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Friday, March 31, 2017

Sometimes Less Is More

As you know, over the past few weeks, I've been doing serious research into the subject of dealing with anxiety and depression in a Biblical fashion.  But, in all honesty, I've been doing more than mere study.  I've been putting these practices into action to determine whether they actually work or if I just see answers where there aren't any.

The first couple of things I've been working on is watching what I think and what I say.  That alone has taken a lot of effort and concentration, and I cannot tell you how many times I've had to correct myself.  But, here's something interesting I noticed this week.  When something negative comes to my mind, I determine not to say it and cast the thought away as quickly as I can.  The funny thing is I've discovered I have a lot less to say these days.  Yes, my communication has decreased drastically, and after further study, I found out that's actually a good thing.  Check out these verses:

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. - Ecclesiastes 5:2

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: - James 1:19 

In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. - Proverbs 10:19 

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. - Proverbs 17:27-28 

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. - Proverbs 21:23 

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction. - Proverbs 13:3

And there are many more verses in the Scriptures that discuss the importance of talking less.  Personally, this is new territory for me.  I don't like the quiet.  When I'm with someone, I feel the urge to carry on a conversation (though usually, it's one-sided when speaking with my quiet-natured husband).  When we're sitting in silence, it feels like there's something wrong.  I get the impression that one or both of us is angry or upset, and I can't seem to resist the urge to fill the silence. But God has been working with and helping me to spend less time talking and more time simply basking in His goodness.  It hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it.

By keeping the negative thoughts out of my mind and off my lips, I have not only affected my own mood but also the mood of those around me.  I have remained in a more positive frame of mind which has aided my focus, concentration and overall energy.  I think we often fail to realize what a powerful impact our words have on our health and the health of those around us.  I think back to the lyrics from the children's song, "Oh, be careful, little mouth, what you say!"

May our words be few today and only those that are positive and pleasing to the Lord!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Finding Balance, Part Two

In a previous post, we established that affirmations are, indeed, Biblical when used correctly. In yesterday's video, I discussed Philippians 4:8 and the idea of positive thinking.  Since the Bible encourages us to "think on these things," we can say, without a doubt, that positive thinking is a good thing, but again, it can be misused.  For example, certain so-called Christian teachers will use the first part of Proverbs 23:7 which says, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he, to promote their idea of positive thinking.  Using that verse as their "proof text," they claim that if you think you're rich, you'll become rich.  If you think you're healthy, you'll become healthy.  Like some magical field of dreams, if you think it, it will come.  Sorry, but life doesn't work that way.

These teachings really irritate me because they use the Bible as their proof, but what they're saying is distorting what the Lord is saying through His Word.  If life were as simple as to think it and it will happen, then why do we need the Lord?  Why is there heartache and disappointment?  Why isn't everyone healthy and wealthy?  Sadly, these prosperity seekers are leaving God completely out of the picture and saying that we are in control of our own lives and futures, and it all boils down to merely thinking about what we want and believing it will come true.  They have confused positive thinking with blind ambition, and they're leading people astray by the millions (and many of them are making millions of dollars in the process).

While we are not in control of our lives and futures, we are in control of our thoughts and emotions.  We determine what we think about, and that's where the Biblical principle of positive thinking comes into play.  Take, for example, Proverbs 23:7 again. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.  Our thoughts cannot dictate our circumstances, but they certainly affect our emotions and even our actions.  If we think angry thoughts, it's not long before we're upset and acting out in that anger.  If we think negative thoughts, pretty soon we're depressed and snapping at everyone we come in contact with.  Our emotions and actions follow our thoughts, so it's not rocket science to see that if we think positively (as Philippians 4:8 commands), we'll have more positive emotions and actions.

Sounds pretty simple, but I assure you, it's hard work!  Thoughts come and go by the hundreds, and to keep our emotions and actions in check, we need to closely monitor every idea that passes through our brain and run them through the filter of Philippians 4:8.  If it's positive and uplifting, then it can remain.  If not, give it over to God immediately.  When you first begin, this is tedious and tiring, but after a while, you'll find that fewer negative thoughts are coming to mind, and this is a sure sign of progress.

Is positive thinking a good thing, and does it work?  If taken in context, comparing Scripture with Scripture, then, yes, it's a magnificent thing, and it does work.  It's not a quick fix to life's problems, but if practiced regularly, it can be a valuable weapon in the battle against worry, anxiety and depression.

