hither and yon to a variety of crazy thoughts.  One such thought was the memory of a show I had watched several weeks ago.  One of the female characters had just discovered she was going to have a baby, but she didn't want anyone to know yet.  On two different occasions, she picked up a glass of wine, took a sip, then comically dribbled the wine back into the glass when she realized what she was doing.

Obviously, the woman was concerned about the effects the wine would have on her unborn child, and for that, I applaud her.  But isn't it funny that she wasn't equally concerned about the effects the wine would have on her own body?  From the way she grabbed the glass and sipped on the liquid, it was obvious that she had no problems drinking wine normally.  But things were different now, and she had to change her entire way of thinking and living because of the one living inside of her.

All of us who are Christians have Someone living inside of us too, and that Someone should cause us to live and think differently.  Things that we would normally do no longer seem appropriate.  Things that used to come naturally to us now don't seem like such a good idea after all.  In a sense, we've made changes for the One inside of us--changes that we wouldn't have normally made for ourselves.  At least, that's how it should be.

Unfortunately, there are too many people in the world today that are walking around claiming the name of Christ, but nothing about them seems to have changed.  They still hang around the same crowd and tell the same dirty jokes.  They cling to unhealthy habits that are destroying the temple of the Holy Ghost.  They don't go to church on any regular basis.  They spend far more time talking about their favorite sport or their weekend at the lake than they do talking about things of any spiritual importance.  We can't judge the heart, mind you, but on the surface, everything looks "normal."  But it shouldn't!

Please understand, I'm not saying that we should all go around quoting Scripture to everyone we meet and putting on a show so that others will think we're spiritual.  That's what the Pharisees did, and Jesus didn't care much for their approach.  That's not what I'm saying here.  All I'm saying is that things change when the Holy Spirit moves in, and if you're living the same life that you did before you got saved, you may want to check up on that.  If nothing is different, then there's definitely a problem.  You see, just like the pregnant woman in the show, you may not be doing things differently for you, but you should have a longing to live differently for the sake of the One inside you.  If you're not, why not?

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. - Ezekiel 36:27

Friday, August 28, 2015

Whose Voice Is That?

Yesterday, during my lunch break, I decided to sit back and watch an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  I enjoy the fun, clean comedy almost as much as I enjoy seeing actors who were "nobody" at that time but went on to play powerful roles and become household names in the following years.

On this particular episode, there was a door-to-door salesman that had not appeared in any earlier episodes.  It didn't take me long, however, to realize that I knew the actor.  But try as I might, I could not figure out who he was.  In fact, to look at him, I didn't recognize him at all.  But his voice.  There was something about his voice.  It was driving me crazy, so I determined that if I hadn't figured it out by the end of the show, I'd look it up on IMDB.  (I don't know about you, but that sort of thing drives me nuts!)

As the show neared its end, I decided to try a different tactic.  I closed my eyes and focused on the voice, nothing else.  That was all it took.  Immediately, I had my answer, and I understood why I recognized the voice and not the face.  The actor was the original voice of Winnie the Pooh.  No wonder I was having such difficulty!

As I thought about it later, I realized that I have the same problem quite frequently in life.  In fact, few days pass by without me uttering the question, "Whose voice is that?"  That may sound a bit crazy, and this will sound even more so:  I hear voices on a regular basis.  Voices that tell me what to do, where to go, what to think and how to feel.  Voices that make excuses.  Voices that complain.  Voices that argue.  Voices that console, convince and connive.  And amidst all that noise, there is only one Voice of Truth.

With every decision I make, I have to stop and ask myself, "Whose voice is that?"  You see, I want to ensure I'm in the Lord's will.  I want to be certain that I'm following His path and not my own.  I want to ensure that His voice is the one I'm heeding and not one of the myriad of other voices droning about in my head.

Unfortunately, I don't have the advantage of looking up IMDB and discovering whose voice is whose.  I do, however, have the advantage of learning to recognize the Master's voice.  It isn't easy, and it certainly takes time, but as with any learning experience, the more time I spend at it, the more I will be able to recognize.  The more I listen to Him, the more familiar His voice will become.  And who knows, maybe there will come a day when I don't have to ask, "Whose voice is that?" for I'll know without a shadow of a doubt.

And it won't be Winnie the Pooh!

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: - John 10:27

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Have You Seen My Crown?

Hear ye, hear ye!

Last Saturday was just about as close to Heaven on earth as is possible for me.  A group from our church had the opportunity to visit Medieval Times near Atlanta, GA.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, Medieval Times is a dinner show that showcases knights in full costume on horseback, demonstrating the various events of the times.  There was a jousting tournament, a game of rings, sword fighting, falcon training, dancing horses and so much more.  Words just cannot describe the experience.  You had to be there to appreciate how exciting it was. . .especially for a certain redhead who loves all things medieval.

