Into the Storm

Storms.  Nobody likes them … no one would choose them … and yet still storms happen, don’t they?

Storms can be ferocious and lengthy … or they can be short and sweet. 

I can appreciate the predicted storm … the storm that I know is coming and for which I can make the necessary preparations in order to insure my safety.

There are, however, other storms that defy the forecast and come with no regard for preparation or for safety.  The storm that takes an innocent person by surprise is neither appreciated nor is it welcome.

Roofs are blown off houses … foundations at times shift … tree branches come crashing violently down in the most unwelcome places … and even leaves are all in a twitter. 

Rarely does a storm blow through a region without some type of damage being done.  Storms are often powerful and always make their presence known whether it is by rain, snow, wind, sleet or hail.

The truth is … call me crazy … but I love a good storm from time to time.  I love the preparation and the excited anticipation of what type of storm might be coming my way!  I love the hours or days when I am snug in my own home watching the tempest rage while I remain safe from the elements.  I do pity the person who is forced to be out in the storm and am always so thankful for my lot in life.

I don’t know what kind of storm you are in today but I do know that storms happen to everyone. 

One of my favorite storms happened in the Bible to a bunch of men who were just trying to obey their Master.  Jesus had just multiplied 5 little pieces of bread and 2 sardines in order to feed 5,000 ravenous men plus their wives and children.

What a miracle that was!

After these disciples saw that fantastic occurrence with their very own eyes, Jesus told them to get into the boat and to travel across to the other side.

“But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves for the wind was contrary.” – Matthew 14:24

A contrary wind that blows into an unsuspecting life has the frightening potential to accomplish some major “battering”, doesn’t it?

What contrary gust of circumstance has battered your life?  Is it finances or health issues?  Perhaps your battering has been caused by a relationship that is stormy or by a great disappointment that has drenched your hope.

“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.” – Matthew 14:25 & 26

Do you know what I find interesting to me about this particular storm?  The disciples were in this storm by divine instruction.  Jesus had sent them out in the little wooden boat knowing that they were in the direct path of a monstrous monsoon.

Do you know what I find comforting about this particular storm?  The disciples were not alone!  Jesus was coming to them across the raging and wind-tossed waters.

Let’s read a portion of this same story from the Gospel of Mark … told with a bit of a different twist …

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.  After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.  When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.  Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.” – Mark 6:45 – 48

This terrified band of brothers was about 3.5 miles from the land in their little storm-tossed boat. They were unable to see the hand in front of their pale faces in the middle of the night and in the midst of a colossal storm. 

However, my friend, take heart because when you can’t see Him … He can still see you! 

He knows exactly where you are and precisely how strong that wind is blowing across the waters of your life.  The natural eye is unable to see 3.5 miles in the inky black of darkness but God is able to see literally where you are and what the stormy circumstances of your life are like!

My inability to see Him does not stop His ability to see me!  In the middle of my crisis, He knows exactly where I am and how to get to me!

Jesus saw that the disciples were “straining at the oars.”  These men, in spite of difficult conditions and in spite of being drenched by salty water, were working hard and continuing to do whatever it took to get out of this storm.

My friend, if you are in a storm today, keep doing the next right thing!  Keep tithing … keep loving … keep working … keep hoping! Jesus sees you and He is on His way to comfort you!

Do not become discouraged due to the horrible conditions that are raging around you but just keep on rowing.  God sees what you are doing and He is on His way.

Never allow the presence of a storm to cause you to doubt the presence of your God!

Let’s ask the question, now, that all of us are wondering … “Why would Jesus knowingly send those that He loved the most into the path of a massive storm system?”

Why, indeed?!

Perhaps He did it to reveal Himself to them in a new and comforting way.

Perhaps He did it to show off His glory!

Perhaps He did it to perform a miracle!

Perhaps He did it to use the storm as the vehicle itself over which He would intervene in the lives of His dear children.

Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves but their heart was hardened.” – Mark 6:51 & 52

Don’t miss this detail that we learn from the writings of Mark … the disciples had forgotten the last miracle that Jesus had done for them!  The storm caused amnesia of the very worst kind … they had forgotten His power!

The next time that you are in a storm … rather than taking your pulse … how about remembering the miracles that Jesus has done in the past for you?!

I can’t remember what God has done for you but I can guarantee you that you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord in your life.  Remember the taste of the loaves and fishes the next time that you encounter a storm!

When your life is being threatened by a tempest of stormy circumstances, remember your last answered prayer and praise Him for victory even when the wind is blowing and the waves are crashing!

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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Expectant in Spring

Springtime has finally arrived!  And, if you live in a climate zone similar to mine, you are probably so grateful for the advent of this long anticipated season that you could nearly shout with glee!

Honestly, I try NOT to wish my life away but it is hard during the long, dark and frigid months of winter.  Believe me … I do honestly endeavor to be “content” in whatever season I find myself in … but winter is not my favorite … if you know what I mean.

I am a girl who was born for the sunshine.  I love hot weather, an abundance of sunny days and long walks accompanied by the sound of lawn mowers and bumblebees.

I love open-toed shoes, the smell of the earth after it rains and the longer days that are ushered in with spring’s coming.

I was made for springtime flowers, baby bunny rabbits and the birth of all that is fresh and new. 

