The Joy of Worship

It’s November!  This resplendent and colorful eleventh month is filled to overflowing with the bounty of the year.

It is a month that is set aside for the giving of thanks and for exhibiting a heart of genuine gratitude. 

What are you thankful for this month?

This month, in my blog, we have been focusing on the genuine and vital components of a thankful heart.

Sincere thanksgiving always includes generous giving to the world around us and to the Kingdom of Christ is one of the lessons that we have learned.

True thanksgiving also includes the forgiveness of those in our lives who have offended or mistreated us is another meaningful approach to this month of November.

Giving + forgiving = thanksgiving.

And then, finally, there is indeed a powerful role that worship, or the giving of thanks to God the Father, plays in the dynamic display of a thankful heart.

If there is no one to thank, then worship loses its focus.  Our greatest praise … our highest worship … our most vibrant thanksgiving … should be aimed at God our Creator!

Music is mere notes upon a line and contains only foreign lyrics unless it is sung to the One Who created you and made you in His very image!

“Without worship we go about miserable.” – Tozer

Worship always involves sacrifice.  Always.  You may not “feel” like worshipping … but worship anyway!

You may not “feel” like singing … but choose to sing louder!

You may not “feel” like remembering your blessings … but make a list anyway!

“God is to be praised with the voice and the heart should go wherewith in holy exultation.” – Spurgeon

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David was a man who often did not “feel” like worshipping but he commanded his soul to sing in spite of his feelings.  He spoke directly to his soul, which is the birthplace of one’s emotions, affections and desires, and commanded his depressed, stubborn soul to sing a praise of God to his King!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.” – Psalm 103:1 & 2

David was unable to deny the power of praise and worship in an ordinary person’s life. 

If you want to be healed of human pain – then worship the God who never changes.

If you want to rise above your circumstances – then place your eyes on the One who is able to move mountains!

If you want to be strengthened in the deepest part of you – then you will bring a sacrifice of praise to the One Who made you.

“Worship is an it-is-well-with-my-soul experience.” – Webber

If you want to engage in a life-changing experience that will literally revolutionize the very core of your emotional weaknesses – then you will put your hands in the air and delight in Who your Father is!

“Who pardons all your iniquities …
Who heals all your diseases …
Who redeems your life from the pit …

Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion …
Who satisfies your years with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” – Psalm 103:3-5

When David was at his very lowest, he made a list of the incredible things that God had done for him!  You might want to do the same this week …

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” – C. S. Lewis

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Worship will inevitably take your eyes off of “you” and deservedly place them on the God Who cares.

Worship will always remove the focus off from your impossibility and will bring into focus the wonder of the God to Whom nothing is impossible!

Worship will always decrease self and will wonderfully increase a holy and divine awareness of Him and all that He is.

“Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” – Chan

I don’t know what you are going through this crisp and bountiful month of November, but I’d like to gently remind you that there is nothing that concerns you that does not have the capacity to be healed with a heart filled with worship.

As you gather with those you love around the feast and that table that is known as “Thanksgiving”, make sure that you give credit to Whom credit is due.  Encourage everyone at your Thanksgiving table to make a list of the things for which he or she is thankful.

Let your heart burst with gratitude and allow your eyes to spill over with praise.

Even if it has been a meager and disappointing year, you serve an abundant God who works all things together for God! Focus not on what you don’t have but allow the eyes of your soul to rest on Him Who is more than enough!

“You have crowned the year with Your bounty, and Your paths drip with fatness.
The pastures of the wilderness drip, and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.
The meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, yes, they sing!” – Psalm 65:11 – 13

I can tell you this – no pasture is going to “out-rejoice” me this month of November!

No meadow is going to be more beautiful than my heart of praise is to God my Father!

No valley is going to sing louder than this girl does!

Every day of this month, I will worship and I will rejoice as I give glorious and deserved thanks to my Creator, my Redeemer and my dearest Friend.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Forgiveness & Thanksgiving

Living in a place of joy always begins with giving … with hilarious, generous, unselfish and lavish giving.

I don’t know one person on the face of planet Earth who lacks joy if he or she has ruggedly determined to be a cheerful, extravagant and liberal giver.

Conversely, I don’t know one selfish person who splashes in joy.  Do you?!

On the road to joy, you must daily walk upon the Highway of Giving.  It is the only route to joyno other avenue in life will deliver you to that delightful destination of delectable joy!

But let’s go beyond simple giving today and let’s examine the power of forgiving.  You see, forgiving is also a pre-requisite to joyForgiving seals the deal on heaven’s joy becoming a strengthening component of your earthly make-up.

It’s easy to say … but it is oh! so hard to do!

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Forgiveness can be a gut-wretching, arduous and gargantuan decision but honestly … the alternative is infinitely worse.

Choosing to be a bitter person will never place you on the road to joy and to healthy living.  Holding on to offenses will only ensure that you are effectively locked out of the Kingdom of Joy.

Vengeful emotions and angry words always lead to a futile and ugly dead-end in life.

If you choose NOT to forgive … you will never arrive at your intended destination.

If you choose NOT to forgive … you ain’t going nowhere …

If you choose NOT to forgive … you will never know the refreshing and rejuvenating effects of joy upon your life.

Unforgiveness will keep you tightly bound in emotional and spiritual chains the rest of your earthly days.

What is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is simply when the innocent one lets the guilty one go free! What?!  Where is the justice in that type of lifestyle?  That doesn’t seem fair at all! 

Yep … you got it right.  Forgiveness isn’t fairForgiveness is a gift of sacrifice and of dying to one’s self.

If you have truly forgiven someone – you don’t bring up the wrong suffered or the pain endured.  If you have sincerely forgiven a person who has deeply wounded you – there is no need for conversation because you have let it go completely and fully.

Let. It. Go.

Forgiving someone else just might be the best gift you have ever given to yourself! When forgiveness is freely and sweetly bestowed – joy comes rushing in like a refreshing breeze on the desert sands.

Forgiveness is the miraculous oasis in a wasteland of offense and pain.

If you are thankful for the Lord’s forgiveness toward you then you must forgive others.

You must.

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“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” – Matthew 6:14 & 15

Forgiveness is important to Kingdom dwellers.  It is a foundational issue of our call to be like the Father and like the Son. The Father sent His only Son to die so that you and I would be forgiven.

When we choose not to forgive others and to hold onto our  human pain, we are making little of what the Father has done for us.

When we choose not to forgive someone who has offended or mistreated us, we are ignoring the power of the Cross.

Humility is the price of forgiveness and joy is the glorious purchase of the price!

If you have experience the unbridled joy of forgiveness … if you know personally the exhilaration of emancipation from your human weaknesses … then you will be constrained to forgive just like Jesus did!

“Then Peter came up to Jesus and said to Him, “How many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Should I forgive him 7 times, Lord?’

“Jesus answered and said to Peter, ‘I tell you not up to seven times but up to seventy times seven.’ “ – Matthew 18:21 & 22

Who do you need to forgive this month when our entire nation recognizes the joy and blessing of being thankful?

If you desire to fully engage in the celebration of Thanksgiving then you will also fully express the gift of forgiveness.

Thankful people choose to forgive.  It’s what they do when others have mistreated them.  Forgiveness is their immediate and joyful response to unkindness and mistreatment.

Forgiveness is a rich and glorious part of the holiday known as “Thanksgiving”.  Don’t miss this vital and delicious course of sweet forgiveness that will add more joy to your day than will pumpkin pie, parades or sumptuous gravy.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Joy in Giving

Joy.

Joy is my message to the world.  This formerly depressed woman is now addicted to the strength that only comes from joy.

I simply can’t get enough of it.  I can’t get enough of joy or of Jesus.  Jesus and joy are found wrapped up in one another.

In His presence there is fullness of joy. – Psalm 16:11

So many people whom I try to encourage with the principles found in the Bible don’t understand joy.  They mistakenly identify me as Pollyanna with a Bible or as Mary Poppins who sings Sunday School songs.

Whenever I am confronted with a person who doesn’t understand the power of joy, this is what I always simply say, “If you don’t understand joy … then just be thankful because thanksgiving and joy are not so very far apart.”

Joy is that supernatural vitamin that bestows a weak human being with strength.  Joy is nourished by thanksgiving, it is nurtured by forgiving and it is sustained by heartfelt giving.

Joy can powerfully be spelled with the letters “G-I-V-E”.

Over the next three weeks, I am going to wring the joy out of these three words … thanksgiving … forgiving … and giving from the heart.

Today – let’s start with giving.

If you want to be the beneficiary of a miraculous joy beyond yourself then you must determine to be a generous giver.

A hilarious giver. A generous giver. An unselfish giver. An abundant giver.

All of the above in every season of the year on every day of your existence … be a hilarious giver … be a generous giver … be an unselfish giver … and be an abundant giver.

I have a friend who is 72 years old and even with her highest heels on she can only be measured at a whopping 5 feet tall. She weighs 98 pounds soaking wet.

However, this miniscule friend doesn’t wear high heels often because she has had numerous surgeries on her tiny feet.  Finally, the doctors cut one of her toes off to relieve her of her constant foot pain. She is my 9-toed friend.

When she goes to get a pedicure, her sweet husband always says to her, “Make sure that they only charge you 90% of the full price!”

This tiny woman is my wise mentor, my stable role model, my dynamic heroine of the faith, my relentless prayer warrior and my deeply loved spiritual sister. I want to be like her when I grow up.

My friend’s hands are becoming increasingly crippled due to the tendons that are shrinking in her hands.

She suffers from horrific back pain most nights.

However, when I went to visit her last February, this tiny, gray-haired, pain-ridden woman wore me out with her daily giving!

On Monday, a restored woman came to the house and spent 3 intense hours with us.  This woman, who was our honored guest on a rainy afternoon, has lived a life of drug addiction and prostitution but now has gloriously met Jesus as her Lord and Savior. My tiny friend is weekly discipling this 21st Century Mary Magdalene and is pouring wisdom over her dry soul.

As this new creation in Christ walked out the back door into the rain and wind, joy flooded my soul.

On Tuesday, we went to the church to pray for a wheel-chair bound woman who has been diagnosed with both MS and Lou Gehrig’s disease.  We spent two hours praying with her, laughing with her, singing with her and weeping with her.  It was two hours that I will never forget as long as I live.