To top it all off, someone in our group (though no one will admit who) made the arrangements for me to receive my royal title from the king himself.  Yes, I was called forward to stand before the king who placed his sword on one shoulder then the next and dubbed me "Lady Dana, Princess of the Realm."  Me, a princess?  I smiled so much that, by the end of the day, my face hurt.  I honestly can't remember the last time I had been so excited and had so much fun.

But as I lay in bed that night recalling the day's events, I wondered why every day isn't filled with such joy.  After all, I've been a princess for over thirty years now.  As a child, I asked Jesus to save me, and I immediately became a child of the King, which makes me royalty.  So, when did I lose that excitement?  When did being an heir to the kingdom of Heaven become a "ho-hum" affair?  I get to stand before my King each and every day, as much as I want, for as long as I want.  So why doesn't that cause me to grin from ear to ear like I did on Saturday?

For those of us who are saved, may we never forget what that salvation cost us.  And may we never lose sight of how exciting it is to be children of the King.  Each day should be a new cause for celebration, an exciting opportunity to serve our Father and King.  A chance to thrive, not merely survive.

So I ask you, my lords and ladies, when was the last time your royal standing caused you to grin until your face hurt?  It's something worth thinking about today.

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? - James 2:5

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Other Miracles

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. - John 20:30

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. - John 21:25

I love books!  I just can't help myself.  Old books, new books.  It doesn't matter.  I love to read, and I'm thrilled to surround myself with good books.  Want to see Dana happy?  Give her a book or let her wander around a bookstore or library.  Yes, if I had my way (and, of course, the funds), my personal library would be extensive.  I'd have walls full of bookshelves, each covered with books of inspiration, action and adventure, romance, fantasy and vital information.  My dream home has its own private library with floor to ceiling bookcases.  Ah, just thinking about it makes me drool.

But according to John, even the Library of Congress couldn't house all the books of miracles and acts of Jesus.  The entire world is insufficient to hold the volumes.  Wouldn't you love to know what those miracles were?  Perhaps you could find your own story within those omitted miracles.  A story that is not present elsewhere in the Bible.

I find no tale of the dedicated writer who suffers from shoulder bursitis.

There is no mention of the hard-working man who is forced to forsake his passions and talents in order to work a dead-end job that barely pays the bills.

Where is the woman who is barren for life, never receiving the child for which she so longs?

And how about the quadruple amputee?  Where is his story? 

Could these tales and more be part of those volumes that John never penned?  Is it possible one of the other miracles is your story -- the one to which you could cling for hope and reassurance?  What do we do with the specific circumstances in our lives that the Bible doesn't seem to address?  Can we still find peace and comfort within its pages?  Does it still have the answers we need?

In a word, yes.  While each specific situation is not detailed within God's Word, the principles and promises contained therein are the same and are still applicable.  For the dedicated writer, she can find solace in the story of Paul's thorn and God's promise that His grace would be sufficient in spite of the suffering.  For the hard-working man, he can rest in the promise that all things work together for good and that God has a specific plan for his life that will be revealed at the proper time.  The barren woman can find strength in Paul's proclamation that he would be content no matter what.  And as for the quadruple amputee, his comfort can be found in the book of Jeremiah where God declares: 
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.

"But what if I want more?" you ask.  "What if I need more than generic verses?  What if I long for answers to my specific questions?"

I can't answer that, but I can tell you that God left out those "other miracles" for a reason.  It wasn't a mistake.  They weren't overlooked or forgotten.  It was part of His great plan.  Maybe because God knew it was easier for us to accept things when we could see the plan and trace the pattern.  But that's not really faith, now is it?  We can't exercise faith if we understand the outcome.  Could it be that the omission of these other stories was for our good?  Through their absence, God has given us room to grow in our faith, to learn to accept things whether we understand them or not.  He has given us the opportunity to trust Him all the more.

We don't need to see the blueprints.  We don't need to know the outcome.  We don't need a Biblical account that matches our own lives and circumstances.  What we need is God's grace.  

And that, my friend, is what He freely offers day after day.

Stop looking for the answers and just trust God.  He knows what He's doing.  Nothing takes Him by surprise.  He is familiar with your story, and He's already written the outcome.  Trust in His Word, His power and His plan.  He has everything under control. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Caution! Turns Ahead!

Sometimes we come to life's crossroads and view what we think is the end, 
But God has a much wider vision, and He knows it's only a bend.
The road will go on and get smoother, and after we've stopped for a rest, 
The path that lies hidden beyond us is often the part that is best.
So rest and relax and grow stronger; let go and let God share your load, 
And have faith in a brighter tomorrow; you've just come to a bend in the road.
Helen Steiner Rice

A bend in the road.  Scary thought, isn't it?  I mean the road has been rough enough, but now there's a bend too?  A bend that we can't see beyond.  A bend that could be hiding any number of possibilities from our view.  A bend that could change everything, and let's face it--change frightens us.  