There is something about springtime that raises one’s hopes and expectations. 

Suddenly, when the first whiff of spring washes over your soul, you know that you were made for more than winter. 

When spring has at long last sprung, hope begins to break through in the deepest places of your cold, winterized heart!

April 20 blog pic 2.jpg

Spring is a lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be.

Spring ALWAYS puts a new spring in my step, a fresh and lilting song in my heart and even an untried possibility or two in my soul.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19

As my calendar turned from March to April this year … and the view out of my office window changed from snow to the first blooms of spring … I felt that perhaps the Lord was speaking to me.  And, I have an inkling that He wasn’t just speaking to me for my sake but perhaps He was speaking to me for your sake as well.

We all ache for something new and fresh, don’t we? 

Who doesn’t love a new baby … or a new opportunity … a new book … or even a new recipe?  Whose heart doesn’t race at the expectation of a new friend … a fresh coat of paint … or a new place to go? 

We all love the feeling that a vibrant and unexperienced joy ushers into the humdrum of an ordinary life.

Women, especially, understand the expectancy of giving birth to something new!  Oh, the pregnancy is certainly not much fun and the birth experience is sure to be painful and bloody, but when a new mom holds a baby, so fresh from heaven’s wonder, suddenly life becomes an unpainted palette of rich possibility.

As the mother of 5 children on earth and 5 children in heaven, and, as the grandmother of 7 delightful little ones, I certainly know what it entails to be “expecting”.

As winter turned to spring this year, God spoke to me that He was about to birth something new in me and through me.  God actually said to me, Carol … you’re pregnant!”

What?!  God … certainly You know that the possibility of giving birth ended for me at least a decade ago!

What?!  God … you know I love babies … are you going to do for me what You did for Sarah … and Hannah … and Elizabeth?!

And then I heard God speak once again to my expectant heart, “Carol, you are not going to give birth to a baby but you are going to give birth to new dreams and visions and possibilities.  Carol … it’s time for you to allow Me to plant a seed of destiny in you once again!”

What are you expecting?  Has God birthed something new in you lately?  Perhaps you and I should begin to act like expectant mothers!  We should prepare for discomfort, for the birthing process and for the joy of impacting the next generation!

I believe that this new season of God-breathed pregnancy is not just for a younger generation but that the Father is including many Sarah’s, Hannah’s and Elizabeth’s in this outpouring of new birth.

In God’s Kingdom, age has nothing to do with the ability to give birth to a move of God that will impact the generations to come!  God is willing to use the young and the old; He is looking for women with a past and for those who have lived quietly and righteously. God will give birth through women who are tired and through those girls who are filled with new passion and energy.

The Lord desires that you would live with an attitude of unmatched promise and life-changing expectation. 

When you open your Bible in the morning, open it with the confidence that God will speak to you indeed through the sacred page. It is when we open our Bibles and read the powerful Words of the Holy Spirit that a new seed of destiny is placed in each one of us.

When you enter into a personal time of prayer and worship, enter into it with the assurance that God will meet you there and that He will speak to your barren soul.  It is when we commune with God on a daily basis that the transfer of a new dream happens. 

My prayer is that you can declare, with Mary, with Hannah, with Sarah, with Elizabeth, and with me, "I'm pregnant!"

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It's All That Matters!

The cheering, worshipping crowd.A farewell dinner.

What kind of man betrays a friend?!

Prayers.  Desperate prayers.  Earth-shaking prayers.  Blood dripping prayers.

An trial rigged by the father of all lies.

A ruler in confusion.  He should have listened to his wife.

What kind of friend denies a friend?!

Beating.  Scourging. Bleeding. Whipping.

Did He scream?

A painful crown meant to ridicule not define.

A cruel walk up a triumphant hill. One. Agonizing. Step. At. A. Time.

The jeering crowd.

What kind of friends run and hide?  Were they only in it for the miracles?

Inhumane soldiers gambling for a piece of His clothing while He hung nearly naked.

Course jesting. Raucous laughter.

A mother’s broken heart. Heaving.  Remembering His little boy ways.

A desperate thief who believed at last. He breathed out earth and breathed in heaven.

A Centurion understands and believes.  Truly.

Darkness at noon.  The roar of the earth.  The ripping of history.

It is finished!  Complete!

A borrowed tomb.  After all, He wouldn’t need it for long.

A brilliant morning.  The day breaks and all shadows flee.

Nothing ... nothing ... absolutely nothing ... would ever be the same again.

An angel’s announcement, “He is not here ... but HE IS RISEN!”

Women who were told, “Go Tell!”

Some call it “Easter”.  That works, I suppose.  Easter, for me, conjures up a black and white picture of a blonde little girl sandwiched between 2 siblings.  This little girl, now her in her late-50’s, was decked out in white, ruffled socks, a pink polyester coat with a matching pink straw hat and lacy gloves.  Everyone in the days of black and white wore gloves on Easter Sunday morning.  It was requisite!

That particular little, blonde girl remembers those black and white Easter Sunday mornings as if they were yesterday.

We were always up long before dawn for the Easter Morning Sunrise Service.  It was the only day of the year I was out of bed before daylight began to slither its jeweled fingers across the inky sky.

The church smelled like pancakes, maple syrup and sausage when our sleepy family of 5 walked into the front doors.  My mom scurried to the organ and my dad got us settled somewhere near the front, left hand side.

