Mulling It Over - Part 6

It is always refreshing when we can learn something new. It is also good for our brains. As we age things in our bodies change and that includes in our brains. That is why I like to do this blog. It has helped me learn many new things, such as how to build a post and actually get it out there where you can see it. It also has given me the opportunity to go back to Scripture and learn new things. I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. I was brought up in a Bible believing church where the word was preached every time the doors were open. My husband and i brought our children up in a Bible based church where both of our daughters were involved in Bible quizzing. To say that God’s word is important to us is obvious.

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However, that doesn’t mean life has been perfect. We have walked through some very difficult times and probably will walk through more, but then that is the beauty of a life walked out with Jesus Christ. He is always there, through every difficulty, and with each difficulty He brings new light and depth to our understanding of Him. It doesn’t matter how many times I have read through the Bible. It doesn’t matter that my education revolved around the Bible. Today, I still learn new things from God’s word, and that is exactly why I like to do this series.

Let’s review by reading through this passage in 2 Peter 1 again:

1 To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 2:1-11 (NASB)

Today we are concentrating on verse 7:

7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
— 2 Peter 1:7 (NASB)

…and in your godliness…

Last week I spend some time discussing what it means to be godly. We looked at how godliness enables us to persevere. You can read that full post here.

I’d like to take a closer look at this idea of godliness; what it is and is not. Let’s look at some verses:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these
— 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB)

We are told in this passage that in the last days difficult times will come. If you look at the descriptions that follow, we would probably agree that these times are already on us. The words that describe these “men” are, unfortunately, words that paint a picture of the daily news. Words like unloving, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, conceited….all describe people we either know first hand or that we have read about or seen on various forms of media.

The point I want to emphasize is in verse 5. “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” How many people do you know that say, “I believe in God,” but their lives show no evidence that they really know who that supreme being is? Their form of godliness goes under the guise of good deeds, kind words and harmony. There is nothing wrong with those things, but those things do not make us godly. Those things do not have any power.

It is true, that being kind and doing good deeds are beneficial. What a better world we would be living in, if everyone actually did those things, but it is God who makes us godly, not the things we do. As much as we don’t like to hear it and as much as we want to be the good guy, the Bible tells us that we are wicked.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
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Pixabay

I found it interesting as I looked for this verse. I memorized it in my younger days in the King James Version, so that is what I was looking for. As I looked at various translations it was interesting to see the condition word that was used to describe the heart. These were some of the descriptors: desperately wicked, exceedingly corrupt, mortally sick, desperately sick, incurable, beyond cure, desperately corrupt. How does that make you feel? These are words God inspired to describe our hearts. So when it says that men are holding to a form of godliness, yet there is no power in it, it makes perfect sense. We cannot be godly without God, and it seems that the One True God is being shoved to the back seat, as an after thought, rather than a priority. For many, He is not even an after thought, except to take His name in vain.

…brotherly kindness…

I just got done saying that only God makes us godly, so why then is brotherly kindness attached to godliness? The Bible is full of examples of what modern day philanthropists would title a social gospel. Before there was a politically correct way of looking at the world, the God who created the heavens and the earth, had already put into motion a social system that took care of those who had to do without. If you are ever interested do a study of the complex social system God places on the Jewish people. This system did not allow the unseen to fall through the cracks. People were taken care of, either by family or by the community in general. If they didn’t have food, those that did were instructed to leave their excess for the use of those without. Brotherly kindness also transcends the bounds of our immediate community as it is an attitude that we can take with us any where.

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What does this have to do with godliness? The ability to extend brotherly kindness, reminds us of who we are. We are created in the image of a God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. When we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others we are doing what God Himself did when He offered His only son, Jesus, for our redemption. We cannot be godly, if we are not trying to become more like Him, by living our lives in the service of others.

…and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Many of you who regularly read God’s word are familiar with the 1 Corinthians 13 chapter on love. The chapter, which is all about the characteristics of true, godly love, ends with this simple culmination:

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

How fitting that this list of characteristics of Christian virtue, ends with love. As Paul said in his famous chapter, anything I try to do without love, means nothing. All those acts of brotherly kindness will only reach as deep as our love for the people we are serving. Many acts of brotherly kindness have been done in the name of self. After all, doing things for others, makes us feel good. However, only real, godly love will make the acts that we do last. We can take water and food to people who have none, but if we leave having done, only that, the food and water will run out and the difference that was made will only be temporary.

Love fuels brotherly kindness. Without love we are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol; making a lot of noise, but not making an impact on people’s lives.

As you go about your week, this week, think about what you are doing. When you are serving someone else, is it a reminder to you of your position before God? Are you extending brotherly kindness, but doing so with love?



