Stuck in a Groove?

Do you remember playing those old records in the players with the needle that would go around and around to make the sound? If there was a scratch in the record, you could get the same phrase playing over and over again until you moved the needle forward beyond the scratch.

Sometimes, my mind works like one of those old record players, replaying the same phrase or thought over and over again. I have learned to pay attention when that happens. When it is a fear or negative thought, I look for the root (the cause), so that I can deal with the underlying issue. Once I have done that, the unwanted and intrusive thoughts disappear on their own.

Romans11-36

However, when it is a piece of scripture, or praise and thanksgiving to God, then I have learned that it is either a message about something I am struggling with, a reminder of something I am forgetting, or something God wants to take from “head knowledge” to “heart knowledge” taking it from knowing about, to living it out. One such phrase that has been rumbling around in my head recently is “From Him, through Him and for Him is Everything.”

Colossians1-16

Everything that exists was made by Him. I have nothing that God did not give me. Even my ability to choose to rebel against Him is an ability that He gave me. Every breath I take, every thought I think, every action I take is only because God is continuing to sustain not only me, but also the universe in which I live and move and have my being. John1-3

 

Finally, everything that I think, say or do, should reflect my humble gratitude to Him, increasingly reflecting His glory as the fruit of the Spirit grows in my character and my life.

Today, I renew and refresh my commitment and desire that the meditations of my heart, the thoughts of my mind, the words of my mouth and the actions of my limbs will bring glory and honor to my Lord, my Savior, the center and the source of my life.

Psalm19-14

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Is There a Crack in Your Faith?

Is there a crack in your faith_

It didn’t start out to be that bad of a day. I was tired, but my schedule wasn’t heavy today so maybe I would be able to get caught up on some tasks. As I reached for my coffee cup, it got tangled with some cords and went flying. As the coffee spread over the rug and the floor I was amazed that I didn’t hear the crashing sound of the cup breaking. “Isn’t that just like God”, I thought “the cup which said faith on it wasn’t broken even though my faith was spilled out all over the floor”. As my day went on I went to the dentist where I was informed that I needed a crown, I stubbed my toe, and my computer froze while printing out things I thought I had already printed, and on and on it went. My attitude, which wasn’t that great to start the day, continued spiraling down.

Still, I held onto the fact the my faith was not broken, all was not lost, it would get better. Deciding to take a break and get another cup of coffee, I looked more closely at the cup and discovered that my faith was indeed cracked. Now the reality of what was happening began to penetrate my thick skull.

2 Cor 10_5

I was not controlling my thoughts, I was allowing my flesh to dictate how I perceived and responded to the events of my day. How often do we do this? We get tired, and we allow the enemy to get a foothold into our thoughts. As soon as this happens, things get worse. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, they seem to us to be horrible, bad, no good, awful and downright unfair. This isn’t a question of if, it is a question of when, and what are we going to do when we realize what is happening? Today, I am going to go put on worship music, spend some time reading and writing about the glory of God, and allow God’s Word to wash the rest of this mud out of my mind. What about you? What works for you when you have one of “those days”?

1 Thess 5_17-18a

Gifts

1It seems like my life has been filled with messages about gifts recently. In August and September multiple family members have birthdays. Then, in September I started a Bible study of the book of Romans where we have been reminded every week of the manifold gifts that God gives to us. Suddenly it was time to begin preparing for Christmas, and once again, gifts are in the forefront.

True confessions, Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. Of course, I loved getting things as children, but still, I liked Easter and Thanksgiving more, and still do. Working in retail for many years did not help me enjoy the Christmas season. I envy people (or I would if envy were not a sin) who love the season, and have beautifully decorated homes, 2and gorgeous trees with brightly wrapped packages while I struggle to find those personal gifts and get them in the mail in time.

How could I not be overjoyed that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to live and die for us, giving us the gift of faith through grace, saving us from our sins and giving us entrance into the Kingdom of God? This amazing gift far outshines any gift we could make or buy here on earth. It makes me wonder, what birthday gift could I possibly give Jesus to celebrate His birth as a human, forever joining us to Himself and reconciling us to the Trinity?

There is only one: worship from my heart, accented with constant praise and thanksgiving, demonstrated in absolute trust and obedience.

3

Kindness Countdown

I have been on the hunt for several years to find the “perfect” Advent calendar that did not involve chocolate candy. Don’t we get enough sugar this time of year, do we need more? Okay, don’t answer that out loud. I have bought several toy kits in which there is a toy surprise for every day of the month. They are really cute but what do you do with all the toy pieces when the 26th arrives? You can’t play with them all year long because you may lose a few pieces, especially if you have small children or sneaky cats in the house. You just might have to put them right back in the box for next year. Those toy kits only take up more space in your garage or closet. The crafty ones also sit in some container or tote for 364 days of the year. As of now, I have no calendar.