I was the recipient of a miraculous joy that day.

On Wednesday, my tiny friend helped her daughter prepare lunch for 20 women who were coming over for a Bible Study.  In the midst of the preparations of chicken salad, homemade soup and lemon squares, my role model slipped away to pick up a nearly-blind younger woman and bring her to that Bible Study.

The joy that was present in my soul at the end of that long day was nearly tangible.

Are you tired yet?!

On Thursday, we drove “across the bay” to have lunch with a 94-year old woman whose husband had recently died. This great-great grandmother was dressed like a fashion icon from the 1940s.  Her make-up was impeccably applied, her red-gold hair was freshly done and her silk scarf was tied in a fascinating manner.

Over crab cakes and unsweetened iced tea, this nearly century-old woman, regaled us with the stories of her man who had fought on the beaches of Normandy. There was a sparkle in her eyes as she spoke lovingly of her sweetheart who had loved her well for over 60 years.

We filled the restaurant with heaven’s joy! Every customer in the place sweetly looked over at our table at three women from three different generations who were giggling like 12 year olds!

Oh! The joy that filled my soul!

On Friday, my dear friend and kindred spirit, took me shopping.  She showered me with new clothes and shared about the richness of the Lord with the clerk who waited on us and then prayed for this single mother right there in the middle of a fine Southern department store!

I could taste the joy as it dripped off of us that afternoon.

Joy is a by-product of giving. If you are lacking joy this month of November, perhaps you should develop a lifestyle of giving.

There is a world in pain who needs your brand of joy … your strain of hope … and your prayers of power.

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When you give to others, you will be the recipient of an unexplainable, dynamic and vibrant joy!

If you lack joy, give what you don’t have to someone else.

If you don’t understand joy, give a smile to someone in need.

If you resent others who have joy, buy a person a cup of coffee.

If you are ridden with emotional pain and discouragement, spend 30 minutes with a soul who is in greater pain than you are.  Sing to that person … pray for that person … encourage that person with your simple presence.

Give when you don’t feel like it.

Give when you have nothing to give.

Choosing to give to others is the prerequisite for receiving the inheritance of joy.

Make the month of November not only a season of thanksgiving giving but also a time for simply giving to others in your world! Don’t let anyone “out-give” you this month! Every day make an intentional choice to give a blessing to someone you meet.

At the end of the month … you will be the recipient of heaven’s joy! I guarantee it!!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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The Voice on Social Media

Can I just share from my heart with you this week?  Can I be vulnerable with you without fear of offense?

I am so concerned, and oftentimes heartbroken, over what Christians write on social media.  I feel that many believers might feel that social media has given them a “voice” to express their thoughts, opinions and feelings and the “voice” is a bitter voice rather than an encouraging and loving voice.

It might be more advantageous for a person to get off Facebook and/or Twitter rather than to cause division in the Body of Christ.  It might be a greater good to quiet that bitter voice that stirs within rather than to give it a platform.

In this day of communication that chiefly happens through the Internet rather than face-to-face, it is easy to vomit rather than to use restraint.  Our fingers are apt to fly across the keys in rapid reaction rather than in thoughtful response.

God has given us a tongue for several reasons

The first reason we are given a tongue, or the ability to communicate, is to worship the Lord!  Our tongue should be used as an instrument of praise and worship to the most High King! So, the next time before you post an opinion on Facebook, you might want to ask yourself, “How does this bring glory to God?”

The second reason we are given a tongue is to encourage others.  Our tongues were made to be tools of healing and not of harm.  God gave us the ability to communicate with others so that we could pour soothing ointment of love and compassion on contentious and vicious situations. So, the next time before you post a rebuttal or a strong reaction on social media, you might want to use this as a litmus test, “Will these words encourage those who read them?”

Now, people might argue with me saying, “I need to speak the truth.”  The Bible says, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15

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So – you can speak the truth as long as it is done in love, with love, expressed by love, motivated by love and with the final goal being love.

This is the Bible’s definition of love:

“Love is patient and kind … love does not brag and is not arrogant … love does not act unbecomingly … it does not seek its own and is not provoked.” (I Corinthians 13)

That means that all of our truthful social media posts must come under the umbrella of what the Bible identifies love to be.  When in doubt, read the last paragraph again.

Love is patient and kind … love does not brag and is not arrogant … love does not act unbecomingly … it does not seek its own and is not provoked.

The failure of Israel to enter the Promised Land began with the simple desire to murmur … or to allow their opinions to be heard.  They had just a faint desire to complain and to express their discontent and mistreatment.  This decision to “murmur” grew into rebellion and idol worship.

I am going to challenge you today to refuse to be discouraged by other’s opinions or their lack of agreement with you.  Refuse to be unhappy with politicians, sports figures or those who vote differently than you do. Count it all joy when news commentators get under your skin!

The devil wants to keep you distracted by the opinions of others and by your “right” to verbalize an opposing point of view.  The devil wants to sow discouragement, bitterness and separation among the Body of Christ.  Don’t allow it!  Sow seeds of love, encouragement and joy instead.

Let’s cultivate a spirit of gladness on social media! If you want to be used by God, you will determine to use your tongue, your keyboard and your pen as your chief instrument of joy.

If you honestly want to have a conversation with someone whose opinions are different than yours are, do it one-on-one and preferably face-to-face.  And when you have this conversation, start it with prayer and end it with blessing!

You know what?  I have opinions, too.  I have social justice opinions and opinions on abortion and political opinions and civil rights opinions and patriotic opinions.  But I have decided not to allow those opinions to define me or to determine my relationships.

I have decided that rather than allowing my personal opinions to alienate me from a world in need, I would rather give them Jesus and hope instead.

“He must increase but I must decrease.” John 3:30

It was the Englishman, Edward Buller-Lyton, in the 19th Century, who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

What did he mean by that phrase?  I believe that he meant that one’s words have more power to kill than does a murderous weapon.  Perhaps he was trying to express the fact that communication is sometimes the most effective missile of an assassin of the soul.

If he were alive today, I believe that Mr. Buller-Lyton might express it this way,

“The tweet is mightier than the sword …”

“The Facebook post is mightier than the sword …”

“The smartphone is mightier than the sword …”

“The laptop is mightier than the sword …”

All I am asking today is that you would examine yourself; ask God to search your heart and then to determine precisely why you are on social media.

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This is what I have decided for me:

I am not on social media to criticize others who are made in the image of Christ.

I am not on social media to criticize pastors or teachers whose methods might be different than mine.

I am not on social media to spout my potentially divisive political opinions.

I am on social media to heal a broken world.

I am on social media to speak the truth of the Gospel message in a compassionate manner.

I am on social media to turn people’s hearts back to Christ.

I am on social media to encourage one another as long as it is still called today. (Hebrews 3:13)

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

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Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

Yesterday … today … tomorrow.

Just three words that dictate our very existence.

Yesterday … today … tomorrow.

Each word defines an individual period of time that holds the consummate power to determine the course of each one of our lives.

Yesterday … today … tomorrow.

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How often have I allowed a difficult yesterday to cross the boundary of my life into today?  How often have I invited the unknown of tomorrow into the joy of today via the transit system known as “worry”?

I was with my two-year old grandson, Jack, this week and he has an interesting concept of time.  Anything that happened before this very minute happened yesterday.

“I went to the park yesterday!” (That was only this morning, Jack, but yes, you went to the park.)

“I took my nap yesterday.” (You did take a nap yesterday, Jack, but that doesn’t get you out of taking one today.)

“I had ice cream yesterday.” (You had ice cream three days ago, Jack, but yes, you did have ice cream.)

“I came to your house yesterday, Marmee.” (You came to my house three months ago, Jack, but yes, you did indeed come to Marmee’s house!)

Conversely, in the Gospel According to Jack, everything that happens after this very minute will happen tomorrow.

(Have I told you how brilliant and how adorable he is?!)

“I get a lollipop tomorrow?” (We’ll see, Jack. You just finished your lollipop from today and you don’t get to have one every day.”)

“I see Pa tomorrow.” (Pa didn’t come with me on this trip, Jack, but you will see him at Christmastime.)

“I ride the train tomorrow.” (I’m sure you will ride the train tomorrow, Jack, because you live in New York City and you ride the train almost every day of your life.”

“I go to your house tomorrow, Marmee.” (Oh Jack! I want you to come to my house every tomorrow of your little life!)

A child understands.  A child “gets it” that yesterday is gone and that tomorrow is yet to be.  Perhaps we could all learn a new concept of time from that “Gospel According to Jack”.

Let me just remind you not to ruin a good today by thinking about a bad yesterday.  And please don’t ruin a perfectly good today by worrying about an unknown tomorrow.

Leave the past in the past … trust all of your tomorrows to God’s care … and determine to celebrate the gift of today!

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You can’t change yesterday so focus on today.  Live … love … laugh … embrace … enjoy … and celebrate today! Enjoy the life you have been given today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is never promised.

The great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, is given credit for this auspicious bit of advice concerning time, “Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery.  But today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present.”

I agree with Winnie the Pooh. Today is a gift of heavenly proportions.  Today was meant, by its Giver, for our enjoyment, for our betterment and for our use of it for grander purposes than we could ever imagine.

Today was never meant to be wasted but was always meant to be resplendent!

Today was never meant to be twisted by the pain of the past nor was it meant to be warped by the anxiety of tomorrow.

Today was always meant to be savored … one delicious minute at a time!

Today is the day! Today is your day for dreams to come true … for relationships to be mended … for books to be read … for songs to be sung … for prayers to be prayed … for trips to be planned … and for friendships to begin.

Today is your day!

Don’t allow the regrets of yesterday to become landmines in the glory of today. Live each day in the present tense … with purpose, power and passion.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:6

But even while you are living in today, remind yourself often that life always offers you a second chance.  It’s called tomorrow.

Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any better.  The thoughts that you think today to a large extent dictate the joy of tomorrow.  If you think angry and critical thoughts today, chances are that your tomorrow will be filled with anger and criticism.

“For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” – Proverbs 23:7

If you fill your gray matter with exciting possibilities concerning tomorrow – it becomes a divine probability that your tomorrow will be the launching pad for the future of your dreams!