Mulling It Over - Part 4

Hi again! I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Here is another look at the passage in its entirety.

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Pixabay

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

The last few weeks we have looked at verses 1 & 2 (here), 3 (here) and 4 (here). Today, I would like to ruminate on verse 5.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
— 2 Peter 1:5 (NASB)

As usual, I want to take the verse apart piece by piece.

Now for this very reason also…

I believe this phrase is referring back to the previous phrase in verse 4, “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” The fact that we are in the world means we are exposed to the corruption in it. We are bombarded with images and messages telling us we are the center of the universe and if we aren’t happy with ourselves we can buy this, or do that and all will be well. Unfortunately, there are also darker forces at work that we cannot see, motivating people to do things that are even more corrupt. Evil is targeting our marriages, our families and our children. Because of the corruption that surrounds us due to darkened hearts and even dimmer understanding of the truth, it is for that reason that we also….

…applying all diligence…

What do you think of when you hear the word, diligence? I think of teeny critters like honey bees and ants. These tiny creatures go about their business day in and day out, working to keep their hives or their hills intact and in working order.

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How does Webster define the word diligence?

steady, earnest, and energetic effort persevering application

I don’t know about you, but I do not always fit into the steady, earnest, and energetic effort description. I really struggle with being diligent in many areas of my life. I put diligence up there with discipline and self-control, which are also words I struggle with. But, here Peter is admonishing us to apply diligence. He’s telling us when it comes to the corruption in the world, we need to be steady, earnest and energetic in our effort to not become marred by it. We are to be like the ant or the honey bee diligently taking care of the people God has given us charge of. That may mean our coworkers, our spouses, our children or our fellow worshippers.

You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.
— Deuteronomy 6:17 (NASB)
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
— Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)
I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
— Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
— Proverbs 11;27 (NASB)

The next few phrases refer back to the idea of applying all diligence. In other words we are to be diligent in each of the following areas:

…in your faith, supply moral excellence…

Why do you think the word faith here is paired with moral excellence? It is my belief that our faith can be easily swayed by the corruption in the world, because we do not adhere to moral excellence. Moral excellence encompasses issues having to do with morality, think Ten Commandments sorts of issues. Whether we are talking about murder, adultery, taking God’s name in vain, jealousy and others, when we begin to loosen our moral suspenders we risk being caught with our spiritual pants down. Our faith is only strengthened and grown as we continue to make morally excellent choices. In today’s world that is hard, but Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, I am pretty sure that is why He inspired Peter to pen these words. He knew we would need the reminder.

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…and in your moral excellence, knowledge…

Once again, we need to ask, why is moral excellence paired with knowledge? Let’s face it, there is an awful lot of knowledge out there. With the onset of social media, Google and other computer applications we are able to instantly know about everything. Do you want to know what people think about a political issue? Open that can of worms on Facebook or Twitter. Do you want to know what the side affects are for that medication the doctor just put you on? Type it in to Google. Do want to keep track of your calories, your steps, your sleep or your water intake, there is an app for that. We have knowledge pouring into us in at a rate that is not only unhealthy for us mentally, but emotionally as well. If you want to see news stories and videos of people getting handcuffed or beat up, you can access it. If you want to know how to grow marijuana, you can find out. Some will say we are living in the enlightened age. I believe we are living in the burdened age. While it is true that knowledge is power, knowledge can also be a weighty thing to carry around.

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However, Peter was not talking about knowledge of the world. He is talking about knowledge of God. The more we know God, His character and His mind, the easier it is to discern what is morally excellent. in order to be diligent in our moral excellence we must learn of and know God. We do that by being in His word, praying, fellowshipping with other believers and by sitting under teachers who specifically adhere to the truth of Scripture and moral excellence.

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
— Deuteronomy 7:9
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
— Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
— Psalm 100:3 (NASB)

Being morally excellent does not take on the guise of moral judge. What it does do is puts itself in the hands of the Perfect Judge and let’s Him take care it. Being morally excellent doesn’t mean never being tempted, nor does it mean never giving in to a temptation, but what it does mean is knowledge of the perfect forgiver of sins and the way to receive that forgiveness. Knowledge is essential for attaining and maintaining moral excellence.

There is so much more to be learned from these verses, as we could study each and every one of these words in depth. I would encourage you to continue study on your own. Do a word study of the words diligent, diligence, moral, excellence and knowledge. Feel free to share your own experiences with these words in the comments below.

Until next time, have a great Wednesday.