The best ideas come to my mind when I am not thinking of a solution. The Lord has this clever way of dropping an idea in my head. It’s like finding an unexpected dollar bill in your pants’ pocket. Here is what I received today.Love your neighbor as yourself

Kindness Countdown

Advent Calendar

Mark 12:31-

“Love your neighbor as yourself”

Goal: You and any family member must perform one act of kindness each day for anyone you know or meet. Animals are included. It can be as simple as giving a hug to a friend or sharing a recipe. Teens can do an extra chore or read a book to a younger sibling. You can buy a stranger a muffin. Discuss ideas with the family.

Be creative and make it as personal as possible.

**You can challenge each other to see who can do 1 thing for all 25 days ending with Christmas or even go to 31 days. Give a prize for completion.

Colossians 3:12 alt [widescreen]How:

1. Make a blank calendar for December and decorate it. Use stickers if you can’t draw or let the kids do it. Make a tree or snowman shape.

2. Here is a website for a free printable calendar.

http://teachingsquared.com/worksheet/calendar-template/

3. Put that calendar on your fridge or in a central location. Each day put a star or sticker and the person’s initial next to it when a deed is completed.

4. Everyone can share what they did at dinner, right before bedtime, or even at breakfast the next day. Find a time that works best for all of you. Talk in the car on the way to the grocery store if that’s all you can manage.

I want to celebrate Christmas, my favorite holiday, with more compassion and kindness. I hope this will encourage your family to discover creative ways of loving others and sharing Jesus.

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year! Michelle,NC

Micah 6:8 [widescreen]

What is your favorite costume?

I had just turned seven anPlaza_Mayor_de_Madrid_06d we were living in a hotel in the center of Madrid while waiting for our apartment to be ready. My mother, older sister and I spoke a total of two words in Spanish: “no comprendo” which means: I don’t understand. We had discovered that it normally took about three repetitions before people understood that those were the only words we knew and started communicating via pointing and gestures. We were struggling with feeling uprooted and not being able to communicate, much less fit in.

Now, it was almost Halloween and my sister and I wanted to know what we were going to dress up as and where we were going “trick or treating.” We didn’t care or understand that they didn’t celebrate Halloween in Spain. We wanted what we knew.

There were a couple other American families in the same hotel. The parents got together, figured out something to use for costumes, and arranged that we would go from room to room trick or treat to help ease our angst. I remember prancing through the lobby while the other guests looked at us with confusion and my parents tried to explain the tradition.

2 Corinthians 3:18 [widescreen]

Halloween is over for this year, but pictures of children and adults in costumes are still circulating. Some costumes are of princesses and super heroes and cute animals, and some are of scary and evil characters. The choice of costume displays something about who each person is and what they want to be.

We all wear costumes every day, putting forward an image to the world that we want them to see. We do this with the clothes we choose, the words we use, and the actions we take. The question is whether we are using this costume to pretend to be something we are not, or to reflect the person we are now and the person we striving to become. God put on a costume once, too. He put on a human body and came and lived among us. The difference? He accepted this costume to reach us in a way that we could understand and to show us another way to live. Ironically, instead of hiding God’s identity, this costume revealed who God is. Jesus reveals to us the great love, and power, and mercy and justice and forgiveness and humility of the one and only glorious majestic King of the Universe.

What costume are you going to put on today?

C.S. Lewis Quote 1

Floating on the Wings of God

Hebrews 4:9 [widescreen]Arriving at work one morning, I was surprised to see my boss (the Chief Financial Officer of a Fortune 500 company). As I passed his office on the way to my own he called me into his office and told me to close the door. Red flags were now flying high; this was definitely out of character for him and for our working relationship. Sitting in the chair in front of his desk and putting my briefcase down, I said “ I’m in trouble . . . We’re in trouble . . . “ at which point he completed my implied question saying “We are all in trouble, the Chairman of the Board (majority stockholder) sold the company last night.”

As the impli1 Peter 5:7 [widescreen]cations of his statement sank in, I realized that I was out of a job, as were the rest of the corporate office. My response? I started laughing. There was nothing else I could do. My car had been totaled a few months ago, my parents were assigned out of the country, I had virtually no savings, and my sister was still recovering from her own crises. In other words, the last leg holding up my life had just collapsed and I had no safety net. At this point, I had a choice. I could not chose what was going to happen. I could choose how I was going to respond, and I chose to laugh.