So, what's on your mind?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Finding Balance, Part One

In continuing to share some of the things the Lord has been teaching me about dealing with anxiety and depression, I'd like to discuss the topic of balance, particularly in regards to Biblical methods versus New Age methods.  As I've studied the issue over the past few weeks, one thing has become apparent--there is no shortage of advice out there, but how much of it is actually Bible-based?  That's where things became a bit fuzzy.

Unfortunately, our world is full of warped philosophies that are part truth and part lie.  They sound good on the surface, but if you break it down, you'll discover that it's not Scriptural.  I'm referring to health and wealth teaching and many of the other New Age practices that the success gurus are spouting.  They lead people to believe that they can do anything or have anything if they'll only believe it hard enough.  They promote the law of attraction and the principle of karma.  Their claim is that we all control our own destinies, and if we want to get anywhere in life, we need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make it happen.  And the real trouble is that they'll often use Scripture (which they have perverted) to back up their claims.

I'm grounded enough in the Bible to see through this web of deception and not fall victim to these ploys, but here's where I had trouble.  I was so leery of this teaching and so adamant to not get caught up in it that I swung too far the other way and dismissed the Bible's teachings about some of the very tactics recommended by these false teachers.  Take, for example, affirmations.  An affirmation, by definition, is a statement or proclamation of something that is true.  What could be wrong with that, right?

The issue is that these prosperity teachers instruct us to use affirmations to change our destinies, but instead of speaking truth, we are supposed to speak what we want to be true.  The catchy phrase is "speak what you seek."  So, if you want to be a millionaire, you should consistently use affirmations like, "I have more money than I know what to do with,"  "Everything I touch turns to gold," or "I will never want for anything in my life."  The same principle applies to losing weight or getting healthy.  Some traditional affirmations in this category are "I am in the best shape of my life,"  "I am healthy and trim," and "Food is no longer a temptation to me."

On the surface, this doesn't sound too bad, but as I said earlier, if you dig down, you'll see the root of the problem.  For starters, none of those statements is true.  Just because we want something to be true doesn't mean it is.  I guess this is why these types of affirmations have never really enticed me because it doesn't matter how many times I say I'm healthy and wealthy, I know it isn't true.  I only make myself a liar.  Secondly, it's all focused on self and selfish desires.  Where is God's will in all of this?  It's all about me and what I want.  And we know that's not what the Bible teaches.

So, with those accusations against affirmations, I considered them dangerous and tried to move on.  But as the Lord worked on my heart, I realized that true affirmations are a good thing and can be used to help combat anxiety and depression, not to mention a host of other deadly darts from the devil.  Furthermore, he opened my eyes to many of the Bible "greats" who used affirmations--particularly David and Paul--to encourage themselves in the Lord.  What is a true affirmation?  It is a statement or proclamation of something that is true, and in our situation, that comes directly from God's Word.  Instead of proclaiming what we want, real affirmations state what God has said.  And to use these affirmations as a weapon, I have found that it works best to make it personal.  Don't just mindlessly quote a verse.  Claim it!  Put yourself into it, knowing that if God said it (and if it's in the Bible, He did), then it's true and can be believed.  Over the course of a few days, I jotted down several pages of these, but I'll just share with you a few to give you an idea of how affirmations can be used to counter the attacks of Satan and of our own fleshly nature, just like Jesus did during his forty days in the wilderness.

The Lord has planned my future, and I trust that it will all play out for my good and His glory. - Jeremiah 29:11

I declare myself to be free because Jesus Himself set me free. - John 8:36

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13

I will not lack any good thing. - Psalm 34:8

My faith makes me whole in spirit, soul and body. - Mark 5:34

My body is a living and holy sacrifice unto the Lord. - Romans 12:1

I will be kind and do good to others. - I Thessalonians 5:15

I forgive those who hurt me because God forgives me. - Matthew 6:14-15

I honor God by taking care of my body which is His temple. - I Corinthians 6:19-20

There is nothing I will face today that God will not provide a way of escape. - I Corinthians 10:13

God is doing a good work in and through me. - Philippians 2:12-13

It may sound simple, but let me tell you, it is effective.  Having these affirmations ready and speaking them when I feel the vicious attacks on my soul has kept me from sinking into despair when things don't work out the way I wish.  I have found myself much more focused on God as my strength and refuge and less focused on my circumstances.  These statements have helped me resist temptations and cravings and have even kept my attitude much more positive.