Mulling It Over - Part 2

It was a good morning to stay inside. The temperature hovered at 32 degrees Fahrenheit making the moisture that fell turn everything into something similar to a glazed doughnut without the sweet taste. Even now, as the temps have risen to a balmy 34 degrees, the ice still lingers, stubbornly clinging to branches, wires, driveways, cars and buildings.

Ice on back door
Ice on branches
Ice on plant hanger

I am looking at a portion of scripture that I introduced last week in the New Testament book of 2 Peter. Peter, one of the original twelve disciples, authored 1st and 2nd Peter. Here is the passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. You can see that post here. This week we will dissect verse 3. If you have not been a participant in my Mulling It Over series before, let me briefly explain how this works. I love to let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to understand scripture, so what I am doing is sharing with you what I have learned in my study of certain scriptures. I think is is wonderful to study the Bible in different ways, so I would strongly encourage you to do further research and study on various passages, but for this particular study we will just chew on what it says and let the Bible do the talking.

On to verse 3:

...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
— 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

…seeing that His divine power…

The fact that it is divine power, means that it is power of God, not men or machines or whatever you want to use to fill in the blank. This power is from God. It is His to give and His to withhold. Here are a few other verses that talk about His divine power.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding.
— Job 12:13 (NASB)
I will instruct you in the power of God; What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
— Job 27:11 (NASB)
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
— Psalm 68:35 (NASB)
Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
— Daniel 2:20 (NASB)

…has granted to us…

I looked up the word granted in Webster’s Online Dictionary. There are two specific definitions that I feel define the way the word is used in this sentence. The first says, “…to permit as a right, privilege or favor.” God has given us rights. He has privileged us and he has given us favor. It may not always seems like it, but it is true.

The second definition says, “…to bestow or transfer formally; to give the possession or title of by a deed.” God, in His great generosity gives us things. Just as a good father loves to give his children gifts, so too, our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure from giving His spiritual children gifts.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
— Matthew 7:11 (NASB)
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
— Genesis 13:17 (NASB)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
— Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

So what, exactly, is it that God granted to us?

…everything pertaining to life and godliness…

The word everything is pretty all encompassing. We could all list things that we have wanted that God didn’t necessarily give us, so why does it say everything. The key phrase here is pertaining to. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. We all might think, now wait a minute, there are plenty of things pertaining to life that I haven’t been given. For example, a woman who desires to have a child, but is unable or someone looking for a life partner, but not able to find the right one. What about the man or woman who is out of a job and can’t find work, or people in other countries who live in fear for their lives and the lives of their children? Isn’t the ability to find love, have a family and have a secure, safe place to live all part of life?

How many of you remember the song, sung by Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? Here’s a refresher if you have the time to listen.

The first few lines go:

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime.”

It might sound rather trite, especially if you are going through a hard time, but there is great truth there. God didn’t promise us that we would have everything we want, or even everything we need. The power He has granted to us is the ability to live life, regardless of what difficulties come along.

Notice that the verse says everything pertaining to life and godliness. There seems to be a connection here which cannot be ignored. Godliness goes hand in hand with living life. We don’t become godly after life is over, we become godly as we live life. As many of you have already experienced becoming godly often happens during the most difficult portions of life, not during the rose garden moments, but during the monsoon moments. It is during these monsoon moments that God grants us what we need to keep living life, or the grace to give up.

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Pixabay

There is nothing wrong with giving up, particularly if you have struggled and struggled. There are times that the giving up is more a matter of our pride than it is the desire to get what we want. We don’t want to look weak, or stupid, or unable to cope. We don’t want to ask for help or admit that this is definitely not what we thought life would look like. But it is okay! Come to terms with it, you are weak, sometimes your decisions are stupid and frankly I have had many days where I just could’t cope, but God has always been there through it all and that brings me to the last portion of this verse.

…through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.

That divine power that grants to us everything to live this journey we call life and make us godly is only obtainable through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, it is through our acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we are able to live life and be godly. We can’t do this on our own and that is precisely the point.

God called us, each one of us, by His own glory and excellence, which was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the crowing glory of the Father and Jesus is the perfect man, a man of true excellence. When we come to know Him by our faith in His virgin birth, life, death and resurrection, we are given the ability to live this life, no matter what it throws at us. Our loss is an opportunity for gaining more of Him. Our weakness is an opportunity for being infused with His strength. Our stupidity is an opportunity for learning more of Him and growing in His wisdom. Our deepest, unmet desire is an opportunity for becoming intimate with a Holy, loving god.

I hope this verse has given you hope. You are not living this life alone. He is with you, granting you the ability to live life, no matter what storm you are going through. Hang on!