Not only do the thoughts that you think today determine the quality of all of your tomorrows, but also the words that you speak today have the power to frame your future.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” – Proverbs 18:21

If you bless someone today with encouragement, with hopeful words and with terms of endearment, I can guarantee you that the blessing will come back to you tomorrow!

If you invest in tomorrow with words of grand expectation and with cheerful reassurance, the future that you are carving for yourself and for the world around you will be filled with restored hope and with unending potential.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” – Proverbs 25:11

You can’t change yesterday but you can enjoy today and you can determine your tomorrow!  All of your yesterdays are gone … they are past tense.  All of your tomorrows are future possibilities filled with the goodness of God.

Today is your day! Go mining for gold in the caverns of today! Refuse to allow the pain of the past or the worry of tomorrow to rob you of the joy that was given to you as the treasure of your today.

And, if in your travels, you come across a little blonde-haired, brown-eyed two-year -old named Jack, tell him, that his Marmee can’t wait to see him tomorrow!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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It's Time for You to Wait

Are you weary today, my friend? 

Are you tired of waiting for your prayers to be answered?  For your dreams to come true?  Are you emotionally and physically spent and perhaps you are tempted to give in to hopeless living and to futile plodding?

Before you do either of those things, let me share one of my favorite Bible verses with you and let’s just see if it encourages you today -

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

What?!!  Are you kidding me?!  We serve a God Who never grows weary or becomes tired!  If that one fact weren’t revolutionary enough, the truth gets even better!  He is willing to share His strength with you!  He has enough to spread around lavishly and then some more to give and give and give again!

How do I tap into the strength of this perpetually strong Father?  Where do I stand in line to fill my empty bucket up with His enormous power?

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength …”

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The power is found in the wait.  The new strength is bequeathed in the wait. The weary disappears in the wait.

You are completely mistaken if you believe that strength, vigor, and power are attributes of only the young.  If you believe the Bible, then you must also believe that when a person chooses to wait upon the Lord, that miraculous strength is on its way! And God is not checking birth certificates, counting wrinkles or looking for age spots in this waiting line!

When you pause to access the strength of God and Heaven, you are going to have the capacity to run beyond your human endurance and will not even be out of emotional breath.  Your legs will not be weakened nor will your heart be racing with the challenge of it all.  You are going to have the vigor to go the distance and then to go some more. 

However, this incredible surge of Heaven’s power and strength into your human frailty will only be possible when you choose to wait upon the Lord.

But what does it mean exactly to “wait” upon the Lord?

You must eagerly expect and joyously anticipate the promise that God will indeed reward you with His vitality as you read your Bible, as you enter into worship every day, and as you participate in a vibrant and daily prayer life

Those are the disciplines of fortitude that will enable you to not only receive strength from the Lord, but also to apply to your daily walk the strength that you receive. 

In addition to those helpful and hopeful daily disciplines of power, there might also be times and seasons when you beg directly for God’s power.

“God, I need you!  This is too difficult for me to do in my own strength.  Would you give me your power?  Would you give me a word from the Bible I can apply to this situation?  I am waiting, Lord, for all that you have for me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

The word waiting means: “ ... to expect, look eagerly for, to hope for, lie in wait for ...”

When you wait well in the presence of God and are devoted to prayer, you can assuredly anticipate some opportunities that will require the strength of God. 

The word wait actually means more than the definition that has been cited; in addition, it also means: “ ... to bind together, to hold fast to something ...”

If it is strength that you desire, you must bind your life so intimately with God that His strength literally and thoroughly becomes your strength. 

This term “wait” was actually used in the ancient Hebrew culture as a gathering of waters.  The “wait” of a river was literally where two rivers came together – it was the exact point where two became one!

When water is gathered from two separate streams, it is impossible to ascertain which stream the water has come from.  When water is poured from two different pitchers into a third pitcher, it is impossible to discern which molecule of water came from a certain pitcher.  So it is with the strength of the Lord; when you gather yourself to the Lord and intimately bind yourself to Him, His strength will become your own strength.  You won’t be able to discern when your strength ends and when His begins!

It is in the “wait” where His amazing and supernatural strength becomes your strength!

One of the most miraculous and amazing aspects concerning the strength of God is that He does not give human strength to His children.  He gives of His own divine source of strength. 

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During the difficult days of life, if all you needed were mere human strength, then a self-help guru, a psychology course, or a trip to Hawaii would deliver what you required.  However, what you need is a strength beyond human strength; you need more of Him!  You desperately need God’s strength to be gathered inside of you, and you will receive it while you wait and pray. 

Waiting is the string that is attached to strength.

“  . . . strengthened with all power according to His glorious might . . .” (Colossians 1:11).

All the strength you will ever need to deal with the pain of living this side of Heaven is given according to His glorious might.  God has a power source in Heaven that supplies a lavish source of strength and vigor to those who wait for it. 

When God connects His power outlet with one of His children who has chosen to wait well, He then doles out His strength in profuse and glorious amounts. 

There is no end to the power God gives to those who expectantly hope for all that He is.  God would not know how to give in tiny amounts if we asked Him to ... He only knows of one way to give and that way is according to His glorious might!  When one who waits is desperate for strength, God gives all He has and all He is. 

He gives strength to love an unlovable spouse.
              He gives strength to walk through sickness with joy.

He gives strength to face the holidays with not enough money.
              He gives strength to single parents to respond as both mom and dad.

He gives strength to young parents who are weary and stressed out.
              He gives strength to singles who are yearning to be loved.

He gives strength to widows and widowers to look ahead and not behind.
              He gives strength to couples who are dealing with infertility.

            He gives strength!

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Give All You Can

Have you ever thought about throwing in that infamous towel?  Or maybe you erroneously believe that you don’t even have a towel to throw in!

Have you ever been tempted to give in?!  Perhaps you are in that place today where you have decided to just completely quit trying.

Done and done.  Over and out.

You might have no enthusiasm left … no creativity remaining … no love to stir up … no passion in existence … and you have decided that you have absolutely nothing left to give.

Nothing. Left. To. Give.

Are you admitting to yourself, sadly of course, that it is just time to throw in that ragged, over-used, sweaty towel?

Perhaps you think that it might be more honorable to surrender with at least a bit of dignity remaining rather than stay the course and fail miserably.

Can I talk you off the ledge for a minute?  Would you be willing to lay your towel down for just a minute and to listen rather than to toss?

It’s rather obvious to me that in life we have three choices … we have three options when we are out of breath, out of oomph and ready to worm our way out of commitment.

You can either give up … give in … or give all.

Which will it be?

Let’s talk about giving up.

Giving up simply means that you cut your losses and extricate yourself from responsibility.  You turn your back and walk away. No harm … no foul.

You throw in the towel.

Giving up is a short- term solution to a long-term problem. Giving up might sound like a great idea initially but it never is a wise solution in the long haul of life.

Honor is never attached to giving up and most often is the coward’s way out.

I remember my dad used to say to me, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

I’ve never forgotten those 7 words of fatherly wisdom … they have come back to haunt me time after time after time.

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My dad believed in faithfulness and in seeing a commitment through to the end.  I was never allowed to quit piano lessons, Girl Scouts or an advanced level Science course before my commitment was over.

My dad believed that there was victory in simply finishing a task.

So put your towel away and listen just a minute or two longer …

Option number two is to give in.  Give in to failure … give in to weakness … give in to other people’s opinions … give in to frustration.

If you decide that you are going to give in rather than go on – what you are actually doing is resigning yourself to the definite possibility that nothing is ever going to change for you.

If you determine that giving in is probably in your best interest, you are welcoming that boring family member whose name is “Apathy” to come and live for a while in the heart that is your home.

Apathy whose sister is “Indifference” and whose mother is “Passivity”.

Your husband is never going to change … your kids are never going to obey … your health will never get better … your finances will never improve … and your dreams will never come true.

“Giving in” is akin to swamp dwelling … just slogging through life with no seen destination … no driving purpose … and no directive boundaries.

Giving in is as lethal as giving up … believe me … I know.  I have done it a time or two and it has never been a powerful choice.  Giving in has always led to regret, to

the misuse of emotions and to paralyzed dreams.

Don’t do it.  Don’t give up and don’t give in.

There is only one choice left for a person of faith.

Give all.

Give all that you can to prayer.  Give all that you can to love.  Give all that you can to hope.  Give all that you can to service.  Give all that you can to others.  Give all that you can to God.  Give all that you can to your family.  Give all that you can to joy.

Give all.

Give all that you can.

I intend to cross my finish line sweaty and not rusty. I intend to use every talent, every gift, every strength and every bit of passion that I possess into every ordinary day.

I intend to believe when everyone else has given up.

I intend to get my hopes up and then to defiantly keep my hopes up when everyone else has declared, “It’s hopeless”.

I intend to be unselfish when others only think of self.

I intend to pray fervently regardless of the mountains that seem to stand in my way.

I intend to love people who are hard to love and forgive people who have been cruel to me or to someone I love.

I refuse to be offended.

I will be kind.  I will be truthful.  I will be enthusiastic.  I will choose joy.

I will not give in.  I will not give up.  I will give all!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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You are His Masterpiece

When I say the word, “masterpiece” … what comes to your mind?

Perhaps you think of the great artist Rembrandt … or the composer Chopin …  or maybe you remember Charles Dickens, the classic author.

I have often wondered, “Where do you stand in line to be considered as a person whose life is capable of producing a masterpiece for God?”

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Can you even imagine if you had been the person whom God chose to write a timeless song that echoes through the ages? Can you even conceive of the incredible possibility that God would use you to compose a song such as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” … “We Shall Behold Him” … “The Hallelujah Chorus” … “How Great Thou Art” … “Amazing Grace” … “No Longer Slaves” or “Joy To the World!”

Is it a dream of yours to write a noble book that touches a generation for Christ and His Kingdom? Do you dream of writing a book such as “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” … “The Purpose Driven Life” … “Lord of the Rings” … or “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

Why did God choose Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel?  What did God see in da Vinci that gave him the credentials to recreate “The Last Supper” on a monastery wall?

Why were George Beverly Shea … David Phelps … Sandi Patti … Josh Groban …  Celine Dion … Barbara Streisand … Julie Andrews given voices of epic strength and range? Although not all of these gifted vocalists have used their talents for the glory of God, certainly their gifting was from God.