In short, affirmations do work, and there's nothing wrong with them as long as they are founded in and based on Scripture.  I encourage you to give it a try.  When the attacks come, instead of complaining or allowing yourself to be swayed by your circumstances or emotions, try speaking aloud some affirming statements from the Word of God.  Make it personal.  Apply it to your life right now.  Claim God's promises.  Hold fast to His truth.  Something amazing happens when we turn our eyes off what we want and instead focus on the truth that God has given us.  Try it and see, but remember, this is not a timid exercise.  Speak it aloud and be bold about it.  It will have little effect if you don't believe what you're saying.  But if you do believe, let everyone know it, including the devil.  Remember, he can't read your mind, so he won't know that you're quoting Scripture, but if you speak it, he'll know, and pretty soon, he'll flee.  Put it to the test, and be sure to let me know the results.

Lord willing, tomorrow we'll discuss another topic of finding the balance between good practices that have been twisted to promote self rather than God.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Are You Serious?

I'm back from my week of rest and restoration, and boy, have I learned a lot!  Yes, I received an education during my break.  Let me explain.  A couple of weeks ago, I felt the Lord impressing on me to write a book about dealing with anxiety and depression the Bible way.  Never in my life have I felt so compelled to write a book (or anything else for that matter), but there was one problem--I didn't have the answers!  I am one of those who suffers from frequent bouts of anxiety and depression.  How in the world did God expect me to write about the solution to these joy-suckers when I hadn't found the answer myself?  So, I told the Lord as much.  My prayer was basically this, "Lord, I feel you want me to write this book, and I know many people need the help that could be offered here.  But, you understand I don't have the answers, so if you want me to write it, you'll have to give me the words."  And, oh my goodness, have the words been pouring in!

I have spent the last week reading, meditating and praying, and God has opened my eyes to some wonderful things.  I don't think I'm quite ready to write the book yet, but over the next couple of weeks, I'll probably be sharing with you some of the things I've learned.  Today, I'd like to kick off the education with a topic that may stomp on a few toes, but the truth is the truth, and I feel compelled to tell it like it is.

Do you have a desire?  Would you like to lose weight, have more energy, be healthier, have more money, get out of debt, have a better job or whatever?  If we're honest, I think we all have dreams and goals about a "better" something.  But here's the real question, are we serious about what we say we want?  Do our actions and habits reflect our goals and dreams?

Here are a few examples:

If you want to lose weight, what steps have you taken to achieve this aim?  Have you traded your sodas for water?  Have you begun to exercise?  Are you meals made up of healthy foods?

If you want to save money, what steps have you taken?  Are you still eating out for lunch five days a week instead of taking your lunch to work?  Do you still make weekly trips to the mall?  Do you spend extra money on brand names when generic would do just fine?

If you want to grow closer to the Lord, what are you doing to get there?  Are you spending time in the Word?  Are you praying regularly?  Are you attending church faithfully?

Here's the thing, when we say we want something, we need to determine in our hearts exactly how much we want it.  How serious are we?  Most times, I think we're serious enough to complain about it but not enough to take action.  If we could have an instant fix, well, sign us up, but if we actually have to work for it, then, maybe not.  Are you ready for this?  If we're not serious enough about the changes we wish to see to take action to achieve them, then we need to just be quiet about it and let it go.  No more whining and complaining!  If it's important enough to complain about, then it's important enough to act on.  So, if we're not willing to work, then we need to just keep our mouths shut and accept things as they are.  There are no instant fixes!  Our problems didn't arrive instantaneously, and the solutions won't either.  They require time and effort.

So, my question for you today is, are you serious?  If you're seeking changes in your life, are you determined to do what you can to see them come to fruition?  Yes, I understand that there are some situations and circumstances that we have no control over, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I'm speaking of daily choices and habits that we do control that could make or break our goals.  We can choose a salad over a double cheeseburger and fries.  We can choose to read our Bible first thing in the morning instead of the daily news.  We can opt to cut out the cable TV and spend the extra time playing board games with the family.  There are many things we CAN DO to reach our goals, but are we willing to do them?  That is the question!

Serious people see serious results.  Wishy-washy people. . .well, you can figure it out.  Which one are you?

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. - Galatians 6:7

Friday, March 17, 2017

Talk About Green!

With today being St. Patrick's Day, I simply couldn't resist doing this post. It seems that I've been hearing and reading a lot lately about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Perhaps that's where the phrase "green with envy" comes from. Even we, as Christians, occasionally suffer from a bad case of "if only's" or "it must be nice."

But here's the thing about grass that any lawn specialist can tell you. The softest, greenest grass is found in areas that are frequently fertilized, habitually watered, and faithfully weeded. Beautiful lawns don't happen by chance; they require hard work and faithful attention. The same can be said for our lives. If we want that "greener grass," then we need to be willing to put forth the effort it takes to have it.