Realistically Setting Goals

This is the final installment in my series on New Year, New Mind. I’ve been discussing how our thoughts can easily derail our efforts to form habits that will make us healthier people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Last week I looked at a few ways to stop our train wreck mentalities and this week, I wanted to close with a look at realistically setting goals.

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Pixabay

Baby Steps

The best way to start when setting goals is by starting with small steps. Rather than starting large and working your way back, start small and work your way up.

For example, if you want to get organized, but don’t know where to start, decide what your first priority is. If you need to work on meal planning, start by having a plan for at least three meals a week. Rather than being overwhelmed with a whole week, just plan a few and write them down. If you and your spouse both work and can afford the service, there are a number of food services now available that deliver all the ingredients and directions for meal prep to your door for as many meals a week as you want. My daughter and her husband use Blue Apron and have three meals a week delivered. All they have to do is open the box, take out the ingredients and follow the directions. There are lots of options available.

Perhaps you want to improve your health by exercising, and eating better. Instead of going cold turkey off all your favorite treats, start with a few small changes. Drinking more water, adding a veggie at lunch or a fruit at breakfast, eating one less meal out a week, or measuring out the potato chips so you only get one serving are all good baby steps to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a gym membership there are plenty of videos on youtube.com . You can find pretty much anything to suit your lifestyle from short 20 minute walking videos to longer cardio to yoga and stretching.

Starting small allows you to see success quickly and will keep you from getting discouraged that you aren’t seeing results right away. Each step you take towards achieving a goal, is a step in the right direction, even if it is only a baby step.

Get Organized

This could be a problem, if one of your goals is to get organized. Ha, ha. I personally struggle with organization, not because I am incapable of being organized, but because I allow life to overwhelm me. Busyness, and fatigue have put a dent in my organizational capabilities. However, I know that being more organized will help with the busyness and chaos of life. Over the course of time I have come to see the following habits help life run more smoothly.

Meal plan. Planning out a weeks worth of meals help when you are grocery shopping, and when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I used to do this more frequently when my girls were young and keep trying to get back to it. It saves money, time and your sanity when life gets busy. Meal planning is also helpful, when you are trying to lose weight.

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Pixabay

Get up earlier. I know this is very hard for some people. I am a morning person and have the most energy before lunch. My hubby on the other hand could well be diagnosed with morning sickness. He abhors morning. Getting up earlier, gives you more time to get exercise, read your Bible, meditate and just get ready for the day ahead. This is especially important when you work and you have to get lunches made and help others get their days started as well. Start small, taking a baby step in that direction by getting up 15 minutes earlier. Gradually you might be able to work up to a half hour or more.

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Pixabay

Invest in a good planner. I am a geek, so I love being able to get a new planner every year. If you get one with lots of spaces, you can use it for many purposes. You can put your meal planning in there, your appointments, work schedule and so on. A planner is a great way to keep you organized, the trick is to actually write things down in it. Ha, ha. I speak from experience!

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Pixabay

Getting organized in the normal routines of life and finishing little projects you’ve started is an important first step toward realizing larger goals. If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?
— Joyce Meyer

Have a Plan

I have found the thing that helps me most in achieving my goals is to have some sort of a plan. It doesn’t have to be written in stone and signed in blood, because, let’s face it, real life often interferes with our plans. A plan that has some amount of flex to it is probably the best way to approach goal setting that will succeed.

For instance, when I want to lose weight, I come up with a plan. I decide on a way to keep track of my calories, because i have found calorie counting the best thing for me. It holds me accountable and lets me see my progress. I download a fitness app on my phone. I use a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I also try to do more meal planning. As I said earlier, meal planning makes it easier to keep to a daily calorie goal.

Having a plan for any area of goal setting will help you succeed. Whether you make a daily plan, like keeping a list of things to do, or a weekly plan such as exercising three times or a monthly plan like getting rid of 10 items I no longer use, planning will produce results much more readily than no plan at all.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you develop a plan:

What do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this by?

How am I going to accomplish this?

What sort of resources do I need to invest in to accomplish this goal?

How will I handle failure?

That question leads me to my last point.

Handle Failure Positively

Failing at anything is hard. We live in a society that condemns failure and honors success. Obviously, success is the goal. We want to be successful at whatever goals we have, but the truth is that failure is inevitable. If your goal is to lose weight, you will fall off the wagon. You’ll have a bad day and give in to those cravings for ice cream. When your goal is to declutter because you have been binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you will end up at the mall scouring the sale racks at your favorite store, because things are marked down to less than five dollars. Maybe your goal is to be more patient with your family. Be assured they will push all your buttons before the day is over. This is real life.