I'm reminded of a roller coaster.  I love the crazy things.  Big hills?  Bring it on.  Twisty turns?  That's the way I like it.  Corkscrew loops?  Oh, yeah!  Pitch black?  Um, now wait a minute.  Yes, you've discovered my weakness--I'm scared of the dark.  Well, not really, but a roller coaster that I would enjoy in the light has the tendency to bring me to the brink of terror in the dark.  I don't mind the hills, the corkscrews, the twists and the turns. . .as long as I know they're coming.  In the darkness, I can't see, so I don't know what to expect.  And somehow, that uneasiness of the unknown turns my adrenalin rush into genuine fear.

The unknown has a way of doing that, doesn't it?  That's why those bends in the road cause such anxiety.  But could it be that we're missing something?  Could it be that we're so worked up about the unknown and the path that is hidden from view that we're missing one of the biggest results of a bend in the road?  We know that God has a purpose for everything.  He doesn't place bends in the road for no reason, and I think one of those reasons is to make us slow down.

Think about it, when we're driving and we come up to a bend in the road, what do we do?  We hit the brakes, right?  Most of us (and I say "most" because I've seen some drivers that might not qualify for this statement) wouldn't dream of hitting that bend at our current speed.  That speed is meant for straightaways, not for curves.  So, out of good sense and a desire to stay safe, we slow down and take the bend at a reduced speed.

Perhaps that is all God is trying to do with our current bends in the road.  He wants us to slow down.  He desires for us to be still.  He longs for us to take some time to just be.  It is during those times that we can feel His closeness and hear His voice.  How many times have we missed it because there's too much to do, because we were simply speeding through life?

A few weeks ago, I started the routine of taking an afternoon nap.  I know it sounds crazy, but I was tired of feeling like a hamster on a wheel.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  Too much to do, not enough time and energy to get it all done.  You know the routine, right?  At first, I argued that I couldn't give up an hour of my time each day.  I already wasn't getting everything done.  I also argued that I don't like naps and that I would never be able to sleep in the middle of the afternoon.

Well, so far, I haven't slept during a single nap, but I have gotten still, and in that stillness each day, I've felt my joy and peace being restored.  So much so that I was much more happy and productive in the afternoon than I had been before I started napping.  There's just something about getting the body (and the mind) still for a while, and honestly, I think far too many of us are racing around the curves instead of using those bends in the road as a sign to slow down.

I know there's a lot to do.  Trust me, I understand.  But may I remind you that "Be still and know that I am God" is not a request or suggestion?  It's a command.  How many of us are heeding it?

Are you facing a bend in the road?  Is that sense of uneasiness getting out of control?  Take it easy.  God is working all things for your good, so whatever is waiting around the bend is a good thing.  In the meantime, slow down and enjoy the ride.  After all, the Driver has it under control.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. - Psalm 46:10

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Surrounded by Questions

I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me. - Psalm 38:8-10

I think I was the embodiment of this passage yesterday.  No, I'm not going through any major catastrophe (at least, I don't think I am).  No, the world is not caving in around me.  It's just that for the past few weeks I've been wrestling with several decisions, and because of this, there has been a serious disquietness of my heart.  I have groaned to the Lord, making it clear that my truest desire is to do His will then pleading that He would please make His will known to me.  After all, it's hard to do God's will when you're not sure what it is, right?

But the Lord has remained silent in regards to my many questions which has caused my heart to pant, my strength to fail and the light to go out from my eyes.  I feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  I feel confused and wishy-washy, without any real sense of direction.  But most of all, I feel tired.  Tired of trudging down the wrong paths.  Tired of not seeing results for my time, money and effort.  Tired of trying to find balance in my life in the midst of the many obligations that pull at me from every direction.  In short, I'm tired of being tired.

And for some reason, last night it all came to a head, so to speak, and Jason got an earful of my groaning as well.  I tried to comfort myself by reminding me that the past four weeks have been very stressful on our household because of Jason's work schedule.  This week was the first week that things have been "back to normal" (like things are ever normal around here), so maybe the stress and fatigue were catching up with me.  But honestly, I think it was more than that because my tirade quickly led me to the same place the psalmist ended up.

For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. - Psalm 38:17

Yep, that was me.  I was ready to quit.  It was simply too exhausting to keep going.  I was frustrated with doing the work (in many areas of my life) and never seeing any results.  In fact, in some areas, all my hard work was rewarded with the exact opposite of the result I was seeking.  As I sat on the couch last night, straining to hold back the tears, I felt like it wasn't worth the trouble to keep fighting the same battles over and over again.  I was ready to raise the white flag and give in completely.

Fortunately, I'm married to a man who doesn't believe in throwing in the towel, and after a while, he convinced me to set aside some time and iron out the details with God.  Ask my questions.  Pray for answers.  Then be still and listen.  Stop groaning.  Stop whining.  Stop thinking about how frustrated I am, and get down to the business of really seeking some answers.

I am pleased to say that I received one answer this morning.  Yes, there are other questions, but at least this is one thing that I can remove from my mental to-do list.  I have an answer, and the many uncertainties surrounding that question are now gone.  While I haven't yet received definitive answers regarding some other things, I do feel a gentle nudge in some particular directions, so for now, I'll follow those nudges and see where they lead.