Our Methodist congregation burst forth the news as the sun broke through, “Up from the grave He arose!  With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.”  I can still hear it.  I can still hear the voices of Duane Grehlinger and Shirley Green.  Bob Dix and Reverend Tauscher.  Although their voices broke on the high notes and struggled for pitch on the low notes, they believed what they sang.  That’s what counts about Easter...that you believe.

After breakfast in the cold church basement, warmed by the steaming pots of coffee and laughter of friends who had truly become family, we traipsed home across the yards of our neighbors for an hour or so before Sunday School and the 10:00 service.  During that sweet hour, we would find our Easter baskets, have our hair re-fixed and listen to the Easter story read by my general of a father.

Dad loved the Bible, he loved my mom, he loved the garden and he loved us.  He was quite a man.  Dad believed in Easter.  He taught me to believe as well.  Did I mention that he was quite a man?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; and He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” - I Corinthians 15:3-8

Paul, the one who was untimely born, calls Easter the event “of first importance” in anything that he has ever known or written about.  These are some pretty impressive words coming from one of the most learned men of the day.

Paul’s words echo through the ages, Nothing compares to the message of the Risen Savior.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing more important in your life than Easter. 

When you get to the end of your life all that will matter is Easter. 

There is nothing that deserves your earthly attention so much as Easter.

Oh ... I remember the days of white ruffly socks, little pink purses and lacy gloves.  I remember the thrill of finding the Easter basket and looking forward to the sumptuous dinner that was to follow.  I remember singing, “We serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today!  I know that He is living whatever men may say!”

What I didn’t know in those innocent days of celebrating a spring holiday was that someday ... I would believe, too.  And at the very moment that I believed, Easter changed from being a mere 24 hours in the early spring to a lifestyle of hope and joy.  I no longer refer to it, either mentally or verbally as “Easter Sunday”.  For me, it is “Resurrection Day!”  And, trust me, it is incomplete without that exclamation mark!

Jesus really was born in a manger ... He really did live among us ... He was put to death on the old rugged cross ... and He was buried.

But what happened next was the true miracle ... He rose from the dead!  He conquered death triumphantly! 

Jesus had the first Word ... the middle Word ... and the last Word!  Because death could not hold Him ... it cannot hold you either.

Will you stay in your world of black and white presumptions?  Or will you join the chorus of all the ages and sing with gusto, “Because He lives ... I can face tomorrow ... Because He lives ... all fear is gone!”

Because when you get to the end of your life ... the resurrection will be all that matters.  It was all that mattered to Duane Grehlinger ... to Shirley Green ... to Bob Dix ... and to Reverend Tauscher.  It was all that mattered to Paul and it was all that mattered to my dad.  He was quite a man.

And ... it’s all that matters to me.  It is my message of first importance.  Resurrection Day!

Please make sure that you don’t forget the exclamation mark ... while you’re at it ...let’s make it two!  It is, after all, the message of first importance.

Resurrection Day!!

This post was originally published on March 27, 2013.

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What Has He Entrusted You With?

We are approaching Holy Week

“Holy Week” is that sacred space between the roar of the crowd on Palm Sunday and the ugly mass of humanity who cried, “Crucify Him,” on Friday.

Holy Week encompasses the days that the Christian church sets aside to mourn the death of Jesus and to celebrate His resurrection! 

It is a week of wretched betrayal, of loud hosanna’s, of good-bye meals and of desperate prayer.

This is a week that never fails to sober me and annually causes me to evaluate my faith. 

During this week every year, I walk up Calvary’s mountain with Jesus and carry my cross beside Him.  Easter has a way of forcing me to examine the woman that I am and the course that He has for me.

Oh … don’t worry about me.  I will celebrate on Sunday!  I will shout with the crowds in triumphant procession but for today… as I contemplate the holiest week of all measured time … allow me to evaluate who I am and who I am called to be in the story of Christ.

Jesus took only three disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane who had also been with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Peter, James and John were the three that Jesus fiercely desired to stand with Him in prayer.  These were the three, Peter, James and John, who were closest to Him as brothers, friends and co-workers. 

This trio had heard Jesus laugh over the antics of children and had seen him cry at the tomb of Lazarus. 

They had celebrated glorious miracles with this Man Who went about only doing good. 

They called Him their Teacher, their Friend and the Son of God.  They knew Who He was … make no mistake about that.

“And Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” – Luke 9:20

But on this night, the lonely night spent in the Garden of Gethsemane … while Jesus prayed ... Peter, James and John slept. 

While Jesus sweat great drops of blood ... the great triumvirate snored.

While Jesus cried in agony ... the three friends, whom He trusted, slumbered and rested.

Peter, James and John all knew that Jesus was about to die the violent death of a criminal and yet they dozed and drooled.  Where were their hearts of compassion?  Were these men the faithful friends that Jesus hoped for or were they mere acquaintances prone to forget matters of eternal significance?

“Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” – Matthew 26:38

Three times Jesus came to the disciples ... and three times they were sleeping. 

They were unable to wipe the sand from their eyes and thus nodded into sweet dreams while Jesus fought in agony over His destiny and over His purpose on earth.