One of my faithful subscribers said it best:

...instead of letting a day, or even a couple weeks, of a blown resolution or new effort derail us or cause us to give up completely, why not get up and get started again. Keep moving forward.
— Karen - SGM subscriber

We all need to hear things like this and this leads me to several thoughts about failure.

Failure thrives on Fear

Fear is perhaps one of the biggest factors in keeping us from getting back up and starting over when we have failed.

“I can’t do it. If I try, I’ll only fail again.”

Sound familiar? Stop being afraid. Failure is not your master! Many who have gone before us recognized this fact.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Chruchill
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas A. Edison
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

I could go on with amazing quotes from amazing people who went toe to toe with failure. Reading these encouraged my heart and I hope they do for you to. Failure is but a stepping stone to achieving the goals we have set. Start believing that.

Failure abhors Friendship

Have you ever noticed when we fail, we want to be alone in our misery and throw ourselves a little pity party? Surrounding ourselves with good friends can turn failure into fuel. As I stated early, I have several subscribers that often comment on my posts, sharing their enthusiasm for fashion or their struggles as they walk the road of life and faith. This means so much to me and gives me fuel to keep going, to keep trying, even when I fail.

You don’t have to have a boat load of friends to be fueled by your failure. One good friend, or your spouse can be the one to reach down when you have fallen to help you back up. If your support system is limited go to Jesus. I have certain scriptures I return to again and again, like old friends, when I need encouragement or help getting back up.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 8:1 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
— Job 23:10 (NASB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

I hope this series on changing our thoughts has been helpful to you. The things I have written about in this series are just my opinions. I am not a licensed counselor, just a woman who has dealt with the failure mind set in my own life. I write as much to myself as to you, so I hope this was helpful.

Have a wonderful weekend and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

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Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

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For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

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We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

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Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

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Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

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Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

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1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

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3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








Mulling It Over - Part 7

This is the final part in this series on 2 Timothy 2:20-26. If you are interested in the Parts 1 through 6, just click on each of the links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Each week takes a look at one verse. Let’s dive in to this last verse in this chapter.

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26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:26 (NASB)

If you read last month’s post you know that the preceding verse emphasized gentleness as the cloak which correction should wear. Today’s verse is a continuation of that thought. If we are correcting with gentleness verse 26 can be the result. Let’s take this verse apart phrase by phrase.

…they may come to their senses…

First of all, let’s figure out who “they” are. “They” refers back to the previous verse and those that are being corrected or more specifically, “ those who are in opposition.” What were these people in opposition to? Remember, this book was written by Paul to Timothy, a young pastor of one of the early Christian churches. Timothy was dealing with many types of opposition, some of which was to his ability to lead a church because he was young. Paul reminds him in verse 24 to not quarrel with these people. Quarreling, most often, only brings about more problems.

People who are in opposition to us may be jealous, insecure, angry, impatient or any number of other attitudes. These do not necessarily have to be non-believers. Those who are in opposition to us could be people at church, people we work with or even people within our own families.

Now that we know who “they” are, what does it mean to say “may come to their senses?” Have you ever been a situation where volatile emotions begin to escalate quickly? If you have been on the receiving end of those volatile emotions you probably have observed that the ones becoming volatile are not always making sense. Often when our emotions become compromised, whether through overwhelming tragedy or circumstances beyond our control we lose our ability to think rationally. It is best, in these situations, to slow the situation down by being calm and responding with gentleness. When we respond in this way, we often allow people the time needed to regroup and come back to their senses.

This same idea is true with people who are adamantly opposed to Christianity. We will not win them by allowing our own emotions to become volatile and hateful. Those emotions will only give them a firmer foundation on which to base their own reasons to say no to Jesus. We want them to “come to their senses” with regard to the truth of the gospel and the best way to do that is through prayer and gentleness.

“…and escape from the snare of the devil…”

There are people who say there is no devil; that the reference is merely to a fiction made up by people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. “The devil made me do it.” For those of us who are Christ followers, we do believe in a real enemy of Christ known by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, and many others. This enemy is working in the spiritual realm to thwart the spread of the gospel and condemn the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the world we live in.

The snare’s that Satan’s sets are many, but generally involve lies and deception. His purpose is to prevent people from knowing the truth, that Jesus came to give His life for us and desires a relationship with us. Snares may involve lies about our standing before God, our purpose and the purpose of humanity and creation. His lies include words like secularism, humanism, and rights. There are aspects to all of these which are good, but more often they are a ploy to set our eyes on ourselves and the stand we took at the beginning of time to “be as God.”

“…having been held captive by him to do his will.”