1. Frequently fertilized – The purpose of fertilizer is to provide plants with the nutrients necessary to grow and thrive. Without it, the soil often does not contain the essential nutrients for growth. In the Christian life, prayer is our fertilizer. It gives us access to the "nutrients" we need to face each and every day. These nutrients include supplication, intercession and thanksgiving, all of which are vital elements of spiritual growth and "greener grass."

2. Habitually watered – In the Bible, water represents the Word of God. Grass, as well as other plant life, must have water to survive. Without it, it will wither, dry out and die. We are no different. We need the water of God's word to live a successful Christian life. And notice, plants don't only need to be watered; they need to be habitually watered. That means watered on a regular basis, typically daily. If we want our lives to grow and flourish, it is imperative that we spend daily time in the word of God. Read it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Allow it to flow through you, hydrating your soul and spirit.

3. Faithfully weeded – Weeds are the enemy of growth. Their primary goal is to choke the life out of anything and everything they touch. They steal life-giving nutrients from the beneficial plants, causing them to wilt and often die. We have similar weeds in our lives, and they come in the form of bitterness, pride, selfishness and other such petty behaviors. These weeds steal our joy, energy and peace, leaving in their wake broken hearts and shattered dreams. If we are to grow in Christ, we must be faithful to search out and pluck these weeds from our hearts on a regular basis. The longer they are allowed to remain, the more of a nuisance they will become.

You see, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. It is greener wherever we make an effort to give it what it needs. We can choose to live lives that are green with envy, or we can take the steps necessary to create greener grass in our lives. Fertilize. Water. Weed. And remember, this is not a one-time process. Beautiful lawns and gardens don't happen overnight, and neither do beautiful lives. But if you truly want greener grass, you now know how to achieve it.

Are you wearing your green today? If so, which shade? The shade of envy, or the shade of lush, beautiful grass? The choice is yours, but choose wisely. Your happiness may very well depend on it.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. - II Peter 3:18

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What's In Your Hand? - A Repost

And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? and he said, A rod. - Exodus 4:2

When Moses went to God with his complaints about his mission, God didn't laugh or argue. He merely asked Moses a question: "What is in your hand?" I can picture the dumbfounded look on Moses' face as he stares at his staff and answers, "A rod." God's response? "Then use it." And Moses did. He used it to part the Red Sea. He used it to draw water from the rock. He used it in a demonstration before Pharaoh. Over and over again, Moses used the rod, and through it, God did mighty things.

David had only a sling in his hand as he hurled himself toward the mighty Goliath. Yet because he was willing to use what he had, a great victory was won.

When Jesus questioned the disciples about food for feeding the hungry thousands, all they had to bring before him was one little boy's lunch. But because they were willing to take it forward, the hungry were fed, the disciples were amazed, and the Lord was glorified.

What about you? What do you have in your hand? What talent or gift are you holding onto that you could be using for the Lord? And please don't say, "I can't do anything. I'm not talented." That's not true. Everyone can do something!!!! Gifts and talents don't reside only in the ability to sing, play an instrument, or play a sport. There are many varieties of gifts. Are you a leader? Good at organizing? A listener? An encourager? A hard worker? A cook? A cleaner? A letter writer?

God has given each of us at least one skill that we can use to bring glory and honor to his name. If we'll take what's in our hands and use it for Him, I guarantee we'll be amazed at the results. If He can work miracles through a rod, a sling, and a lunch, just imagine what he can do with your gift!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What To Do in the Waiting Room

I despise waiting! In fact, I don't think anybody would say that they like to wait. Whether it's waiting for a parking space, waiting to check out at the grocery store or waiting for God to answer prayer, the process is often painful and challenging. We live in a "hurry up" world, and we are accustomed to getting things fast, so the concept of waiting is typically not well received.

Sadly, waiting is inevitable, So the question is, what should we do while we wait? I don't know about you, but I don't like to feel like I'm wasting time standing in line or sitting in the doctor's office waiting for an appointment that was scheduled for thirty minutes ago. That being the case, if I am going to be waiting, I want to have something to do to occupy my time. Typically, my go-to activity for this is reading on the Kindle app on my phone. I have a wide variety of books on there, and it's simple to pull out my phone and while away the time while reading for entertainment or education. Either way, I feel like I'm accomplishing something instead of just sitting there. (It doesn't hurt that I love to read and would gladly sit for hours with a good book if I could.)