“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” – Matthew 26:39

Jesus was about to be brutally murdered so that Peter, James and John would be able to live forever with Him.  And yet these men of faith and valor couldn’t stay up past their bedtime for Jesus.  What kind of friendship is that?!

These men who had been appointed to carry on in Jesus’ stead, couldn’t even miss one night of sleep to pray Him through the coming ferocious days?

You know, as 21st. Century Christians, we become outraged at the seemingly careless actions of Peter, James and John, and yet, how often have I been caught giving into the twilight of lackadaisical behavior when Jesus calls my name?

        “Carol … could you spend time with Me?”

        I watch television when there are prayers to be prayed.

        “Carol … could you read my Word this day?”

        I read novels when there is wisdom to be attained.

        “Carol … could you feed My sheep?”

        I piddle around in wasteful behavior while people are going to hell.

        “Carol … would you worship Me?”

        I snore while my culture crumbles.

Just as the Savior needed Peter, James and John ... your Savior needs you and He needs me. 

My Savior needs me.  Your Savior needs YOU!

He has entrusted us with the power of prayer.  He has entrusted us with the Great Commission.  He has entrusted us with the life-changing Gospel message.

In this Garden, on this never-to-be-forgotten night, Jesus prayed, “Not as I will ... but as You will.”

Have you ever tried praying that powerful yet humble prayer when your life was crumbling?  Have you ever prayed, “Father, Your will be done”, when faced with cruel circumstances?

If we learn nothing else from this particular event in the life of Jesus, we should learn to pray while others sleep. We should also learn to desire the will of the Father above all else.

When Jesus finally roused his three buddies from their self-serving slumber, they had a view in the moonlight of a mob coming up the western slope of Mt. Olive. After the mob, led by Judas, had seized Jesus, Peter stayed in the courtyard of the high priest.  It was there that Peter denied Jesus three times.

“I don’t know Him.”

“I don’t know Him!”

“I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

And with each betrayal, Peter became more defiant and angrier. 

In the morning light, when Peter realized what he had done, he wept. 

Peter, a grown man, cried from the deepest part of his soul.

The opinionated Peter, a rugged and burly fisherman, couldn’t stop the sobs. 

Peter, a man’s man and a leader of leaders, was ashamed of himself.  He had betrayed His Savior and His friend.  What would his life look like now? 

You know, I have often wondered if Peter would have actually denied Jesus if he had prayed rather than slept.  I wonder if rather than snoring and slumbering, what would have happened if Peter had stayed on his knees in earnest prayer through the longest night of Jesus earthly life.

I wonder …

Do you know what else I wonder?

I wonder how different my life would be if I would pray ... rather than sleep.  I wonder if I would have more power to stand for Jesus If I would read the Word rather than read the twaddle of the day.

I wonder if I would humbly decree, “Not my will … but Your will be done, Father,” what glorious miracles would take place in my life.

I wonder.

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It's A Free-for-All Out There Y'all!

It’s a free for all out there, y’all! 

Social Media has become one of the most angry, opinionated, divisive types of communication there has ever been.  What happened to those proper and accepted “social” rules of etiquette or of quiet respect for one another?

What happened to listening more than speaking?

What happened to keeping the minor things minor?

What happened to using wisdom and consideration before lowering oneself to accusation and indictment?

It’s a free for all out there, y’all!

Listening to the news networks or tuning into talk radio has become akin to subjecting yourself to the worst kind of verbal skirmish known to humanity.  The words fly like bullets across a lethal battlefield of airwaves and the blood bath is real and nondiscriminating.

“He said ….”

“She said …”

“It has been reported that …”

“The facts seem to point to …”

Reporters, TV hosts, radio personalities and network bigwigs use profanity and name-calling in order to build their personal case and their preferred agenda.

And for me, the saddest part of all, is that Christians have been suckered in to participating in the verbal vomit and sewage spewing of the day. 

Just because you feel it doesn’t mean that you should say it and just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you should use it as a weapon.

Do you really think that you can change anyone’s opinion with strong, outrageous and often cruel words on Social Media?  The way that we can change people is by loving them, by forgiving them and by introducing them to Wisdom Himself!

There is certainly a way to enter into a peaceful conversation of differing opinions but in general, that is not going to happen on Social Media.  It is vitally important for voices of righteousness to be heard in the land but that will never happen when it is accompanied by divisive verbiage and outright slander.

When engaging in a discussion that involves contrasting points of view, it is best when it happens face to face rather than Facebook page to Facebook page.

I have enjoyed the treasured reconnection with old friends, far-flung family members and new acquaintances that Social Media has ushered into my life.  But I determined early in my use of Social Media that I would not use it as a bully pulpit or as a place to editorialize on temporary matters.

People are subject to far too much opinion, anger and political polarization from watching the network news and from listening to incessant media types. I long for my purpose in life to be one of kind words, thoughtful wisdom and humble friendship.

If you ask for my opinion on a given political topic or cultural division, I may or may not give you my two cents based on the context of relationship and purpose.  I do have opinions … I have strong opinions; however my opinions on politics or on the great cultural divide are not what define me as a human being.

What defines me is my faith as a believer in Jesus Christ.

Who I am, as a modern day woman, is a zealous pilgrim who lives to make hell smaller and heaven bigger. 

It’s a free for all out there, y’all!