I guess it just goes to show that the Lord is not opposed to answering our questions, but sometimes we need to get serious about it.  Serious about asking.  Serious about listening for the answers.  And even serious about waiting for the answers if that is the case.  God has no desire for us to be overwhelmed by the disquietness of our hearts.  He longs for us to have peace, and sometimes the only way to have that peace is to lay it all out on the table and plead our case with God.  Sometimes He'll answer right away, and sometimes He won't, but either way, we'll have taken the initiative to show how serious we are about our desire for answers.

Are you surrounded by questions today?  Do you feel frustrated, overwhelmed and confused?  If so, I urge you to take it to the Lord.  Seek His will, then wait patiently for His answer.  And whatever you do, don't give up.  God's not done with you yet!

For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. - Proverbs 2:6-9

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Digging a Well in the Valley of Tears

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. - Psalms 84:5-6
The valley of Baca is also known as the valley of sorrow or tears. It reminds us of hard times, trials, and dark places. As Christians, we are very familiar with the valleys. As one old preacher said, the Christian walk is full of valleys. You're either in a valley, have just come through a valley, or are about to walk into a valley. It's a discouraging thought if we dwell on it, but the purpose of the valley is not to discourage us. The purpose is to make us stronger.

We talked about this a few days ago, how tribulation worketh patience and so on. The valleys are designed to bring us closer to God. It is during those times that God often strips us of everything we've come to depend on so that we can be reminded that He is all we need. He brings us down to a place that is so low that we have nowhere else to go but up. At the time, it seems cruel and unfair, but if you'll look back, I think you'll agree that some of the times you've felt closest to the Lord were in the midst of a valley.

There's another reason for valleys. Not only are they designed to make us stronger in our faith and relationship with Christ, but they also help us to help others. I'm reminded of a gospel song that says, "God's prepared me for such a time as this." That's where the latter part of the passage above comes into play. When we go through a valley, we don't need to sit down and give ourselves a pity party. The passage in Psalms says that we have a work to do. We need to dig a well. Why? For others to partake of when it's their turn to come through the valley.

In the midst of our trials, it's tempting to think that we're the only ones who suffer. During that time, we often fail to realize that someone is coming into the valley right behind us. Our job is not only to get ourselves through, but to offer aid to the one coming behind us. Dig a well. A well of encouragement. A well of experience. A well that says, "I can help you through this because I've been here before."

There will be valleys. There's no getting around it. The question is, how will we handle those valleys?  Will we give up, plop down on the ground, and give in to our tears, or will we walk through the valley with God at our side, digging wells along the way to help others who may come behind us?  The valley can kill us or change us. The choice is ours.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Time To Make Hard Choices

I knew the day would come, but I had hoped it wouldn't be for a very long time.  But it has arrived and now I must face the truth--little Tippy can no longer hike with us.  At 14+ years of age, she has done a wonderful job of staying fit and healthy enough to keep up with us on our weekly hikes.  But over the past several months, she has become slower and weaker, and she is now to the point where she hobbles and limps all the time.  She doesn't act like she's in pain, only that she has little strength.  Her eyesight and hearing are mostly gone.  Her balance is iffy at best.  I hate to say it, but my little girl has gotten old.

The last few hikes we tried to take her on were miserable for all of us.  Mitchell couldn't go as fast as he wanted.  Tippy would have preferred to be carried the entire way.  And Jason and I were torn as to what to do to give each dog what they needed plus be able to enjoy the hike ourselves.  So, last week, we decided to see what would happen if we left Tippy at home.  Would she freak and pout?  Would Mitchell understand why he was all alone in the back seat of the Xterra?  Would I feel guilty, like the worst "Mommy" in all the world, the entire time we were gone?

Actually, it turned out nicely.  Jason, Mitchell and I all enjoyed the quicker pace and the opportunity to hike farther than we had in a long time due to Tippy's lack of stamina.  And when we arrived at home, Tippy was sound asleep on the rug, so evidently she wasn't completely scarred by our abandonment.  I did feel guilty at first, but honestly, the pleasantness of the hike soon erased the guilt from my mind.  (That sounds terrible, doesn't it?  But I can't explain to you the difference that it made not having to cater to her needs the entire trip.)

Since our experiment went so well, we decided to leave her home again this past weekend.  With the entire day and beautiful weather, we decided to simply hike until we felt like turning back.  We booked it down familiar trails and even explored new ones (well, new to us).  For the first time in a very long time, we were actually hiking, not simply meandering down a trail.  I was exhilarated, especially when I discovered that we had hiked over six miles in three hours.  We were winded and sweaty, and our bodies were beginning to protest, but I was completely astounded.  It had been so long since we had done such a workout that I honestly didn't think I could.  I had no idea I still had that in me.  I thought that kind of energy and stamina was long gone.