When it comes to waiting on God, on the other hand, I seem to have a different approach. Instead of occupying my time with tasks that I know the Lord would have me do, I find myself whining, complaining, fretting and even manipulating my circumstances to help things work out in my favor. Why do I do this? I know it isn't effective, and in the long run, it's exhausting. Wouldn't I do better to approach God's waiting room the same way I approach every other waiting room – intent on filling my time with something productive?

Now, I understand that there are times that God wants us to be still and wait, and during those times, we should do exactly that. But I believe that many times while we're waiting, God wants us to be working, doing the things we already know to do. He wants us to be productive in our work for the kingdom rather than sitting by and twiddling our thumbs waiting for His next move. The great part about this is that when we're busy working, we don't have time to worry or complain or manipulate our circumstances. Working while we wait helps us to leave things in God's hands and keeps us productive in the process.

Are you in the waiting room today? Are you wondering how to fill your time? If so, may I urge you to be busy about the Father's business? You know what He wants you to do. You know what you're supposed to be doing. So, while God is working, I suggest you work too unless He has told you to be still.  Waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time, and it often proves to be the most productive season of our lives if we use it in the proper way. There's no reason while we can't work in the waiting room, so let's get busy. Let God do His job, and let's be busy doing ours.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. - Ephesians 5:15-16

Monday, March 13, 2017

Can We Change God's Mind?

Is it possible to change God's mind about a situation?  According to Numbers 23:19, no, it's not. God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?  Pretty clear, right?  God doesn't repent, a word which, in this passage, means "a change of mind."  He doesn't lie.  If He says it, He will do it.

Interestingly enough, Exodus 32 seems to tell another story.  While speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, God commanded him to go down because the people were sinning.  At that time, the people had grown weary of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain so that they could resume their journey, so they had fashioned an idol out of their jewelry and were presently worshiping that idol.  God was irate, and rightly so.  He had already told the people how He felt about idol worship, about having gods other than Himself.  They knew better, but they sinned willingly.

God had just about had enough of these stiffnecked people, and He told Moses as much.  In fact, He told His faithful servant to just leave Him alone so He could wipe the people out and start over again.  But Moses spoke up for the people (though why I cannot imagine).  He begged God to spare them.  Moses reminded God that to destroy the people at this point would reflect poorly on the Lord Himself.  And verse 14 tells us, And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Say what?  Numbers says that God does not repent, but Exodus says He does.  Which is it?  We know the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God and that it contains no errors or contradictions, so how can we make sense of this seeming contrast.  It's really not that difficult.  The main thing to keep in mind is that words often have more than one meaning, especially words that have been translated from another language.  In Numbers, we are told that God does not change His mind.  In Exodus, we are told that God had a change of heart.

When Moses spoke up on behalf of the stubborn people, he exemplified great compassion, and that compassion spoke to the heart of God.  Additionally, when Moses showed concern for the Lord's testimony, he proved to God that his heart was in the right place.  And God was moved with compassion (just like many verses we see in the New Testament).  The pleas of Moses caused God to have a change of heart.  Compassion overshadowed the Lord's anger, and God relented of His decision.

The lesson for us is that prayer is powerful.  Too often, we think of prayer as a formality and have the attitude that God's going to have His will and way no matter what, so why bother to pray?  But, as we can see from this passage in Exodus, that's not the case at all.  Our sincere, faith-filled prayers will speak to the heart of God and may even cause a change of heart.  Prayer changes things, and it changes us.  So, whatever you're facing today, take it to God in prayer, believing that your prayers are making a difference.  It's not just a formality.  It's not simply a task to be performed.  We have a one-on-one audience with the King of Kings, and we can talk to Him about anything.  That's not to say that we will always get what we want, but we can rest assured that God will always give what we need.  Ask in faith, nothing wavering (James 1:6).  Have faith in the power of prayer!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Odds and Even

When we are at odds with someone, our natural response is to get even. They treated us badly, so we respond in kind. But while that is our natural reaction, is it the proper response? According to the Bible, no, it is not.