Although I don’t have a daily TV show and no one has asked me to be their guest on Fox News, CBS or ABC lately, I will use the small platform that I have been given to be a voice of encouragement and a source of hope.

You know what?  The truth is this … I really don’t care who you voted for in this last presidential election.  What I care about is that you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and that you are doing your personal best every day to simply love Him, know Him and serve Him.

Now I do believe that Christians are called to serve in the political arena and in the world of media.  I actually believe that there should be more Christians in both of those fields.  I believe that for many believers in Jesus Christ there is a calling to participate in leading a nation, a network or a political organization.  However, I also believe, that for those who are called specifically to those arenas, it is even more important to use their words as tools of truth and unity rather than of anger and divisiveness.

It is true, that sometimes truth can be divisive.  It is true that oftentimes even wise opinions are polarizing but it is in the way that a person expresses himself or herself that becomes the paramount issue.

Since most of us are not congressman or senators and since the great majority of those who read this weekly blog do not have high profile positions in the media, perhaps what we need to realize is that the way to change the blood bath is by simply changing our daily conversations.

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

The next time that you post on Social Media, don’t be negative but choose words of simple power and positive blessings.

The next time that you are tempted to enter into a heated conversation on Facebook, pray for those involved instead.

The next time the President disappoints you, Congress votes against your personal opinion, or someone from another generation causes your blood pressure to rise, perhaps you could post the lyrics to a worship song … or a word of encouragement … or a beloved Scripture verse.

It’s a free for all out there, y’all, so freely post what is good and positive and pure! 

There is a world out there that is desperate for one small tidbit of encouragement today.  There is an angry, critical mob on Facebook who might listen to words of reason rather than words of polarizing opinion.

Freely use your platform as one that builds people up rather than tears them down.

And perhaps we should begin every day by praying the prayer that David prayed so long ago,

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord.” – Psalm 19:14

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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3 Truths That Will Change Your Perspective on Life

There are a few things that you must know for your life’s journey. There are truly only a few eternal truths that you must wrap your mind and heart around in order to create an abundant life and in order to embrace a life that is truly worth living. 

You must … you simply must acknowledge these three immutable truths.

You must know Who God is.  This is what the great theologian A. W. Tozer declared,

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Yes … think about it … if you don’t get God right … you won’t get anything else right!

If you don’t have a proper perception of who God is, then you won’t know what to think about healing or concerning prayer or about His promises.

If you don’t have a healthy and verifiable view of God then you won’t parent well … or do marriage well … or work well … or process life circumstances well.

What you know about God will determine who you are today and who you will become tomorrow.  Your opinion of God actually determines your purpose, your destiny and even shapes the very way that you think.

Your biggest paradigm shift in life will come when you change your idea of who God is and when you embrace His heart for other people in your world.

Let me say it again … You must know Who God is.

Then, there is the second truth that you must embrace as your very own.

You must understand that heaven thinks you are valuable!

You are an undeniable and vital component of the plan of God at your moment in history. 

In the opinion of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and that powerful Holy Spirit, you are the stuff of which eternity is made!

There has never been another you … there will never be another you … and Jesus would have died if there had only been you!

You are the pearl of great price that Jesus talked about when He was on planet earth!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had an bought it.” – Matthew 13:45 & 46.

Jesus was the merchant that came from a kingdom far, far away.  He was intent on one purpose and one purpose alone … discovering a pearl of unsurpassed value! And when He found that precious, priceless pearl, He laid down his very life in order to redeem it.

You are the pearl of enormous value and Jesus paid everything that He had in order to take you back to heaven with Him!

You are worthy … you are genuine … you are honorable … you are useful … and you are priceless, indeed!

That’s right YOU … I am talking about YOU!

The enemy will try to tell you that your life stinks like yesterday’s garbage … that you aren’t worth anything to anybody, anytime, anyplace or anywhere.  That old deceiver will also try to convince you that your past has devalued you.

Listen, my friend, the only One who has the power to declare your value is the One Who created you!  He is the One who has set the price of your life and then He was more than willing to pay the price with His very life.

There is nothing that He wouldn’t pay for you!  He paid in cold, red blood because He believed that you are worth it!

Heaven says that you are valuable so you better believe it!!

And the third truth that you must know is this …

Inside of you lies the answer to the world’s problems today.

The deposit of God in your life holds a rich and rare value for which all of our culture is desperately seeking.  Your passion is of indescribable worth, your praise is a rare and costly treasure and even your pain has purpose beyond the ugly experience.

Your outer shell is simply an ordinary treasure chest but what is inside of you determines your actual value and worth.  The prized jewels inside of you are your passion, your praise and even your pain.

Let me ask you three questions that might help you realize just how intensely beneficial your life is to the Kingdom and to the world.

1 - What is your passion?

2 - Are you singing loudly for the world to hear you in spite of difficult days, adverse circumstances and fractious people?

3 - Have you allowed the greatest pain of your life to create a sacrifice of pure gold to the Father?

You must know Who God is!

You must understand that heaven thinks you are valuable!

You must acknowledge the fact that inside of you lies the power to change the world today!  Your passion, your praise and your pain are of inestimable value!

You are priceless, my friend, and God wants to use you 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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7 Rules to Live By When You Disagree With Someone

I absolutely loathe “sticky” situations, do you?

I am extremely uncomfortable with confrontation, with discord and often even with strong differences of opinion.