“All good and perfect gifts are from above.” – James 1:17

Let me assure you that not all masterpieces can be categorized as works of art, pieces of music or volumes of literature.

Some masterpieces are political movements … some are battles against evil … some are discoveries or inventions … while some of the greatest masterpieces in all of human history are simple but profound acts of service.

I think of William Wilberforce who fought against the slave trade in the British Empire and Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

I ponder the life of Mother Teresa who served the destitute, lepers, victims of tuberculosis and AIDS.

I wonder about Clara Barton who served as a hospital nurse in the Civil War and then founded the American Red Cross or Florence Nightingale who worked tirelessly night after night while tending to the wounded soldiers of the Crimean War.

Certainly their impact on society and on culture can be considered a masterpiece of service, of kindness, and of selfless living.

And what about inventions and discoveries?!  Why did God choose Thomas Edison to invent the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the electrical light bulb?!

Why did God choose George Washington Carver to discover over 100 uses for the peanut … Jonas Salk to develop the polio vaccine … and Benjamin Franklin to discover electricity?

But let me ask again …”Where is the line?!”

“Where do you stand in line to be considered as a person whose life is capable of producing a masterpiece for God?”

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Certainly God is desperate for an ordinary man or a common woman who is willing to give every ounce of sweat, time and talent to His purposes and to His causes.  Isn’t God looking for someone who will say in this generation, “Here am I Lord … send me!”?

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” – II Chronicles 16:9

But how do you get chosen by the Creator of the universe to partner with Him in a cause so eternal that it lives beyond the dash on one’s tombstone?

I want to be that person, do you?!  Do you long for God to use you beyond your wildest dreams … your human abilities … and your academic limitations?

Does your heart literally pound out of your chest as you ponder the possibility that maybe God has something more for you than you are currently experiencing?

It’s not that I want to be “the next” anybody.  I don’t want to be the next “Joyce Meyer” … the next “Beth Moore” … or the next “Ruth Bell Graham”.  I just want to be the only me!

“For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Your book were all written

the days that were ordained for me when we yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!” – Psalm 139:13 - 17

My heart aches to do something extraordinary for the Kingdom of God at my moment in history.  I have this urge that won’t be quiet … this persistent pull that never relents … this unseen purpose that keeps knocking on the door of my heart.

I’m standing in that line … jumping up and down … wildly waving my hands in the air to capture God’s attention.

I am kneeling in that line … quietly waiting … patiently trusting … asking my Father to use an ordinary girl like me for His Kingdom and for His purposes.

I am worshipping in that line … keeping my eyes on the Lord … readying myself to hear His voice and to respond without a moment of hesitation.

What has God called you to do?  What dream has the God of creation placed in your soul?

Do you have an idea that only God could have given to you? 

You, my friend, are God’s greatest masterpiece of creation so stand in the line … kneel in the line … worship in the line!  God needs you and your life at this moment in history. The God Who created you as His most extraordinary masterpiece stands ready to make a masterpiece through your life!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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What Does it Mean to "Work Out Our Salvation?"

There is a phrase in the Bible that has always captured me … perplexed me … encouraged me … discouraged me …  and thrilled me.

The phrase is this – “… work out your salvation with fear and trembling …” – Philippians 2:12.

It is found in the framework of a heartfelt sentence of encouragement from Paul, the Apostle, to his dearly loved church at Philippi.  And although Paul wrote it to the ancient Philippians – the Holy Spirit actually had him pen those dynamic words for you and for me.

But what does it mean?  What does it mean to actually work out your salvation with fear and trembling?

Should I be afraid of salvation?  Is salvation a scary process?  Why should I tremble about God’s work in my life?

I believe in the wisdom of context when trying to figure out a complicated Bible passage, so let’s read a bit before and then a bit after this oft-quoted yet difficult to digest principle.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

First of all – Paul calls me “beloved” so that has got to be a good thing, right?  He, and that wonderful Holy Spirit, both care about me and they are invested in the woman that I have the potential of becoming.  Although Paul is no longer alive on planet earth, his voice continues to ricochet through the centuries and calls me, his beloved, to a lifestyle of obedience.

I don’t know about you but nearly every single day of my human existence I contend with cultural issues.  I wrestle with God’s will and with trying to discern what a lifestyle of Godliness actually looks like.

When I am in that bloody wrestling ring with my culture, with that diabolical enemy or even with myself, I must always allow the Word of God to set the ground rules. So, rather than trying to decide on my own what is good and what is bad … what is God and what is not … what is me and what is sin … I must simply open the Bible and go on a glorious treasure hunt within its sacred pages.

I must set aside personal bias … I must ignore religious expectations … I must resist cultural persuasion and I must simply allow that same Holy Spirit that Paul listened to, to speak with me through the powerful Word of God.

That’s how I obey.  I read my Bible and obey.  I remind myself that Paul loved me and I obey.

I caution myself that I don’t have a better idea than God and I obey.

I don’t talk back to the Holy Spirit and I obey.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

Wait … what?!

God is doing a work in me?  God is building something unseen in me?! God rolls up His sleeves and works on me?!

How wondrous is that?!

God puts forth His loving functionality in my life so that I will become like Him! He shows up in the crevices of my life and operates in spite of my weaknesses so that I will be the beneficiary of His divine strength!

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God knows that I am not enough … but that He is always more than enough!

Wow … just wow!

God is absolutely delighted to work in the garden of my life!  He sings over me as He pulls out weeds … as He plants new fruit … and as He gently whispers wisdom.

I am not a bother to God!  He doesn’t roll His eternal eyes at my incompetence nor does He gossip with Jesus about how that Carol McLeod is just not getting it … she is not getting it at all.

God is actually quite fond of cleaning up my messes and coaching me along the journey of life.

God wants His will in my life more than I want it and so He continues to encourage me on a daily basis, He is careful to direct me in His paths of righteousness and He is quick to supervise my decisions.

So … now let’s go back to that conundrum of a phrase “… work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

The day that you become a Christian, you didn’t automatically become a know-it-all. 

All of your sins have been instantly forgiven but you still have some learning to do!  Your past failures … your daily missteps … and even your future offenses are now under the blood of Jesus Christ.

There is, however, a process to which we all must submit that is called “maturing in your faith”.

And that is where this phrase applies: “ … work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

If you want to grow strong in your faith you will work it out.  You will discipline yourself to a lifestyle of Godliness and obedience.

You will choose to live for Jesus even when you don’t feel like it.

You will listen for God’s voice and obey even when you would prefer to get your own way.

You will know that God loves you and only wants the best for you and so you will take the Christian walk seriously.

You will honor the One Who made you with your constant devotion, heartfelt obedience and uncompromising righteousness.  The Christian walk is not stand-up comedy.  This maturing in Christ is not to be taken lightly or half-heartedly.

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Jesus took it so seriously that He died for the possibility you would choose to live for Him.

So, friends, this week … I am working it out.  I am laying down my will, my preferences and my street smarts in order to grow in my faith.

You might see me sweat … you might even hear me groan in pain … and you might think I should throw in the towel … but I won’t.  I will never give up.

I will continue to work it outwith fear and trembling.  It’s no laughing matter for me to work it out … but I intend, like Jesus, to give my life for it.

I’m working it out …What else could I do?!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Storms & Other Disturbances of the Soul

Storms can be windy places, can’t they?  The wind can stir things up that only yesterday were extremely peaceful and beautifully untouched.

The ferocious and relentless blowing that accompanies a twister often threatens imminent destruction with no thought of what should be off-limits to the powerful storm.

The gale force winds terrorize everything in their pathway … relationships, hopes, dreams, stability and finances.

And then there is the rain of the tempest that drenches everything without respect to value, significance or longevity.

The perpetual precipitation of the downpour often overpowers preparation and minimizes emotional insurance.

What storm is brewing off the coast of your life today?  Do you see it coming on a bull’s eye path in your direction?

Is it the hurricane of difficult finances or of a challenging health situation?  Perhaps the disturbance that is impending your borders was stirred up by fractious relationships or by continual disappointment.

Storms can be windy places, can’t they?

What should a believer do during the dark and discouraging days of storm-tossed living?  Should you just try to just ride it out?  Or, is it advisable to prepare wisely and then simply hope for the best?

Perhaps what you have tried in the past is to scream for help and then desperately claw your way away from the storm?

Is it possible to make it through a windstorm of circumstances without encountering any life-threatening damage?

Is it possible?

I want to talk to two groups of people today – those who are not in a storm and those who are in a storm.

First of all … if you are not in a storm today …trust me on this … different seasons of life often bring massive and oppressive gusts of wind and downpours of disappointment.

If I were you, I would prepare thoroughly and wisely for any future storms that crawl up the coast of life and head in your direction.  I am not a prophet of doom nor am I a storm-chasing meteorologist, but I have lived long enough to know that the rain will fall. 

Eventually … the rain will fall and the winds will blow on all of us.

So, if you are not in a blizzard of difficult circumstances and troublesome conditions today, this is what you can do to prepare for the storms of tomorrow.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24 & 25

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Build your life on the Rock.  What does that mean, you say?!  I am so glad that you asked …

Have a daily quiet time when life is serene and constant.  Read your Bible even when the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the birds are singing.  Dig deeply into the truth of the sacred page even when your heart is singing with joyous contentment.

Memorize a scripture every month … or even a well-loved verse each week. Hide God’s Word in your heart when you don’t have a care in the world.

Develop the Godly and strengthening habit of cultivating a daily prayer time.  Spend time just thanking God for Who He is and for what He has accomplished in your life.  Make a list of blessings and give God abundant praise for each one.

Come to the Father boldly with your prayer requests and trust that He is listening to you and that His answers are on the way.  Don’t just pray for yourself but cultivate the joyful practice of praying for others as well!

Sing. Out. Loud.  Sing at the top your lungs!  Lift your hands in the air and worship God loudly on the happiest days of your life!  Don’t miss one day of this celebratory, enriching and deliberate practice! Out-sing the lies of the enemy and join in the gorgeous harmonies of those who sit around the throne of the Father.