What could be more disturbing than to be ensnared by an enemy who is so charming and subtle that even with the chains on our wrists and ankles we bend to do his will? Friends this isn’t just for those who don’t follow Christ. As Christians how many of us are ensnared to things like food, pornography, sports, hobbies or even our own creeds? Satan can just as easily use a Christian who is bound by legalism, as one who is bound by freedom.

Any of us can be held captive by our enemy, even those of us who are walking with Christ. Our enemy wants to hold us captive and he wants to hold others captive as well. But…

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Ready to Die

Dust and smoke rose into the air, creating a haze so thick the sun could barely penetrate. They had been fighting for days. Days that seemed to go on forever. They would push forward, but the enemy's forces always seemed able to push them back. She thought they were prepared for this battle. Her father, the King had thought they were ready, but now she wasn't so sure he had been right.

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The enemy soldiers were not like any other she had fought. They had battled against them previously, but something had happened in those months since that prince of darkness had taken her daughter. She wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was because they were in his territory. Maybe it was due to the long journey their own army had to traverse to get here. Whatever, it was, she did not feel confident in their ability to win this battle. 

The thought made her cringe. How could she even be thinking these thoughts. She had never struggled with doubt before. She always had been confident in her Father's abilities as both a King and a commander. Now, however, doubts seem to plague her like some sort of blister on her foot and she had a lot of those. Her feet hurt. Her legs were stiff and her arms felt like lead. Fatigue filled her being from toes to fingertips.

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Now, her small battalion was surrounded. She was not even sure how it happened. They began the day's fighting in the clear, but now they were backed up against a canyon wall. They were hemmed in on every side. The only thing that kept them from being slaughtered was that they were on the high ground. Every time the enemy tired to attack, they sent a volley of arrows flying and the enemy retreated, but their arrows were running out. 

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"Your highness?" One of her men had come up behind her.

"Yes?"

"We only have enough arrows for one more attack...then..."

She knew the time had come. She had to make the choice to surrender or to go down fighting. She turned to face the soldier.

"I want you to bring the men together. I want to speak to them."

The soldier nodded, bowed and quickly left her.

She went to her knees. "Father, I know you cannot hear me, but wherever you are, I want you to know how much I love you and how much I look up to you. I know that I have been angry, frustrated and impatient in this mission to rescue my child, but you have never wavered and for that I am thankful. I know there is no way out of this. My child might be dead and soon that will be my fate as well, but I will never surrender to that vile, son of filth. I will go down fighting. Thank you for never giving up on me."

Tears, brimmed her eyes. She clenched her fists rising to her feet. Turning, she went to where the men were assembled. She was shocked at how very few of them were left. She stood before them, her head high.

"I would like to offer you hope. The hope that I give you is not hope for life, but hope to die with honor. Today, we are going to die, but you have a choice in how you do it. You can go out cowering, or you can go out, sword in hand, taking as many of those cursed vermin as possible before you fall. If you do that, I will be proud. If you do that, my father will be proud."

Her voice grew loud and her words were clear. "Today, let us die, for the sake of our King!"

She raised her sword and the men raised their's, voices matching hers; a chorus of rebellion they hoped the enemy would hear.  

It was not long before they saw the dust of their enemies' horses, filling the small valley below their sacrificial high ground. She instructed the men to form two lines. The first line was made up of the remaining archers. They went down on one knee, nocking their arrows as they did. The second line was made up of what was left of the battalion. She knew they had no chance, but they would die with honor, fighting for their King, her father. 

"Hold steady archers!" Her voice rang out even as the noise rose ushered in by the approaching chaos. "Hold until I give the order!"

Closer the dust came and along with it the sound of pounding hooves, a battalion of enemy riders bringing death.

Her heart beat rose and sweat mingled with the dirt and grime trickling down her neck. It felt itchy. Funny, she thought, the things one thinks about before one dies. 

Suddenly, the sky seemed to turn dark. She lifted her eyes up and saw shadows coursing through the sky over her head. She felt confused, but then those shadows became the solid forms of horses and their riders. Her heart sank. They were surrounded...

But wait! Those riders wore the King's colors!

Her men looked just as confused as she felt, but more and more shadows flew overhead, diving straight into the approaching storm. She heard a shout.

"Daughter!"

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A dusty figure on his steady mount appeared behind her. It was her father, the King.

He smiled at her, then held down his hand. Pulling her up onto his horse, he commanded others of his battalion to take up her remaining men. Once all the were mounted with other soldiers, the King raised his hand and his voice.

"This ends now!"

(This was a fictional work by Amy D. Christensen)

*     *     *     *     *      *

This fictional work is meant to remind you, when all seems lost, the King is behind you. When the dust storm of the approaching enemy brings you to the end of yourself, the King is above you. When you are severely outnumbered and you have very little left to fight with, the King is diving in ahead of you. He will be there for you, every day, every hour, every battle and especially when you finally lay down your weapons and face the last enemy of death. 