Funny, sometimes in life we face terrible decisions that we've dreaded for so long.  Questions plague our minds and guilt fills our hearts.  What if they don't understand?  How will she respond?  What else will be affected if I make this choice.  The decision has to be made even though the entire ordeal is difficult and painful.  But sometimes, as I've recently learned, making difficult decisions can result in amazing conclusions.  If it weren't for our decision to leave Tippy at home, I wouldn't have discovered that energy and strength that were hidden deep within me.  I wouldn't have realized that my health is not as bad as I thought.  The joy of the journey was renewed because of one tough decision.

What decision are you facing today?  It could be about a job, a relationship, a financial matter or something else entirely.  It doesn't really matter.  The principle is the same.  Seek God's will in the situation, and then follow His leadership even if it means making a difficult decision.  I know it will be tough at first, but you may find more joy in the journey as a result.  And God will handle the rest.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. - James 1:5

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Chiropractor of the Soul

I had forgotten how much I love being able to get regular chiropractic adjustments.  I used to see a chiropractor on a weekly basis, and she did wonders for my joint troubles, but after a while, the cost became too great, and I simply couldn't afford it anymore.  Fortunately, we recently found a local chiropractor that does adjustments for only $10, and he's a Christian as well.  Awesome!

My first visit was one week ago when the chiropractor discovered that my collar bone was dislocated.   I cannot describe to you the relief that I've felt this past week with that problem righted.  On Tuesday, he set my left shoulder--the one that has a horrible case of bursitis.  Oh yeah, that feels better.  To be honest, I'm amazed at how the chiropractor knows exactly where and how much pressure to apply to make the bones slip back into place.  Just a turn here and a gentle twist there.  This one is a little more out of whack, so a little more pressure is applied, then voila!

And the result of a good adjustment is equally confounding.  When the bones first slip into place, there is immediate relief.  But after a few minutes, the muscles and nerves that had been affected by the misalignment start to throb and pull.  Sometimes they can pull to the point that they undo the adjustment, but usually, after a little while, the muscles and nerves start to settle in to the "new alignment" and the body feels much, much better than it did before the adjustment.

As I drove home from the chiropractor this morning, I found myself wishing that someone could adjust my attitude as easily as the chiropractor could adjust my spine.  But then, I realized that Someone can, and the process is very similar to a spinal adjustment.  In order for the Lord to adjust my attitude, the right amount of pressure must be applied to all the right spots in order to get things back in line.  At first, there is immediate relief, but then the throb and aches set in, which can threaten to undo the attitude adjustment I've just received.  But if I'll relax and allow things to settle, I feel much, much better than I did before the adjustment.

The key to an effective spinal adjustment is to relax and trust that the chiropractor knows what he is doing.  The key to an effective attitude adjustment is exactly the same.  Give it over to God.  Take a deep breath.  Then surrender yourself to the tender care of the Chiropractor of the soul.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Demands of Discipline

In my devotion time this morning, I came across an excellent definition of the word "discipline."  According to Charles Swindoll, discipline is "doing what we don't want to do so we can accomplish what we've always wanted."  Sounds about right to me.  After all, it seems that I've had to discipline myself in many areas lately.

One must have discipline to work from home.  Otherwise, nothing would get done.  There are always distractions and other obligations.  There are always excuses for not getting to a particular task.  And while I love to write, there are particular areas (like marketing) that are a necessary part of my ministry, yet ones that despise doing.  But if I want to accomplish what I've always wanted, I have to be willing to do some of the things I really don't want to do.

I've also called upon discipline in my journey toward better health.  The road has been long and hard and involves many things that I would rather not do.  I don't like to exercise.  I don't enjoy making myself get out of bed at 7:00 in the morning so that I can do my three-and-a-half-mile walk.  I don't want to eat salad instead of a plate of fajita nachos from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  I don't want to drink water instead of soda.  I don't want to do stretches and Pilates and strength training.  But each of these things are necessary if I am ever to accomplish what I've always wanted--optimal health.

Then there's the housework.  Scrubbing bathrooms is no fun at all.  Having to give up some of my precious writing or reading time to do the dishes is misery.  Folding laundry.  Running errands.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  These tasks hold no joy for me at all, yet I know that if I don't discipline myself to do them (and do them regularly), I will never achieve a relaxing and peaceful abode.

I guess, in the end, it all boils down to this question:  How badly do you want it?  Whatever it is that you're trying to achieve, do you want it badly enough to implement true discipline into your daily routine?  Is your goal desirable enough that you're willing to do the things you don't enjoy in order to obtain the thing you've always wanted?  It won't be easy, and you may find that your discipline wavers from day to day.  But hang tough and be strong.  And imagine the joy that is awaiting you when you finally reach the thing for which you have strived.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. - Proverbs 25:28

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Disadvantages to Our Advantage?

Have you ever examined the things in your life that you don't like and would love to change? It could be something physical like your size, shape, or hair color. It could be a personality trait like being anxious or too outspoken. It could even be something pertaining to your life's choices such as your job, mate, or church. Whatever it is, you consider it a disadvantage, right?