Attend church … tithe your finances … give above your tithe … join a Bible Study … invite people into your home to pray … support a missionary or go on a mission’s trip … volunteer to serve at your church … encourage someone in need.

All of these vital practices will ensure that your house has been built upon the Rock of Jesus Christ.

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As I watch coastal areas prepare for horrific storms, I realize that people are willing to spend money on sand bags to keep the water out, on lumber to board up their windows and on gallons of bottled water to ensure drinking safety.

What are you willing to spend in order to prepare for the next unmanageable storm that threatens the safety of your life?

And now, if you are currently in a severe tempest in life, wise advice to you is this: Dash for shelter and cry out to the only One who is able to save you!

For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” – Isaiah 25:4

Jesus is your shelter!  Money will not protect you … people will often mistreat you … food will betray you … and your career has no saving power.

Snuggle up into the protective arms of Jesus and allow His presence and His power to be all of the safety that you need during the worst hours of your life.

Call on His Name … declare His authority … remember His promises.

There is no storm that is too formidable for Him and there is not blast of wind that is a match for His great power.

When you are in a storm of impending destruction, don’t make things more difficult than they already are.

Run to Jesus … cry out to your Savior … declare the promises.  It is in that place that you will find all of the safety that you need. Remind yourself that you are in the boat with Him and that He is in the boat with you! You are in good hands with Jesus!

“He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm.” – Matthew 8:26

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a hear that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Embracing Change

I always associate the month of September with new beginnings … with a fresh start … with life-altering resolutions and a sort of “Here we go again!” attitude.

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved the first day of school, did you?! I adored the freshly sharpened pencils, the clean notebooks, the new shoes that pinched my toes and the possibility of a new friend or two!  I couldn’t wait to find out who my new teacher would be and was beyond excited to carry my new lunchbox to school.

I remember distinctly not being able to sleep the night before school began for a new year.  I vividly recall tossing and turning in my pink canopied bed with butterflies dancing through the hallways of my stomach!  And I wasn’t just in kindergarten when this happened … my first-day-of-school insomnia was an annual occurrence all the way to my senior year in high school.

As I was pondering the availability that September produces of a fresh start, I suddenly realized that in order to have a fresh start you must prepare for it! I didn’t enter a new school year as a child without being thoroughly prepared for it.  It took weeks of preparation so that all of the required details were accomplished that would guarantee a successful start to the new year of classes.

Perhaps what you have been ignoring in your life is the required preparation to have that amazing fresh start. You will never accomplish a powerful change in your life until you spend time in the preparation that it requires.

Let me just encourage you today to prepare for a fresh start!  Make a plan so that you can begin again!  Plot out your new course or you will forever be stuck on that unending hamster wheel of living.  Who wants that?!

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“Behold the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” – Isaiah 42:9

Here are a few solid choices that you can make in order to embrace a new and innovative change in life –

First of all, this question, “What do I want to change?” 

Do you want to change your income level?  Or your weight?  Or your health?  Or the way in which you parent?

Do you want a better marriage?  Do you desire to have a healthier relationship with your parents?

Do you want to work less?  Read more? Waste less time on social media?  Reconnect with old friends?  Spend more time with family?

Write out your desired change and keep it continuously in front of you.  Write it out on a sticky note and put it on your dashboard of your car.  Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Write it on a 3x5 card and put it in your wallet.  Attach it to the refrigerator door with a magnet.

You must be constantly reminded of that which you wish to change otherwise you will never get around to it.

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The second question you must answer in order to enact life-altering and long-term change is this, “Why do I want to change?”

Motivation is a grand determinate in order to accomplish desired change in one’s life.  Conversely, lack of motivation is like throwing water on your slowly burning embers of desire.

If you don’t know why you want to change, then you will never change!  Figure out the “why” before you determine the “how”.

When I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago, it was because I had battled cancer and I knew that I had to change my life in order to live a long time!  Talk about motivation!  When death stares you in the face, suddenly you get your motivation on!

I didn’t lose weight to fit into a size 6 or to look good in pictures, I lost weight so that I could live and serve God wholeheartedly.  That is my motivation … what is yours?

And the third question that you must confront is this one, “How am I going to make the desired change?”

Answering this third question is where that infamous rubber meets the road to change.

Do you need to meet with someone to help you establish a budget?

Do you need to join a gym? Do you need to get a library card? Do you need to put a lock on the refrigerator door?!

Plot out a few practical steps that will actuate your desired change and then discipline yourself to embrace new habits.

New habits are nothing to be dreaded but they are the freedom that you have been longing for!

“Discipline” is not a dirty word but it is the word that champions build a life upon!

All successful change requires diligent work and a little bit of sweat!  If you long for a fresh start in life, prepare to be the newer, better version of yourself.

What do you want to change?

Why do you want to change?

How will you make the change happen?

It’s up to you, my friend, but I believe in you! I believe that this is a brand new season for you and that a fresh start is just one choice away.

“Yet one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 & 14

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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New Beginnings

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I have always loved “new”.

I have always been inspired by freshly-sharpened pencils … a never-been-used notebook … a new, stylish dress … and crisp sheets on my bed.

What “new” things do you delight in?

I have always been rejuvenated by a bouquet of freshly-picked flowers from the garden … a book with an unbroken spine … the sparkling possibility of a brand-new friendship.

There have been stellar and unmatched moments in my life when I embrace the glory of the “new” just like a two-year old splashes in the puddles of a spring rain!

My adrenaline jumps when I experience the glee ofa pair of spotless white tennis shoes … a red, ripe tomato still warm from the sunshine in a summer’s garden … and an empty calendar ready to be filled with the activities of a new year.

As a mother, I’ll simply never forget one of the greatest “new” moments in my life.  I, in fact, have experienced this particular “new” 5 times over. 

As long as I am living and breathing this side of heaven, I will always sweetly remember the sensation of holding a newborn baby in my arms … so fresh from heaven … so untouched by the world … so miraculously unblemished.

5 times I have experienced the gift of a new life … a red, wrinkled face and 10 perfect little toes … clear, innocent eyes ready to explore the life that was ahead.

When I placed my nose up to the perfection of their little mouths, I could almost smell heaven in their baby breath.

There is absolutely nothing that compares to the gift of a new baby.

However, there is another “new” that brings unexplainable joy to my heart!

This unforgettable, too-good-to-be-true, “let’s change the world” celebratory experience is the “new” of a fresh start!

A do-over! A second chance!

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I love the crystalline possibility that comes with being able to start over again … to begin again … to take a deep breath and to set my gaze toward tomorrow in spite of what lies behind me.

A new day … an untouched tomorrow … a pioneer spirit.

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” – Isaiah 42:9

I was talking last week to a young woman who is about to jump off the diving board of safe and protected family life into the pool of exciting collegiate living.

I said to her, “Tori!  You can be anyone you want to be!  Decide who you truthfully are in the deepest part of your soul and then be that girl! Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back from being the person you have always longed to become!”

And as I spoke those words over her novice life, I realized that the same possibility was just as true for me as it was for her.

It doesn’t matter that she is a fresh 18 year-old and that I am a seasoned 62 year-old.

It doesn’t matter that my body has been marked by wrinkles and with stretch marks and that she is beautifully young.

It doesn’t matter that Tori has more of life in front of her than behind her while I have more of life behind me than in front of me.

It doesn’t matter that Tori is about to become a college co-ed and I am a grandmother 7 times over.

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” – II Corinthians 5:17

Christ loves to give fresh starts to wrinkled, spotted and tired bodies

He loves to speak new life over the dead, barren places in our hearts.

Christ came to make us new … He knew that there would be seasons in life that would just wear us down with weakness and worry. He came to give new power and new strength.

Christ came to make us new … He understood that discouragement and disappointment would age us into decrepit versions of ourselves long before He was done using us.  And so He came to give fresh hope and renewed joy.

Christ cares not what the date on your birth certificate is, how many wrinkles you have accumulated on your formerly newborn skin, or how much of life has past you by.

He came to make you new! He longs to hold you in His arms and gaze at your potential.

His heart is overwhelmed with the complete joy of giving life to you whether you are 18 or 82.

He loves gazing into your eyes and celebrating all that is yet ahead!

So today is your day for a fresh start … for a new beginning … and for a divine make-over.

You see, the God Who is an expert at making all things new, has made you!

He is the God who is making all things miraculously new … and that includes YOU!

“And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” – Revelation 21:5

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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What to Do When You Have a Broken Heart

A broken heart …

Have you ever had one?

It seems that so many things have the power to disappoint … to discourage … or to confuse … but that’s not exactly what I am talking about.

I am referring to something so much more ravaging than a broken fingernail, a lost job promotion or an unexpected bill in the mail.

Have you ever had your heart truly broken? 

In pieces?  Shattered beyond recognition?

Have you ever wondered if your heart would eventually have the strength to beat again?

A broken heart …

Some people possess hearts that are more fragile than others. Some folks are the owners of hearts that are made of that nearly indestructible stuff that is not easily destroyed or fractured.

There are some hearts, however, that are, indeed, delicate and are able to be shredded at the smallest possible jarring.

And honestly, some of us have allowed our hearts to be broken by that which should have no demolition power at all in our lives. There have been moments in my life when I have needed to repent over the petty, miniscule events and circumstances that I have allowed to mangle my formerly healthy heart.

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If I allow mere inconveniences to break my heart, I will never have the vibrant capacity to walk in God’s destiny and desire for my one-in-a-million life.

However, there are experiences and people that will indeed break one’s heart this side of heaven.

Serious illness … childhood rejection … unkind and undeserved words … early or sudden death … infertility … abuse … divorce … addictions …

What has broken your heart?

If you have a broken heart, there is nothing of which to be ashamed

I actually believe that when the throbbing abates a bit, a broken heart can actually be your finest hour.

Why in the world would I believe that?  I believe that your broken heart has the potential of becoming your finest hour because of something that the Bible says …

The Bible tells us an extraordinary detail about what comes with a broken heart.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Isn’t that an amazing piece of truth?! 

If your heart has been broken due to horrific human pain, the Lord is hovering close to you.  He has not left you to deal with the trauma or injury alone.  He is beside you, tending to you, gently caring for you in the most painful and devastating moment of your life!

God knew that there would be things, events and people this side of heaven that would have the ability to shatter a human heart and so He had a healing answer for those grim experiences.