Proverbs 24:29 says, Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

The desire to get even is called malice, and the Bible has much to say about it.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: - Ephesians 4:31

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. - Colossians 3:8 

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, - I Peter 2:1

Lay it aside. Put it off. Get rid of it! Malice is a vengeful and spiteful attitude that can harm friendships and testimonies. It is the desire to seek restitution for the wrong that has been done to us, and it can be overwhelming. Malice often exposes itself in phrases like, "Serves you right!" or "That's what you get!" It revels and rejoices in the misfortune of another because, in some warped form of justice, we feel they deserve it. And while the person who wronged us may indeed deserve consequences for their actions, it is not our place to dole out punishment. That job belongs to God.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. - Romans 12:19

So, dear ones, I urge you to lay aside all malice. Give the issue and the offending person over to God, and allow Him to resolve the problem. He will ensure that the punishment fits the crime. And as for you, you will rest easier and find more peace with a heart that is not cluttered with malice and bitterness. Give it all to God.  He'll take care of it!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Dangers of Social Media

We live in a day and age of technology, and while much of it is wonderful, there are things of which we need to beware.  Take, for example, social media.  How cool is it that we can chat with friends across the world, share our latest recipes, announce our big news and more at just the click of a button?  It's an awesome thing to be able to be in touch in such a way, yet we must not ignore the dangers of social media.

1) Distance - Yes, while we can chat with people on the other side of the world, it seems that social media is keeping people from spending time with those who are in the same room.  I've been to many family gatherings and other social events where a handful of people spent the entire time glued to their handy devices (be they phones, laptops, etc.).  And what were they doing?  Well, admittedly, some were playing video games, but most were scanning their social media pages.  What's happening on Facebook?  Does anyone on Twitter have anything interesting to say?  Ooh, look at all the new pins on Pinterest.  Meanwhile, friends and family are sitting in the very same room and being ignored.  If you haven't figured it out by now, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Why bother attending an event (even if it's a family gathering) if you're not going to participate but are instead going to spend all your time on social media?  You can do that anytime!  Put down the devices and engage with the people around you. (Thank you, and now I shall get off my soapbox.)

2) Distraction - I have to say that I'm guilty of this one because it's so easy to get sucked in.  I'll flip over to Facebook to post something or to spend just a few minutes catching up, and before I realize it, I've spent over an hour.  Do you have any idea how much writing I could get done in an hour?  There's nothing wrong with taking a few minutes out of the day to relax and check on the "status" of others in your life, but I encourage you to set a timer or find some other means to ensure that you don't spend more time than you need to.  After all, we have busy lives, and we're supposed to be busy about our Father's business.  We can't do that if we're spending all our time online.

3) Discontentment - This one is not quite as obvious as the other two, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.  Social media is a breeding ground for discontentment.  Think about it, when Cousin Maggie shares the news about her upcoming marriage, and you start to feel sorry for yourself that you haven't found that special someone.  Or how about when Aunt Rhoda posts those pictures of the gourmet meal that she's prepared for her family, and you look over at your burnt pot roast and begin to grumble.  Then, of course, there's the success factor.  Your brother-in-law got the dream job while you're stuck in a rut.  A fellow author got a huge book contract and sold one million copies of her new release while you sit at home trying to figure out what you're doing wrong (you may just have to imagine on this one, but unfortunately, I understand it all too well).  Sam won the lottery.  Becky lost all the baby weight in record time.  If you boil it down, most social media posts are either rants about something or good news that has happened in someone's life.  And the more of that we take in, the more likely we are to begin to feel sorry for ourselves.  "Why doesn't stuff like that ever happen to me?"  Yes, the Bible says we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and that's easy to do for the first few posts, but if exposed to everyone's cheery news for too long, discontentment is bound to set in.

For fear of being misunderstood, let me stress again that I am not against social media.  I do not believe it is of the devil, and I know that--when used correctly--it can benefit the kingdom of God.  Social media can be a powerful outreach and a way to reach souls for Christ.  That being said, Satan has a knack of taking good things and making them bad.  Anything misused can cause trouble, and social media is no different.  All I am asking is that you be wary of how much of your life you invest on social media.  Are you ignoring the friends and family around you?  Are you distracted from your primary goals in life because you're glued to the screen?  Do you find yourself increasingly discontent with your lot in life?  If so, you may want to cut back on social media.  In fact, you may want to even cut it out for a while just to see what happens.  Use that extra time to pray, read the Bible or chat with someone nearby.  The possibilities are endless.  Will you take the challenge?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. - I Corinthians 6:12

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'm Losing My Grip - A Repost

You would think the life of a writer would be dull and uneventful.  I mean, after all, what could be exciting about sitting at a computer all day, composing stories, editing manuscripts and formatting books?  Boring, right?  In a word, HUH?