My boss, with surprise on his face and concern in his voice, thinking I did not understand, explained the realities to me. Out of my mouth came a statement that would carry me through many challenges in my life. Matthew 11:28 [widescreen]“Larry,” I said, “when things happen we can either laugh or cry, and I choose to laugh.” He let me leave and go to continue my job, later bringing me lists of the divestiture schedules we needed to create. We also had a couple of acquisitions slated to close within a couple of weeks. Needless to say, our office became a whirlwind of work, stress, and chaos as we each struggled to keep up and adjust.

A few days later, Larry walked into my office and stated “You are right, and we are going to laugh our way through this.” From that point on, whenever things appeared impossible or ridiculous, instIsaiah 40:31 [widescreen]ead of stressing, we laughed. Most of the rest of the people in the office were worried about our grasp on reality, but our laughter at the inane situations we found ourselves in helped us to cope, remaining focused as we completed all of the required tasks. I sometimes wish I had video of the two of us crawling on the floor of the Boardroom in our suits laughing as we verified the completeness of all of the piles of divestiture schedules lined along the walls.

It was, while my life was floating in chaos, one of the best periods of my life. Without understanding it at the time, it was probably my first experience floating on the wings of God. Maybe one day I will master being able to always rest on His wings, allowing Him to direct me wherever He desires, while I simply enjoy the vistas and the ride in complete and utter trust for His love and care for me, one of His dearly beloved children.John 15:9 [widescreen]

Who Are You Working For?

Recently, at a Christian women’s retreat, I asked my small prayer group for strength and wisdom to deal with difficulties I was encountering in a volunteer position. One of the women responded with advice I have heard many times in similar situations: “You are a volunteer, just quit.”

This time I responded a little more vehemently then I intended. As we struggled to understand each other, the difference in our underlying assumptions became clear when I finally said “I can’t quit because God hasn’t released me.”

I knew that God had sent me on this assignment, and therefore if I quit, I was in essence saying no to God. I wasn’t giving up on the other people, the organization, or even myself; I would be giving up on God. It has taken me a long, long time to reach this point, but I understand that everything I do, whether paid work, volunteer, recreation, chLogos Col 3 23ores or rest, I am to do it all to God. Lest you think I have my act together, there is a difference between what I know in my head to be true, and what I am able to consistently live out on a daily basis. But I have also learned that I will never be able to put anything into practice unless I recognize it first. But, I digress –

How we respond to difficulties in whatever positions we find ourselves in is largely determined by our perspective of why we are doing it. If it is all about us, our desires, and our plans, we will be quick to anger and quick to give up. If, on the other hand, we have heard and obeyed God’s direction, even if we didn’t hear God clearly or interpret what we heard correctly, we will respond very differently. The key difference is that we will be much more likely to seek God’s direction and try to see and understand what God is doing and why He has us there at this time.

God is less concerned about the specific tasks of this temporary world then He is about our eternal destiny. God is focused on building our character and helping us to understand who we are in relationship to Him and others. He is revealing Himself to us and teaching us our unique God-given identity as well as how to live that out in this world and the next. Part of this is for us to learn how to work together in unity, without competition, focusing on God and His directives while trusting God to protect and to guide and to take care of our needs. How we deal with other people reflects where we are in this journey. If you are like me, you have a long way to go, but can take comfort in looking at how far God has already brought you. When I look back over the decades of my life thus far, I can see example after example of God’s tender care and provision for me, even when I misunderstood how He was directing me, or was running away from Him at full speed (that never works, just ask Jonah).
So, next time you find yourself getting frustrated at work (whether paid or volunteer) ask yourself:

Who Are You Working For_

 

Are You Prepared?

About a week before Irma was expected to hit the Florida Keys my husband and I were driving back from dinner and decided to stop to fill the almost empty gas tank. The first station we passed by as it was already full, with lines beginning to form. “Everybody must have had the same idea” my husband remarked as we drove on to another, larger station, once again finding every pump occupied (except one). After filling the tank, our next stop was the grocery store. As we started to pick up the items on our list, we noted how many people were in the store, but still did not realize what was going on until we arrived at the aisle where they sell water. Well, if I were to be accurate, I would say it is where they normally stored the water they sell. This evening the shelves were bare. Finally, the light bulb went on and we realized that people were afraid that Irma was going to make it all the way up to Charlotte, North Carolina, and people were rushing around trying to get prepared.Nahum 1:7

Over the next few days, as I mused over the different reactions people were having, some scoffing and some panicking, I became aware of the differences between preparing for an earthquake and preparing for a hurricane. When the Northridge earthquake hit, a few short miles from where were living, we were not prepared. Fortunately (i.e. due to God’s providential care), we were living on top of a hill of bedrock and the quake went through our house at an angle, leaving us with only minor damage and days (as compared to weeks) without water or power. Some of our friends and neighbors did not fare as well. It took a long time for services and lives to get back on an even footing. After that experience, I went and purchased everything we would need to survive after a larger earthquake. What I learned through this was the benefit of perpetual preparedness.