The answer is Him!

The answer is always Him!

The answer has always been Him!

The answer will always BE Him!

He is our Healer –emotionally, spiritually and physically!

The mistake that many broken-hearted people make is that they run away from the Father rather than toward Him in their moment of deep and excruciating pain.

Many people whose hearts have been crushed by catastrophe or by hardship build walls between themselves and the loving Father.

If your heart has been broken, snuggle into His presence and stay there until the healing begins.

Read the sacred pages of the Psalms and allow the powerful Words of Life to do open heart surgery on you!

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

Allow the Father to do what He does best … allow Him to be your Healer.

Chocolate won’t heal you … shopping has no intrinsic healing power … bitterness will only increase the pain.

People, as wonderful as they are, can only lead you toward or away from the Great Physician.

People don’t heal … Jesus heals!

It is His presence that will restore your ruptured and pounding heart.

Lift your hands in worship and sing to Him even in the midst of unremitting and appalling misery.

It’s o.k. to cry … just keep your hands in the air while you cry.

It’s o.k. to weep … just worship while you weep.

It’s o.k. to mourn … just sing a melody to the Father while the tears roll down your cheeks.

Worship doesn’t stuff your pain … it heals your pain.  Worship doesn’t ignore emotional brokenness … it soothes human brokenness. Worship doesn’t numb internal bleeding … it regenerates and repairs the damage that has been done.

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“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.” – Elisabeth Elliot

God is intimately close to a person who is dealing with the awful and consuming reality of a broken heart.  But, He doesn’t want you to stay in that place of ashes and pain.

He longs to heal you so that He can use you.  He wants to mend you so that you can mend others.  He wants to restore your heart so that it can beat in sync with His heart of compassion.

A broken heart may be part of your story but it is not the end of your story. Allow Him to embrace your brokenness so that He can fill you with all that He is and all that He has.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Victoriously and Joyfully Ever After

I am a bona-fide, diagnosed read-aholic!

I read absolutely everything that I can lay my hands on.  (It’s actually everything that I can lay my eyes on but let’s not quibble over body parts here.)

I read new children’s books and classic literature.  I devour biographies and gobble up historical fiction. I am captivated by theological volumes and can’t put down self-help books. I am addicted to devotionals, commentaries and even antiquated novels.

However – I must tell you.  I always read the last chapter first.  Always.

Now, before you groan and throw rotten tomatoes at me, let me explain my thought processes to you.

I don’t want to waste my time reading a book that doesn’t end well or that is filled with illogical and unacceptable conclusions.

I only have so much time in a given day to drink from the books that satisfy my thirsty soul and so I selectively choose to read published works that come to a well-written, Biblically sound and victorious completion.

You can roll your eyes at me if you would like to do so … but this method of “knowing the end before the beginning” works for me.  It simply works.

And, the truth is … this is exactly what we all desire in our individual lives as well.

We all yearn for our lives to come to a satisfying and peaceful conclusion.

Deep within each one of us, we long for our lives and for our circumstances at long last to reach that “happily ever after” attainment that seems to work in fairy tales.

Certainly not one of us hanker for a tragic ending … or for an incomplete life … or for a worst-case scenario!

We all deeply desire that our prayers are answered, that our battles end in victory and that peace has the final word.

When you know the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the World and the power of the Holy Spirit, all of your life’s events are going to be better than “happily ever after …”

You might naively wonder, “What in the world could be better than happily ever after?”

I am so glad that you asked that impossible question because I am here to answer it for you today!

When God writes your story, every conundrum and each challenge in life is going to wrap up with the exclamatory reality, “And they lived victoriously and joyfully ever after!”

How is THAT for too-good-to-be-true news?!

Now … I don’t want to give you a spoiler here but I must. I absolutely must put you out of your life-long suspense. Here comes the spoiler…

Are you ready?  We are going to read the very last chapter of your life … here we go … this is how it reads…

Everything is going to be o.k.!

Everything is actually going to be better than o.k. … it’s going to be great!

How do I know that?  I know that because when you allow God to write your story – He is into happy endings.  He types, with indelible ink, victorious, joyful, hopeful conclusions to all of our stories!

Hallelujah!  “And they lived victoriously and joyfully ever after …” is not a phantom dream but it can be a reality in all of our lives.

However … there is a key variable that shifts this phrase from a wish to a guarantee.

The unavoidable and important phrase is this:  “When you allow God to write your story …”

I have come to the realization that God is a much better author than I am and I must partner with Him in the unfolding of my life story.  There are people, situations and events over which I have no control and I must give each one of those difficulties to Him. I must allow His goodness to deal with each fractious person, with each volatile situation and with each unwanted event.

I must resist the urge for revenge and for bitterness and I must allow Him to fight for me.

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In case you didn’t know it … He is much better at fighting and at winning than I am or than you are. We can fight on our own terms if that’s what we insist upon … but victory is not a guarantee in the self-fought scenario.

Victory is only guaranteed when you allow the Lord to fight your battles!

It is His delight to lead you in triumph but you must allow Him to do the leading while you do the following.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” – II Corinthians 2:14

The more that I demand my own way … the more that He will sit back and let me have my own way. 

When I tell God what I think that He should do … I have a suspicion that He sits back with a knowing smile on His grand face and says, “Well … let’s see how that will work for you.”

And invariably, it doesn’t.  My ideas generally don’t work. Father really does know best.

I never have had a better idea than God.  Never. Not in 62 years of living have I found myself even one time to be as smart as or as wise as my Father.

He is the expert at brilliant, innovative, creative solutions to all of my life’s problems.

He has been to my future and it is good because He is good! He is already there, in all of my future days yet to be lived, writing my story with words of victory, with sentences of hope and with the exclamation point of joy!

His conclusion for all of my life’s events end with the words, “And she lived victoriously and joyfully ever after!”

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10 Ways to Live the Life of Your Dreams

I know it … sometimes you think of me as Pollyanna with a Bible or as Mary Poppins on a mission.

I know it … sometimes you think that my blogs are too sugary sweet and that my words drip with Holy Spirit honey.

Not today, my friend! Today I am coming at ya’ as Oscar the Grouch … as the Grinch personified … and as Scrooge! Today … I am going to give it to you from a different point of view!

Today … I am going to talk to you about 10 ways to guarantee that you will live a perfectly awful life!

“10 Ways to Guarantee That You Will Live a Perfectly Awful Life!”

1 – Spew your opinions, political views and disappointment with life over everybody all the time

Make sure that your Facebook page is filled up with whining and complaining. Alienate the younger generation with your “I know more than you!” attitude. Verbal vomit is your middle name and you can’t wait to audibly barf over everyone in your unsuspecting pathway.  Oh … and while you are at it … cloak it in Christianity. Frame your verbal drudge with your faith. Count your troubles … name them one by one!

2 – Be too busy to pray. 

Involve yourself and your family in temporary activities that ensure that church attendance is not consistent, that devotions are sporadic and that prayer is ignored unless there is an emergency.  Let me know how that works for you …

3 – Set some time aside every day just to worry.

Worry about the economy. Worry about the political climate of America.  Worry about your family. Worry about your health. Worry about retirement. Worry before you go to bed.  Make sure that you worry before you get out of bed.  Worry in the shower and in the car. Worry out loud and worry privately. Live a life of full-blown worry!

4 – Belittle or ignore people who are supposed to be serving you

Complain about your waitress to her manager.  And don’t you dare leave that sorry waitress a big tip. Tell the person at the drive-thru window what a terrible job they have done of filling your order. Be curt with the single mom who checks you out in the grocery store line. Complain about the price of milk, the cleanliness of the store and how they never have what you need.  Give it to her without taking a breath!

5 – Believe that the world revolves around you, your pain, your needs, your desires and your time schedule

Everyone else should bow to you, consider you and revere you. You, after all, are the known center of the universe and everyone else should act as such! Be completely self-absorbed.  No one matters but you.

6 – Always look out for Number 1!

Make sure that your rights are loudly heard and always met. Ignore what other people desire or need … after all … you have your own life to live. So live a life in which you know that you deserve every benefit, every blessing and every ounce of attention that others can give.

7 – Don’t ever exhibit any compassion to anyone … anytime … anyplace … anywhere.

After all, if you get involved with other people’s troubles, you may neglect your own.  If you show one iota of mercy or understanding, the world is sure to walk all over you!

8 – Do not be faithful.

You can promise things but there is absolutely no good reason to actually follow through. Quit every job before it is completed. When you get bored with something to which you have made a commitment it is probably time to move on to the next big thing. If something is too difficult for you to finish – go and do something much easier. Overpromise and under-deliver is what I always say!

9 – Only be committed to things that are visible or tangible.

Things like reading your Bible, spending time in prayer or worship are irrelevant to the world in which we live.  Instead, play computer games, be captivated by your cell phone, spend loads of time on social media, watch endless YouTube videos, Netflix should be your best friend and make it a practice of not talking to anyone when a sporting event is on TV.

10 – Don’t ever forgive anyone ever

Allow bitterness to be a full-blown part of your life. Talk more than you listen. Let every person in your world know every single detail of what you think, feel and believe. When you are angry – let it show. When you are offended – make a big deal about it.

And now you know how to live the life of your worst nightmare!!

We have had some fun this week, haven’t we? 

Have you seen yourself in any of the “10 Ways to Live a Perfectly Awful Life”?! I hope not … but if you did … perhaps it is time for a change.  Perhaps you could be committed to a few different disciplines instead!

“10 Ways to Live the Life of Your Dreams!”

1 – Encourage one another day after day while it is still called today! – Hebrews 3:13

2 – Pray without ceasing! – I Thessalonians 5:17

3 – Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

4 – Know that you live in a Kingdom where serving others is the greatest thing that you can choose to do. – Mark 10:43

5 – Remind yourself that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. – James 3:16

6 – The only way to live a life of fulfillment is to live by the motto that, “He must increase and I must decrease”! – John 3:30

7 – Put on a heart of compassion and keep it on! – Colossians 3:12

8 – Exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is known as faithfulness! – Galatians 5:22

9 – Walk by faith and not by sight! – II Corinthians 5:7

10 – Never, never, never let the sun go down on your anger. – Ephesians 4:26

And that, my friend, is the life of your dreams and the life of God’s dreams for you! So choose that abundant and joyful life today!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Ban This Word From Your Vocabulary!