I imagine David felt like he had a lot of disadvantages. He was small and always getting left behind. He was a lowly shepherd while his brothers had the opportunity to serve in glorious battles. Even his father didn't think of David when Samuel came to look over the sons of Jesse in order to pick the new king. Yes, if anyone had disadvantages, it was David.

But God has a way of turning our disadvantages into advantages. When David went out to fight Goliath, he didn't try to fight him like a soldier would. He didn't grab a sword and shield. In fact, he rejected them. Instead, he went out to face Goliath as a shepherd would face a threat. He armed himself with a shepherd's weapon: a sling. Who else would have thought of such a thing? Certainly not a man trained for war. Yet with David's disadvantage, he was able to bring down the giant that no one else would dare to face.

When looking at your disadvantages today, take heart. God has a way of using things that seem bad to us to bring about something that is good. The Bible is full of stories that relate the truth of that. Don't wallow in pity over your disadvantages. Just be open to the Lord, and allow Him to use you however He may see fit. Who knows? He may use you to bring down another giant.

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

*****Excerpt from Lilting Laments of a Looney Lass*****

Monday, August 10, 2015

Be Careful What You Ask For

During my Bible reading over the past few weeks, I have come across three different passages that brought to my mind the old saying, "Be careful what you ask for."  On each occasion the characters asked for what they wanted but weren't satisfied when God told them "no."  So, they continued to ask, and finally God said, "Fine! Have it your way!"

The first one takes place in Numbers 11 where the children of Israel are complaining once again, this time with an attitude about the manna that God had so faithfully provided.  Rather than being grateful, they were tired of it and pleaded for meat, but they did so with great anger and bitterness.  And God's reply? And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? (Numbers 11:18-20)

In other words, you want flesh to eat?  Fine, here.  Eat it until it makes you sick. . . and it did. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague. (vs. 33)

The second event takes place after the twelve spies were sent out to survey the land which God had promised to them.  Once the ten spies gave their report, the complaints of the people started up again. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? (Numbers 14:2-3)

Not only were they doubting God's promise, but they were literally accusing Him of leading them to their deaths.  That was not God's initial plan, but since they were so determined that God's way was wrong and their way was best, God allowed them to have their way. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. (Numbers 14:28-30)  They asked for it, didn't they?

The third takes place in the story of Balaam.  At first, I was a bit confused by God's anger toward Balaam.  Without taking too much time, allow me to give you a brief summary.  Balak, the king of the Moabites, was afraid of Israel, so he wanted to hire Balaam (who was both a prophet and a sorcerer) to place a curse on Israel.  When King Balak's men came to fetch Balaam, the prophet asked the Lord what he should do, to which God replied, "Don't go with them."  After hearing Balaam's answer, the men returned to the king, but King Balak was not satisfied.  He sent more important men to fetch Balaam, and once again, the prophet (who had already received his answer from God) asked what he should do.  This is God's response:  And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.

After asking again, even though he knew the answer, Balaam got permission to go.  So, in the morning, he rose up, saddled his donkey and rode off with the king's men.  And look what happened: And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. (Numbers 22:22)  Huh?  God gave him permission to go, then got mad about it.  Does that make sense?  It does when we realize that Balaam should have accepted God's resolute answer.  It was absolutely clear how God felt about this matter, but Balaam didn't care.  He did what he wanted to do, and God allowed him, but that doesn't mean that God approved.

It's easy to think that we know best about our situations in life.  I mean, after all, we're the ones living through it, right?  We're the ones having to make the decisions.  We're the ones having to face the difficulties and balance the schedules.  Nevertheless, we still don't see the whole picture as God does, so we might want to be careful what we ask for, particularly if God has already said, "no."  Otherwise, we may find that the consequences are much greater than we can bear.

Trust God's decisions in all areas of your life.  He knows what He's doing!

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Song in the Night

Several weeks ago, I jotted down a quote that I wanted to remember.  Unfortunately, I only wrote down the quote, not the source of the quote.  So, I apologize that I cannot tell you the author of this particular saying, but I wanted to share it with you, along with my thoughts on the matter.  The quote is this:  The song may end, but the melody lingers on.

I love it, and I can certainly relate.  I am one of those people who can hear a song on Sunday and still be humming it on Friday.  Whether it's a new song or a familiar one doesn't matter.  If the melody is catchy enough to attract my attention, then it will stick with me long after the song has stopped playing.  I find myself humming it at the oddest times, and this is particularly frustrating with songs that are unfamiliar.  Not only do I not know the words, but often a specific part of the melody replays over and over and over again to the point that I'm just about tired of it.  Finally, my mind will get distracted by other things, and the song will slip away, only to return an hour later.  In some ways, this is great, but in other ways, it can be annoying.

Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. - Psalm 42:8

Life is a series of days and nights.  Days when the sun shines brightly and all seems right with the world.  Nights when the despair seems so heavy that we wonder if we'll survive it to see the dawning of a new day.  Fortunately, the above psalm tells us that the song of the lovingkindness of God that is so evident during the day remains with us through the long, dark night.  The song may end, but the melody lingers on.  The good times may end, but God's faithfulness remains.  The happiness may fade, but the joy of the Lord is ever present.  The pleasure may cease, but God's promises remain.  As Mark Lowry put it, "In the dark times, we have to remember what we saw in the light."