I have been known to wilt like yesterday’s lettuce when others have forceful points of view that don’t match up with mine.  Often, rather than speak up for what I believe in, I change the subject to safer ground that contains no invisible mine fields!

When just the hint of disparity arises on the horizon of friendship, I quickly smile with glossed-over eyes, swallow hard and then move the conversation into safer, less troubled waters.

I just want everyone to be sweet … all the time … every day … to infinity and beyond!

Why can’t we all just agree to agree?!

I have dear friends who are able to calmly state opinion, preference and contrast without the least bit of animosity.  They are able to smoothly bring understanding as to why they adhere to a certain point of view other than the majority opinion.

I know other people who stir up trouble everywhere they go, rarely listen to someone with an opposing thought and use passive-aggressive techniques to intimidate the listener.  Oh! How I don’t want to be that person!

However, at 60-something years young, the lessons that I have learned during 6 decades of living may have qualified me to offer wisdom to difficult conversations. 

I do have some acquired wisdom in the important arenas of motherhood, of marriage, of friendship, of Biblical application, of setting priorities, of service and even … of … gulp … politics!

What actually needs to evolve is a maturing in my thought process and in the way I deal with potentially divisive conversations. It is necessary that I am the one who internally grows up enough to realize that my opinions matter and that as long as I share them in a compassionate and non-volatile manner, people actually might listen to what I have to say!

Imagine that!

And if they don’t listen, that’s O.K., too.

One of the most vital aspects of pursuing communication that deals with uncomfortable topics is to first of all determine, “Is it worth it?!”

“Is it worth it to bring up this sticky subject?”

“Is it worth it to make this one issue into a potential deal-breaker?”

“Is it worth it to possibly wound our relationship with this difficult encounter?”

“Is this a minor issue or a major issue?  Is it worth it?”

I have developed a few “Rules to Live By” when it comes to dealing with fractious conversations and differences of opinion.  Perhaps my guidelines will enable you to bring peace to your challenging conversations and unity to your valuable relationships.

1 – Listen more than you speak.  Spouting, ventilating, and talking incessantly never brings unity.  Listen with your heart and not just your ears.

2 – Repeat back what you have just heard spoken“So, what I hear you say is that the reason you believe this is because ….”  Take the time to clarify the other person’s point of view as well as their motivation.

3 – In a gentle tone of voice, with absolutely no animosity involved, it is now your turn to state your opinion.  Try to keep emotional inclination out of your voice and out of the words that you choose as much as possible.  Don’t “over talk” but choose a few meaningful words that explain who you are and why you have chosen to believe this particular philosophy.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

4 – Always encourage the one with whom you are having the crucial conversation.  Tell them what you appreciate about them and how thankful you are for your relationship.

“You are one of the best moms that I know!”

“I so appreciate your wisdom and insight.”

“I love being your friend and I know that even though our opinions might differ, our hearts are in unity!”

“Thank you for being so open and candid with your point of view.”

5 – If the conversation is with a brother or sister in Christ, always close the conversation with prayer.  Ask God to bless your relationship, to bring wisdom to the issues discussed and unity in the days to come.

6 – If the difficult exchange has been with someone outside of the household of faith, tell them that you will be praying for them and that you value their input. 

“Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.  As you know, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and so I pray about everything in my life.  I will be praying that God gives us clarity to understand one another and that our friendship remains intact and warm regardless of contrasting points of view.”

7 – Follow-up the painful exchange with tangible evidence of friendship. Send the person a kind e-mail, take them out for coffee, bless them with a bouquet of flowers or speak kindly about them in front of others.  It is so true that actions really do speak louder than words so allow the actions of your life to bring blessing to those who differ from you in judgment and in viewpoint.

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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How Are You Spending Your Time?

Last Friday evening, I had the privilege of enjoying an unforgettable time with a few of my favorite people in the entire world.  This dear group included my daughter, Joy, who was recovering from serious back surgery; Joy’s kind and loving engineer of a husband, Chris; and my youngest daughter, Joni, who has just returned home from spending the better part of a year in India following her graduation from college.

We had devoured a delicious dinner that was reminiscent of how I used to cook for my children when they all lived at home.  We all laughed when Joni stated, “Mom … I feel like I am in 5th grade again!”

What a sweet moment, indeed!

Joy had been in pain all day due to the residual effects of the surgery and you can understand that the desire of all of our hearts was to simply minister to Joy.  All she wanted this particular evening was for all of us to be in the same room that she was in, to sit beside her and to keep a lively conversation going although she was unable to participate.

Rather than turn on the TV after the memorable meal, Joy announced that Chris, the handsome and thoughtful husband, was going to read out loud to us.

What?!  Who is this man and he is too good to be true?!

Joy and Chris had recently been to a used book fair and had purchased a book that had impacted both of them as children.

“The Book of Virtues” compiled by William J. Bennett was a staple in the homes of many Christian families in the 1990’s.  Joy and Chris were overjoyed to know that they shared this bit of childhood literature although one had been raised in the deep south of North Carolina and the other in far-flung Idaho!

We were able to get Joy settled on the small bed in their extra bedroom surrounded by pillows and by lots and lots of love. Chris, the doting groom, of course had to sit beside his recovering young wife.  Joni and I sat beside each other on a small but cozy couch in the peaceful and dimly lit room.