Have you ever heard of the word “humdudgeon”?  That’s what I thought! I had never heard of the word “humdudgeon” either but I innocently happened upon this word recently in one of my favorite devotionals.  The author says that this word means, “a loud complaint about a trifle.”

I have tried to find “humdudgeon” in several respected dictionaries but it is just not there.

However – I do like the word.  I like it very much. So, let’s assume that it is, indeed, an actual word and that its meaning is correct.

Humdudgeon: a loud complaint about a trifle.

Do you know anyone who is in the habit of allowing a humdudgeon or two to come out of his or her mouth?

Perhaps your children are known for loud and scratchy humdudgeons.  Perhaps that person that you work with … or your mother-in-law … or your neighbor is well-acquainted with this archaic, yet useful word: humdudgeon.

Nearly every person that I know has at one time complained about something that is merely a trifle! People are upset about politics, the economy, the weather, their sports teams, traffic, their health … and the list goes on and on and on.

Humdudgeon.  What a great, awful word!

Perhaps we should all consider taking our emotional temperatures this week and writing down every complaint that comes out of our powerful mouths.  Don’t be easy on yourself, but be painfully honest … write down each word of whining that you verbally express.

May I tell you a few stories about people who refused to complain and whine? These noble characters certainly deserved to throw a humdudgeon or two in the direction of history but they remained pure and resilient in their approach to life

Read about this man’s life story:

He failed in business as age 22.

Defeated for political office at 23.

Failed in business again at 24.

Fiancée died when he was 26.

Defeated for political office again at 29, 31, 34, 39, 46, 47 and 49.

Married at 33 to a very difficult woman.

Only one of four sons lived past age 18.

His name, of course, is Abraham Lincoln and he is one of the greatest presidents to ever have lived. He didn’t allow his enormous disappointments in life to hold him back from his destiny. When I read about Abraham Lincoln’s life, I sincerely wonder if I have ever had a problem worth mentioning!

Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroines of the faith.  These are a few highlights from her life:

She never married.

She was always overweight.

She always lived at home with her parents.

She was arrested and taken to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in the family home during World War II.

Her entire family died in the concentration camp.

Corrie didn’t know the meaning of the word, “humdudgeon”!  Every morning in the German concentration camp, Corrie jumped to her feet and enthusiastically sang, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!”

Wow!  What an extraordinary woman! She actually thanked God for the fleas in her bed because it kept the German guards from coming in!

There was not a humdudgeon in Corrie’s vocabulary of choice!

Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas? When they had been beaten and thrown into a Roman prison cell, these men didn’t utter one humdudgeon but instead they sang songs of praise to their loving Father!

And what happened due to the unbelievable choice of these wounded and imprisoned men? Well … God sent an earthquake to loosen their chains and to set them free.  If God did it for Paul and Silas, I have a feeling that He will do it for you as well!

There is also a sad group of people in the Bible that complained loudly and often! These people defined the very word, “humdudgeon”. Let me remind you of their woeful tale –

The Israelites were miraculously set free from the Egyptians, they were guided by the cloud of God’s presence, they walked through the roaring Red Sea on dry ground, they ate supernatural food and yet still they whined.

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased, for their bodies are scattered in the wilderness.” – I Corinthians 10:5 – NKJV

When a child of God chooses to whine rather than to worship, it leads that precious believer into a wilderness experience that is hard to escape.

What will indeed lead you out of the wilderness and away from spiritual death is the determinate to worship and then to embrace sweet contentment.

Worship + contentment = trust.

God’s goodness and His mercy really are following you all the days of your life regardless of what your circumstances might be.

Even God’s “no” has His heart of goodness stamped upon it!

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” – I Timothy 6:6.

Perhaps the opposite of the word “humdudgeon” is the word “contentment.” Maybe the very things about which we are tempted to whine and complain are actually a miraculous opportunity for us to embrace contentment instead.

Perhaps the true value of difficult circumstances in life is not in verbalizing them but is found in choosing to die to them and then determining to trust God instead.

Every difficult circumstance in life brings with it an opportunity to die to self and to trust in the goodness of God.

No more humdudgeons for me, my friend! This singular word will never be found in my dictionary of life!

Rather, I am compelled by the amazing power of the lives of Abraham Lincoln, of Corrie ten Boom and of Paul and Silas to trust rather than worry, to worship rather than whine and to refuse a spirit of complaining and embrace a spirit of contentment.

Be gone with you, humdudgeon! My days of complaining about the ridiculous are over and gone!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

* Portions of this blog were influenced by the writings of Elisabeth Elliot in her book, “Keep a Quiet Heart.”

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Keep a Tender Heart

This world is such a harsh place at times, isn’t it?

That is why it is so important to keep a tender heart.

Social Media is cruel … people’s expectations are exacting … and the news is tormenting.

Oh! How I long to keep a tender heart.

Tongues are vicious … events are alarming … and politics are confusing.

That is precisely why you and I should keep a tender heart.

A tender heart is a heart that God can work with … a tender heart knows the joy of loving beyond measure. A truly tender heart is well-acquainted with the benefits of caring beyond reason.

A tender heart doesn’t deny the truth but lives in a town by the name of “Mercy”.

A tender heart is a warm, caring and honest heart.

A tender heart is a heart that understands that life is hard but longs to offer a helping hand, a heartfelt hug and unconditional love in spite of differing opinions.

A tender heart listens and never demands.

A tender heart is not a weak heart … but it is a heart that perseveres when someone is in pain.

If you are a parent, cultivate a tender heart in your children.  Teach them to care for the needs of others. Please don’t minimize or ignore the deep feelings of the little people under your charge. I know that it is important to train children not to whine … but when they are feeling the depth of compassion for a person or an event … allow them to feel.

When a mom or a dad refuses to allow a child to express valid emotions in a healthy manner, not only will the little heart become hard … but so will the parental heart. Parents … keep a tender heart toward your children.  Listen to their tears … give them an opportunity to ventilate … and then embrace their sweet little frames.  When the intense time of emotion has passed, spend some valuable time coaching the child how to express pain, how to deal with emotions and how to banish disappointment in a healthy manner.

Stifling the feelings that are in a tender heart is never a healthy choice. A tender heart goes to the pinnacle and to the plunge of compassion and chooses to linger there when others move on.

A tender heart has cultivated Godly and appropriate responses to life. When you discover a friend with a tender heart, you have also found a tongue that blesses, a mind that understands and actions that are solely kind. 

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

When a heart is soft and tender, it is a heart that forgives quickly.  When a person decides to remain tender rather than become hard and unfeeling, the person with the tender heart is exhibiting the characteristics of God the Father and of Jesus the Son.

What an amazing possibility that is!  To be like Jesus in the harsh, severe and cold world in which we live!

You know, we are not all “wired” alike, are we? Some of us are able to contain our emotions in a heroic manner while others among us seem to sob, giggle and exaggerate our way through life.

Perhaps there is a healthy balance to which we all need to aspire and it is called having a tender heart.

A tender heart is aware of the needs of others and lovingly understands pain.

A tender heart cares less about self and more about the joy that a sacrifice might deliver to a friend’s life.

A tender heart looks to God for leadership and is always ready to walk beside a person who is going through a valley.

However, a tender heart doesn’t allow a loved one to remain in that valley of despair, in the swamp of discouragement or in the desert of self-pity. A tender heart lovingly, gently and powerfully leads a comrade toward the health that is found in on the mountaintop of hope.

Mount Hope is a powerful place from which to view life! And, you will find, that every sweaty climber who reaches that zenith point has a heart that is beating wildly yet tenderly.

Unfortunately, the rugged pathway to Mount Hope is littered with the excuses of those who refuse to care … who are immune to generosity … and who choose to judge rather than understand.

Predictably, the furrowed route that leads a weary traveler to the crest where hope reigns is filled with the empty opinions of hard-hearted travelers who never learned the value of tenderness.

Opinions harden a heart … so do unrealistic expectations. Refusing to care for a fellow traveler and ignoring the power of forgiveness will cause a heart to crack with brittle crevices.

A tender heart is a healthy heart because it is a reflection of the heart of Jesus. It is a virtue, indeed, that we all must choose while living in the traumatic conditions of earth.

I am praying for you today … as you endeavor to keep a tender heart.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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It's Time To Take Your Pulse

If you could accomplish one “great” thing for the Kingdom of God, what would it be?

If you could be known for a singular yet stellar accomplishment, what would it be?

If you could leave a lasting legacy, what would it be?

The truth is this … you do, indeed, have this one-of-a-kind opportunity!

You, as a package of frail humanity, have the opportunity to do something so miraculous and so extraordinary with your life that heaven will stand to its feet and roar in approval!

You, as a mere parcel of weaknesses and doubts, of strengths and quirks, of talents and imperfections, have been given the grand probability of making a difference at your moment in recorded history.

We all have a calling upon our lives that is beyond anything we could ever dream or imagine. 

We all have been made by the Creator of the universe on purpose … with purpose … and for purpose!

You have not been left out of this remarkable plan! Your life matters … your heart matters … you time matters … your choices matter … YOU matter!

I believe that it is vitally important every so often to assess the “pulse” of our passions in life.  In assessing your pulse, let me ask you some thought-provoking questions today -

What is it that causes you to get out of bed in the morning?

What is your last thought at night as you are drifting off to sleep?

Have you determined to make your minutes matter for eternity?

There is a scripture, nestled into the pages of the Book of Acts that has totally undone me for the past few years.  I discovered this powerful verse when I was in a wretched battle with cancer. I don’t know what battle you are in today … but I have a feeling that you need to be introduced to this verse!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay.” – Acts 13:36

God has a purpose for you in your own generation, just like He did for David!

God has something for you to accomplish that is not on anyone else’s “To-Do” list!

Knowing that God has a purpose for an ordinary life and knowing that our days are indeed numbered, how do we discover the purpose for which we have been created?

Do you, like me, long to live in that sweet spot of God’s purpose for life? However, often it seems that “purpose” plays a perpetual game of hide and seek with me!