....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:20 (NASB)

For the other parts in this fictional series, click on the links below. 

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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Pixabay

The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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Pixabay

1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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Pixabay

2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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Pixabay

3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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Pixabay

4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

I'm So Tired! Five Ways to Recharge Mentally.

Are you tired? I know I am. I know my husband is. I know many people who are intimately familiar with fatigue. What makes us so tired? Is it poor choices, like not eating well and not getting enough sleep? Maybe we are tired because we don't sleep, experiencing night after night being wide eyed and restless. Perhaps we are tired because of stress. Our jobs, families and difficulties can leave us feeling depressed and less energetic. Simply put, life is a problematic piece of the fatigue puzzle. 

The Apostle Paul was familiar with fatigue. 

4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,
— 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NASB)
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
— 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NASB)

With all of the things he went through don't you think he probably felt a bit tired? Yet, we don't hear Paul give up. The fatigue that becomes most difficult is the kind where you want to give up.

Before I offer a few suggestions on how to deal with this sort of fatigue, I want to say that it is very important to know where your fatigue is coming from. If you are dealing with illness, depression, anxiety or other major issues, please seek the advice of a trained physician and counselor. These people will help to diagnose your fatigue and help you manage it in a way that gives you better quality of life. 

For the rest of us tired people, I'm sure you have read the articles and seen the advice on how to  get a better night's rest. The kind of fatigue I want to speak to is that which is mental, more than physical. For mental fatigue, I think it is more important to find things that will recharge us, in addition to working on those things that will give us better physical rest. Here are a few suggestions to combat mental fatigue. 

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Pixabay

1. Unplug.

You've heard this many times, but it is worth saying again. Get off your cell phone, i-pad, computer and other electronic devices. Our brains are not wired to receive constant input. Our minds are in need of output as well, whether it be doing a cross word puzzle, trying to cook a meal or put an outfit together, our brains benefit from being used, rather than just soaking in information. 

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
— Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NASB)

Even before the invention of our electronic devices, Solomon knew that the eyes are not satisfied with seeing, nor are the ears filled with hearing. In other words, no matter how much information we look at or hear we still aren't going to know it all or be completely satisfied. God never intended that we find satisfaction and peace in anything other than Him. 

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Pixabay

2. Unwind.

Find ways to unwind and relax. My husband and I both love the outdoors. Whether it is sitting out on our little patio on a lovely summer evening, going for a walk or camping. We find that reconnecting with the natural world around us, helps us to relax and bring our stress levels lower. 

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
— Psalm 34:14 (NASB)

Unwinding is a way of seeking peace from the hectic life so many of us live. I believe that we are to seek peace, not only between people, but in our inner selves.

What do you like to do to unwind? Dancing, swimming, listening to music, reading a book are all healthy ways to reduce the mental stress and fatigue we so often feel. 

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Pixabay

3. Exercise.

I'm preaching to the choir here, ladies and gentlemen. It might seem counterintuitive to exercise when you feel tired, but for most forms of fatigue, including physical and mental, exercise actually helps your body to better cope with added stress and the challenges of daily life. Aerobic exercise helps to bring blood to all the places in your body that need it, especially your brain. Your brain also benefits from focusing on something other than the chaos around you. 

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NASB)
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4. Do something different.

You have probably heard that it is important for our brains to learn new things. This gives our brains the ability to continue growing and developing rather than stagnating. Doing something new, learning a new hobby, taking a class are all ways we can keep our brains healthy. 

For me, having a blog has been a real brain stretcher. I am anything but techie and I have had to learn how to navigate the internet, copy links, edit and post photos (or at least post my daughter's amazing pics and others I grab off Pixabay), as well as do collaborations with retailers and more recently use a smart phone! Ha, ha. I have learned so much.

You certainly don't have to start a blog, but how about taking a class? Many communities offer classes for adults through their senior centers, zoos and even colleges have more affordable classes for older adults on history, philosophy and other interesting topics. 

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
— Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

Once again, it may seem like the wrong thing to do when you are already feeling mentally overwhelmed. The point is not to add more stress, but to give your brain new, different and exciting things to think about. 

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Pixabay

5. Seek God.

This is probably the most important out of all of these points. Who better to give you peace and recharge your mental batteries than the one who created you? Seeking God through prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, worship and thanksgiving, will not only remove you temporarily from the craziness of life, but it will remind you of who is really in control and who has your back! 