As Chris began to turn the pages of this well-read book, we each began to make requests of the pieces of literature that we remembered in this beloved book.

I started out by requesting a poem or two by Edgar Guest who was a prolific writer in the early part of the 20th century.  Most of Mr. Guest’s poems focused on family, home and the delight of the simple things in life; he was known as “the poet of the people”. 

Here are the words of Edgar Guest that brought us so much comfort that quiet Friday evening:

It Couldn’t Be Done

By Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

     But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

     who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

      On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

      At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

      Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

 There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

      There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

      The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

      Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

What a powerful poem … what a magnificent reminder!

After the simple wisdom of Mr. Guest, we then moved on to the striking and thoughtful beauty of Emily Dickinson.

If I can Stop One Heart From Breaking

 By Emily Dickinson

 If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain ;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

And finally, I asked for a poem that my father had memorized when he was a young man during the years of the Depression. While Chris read this classic poem to us, I thought of my father. My sweet dad, who now lives in heaven, often quoted this particular piece of poetry to us as we sat around the kitchen table at night.  I can still hear the timbre of his voice and the message of his heart as he would repeat the words that have stood the test of time.

If

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

  But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

  And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings

  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

  And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

  To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

  If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

So … let me ask you a question today, my friend.  How are you spending your Friday evenings?  Are you enjoying the company of the people who you know the best and love you the most? 

Are you basking in the shared delight of companionship, of family and of lifetime memories?

Are you relishing the words and the classic messages of those who have gone before us?

Are you comforting those in pain?

I hope that this week, when Thursday turns to Friday, that you will make an unforgettable plan that focuses on family, dear friends, powerful words and sweet fellowship.  There is nothing like it!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  It 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, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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You ARE Going to Make it After All!

Let me tell you what I believe today

I believe that you really are going to make it after all!

The reason that I believe this unbelievable philosophy is not because of the catchy lyrics to a TV sitcom theme song … but I believe it simply because of the God whom you serve.

I don’t believe it because someone has smugly informed you that they are sending positive thoughts your way … but I believe it because I believe in the power of prayer to a Father who cares!

I actually don’t believe it because of any extraordinary gifts or talents that you might possess but I believe it because I know that you serve the greater God!  Nothing is too difficult for our God so you are going to make it after all!

The power of God that is vibrantly and actively alive inside of you is by far greater than any problem that you face … than any circumstance that comes your way … or than any unkind person who torments you.

Friend … you actually are going to make it after all!

The older I become and the more I understand about life this side of heaven, the more convinced I am that living in a place of hope and joy is the most powerful choice that I can make on any day of my life. I firmly believe that actions follow attitudes and so I must make sure that my attitudes are in obedience to the power that works within me.

If I determine to be the most joyful and the most hopeful person alive at my moment in history, then the words that I speak and the actions that I exhibit will follow my chosen heart attitudes.

As I speak the language of hope and as I exhibit the stirring song of joy, it is in that powerful and life-changing choice that suddenly … that is who I become!  I become a woman whose very DNA has absorbed the hope and joy of my belief system!

I don’t know what has you bent all out of shape today but I can tell you this … you ARE going to make it after all so embrace hope and exhibit joy!

I am not privy to your personal offenses, your lifetime disappointments or your unanswered prayer requests but let me tell you the way out of your emotional pain is to wisely and strategically guide your life with the compass of hope and joy!

When the world crashes in around you … take a deep breath … set your eyes on the Father … and begin to sing!  Never allow the pain of temporary circumstances to rob you of your ability to sing.

Serenade your pain with the triumphant song of hope!

Escort disappointment out the door with a melodious stanza of joy!

What did Paul and Silas do when they had been beaten and locked up in a Roman prison cell?  These two uncommon men did what any man or woman should choose to do at the very worst moment of life … they sang a song of worship to their mighty God! The chains that held their arms in place did not have the power to inhibit them from raising their voices to heaven!

As Paul and Silas sang in the inky darkness and in the destitute cold of their circumstances, a miracle happened! Their chains fell off, the prison doors flew wide open and their prison guard invited them to his house.  That very night, an entire family was saved because Paul and Silas chose to sing the song of hope and joy.

Paul and Silas could have made a different choice, you know.  They could have chosen to magnify their circumstances rather than magnifying the lyrics of the song that was richly growing in their hearts.  They could have decided to whine, complain and to throw in that infamous towel!  None of us would have blamed these two bleeding and cold prisoners if that had been their understandable choice … they certainly “deserved” to allow their emotions to rage and their pain to be expressed.

But what you deserve to do and what you should do are two different things, indeed!

The song that you have been given to sing is not merely a catchy tune but it is a powerful cantata of hope and peace!

You were made to sing at the midnight hour … you were made to sing in the constraints of prison … and you were even made to sing when life has unfairly beaten you up.

You were made to sing!

You were made to sing a song of joy and hope that the world is waiting to hear.

Let me cut to the chase here … are you ready to be convicted?!  There is a world in pain because the Body of Christ would rather whine than sing the song we were created to sing.

There is an entire generation going to hell because you and I have decided that we deserve to wear our painful and disappointing emotions on the sleeve of our hearts rather than victoriously sing a song of hope and joy!