This is what do I know even when “purpose” is nowhere to be found … God has a plan for my life that surpasses my wildest dreams!  Of that one thing I am sure!  Of that I am convinced!

And so – I will spend all of my days serving Him, loving Him, enjoying Him and trying to match His heart of purpose.

I won’t give in … I won’t give up … I will only give all I have for His call on my life!

You know, I have been thinking lately how I raised my children to dream big dreams and to climb high mountains.  I taught them that they were pre-wired to live an unprecedented life.  And all of that is true, isn’t it?

But what if I had taught my children how to be servants instead?  What if I had taught them, by word and by example, that in order to live a truly great life you must discover the joy of serving others?!

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” – Matthew 20:26

What if, rather than challenging my children to earn degrees, to hit home runs, to write best-selling books, or to compose great pieces of music, I had simply taught them the uncommon value of humble servanthood?

You see … perhaps we have it all wrong.  Maybe those of us who live in the Western world in the first part of the 21st. Century have been hoodwinked and lied to by our culture.

Our culture places great value on entertainment, on championship rings and on political prowess.  Our culture esteems business acumen, notoriety and Ivy League degrees.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Grammy Awards, college scholarships or running for political office.  But it is not any of those things that has the power to make a person “great” in his or her heart.

Earthly accomplishments are not the stuff of which a great life is made.

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A great life is always built upon the foundation of servanthood.  Always.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to serve those who are in need … to love those who are difficult … and to be patient with those who are prickly.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to call your mother or grandmother … to listen to your children’s jokes … and to say an encouraging word to your pastor.

The purpose that God has for you in your own generation is to go about doing good just like Jesus did!

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good …” – Acts 10:38

If “doing good” was “good” enough for Jesus … then it is good enough for you and it is good enough for me!

So, today, my dear friend, don’t get lost in the quagmire of success, of accomplishment or of notoriety … simply find someone who needs a helping hand and then offer it.

You will discover your great purpose when you determine that Jesus has called you to be just like Him … and He turned His 33 years of earthly living into a grand-slam demonstration of the goodness and power of God!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Good, Good Father

What does the word “Father” mean to you?

For some, it brings back warm feelings of safety, provision, wisdom and laughter.

I always knew that I was supremely safe when my father was around … that no verified need of mine would ever go unmet … that I had a grand source of wisdom at my beck and call … and that when Dad was home there was always something to be happy about.

I had a rare father … a one-in-a-million Dad

He was a general of the faith, a student of the Bible, a missionary-supporter, a lover of my mom, a gardener and as steady as they come.

My dad’s name will never be in a history book for discovering the cure to some dread disease, for establishing world peace or for making millions of dollars. But in my book, there will never be anyone like him.  No one will ever come close to the man that my dad was. No one at all.

You see … a man’s name is never recorded for growing the world’s tastiest tomato, or for planning unforgettable family vacations that were filled with fun and adventure, or for teaching the Bible to the adult Sunday school class for nearly 40 years.

The world doesn’t deem it of value to know that my dad was never in debt, he only used a tender tone of voice in the home and that he supported an entire family of missionaries. 

My dad was an expert donut-maker, bicycle rider and was the consummate Jack-of-all-trades.  There was no plumbing problem that he was unable to fix … no toy that he was unable to put back together … and no vegetable that he was unable to can or freeze!

If a “Hall of Fame of Fathers” existed … my dad would deserve the number one spot.  Year after year after year.  Every year.  To infinity and beyond!

And so, when I hear the endearing word, “Father” … or “Dad” … or “Daddy” … my heart swells with a sweet pride and with a deep gratitude for the man who raised me and loved me.

He was a general … a giant … and a champion.  And he was my dad.  I was his little girl.  Even now, although he has been in heaven for 15 years, my heart expands at knowing the blessing of being raised by a truly great man.

However, for other people, the word “father” stirs up emotions of dread, displeasure and disappointment. My heart breaks for you if you don’t have the same memories of your dad that I do of mine. How I wish that I could turn back the hands of time and invite you, as a child, to join in the benefit of living under the same roof with me and my dad!  There was nothing like it.  Nothing like it at all.

Since I am unable to share my earthly dad with you … this Father’s Day … I’d like to share my heavenly Father with you!

You and I do indeed share a good, good Father.  He is compassionate beyond understanding and generous beyond measure; all of the wisdom of all of the ages begins and ends in His vast storehouse of knowledge.

Your Daddy’s heart is filled with great joy over your life and He can’t wait to spend time with you! He is never too busy for you and is never preoccupied with sports, technology or finances.  Isn’t that a rich comfort to your soul that has been desperately longing for a date with your Dad?!

Our Dad is infinitely patient and is never critical.  He believes that you are the masterpiece of His creation and loves watching your life unfold. 

He cheers for you when you are weak … sings to you when you are afraid … and believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

He is quite a Man, that Dad of yours!

Your Dad is slow to anger … and even when He does get angry it doesn’t last very long. It’s His favor that lasts for your entire life. 

When you feel alone, He gets your older Brother in on the family action.  Your older Brother always joins in the cheers, always is praying and always sings the songs the loudest that are meant for you and for you alone. Your older Brother’s Name is Jesus … perhaps you have heard of Him?

Your Dad loves to take long walks with you on this journey known as “life” and refuses to allow you to walk alone. He knows that there are dangers ahead, mountains to climb and dark valley’s to travel through; He holds your hand and whispers in your ear words of encouragement and hope - no matter what the topography of your life looks like.

Your Dad is quite the Man! You have that one-in-eternity kind of Father. So, this Father’s Day, rather than being filled with regret over what your childhood home was lacking, perhaps you could stir up some gratitude for the best Father of all!

Spend time with Him because He is just one prayer away. Listen to His voice because He has oceans of wisdom for you.  And please remember to just jump in His lap and enjoy His arms around you.  There’s nothing else He would rather do than to simply snuggle with you … not only on Father’s Day but also on every day of the year!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God, and all that He is!

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If I Had a Do-Over (in Parenting)...

Oh! If I could only travel back in time and do it all over again! Does your heart ever feel that way?

I know that I am supposed to leave the past behind and trust God with my memories. I know that. And I try to do it … I really do.

But there are just some moments in life when the past comes roaring upon me like a fast-moving and powerful train … and there I stand watching it all fly by me.

I see all of my yesterdays – the good and bad of it all. I see the successes and the failures. The sweet and the challenging. The yummy and the distasteful.

I see precious memories of childhood and the safety of my parents’ home. Birthday parties … Christmas morning … and just the joy of an ordinary dinner around the kitchen table with the people who laid the foundation for the woman I am today.

I remember being at the altar and giving my heart to Jesus and praying for the Holy Spirit to fill me with power. Even as a child, I remember just wanting more of Jesus.

I remember as a teen-ager and being caught at the crossroads of right and wrongof sin and morality … of Jesus and the culture. Oh! How I wish I could have a do-over in that moment.

I recall like it was just yesterday leaving for a college that was over 1,000 miles away from home and family.  I was caught in the bittersweet excitement where yesterday and tomorrow meet. It was my very first plane ride and upon takeoff it took me so much further than only 1,000 miles away from home.  It took me from childhood to adulthood … it flew me from dependent to independent … it transported me from being a dreamer to becoming a doer. That plane ride on that August morning in 1973 didn’t just take me to Tulsa, Oklahoma … it landed me exactly in my God-ordained destiny.

I remember the moment when I knew that Craig McLeod was the one for me. I felt the generous favor and love of God wash over my undeserving heart.

And how I remember holding my first baby in my arms!

There is no joy like the joy of new life.  A baby … so fresh from heaven … had been entrusted to us.

We were only ordinary people and yet God, in His grand plan, had given us a miracle in the flesh to hold … to love … to raise … to train … and to let go.

And then two years later there was another adorable son to love … and then a third son who was ever so wanted … and then the gift of a sweet little girl … and then one more daughter as the grandest surprise of all!

And … if I could do parenting all over again … there are some things that I would certainly do the same while other things I would change drastically.

I think that wanting a “do-over” with parenting perhaps is the greatest emotional challenge of all, isn’t it?

Somehow, as our hearts look back over the panorama of the parenting years, we tend to linger more on the mistakes that we made rather than on the battles that were won under our watch.

I have to train my mind and my heart to remember the victories and not merely the failures.  I must call forth the wonderful memories to rise to the top of the treasure chest known as my heart.

And so in this moment – I feel compelled to share with especially the parents of the next generation – some of the things that I would do differently if I could do it all over again. 

Will you indulge me in a brief and tender lesson coming from an older mom’s heart?

I would laugh more and scold less.

I would keep the minor things minor.

I would snuggle more and let the dust bunnies multiply.

I would let go of outside interests and activities so that I was better able to focus on the best activity of all – raising a family for the unshakable Kingdom of God.

I would read to them more and put away the distraction that screens presented.

I would rock longer and kiss away the tears.

I would listen to every joke … every story … and every heartbreak with rapt and undivided attention.

There will always be dishes to do … bills to pay … and laundry to fold.  But there won’t always be little people who just want me.

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I would give them more of me.

I would keep laughter ringing in every corner of my home.

I would teach them how to sing through the hard days of life! There is nothing like a song in your heart to wash away the disappointment of life.

I would memorize the Bible with them. Every day of every week of every month of every year … I would place the Word of God in their hearts.

I would discipline … but I wouldn’t yell. I would train … but I wouldn’t send them on guilt trips.

I would try to remember that their little hearts had been loaned to me for such a very short time and so I would treat each heart as a fragile and valuable commodity.

I would let them splash in mud puddles and not worry about dirty, wet shoes.

I would read an extra story rather than declaring that it was too late.

I would stop by the side of the road and let my children giggle at the cows wandering in the field

I would let them catch fireflies on a summer’s evening … I would let them play with play dough on a rainy afternoon even though it made a mess … I would let them stay up late and wait for Daddy even when it was past their bedtime.

I would let them help me bake cookies … I would take them to Gramma’s house more often … and I would just listen to the sound of their laughter.

That’s what I would do if I could do it all over again.  So young mom … young dad … if you are listening … I hope that you will turn my wishes into your reality.

Life flies by at the speed of light so don’t miss your moment to sing … to read … to hold … to giggle … to pray.

This moment will never come again.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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