Isn’t this what Jesus was trying to teach us in the parable of the ten virgins? Matthew 25 1:13

If we wait until we think we are about to leave this life and enter eternity to prepare for eternity, the store will be sold out or closed. None of us know when “the big one” is coming. What we can do is look around at what is happening and read “the signs of the times” and recognize that the end is growing closer, and we need to be prepared. How prepared are you to enter eternity? This is not a matter of being good enough or good works. Rather, it is a matter of the state of our relationship with our heavenly father.

Will you join me in asking God today what one thing each of us should either start or stop doing to prepare for eternity? It may be very simple, or it could be very difficult. It could be developing a habit of spending time with God each day, it could be to stop working so hard and just rest in Him, it could be to go out and have fun and fellowship. Whatever it is, my experience with earthquakes teaches me that it is worth the effort to prepare.

Matthew 6 20:21

Where are you building your nest?

Swallow nest with the grown-up baby birds

Swallow nest with the grown-up baby birds. Reproduction of nested birds.

Early one spring morning, I awoke to hear little birds chirping just outside the French doors leading from our bedroom to the backyard. Intrigued at how close they sounded, I opened the drapes slowly to see a pair of little birds collecting twigs and building a nest in the eaves just above the French doors. At the time we had two small cats that loved to hunt. The younger of the two, named Dodger, focused on birds. Once he had cleared the mockingbirds from our yard (leaving only a few feathers to show that they ever existed) he went on to mourning doves (tasty but not as much sport since they were slower), and then moved on to any of the smaller birds that were foolish enough to enter the yard (and surrounding areas).

Cat with captured bird

Dodger’s voracious appetite for birds (in addition to all of the canned and dry cat food we gave him), meant that building a nest in this location was a death sentence for these birds and their offspring. Each morning, I would go out and knock down their nest. I tried to explain to them the peril they were in, but they just flew some distance away, landed on a branch, and chirped angrily. No matter how hard I tried to make them understand, they just got angrier and angrier. They were determined to build themselves a nice home, and start ed their building project earlier each morning. Finally, one morning, they had almost completely built the nest by the time I went out to knock it down. That was the last morning they tried, then they left to find a more hospitable location for their nest.

This makes me wonder how often I am working really hard to build something that I think is going to be wonderful, and God comes and knocks it down, trying to explain to me that I am building someplace that is guaranteed to result in my demise. Then, each time I try again, convinced I am building something good, God knocks it down and tells me again I am trying to build someplace that is going to result in me and others getting hunted and killed.

a tree in the field

Sometimes the things that appear to be negative occurrences may actually be God’s greatest acts of protection, steering us away from a danger we do not see, and do not understand. I wonder what warnings God gave to Lot when he insisted on building his home and his life in Sodom. What looked like a good location to Lot ended up costing him his home, his wife, his relationship with and trust of his daughters, and leaving a legacy of pain and betrayal. What would happen if we stopped and asked God if He was warning us to change directions, and then listened in quiet expectation of His answer, whether or not it was what we wanted to hear?

ABMI John 10:27:28

 

 

 

 

God Is

Genesis 1_1So there I was, driving along a canyon road fretting about all sorts of issues, none of which were within my control. As I round a corner, I hear a voice tell me to look out at the canyon. “Surely not Lord, there are no guardrails and I could go over the side!” I reply. Again, I hear the command to look. After struggling a little, I obey. As I look out, I once again hear this thought: “I created all of this. Do you not think I can take care of what concerns you?”

How many times each day do we forget that we have a relationship with a personal God who loves us and created everything? How many times each day do we limit ourselves because we are limiting God? Do we really think that we can understand God fully, knowing what He is thinking and what He is doing?

Isaiah 55_8-9
God cannot be contained. God is bigger then I can imagine. God is more powerful then anything I have seen. God is more powerful then an earthquake, or a tornado, or the deadliest plague. God is more loving then any person I have ever met or ever will meet. God is wiser then the wisest of people. God’s creation reveals the character of its Creator. Look around and marvel at the beauty, the galaxies, the deserts, the lush forests, a delicate hummingbird, a graceful lynx, and so on and on it goes.

1 Corinthians 2_9Whenever I stop trying to do God’s job and simply allow God to be God, and remember that He created me and that He loves me, a great weight is lifted off of me. I no longer need to figure everything out. I no longer need to be perfect in my thoughts, behavior, or attitude. I can trust that the God that created not only me, but the entire universe is fully capable of taking care of His creation and fulfilling His purposes.

Then, I remember that this Creator God came and, taking the form of a human being, lived among us, teaching us and showing us the way, knowing that we would torture and kill him. And yet, Jesus loves us still.

John 1_1