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
— Psalm 22:26 (NASB)

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

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Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

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This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

PIxabay

PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

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Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

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Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

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Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
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Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
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Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
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Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Walking with the Psalmist

When we take the time to look at the Psalms we can learn much about human behavior and about God. It is not my intent to look at every single Psalm, but pick and choose ones that have been meaningful to me in my walk with Christ. I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ when I was twelve. Ever since I can remember, the Psalms were important to me. I have often felt that they enable the reader to see inside another human being and experience their emotions. While my spouse likes to jokingly call David, an emotional yoyo, many of the Psalms he penned were ones filled with the raw emotion of fear, guilt, anger and joy. 

In Psalm 1 we saw the comparison of the righteous man with the wicked. Today I would like to explore Psalm 8. This Psalm is titled, The Lord's Glory and Man's Dignity. It seems an appropriate header for a song that begins with the line, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth..." (NASB) I thought this a beautiful Psalm to usher in the season of Spring and the coming of Easter. 

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8 (NASB)

As usual, I like to pull the passage apart verse by verse.

Verse 1 

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

This verse sets the tone for the passage. David immediately establishes the order of authority. God is Lord. He is our Lord. David also points out, God's name is majestic in all the earth. God is Lord over all people and all the earth. This is completely understood when we believe that God is our creator. The Maker is the One who created it all and because of that He is our Lord. We are His creation. We are not on the same level as Him. 

It is unfortunate in today's world that God's name has become a tool to be used, rather than a name that is honored and glorified. I have heard, even people who claim to be Christians, use God's name in vain. There is a commandment for that remember?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
— Exodus 20:7 (NASB)

God's name is majestic and should be spoken with reverence and love, not flippantly like so many others words in our language. 

Lake Erie, sunset

Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens.

When i first became familiar with this psalm, I thought this was a question. I am much more aware of proper punctuation and grammar now, This would read more smoothly in both the NIV and the ESV - 

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (NIV)
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (ESV)

It is, no doubt, God, who sets the sun and the moon in their places. He dropped each star onto that blanket of blackness like a child playing with glitter glue. He is the one who places the rainbow in the sky and the planets in their orbits. Any sunrise or sunset I am privileged to witness, my mind immediately recites this first verse. 

Verse 2

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Pixabay

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

It is fairly common for the Almighty God to use the weak things of this world to overcome the strong. 

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
— 1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

Jesus used children to explain the simplicity of getting into heaven. 

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
— Luke 18:17 (NASB)

Because of your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

God did this, because of His enemy, more specifically Satan. Over 2000 years ago a baby was born and laid in a manger. That baby was the only one who had and still has the capacity to make the enemy and the revengeful cease! 

Verse 3

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, 

The psalmist had no doubts about who created the world. He wasn't questioning the age of the earth or whether it was created in seven literal days or seven ages, he knew the world was the work of the One whose name was Majestic. He knew the moon and the stars were the work of His fingers. That knowledge made him shudder with humility.

Verse 4

What is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?

The psalmist questions this God, whose name is Majestic, and so too should we. Who are we that God would take thought of us or that He would care for us? Yet He does. In fact....

Verse 5

Yet You made him a little lower than God

Whoa! Did you catch that? It doesn't say, He made us like pond scum. Evolutionists would like the world to believe that we came from just that, pond scum. But no! We are made only a little lower than God. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but also very humbled. God made us with intentionality to be only a little lower than His majesty! 

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

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How about that? We get to be majestic too! He chooses to crown us with glory and majesty. Wow! That is really all I can say. Wow!

Verse 7 & 8

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

I know there are people who take issue with this idea. I believe we are to treat all of God's creation with respect and dignity. I also believe in managing the creation we have been given and taking care of it, so yes, I eat meat, my husband hunts and we cut the grass. The verse plainly says that all things are subject to us and we are to rule over the works of His hands. That does not mean we are to abuse or misuse. He gave us this responsibility and that is exactly how we should treat it, as a responsibility, not a free for all. 

The psalmist then goes on to list some of the things that are under our rule.

All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 

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Pixabay

I am pretty sure when David penned these words he was thinking back to the story of Creation. He knew that man was made to take care of the earth and rule over it. This was a privilege and a joy. 

Finally, he bookends the psalm by repeating the opening phrase.

Verse 9

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. 

I think this is a lovely psalm to memorize or at least read over on occasion, especially as the seasons change. The dark, drab, cold months will be giving way to the warm rains, flowers and sunshine of spring and then summer. Let's try to remember how incredibly blessed we are to not only be able to enjoy His creation, but also that our position is meant to be only a little lower than the Creator Himself. That gives us worth, value and hope! 

Have a great day.