First off, the writing process itself is far from boring.  My mind is constantly swirling with new book ideas, fascinating character traits and inventive plots.  Besides that, while I do spend my days at home in front of the computer, I have two dogs (one of whom is very energetic) and a timeworn house.  Now, for those of you who have dogs, I'm sure you can understand how they can turn the most mundane event (like folding laundry or loading the dishwasher) into an ordeal.  The rest of you will just have to try to imagine.  But you're probably all scratching your heads at the comment about the old house.  How can an old house make things interesting?  Well, I'm not sure interesting is the word I would use to describe it, but to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'll provide you with an example.

Several months ago, the speckled ceiling in our kitchen began to crack and then to sag in certain places.  As time progressed, the sags split apart, leaving large pieces of speckled ceiling hanging down, like an upside-down hatching egg.  (Note, there is not a hole in the ceiling itself, just the heavy layer of speckled paint. Praise the Lord for that!)  Anyway, day after day, I watched the progress of the impending mess.  Part of me wanted to just climb up there and pull the large chunks away, but another part of me thought that maybe if I left it alone, I'd be able to fix it at some point.  (Yeah, right!)  Unfortunately, before I could make a decision one way or another, the problem resolved itself. . . sort of.  As I worked on dinner one evening, one of the pieces decided to let go, followed by another and then another.  The resulting mess from those three pieces hitting the floor was indescribable, not to mention the scream that poured out of my lips before I realized what was happening.  I instantly became Chicken Little.  "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"  Who knew falling paint could be so loud?

See what I mean now?  Never a dull moment!

As I cleaned up the mess from the fallen paint, I realized how often I feel just like that speckled surface, hanging on for dear life day after day, struggling to keep my grip despite the trials and heartaches that pull at me.  With each disappointment and frustration, my strength sags a little more and my grip weakens.  Finally, when I've taken all that I can, I release my grip and find myself falling, in danger of being smashed to pieces.  All my hopes.  All my dreams.  All my expectations.  I see them crumble before my eyes.

Fortunately, unlike the paint, I never hit the ground, for strong arms are waiting to catch me.  Those same arms hold and comfort me.  They offer strength where mine has failed, and while I no longer have to ability to grip onto anything, those hands hold me firmly in their grasp.  And instead of crumbling, I feel myself melting into the tender embrace.  Tired and weary from my struggles, all I can do is rest in those strong arms, confident that no harm can befall me as long as I reside within the shelter of His grip.  And at that moment, I realize that those arms had been holding me all along.  I was never in danger of falling in the first place.  I had merely been so blinded by my own efforts and trials that I had forgotten where my strength truly lies.  I needed to release my grip before I could remember that He had never released His.

Life is not about holding on.  It's about trusting in the One who's holding on to you.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. - Jude 1:24-25

Monday, March 6, 2017

Don't Rock the Boat

On Sunday, my pastor read a quote from a book on church signs. The quote went something like this: "If you're busy rowing the boat, you won't have time to rock it." How true! How true!

Is it just me or does it seem like the people who cause the most trouble are those who aren't doing anything? You know the type. They stand there and criticize everything you do but never offer to help. They complain about not having programs for this or that, yet are unwilling to pitch in to get any new programs started. They're generally busy bodies and energy drainers, and I want nothing to do with them.

The problem is that at one time or another, I find myself to be the boat rocker. Not that I don't stay busy, but somehow I find the time to complain about things instead of getting in there and doing the work myself. Now please understand, there's a very fine line to walk here. No one should overextend themselves. It's simply not possible for us to say "yes" to every invitation or request that is issued. To do so would result in burnout and possible bitterness. The key is that if you can't fit it into your schedule, then don't commit to it. That's fine. . . but don't complain about it either.

Jesus said we are to occupy until He comes. That means to stay busy. So let's be sure we're busy about the right things, namely rowing the boat instead of rocking it.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. - Ecclesiastes 9:10

***Excerpt from Mindful Musings of  Moody Motivator***

Friday, March 3, 2017

I Only Thought I Wanted To Be in Control

Many, many years ago, Jason talked me into riding the Alpine slide in Tennessee.  If you're not familiar with it, it's basically a concrete track zig-zagging down the side of a mountain.  The rider sits in a little cart (and I mean "little") and controls the descent of the cart with a single lever in the front of the vehicle.  Pushing the lever forward makes the rider go faster while pulling it back applies the breaks.  Steering was not an option.  The cart followed the track. . .well, mostly.

I'll be honest, I was terrified of this thing.  One, I don't like heights.  Two, though I thought I enjoyed being in control, I discovered that I wasn't comfortable with the fact that the success or failure of my descent was entirely dependent on my knowledge and actions.  A roller coaster I could do.  All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.  But this was different.  Sure, the pictures showed young kids doing it, but surely, I was old enough to understand the risks involved in plunging down the mountain in a cart that one sat "on" more than sat "in."  No roll bars.  No seat belts.  Are you kidding me?