I don't know what song you're singing today.  Perhaps you enjoy the good old hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, or maybe you prefer How Great Thou Art--both of which are obvious songs to sing in the brightness of the day.  But when darkness comes, and the message of those songs no longer seems to be true, allow the melody to live on.  You may not feel like singing.  You may not know the words, or maybe you no longer believe them.  That's understandable.  Things get fuzzy in the dark.  But whether you feel it or not and whether you believe it or not, the melody lives on within you.  Let it bubble to the surface.  Let it flood your heart with the reminder of God's goodness.  And rest in the knowledge that God loves you enough to give you a song in the night.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. - Psalm 40:3

Thursday, August 6, 2015

It Does Get Better Than This

This morning I had the opportunity to visit a chiropractor for the first time in over five years.  Being my initial consultation visit, I had to fill out the appropriate paperwork, which mostly consisted of my name, address, phone number, e-mail and how much time had passed since my last chiropractic adjustment.  No problem!  The bottom half of the form, however, gave me pause.  It was a list of ailments and illnesses and instructed me to check any that applied.  After I checked every box in the first column, I was growing embarrassed.  Neck pain?  Absolutely.  Back pain?  You bet.  Headaches?  Oh yeah!  Allergies?  Sinus problems?  Arthritis?  Yes, yes and yes.

Honestly, I think I terrified the poor doctor because as soon as he looked at my card he exclaimed, "Wow, you've checked a lot of boxes."  It was so humiliating.  I'm not even 40 yet, and my body is falling apart.  What gives?  Still, the chiropractor was very pleasant and did what he could to ease my suffering.  One of the things that gave me the most surprise and the most relief after he fixed it was my dislocated collar bone.  No wonder my neck and shoulder have been such a mess lately!

During my prayer time this morning, I was thanking the Lord for allowing me to find a reasonably-priced Christian chiropractor and for the relief I was already beginning to feel from my first adjustment.  This, of course, brought back the memory of checking all those boxes of ailments and illnesses, and my praise momentarily turned a bit sour.  But then, a single phrase from one of my favorite songs came to my mind:  "Every wrong will be made right."

Hallelujah!  One day, every wrong (whether it be physical, mental, spiritual, financial, relational and so on) will be made right.  No more aches.  No more pains.  No more dislocated collar bones.  No financial worries.  No job stress.  It will all be made right, and while it may not be "just right" now, I can find peace in the promise that this too shall pass.  I'm looking forward to that day.  How about you?

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. - Isaiah 25:9

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's Boiling Over?

Do you ever sit in church on Sundays and wonder if the preacher is preaching to you and you alone?  So many times the pastor preaches a message that deals with the exact thing I'm going through, and as I squirm in my seat, I can't help but wonder, How did he know?  Obviously, he doesn't know my exact circumstances, but he knows the message that the Holy Spirit laid on his heart.  And this past Sunday, that message hit me right between the eyes.

And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. - Acts 18:24-25

On Sunday morning, my pastor preached a compelling message on Apollos and his admirable traits--traits that we, as Christians, should be emulating.  I'd love to give you the entire outline, but that's not what the Lord has laid on my heart this morning.  Instead, I would like to share with you the part of the message that, once again, had me squirming in my seat.

In verse 25 where it says Apollos was "fervent in the spirit," that word fervent literally means boiling.  Boiling in the spirit.  On fire for the Lord.  Running over with His goodness.  The pastor even likened it to a tea kettle that whistles when it's at full boil, equating it to how when our spirits come to a full boil, we'll make some noise about it too.

To be honest, I was already a little squirmy because I knew that my attitude over the past week was certainly not boiling over with the spirit.  But then, when the pastor mentioned the tea kettle, I nearly broke into sobs because as soon as I pictured that tea kettle in my mind, instead of envisioning my Christ-like spirit, I saw my bad attitude.  Yes, I regretfully had to admit to myself and to the Lord that the only thing that had been boiling over last week was my temper.

I was discouraged by the long, long hours Jason was having to put in at work.  I was resentful that I didn't get to see him much at all last week.  I was fed up with having to do all the housework and dog care and everything else by myself because he wasn't home long enough to help.  I was frustrated with the washing machine that is still dancing its way across the laundry room on a daily basis.  And I was angry with God for not answering my prayers the way I wanted Him to and for not making life a little easier on me.  I'm ashamed to say, I was bitter and miserable!  Boiling over with the spirit?  Not even close!  Spoiled brat is more like it.

Funny how we can think we're finally maturing spiritually, then something happens, and we find ourselves right back in our childish temper-tantrum stage.  Fortunately, God is patient and gracious.  There are so many ways He could have responded to my sour attitude.  So many ways He could have gotten my attention and "slapped" some sense back into me.  But in His great love and mercy, He reached out to me with the power of His Word.  With a single phrase, He pointed out the error of my ways and reminded me that that type of behavior is unacceptable for a child of God.  And then He continued His teaching by showing me what I needed to do to change.