But, Jason really wanted to do it, so being the loving wife that I am (no comments please), I gave in.  After all, he assured me that nothing could go wrong.  According to him, there was no possible way I could veer off the track or get hurt in any way.  Since that time, I've learned to interpret such statements in an entirely different way.

Anyway, we started down the mountain at the same time, each of us on our own track.  Jason, being the competitive sort, was determined to win the race.  I, on the other hand, was only interested in getting down the mountain so that I could get off the confounded contraption.  Something tells me I was the slowest person EVER going down that mountain.

Unfortunately, I wasn't slow enough to miss what happened in front of me.  All of a sudden, Jason's cart completely flipped, and my dear husband began sliding down the concrete track without his cart which had resumed its upright position and taken off down the track without him.  The next thing I knew, he rolled onto the grass, jumped up and began chasing his cart down the mountain.  Thinking about it now, I can't help but laugh at what a comical sight it was, but at that time, I was not laughing.  I had just witnessed what was possible on the deathtrap I was currently riding, and in my terror, I gave that brake a rigorous workout.  I'm pretty sure snails were crawling past me, but I didn't care.  It might take me forever to get to the bottom, but I was determined to get there alive and in one piece.  Many minutes later, I finally arrived at the base of the mountain to find my bruised and scraped husband smiling and laughing.  What an idiot! (Love you, baby.)

Despite his injuries, he had the time of his life.  I, on the contrary, hated every minute of it and declared that I would NEVER ride such a thing again.  And, to this day, I haven't. . . and I don't intend to.

The ironic part about all of this is that I am typically a person who wants to be in control.  I want to set my own ways, determine my own path, course and speed.  I like having a schedule and routine.  I enjoy making plans and knowing what to expect from each day.  But on that particular day and in that setting, I wanted to be able to place my life in the hands of someone who actually knew what they were doing.  I wasn't familiar with that flimsy contraption.  I didn't fully understand how it worked or even why it worked.  Not only did I not trust the equipment, but more than that, I didn't trust my ability to control it.  Nope, in that situation, I would have much rather been a passenger rather than a driver (though not in Jason's cart, obviously).

Now, if I could only adopt that same mentality when it comes to living life.  If I could get it through my head that I don't know what I'm doing, maybe it would be easier to trust the One who does.  Too often, I put too much confidence in my ability to control my environment and the circumstances of life, but the truth is, I'm only a passenger on this ride.  So, I can fret and worry about every twist and turn, or I can do like I do when I'm riding a roller coaster and simply sit back and enjoy the ride.  When I put it that way, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God. - Psalm 31:14

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cat and Dog Theology

I am a dog person, always have been. Growing up, we had a few cats, but if I'm honest, my favorite cat was the one who acted the most like a dog. Simba, my Siamese/bobtail, did all the things dogs do.  He drank from the toilet, loved to play outside and greeted me at the door each day after school. I loved that cat; the others, well, they were fine.

When Jason and I first got married, we had a cat that had been passed down to us by my sister. When my niece was born, it became obvious that she and Avonlea, the cat, did not get along. After living with Avonlea for a while, I understood, for she didn't get along with me either. If I had to guess, I would say she was demon-possessed (I'm not kidding; it was that bad!). That cat was an absolute terror. She was high and mighty and wanted her way or else. Even when we got our first dog, Tessa, Avonlea made certain that everyone (including the newcomer) understood that she was the boss. Overall, that seems to be the cat way.

That's the difference between dogs and cats. Cats are all about pleasing themselves. They want to be waited on, petted when they feel like it, left alone when they don't. They want every need met without having to expend any energy of their own. Not only do they think they're the boss, but most of them act as if they are God.

Dogs, on the other hand, are all about serving their master. They greet their owners eagerly at the door, so excited to see us. They offer love, kisses and snuggly attention. They revel in our care of them and love us unconditionally, even when we accidentally step on their tail or forget to pick up their favorite treat at the grocery store. Dogs don't see themselves as God but they sure treat their owners as God. For the most part, they are selfless, always wanting to please the master.

My question for us today is, are we living out a cat or dog theology? Is our life all about us? Do we seek only to serve and please ourselves, or is our main goal to glorify our Master?  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be a dog, even when life is "ruff" (sorry, but you knew it was coming, didn't you?).

So, let's go out today and live a life that is all about pleasing our Master.  It's not about us; it's all about Him!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:26