The Lord and I had a nice, long chat this morning during my prayer walk, and we were able to work out some of the wrinkles that had formed in my heart and mind.  And because of that, I was able to begin the day boiling over, not with a temper this time, but with the spirit.  There is a smile on my face and peace in my heart, not because everything is great, but because the Lord has reminded me that there is a power within me that is greater than any obstacle I may face.  And I can have access to that power at any time if I'll only claim it.  With that strength, I am refreshed and renewed.

Maybe you know exactly where I'm coming from.  Perhaps you, too, can relate better to a boiling temper than a boiling spirit.  If so, take heart.  If there's hope for me, there's hope for you too.  I know it can often seem like life throws more at us than we can bear, but keep in mind that we don't have to bear those burdens alone.  For those of us who are saved, we have access to the power of God, and with that power, nothing can stand in our way.  So, when life makes you want to scream, instead of wasting your energy on that boiling temper, use that energy to stoke the fires of your soul.  After all, a boiling spirit can accomplish far more than a boiling temper. . . and it makes you feel a lot better too.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Perfect Plan

Today I would like to give you a little glimpse into the workings of my mind.  Scary thought, I know, but I feel I need to share with you some of my latest thoughts and the reminders I received from the Lord concerning those thoughts.

Okay, here's the deal.  I love my job.  Writing is so much more to me than a job.  It's my life.  Without it, I feel incomplete.  On the days I don't get to write, I feel discouraged and depressed.  On the other hand, when I'm working on a new project--be it a devotion, a book or a podcast--I feel so energized and excited.  Each day is different because the topics are ever changing.  I love it!  Unfortunately, I don't get to do it as much as I would like because I am also responsible for the upkeep of the house, the errands, the meals and the care of the dogs (which is in and of itself a full-time job).

The reason all these other obligations fall to me is because Jason is busy working a job to earn a living so that we can eat because, while I love my job, the pay is nearly non-existent.  Jason's work is physically tasking and mentally boring.  His hours are erratic, leaving no room for a routine in our life together.  And while he is happy to do what he must do to support his family, he's not exactly working his dream job.

As I thought and prayed on this the other morning, I came up with the perfect solution (or at least, it sounds perfect to me).  If the Lord could make it where I can get paid well to do my job, then Jason could stay home and take up all the other "stuff" that is currently on my plate.  If he could do that, he would have plenty of time to pursue hobbies and interests, as well as to take on the chores that I simply can't handle on my own (i.e. repairs, splitting firewood, yard work, etc.)  He loves to cook, so he could be in charge of the meals too and could finally have the time he desires to try new recipes and go wild in the kitchen.  And all the while, I could be using my time to write.  It makes such perfect sense to me.  He could do what he enjoys and free up more time for me to do what I enjoy, and I could get paid for doing the thing I love.

I have to be honest with you, though, this is not the first time I've "stumbled upon" this brilliant plan. I've thought of it many times before.  I've talked it over with Jason, and he, too, sees its many merits. I've brought the idea before the Lord and explained it in painstaking detail.  But you know what?  I'm not any closer to making a living with my writing than I was when I first came up with my plan.  In fact, just after thinking about this "perfect" situation again recently, I received notice that one of the sites I write for is no longer able to pay its authors.  So, what little bit of pay I could depend on regularly was snatched away.  Um, not exactly fitting in with my plan, Lord.

The truth is that I would love for this plan to come to fruition.  I would love to have a regular writing routine day after day.  I would enjoy having extra time to spend with my husband.  It would be great to have someone else to do the housework and cooking because I do NOT enjoy those chores at all.  It would be so nice to finally have some repairs done around the house and to be able to keep the yard in order for a change.  It does sound perfect to me, but there's one problem (besides the fact that I can't seem to make any money).  Proverbs 3:5 cautions me to lean not on my own understanding.  Yes, the plan seems brilliant, but is it really?  Will I still think so in six months?  In a year?  In five years?  Could it be that things won't work out quite as lovely as I've envisioned?

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to accept God's will about certain things when they seem so ideal to me.  And frankly, I tend to pout and cry when God won't let me have those things that I dream about, especially when I feel those things would increase my productivity for Him.  After all, if I have more time to write, that means I can write more devotions about Him, more books about Him.  I can reach more of the lost and encourage more of the saved.  And you have no idea how much I want that.

But I cannot forget that God sees the beginning and the end.  He knows what's waiting in the bend of the road ahead.  I don't.  He knows what would really happen if all the pieces of my "perfect plan" fell into place.  I don't.  He knows what's best for me, and while I'd like to think I do too, the fact is, I don't.  So, I have to come up with a new plan.  Actually, it's not mine.  It's God's.  "Trust me, and stop leaning on your own understanding.  I've got it under control, and I will work this out for your good.  Stop worrying, and simply let me work."

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. - Proverbs 3:5-7