You were made to sing, my friend!  So dust off your vocal chords, retrieve that old choir robe that has been hidden on the closet floor of discouragement and open the hymnbook of your heart to that familiar page that declares,

“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

And while you are singing that great hymn of faith, just for fun, you also might want to add a chorus or two of “You’re going to make it after all!”

As always, thanks for listening to my heart.  As you know by now, it is not a perfect heart but it is a heart that sings a song of joy and a melody of hope.  It is also a heart that is enthusiastically chasing after God and all that He is!

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What is your "Just One Thing"?!

What is your “just one thing”?  What is the one thing that you would want to accomplish for the Kingdom of God if time, money, education or age were not a factor?

If you could accomplish simply one memorable exploit for the unshakable Kingdom during your tenure on planet earth, what would it be?

Do you want to win an entire continent for the Lord?  Or perhaps you long for unexplainable miracles and heart-stirring healings to break forth under your ministry.

Is there one singular and significant way in which you long to impact history?  Do you want to write the worship songs that empower a generation?  Or do you deeply desire to write a book that will impact millions for Christ?

Is there a particular contribution that you would like to be known for long after you are gone?  Do you want the Lord to enable you to discover the cure for cancer? You may feel the deep calling to be a voice for righteousness in the political arena.

Perhaps you feel called to salvage the family unit … one precious family at a time.  Does your heart beat with the passion to save marriages that are in trouble or to help parents raise their children with godly principles?

Or perhaps you simply want to serve the Lord without recognition or applause.  Maybe your heart’s desire is to love orphans, to visit those in jail or to fight against sexual slavery.

It could be that your call to greatness will be found in the family that you are nurturing within the walls of your own home. You might dream about raising the next Billy Graham, an up and coming Kari Jobe or a future Ronald Reagan.

Perhaps your dream is to be a man or a woman of integrity in the deceit of the business world or in the corruption of the entertainment industry.

What is your “just one thing”?!

We all have a dream in our hearts that keeps our blood pumping, our lungs expanding and that delivers purpose and drive for every ordinary day.  Each one of us owns a passion that relentlessly leads us into the will and plan of God for our lives.  I can guarantee you that there will be humanly insurmountable and aggressive obstacles to conquer as you pursue your God-given call but there will be no mountain that He is unable to move on your behalf.

There might be impossible and outrageously rapid rivers to ford in your journey of life but you serve a God who can make a way where there seems to be no way.  It’s actually what He does best!

Did you know that your passion to accomplish just one great thing for the Kingdom is eternally and infinitely valuable to God?  God delights in discovering an ordinary man or a humble woman who uncommonly declares, “I am all in!  I will just do it! My life is Yours, Father!”

So … let me ask you again … “What is your last thought at night and your first desire in the morning?”

What is it that drives your heart, your daily choices, your dreams and your prayers?  What is it?  What is your one thing?

I believe that I have been given a word from God for you today … may I share it with you?

NOW!  Today!  Begin!  Don’t delay!

Whatever the dream that God has placed in your human heart, take that intangible and impossible dream off the back burner of distant possibility and give it substance and drive today!

Make a plan.  Come up with a workable, strategic and doable plan.  Don’t stay in a place of frustration over unmet goals and intangible action points but get to work today!

Put feet on your dream

Begin small but dream large.

Stay faithful daily but expect extraordinary results.

It is no small thing to be faithful in the little things of life

Faithfulness is the petri dish of miracles!

There will always be interruptions, distractions and frustrations but do not allow those ridiculous and momentary disturbances to alter the course of your life.  Your dream should be bigger than any distraction … your calling should be stronger than any circumstances … and your goal in life should trump every mere diversion.

NOW! Today! Begin! Don’t delay!

Perhaps the words of a man by the name of Paul will move you to action today:

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

Thank you for listening to my heart this week.  I am so far from perfect but my relentless pursuit of the call and plan for my ordinary life is what consumes me every hour of every day. I am praying for you as you chase after Him!

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7 Principles of Change

In my humble opinion, there is only one thing that never changes in life and that is the certainty that something is about to change!

I love stability in life … I love the sweet assurance that today holds expected delights, common moments and enduring and uninterrupted pleasures.  However, when I see the winds of change about to blow my solid life off of its safe and stable foundation, I am tempted to hide myself in a safe spot until the flux of turmoil passes by.

Does anyone else dread change the same way that I do?!

Children grow up … friends move away … the economy goes up and down … health and strength weaken … jobs come and go …  babies are born …  and life changes without a warning.

Change. 

One thing that you can be certain of in your life is that something is about to change!

God appeared to Abram one day and said, “It’s time for a change, Abram!”  God informed Abram that He wasn’t going to tell Abram where he was going but that Abram needed to pack up his possessions, his servants, his nephew and his wife and start moving toward the future that God had for him.

“Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

Why would God do this to Abram?!  Why would God do this to ANYONE?! 
 

“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-4

God actually initiated the change in Abram’s circumstances because God knew that it was for Abram’s best interest!  God wanted to make Abram greater than he could ever be by just hanging out in the comfortable familiarity of his stable yet boring past.

Father really does know best …

When God initiates the unexpected change of circumstances, it always contains a priceless blessing for His dear children who have been called to participate in the adjustment.  God-instigated change is the best possible gift in the life of a human being.

However, let’s just admit it … not all change is God-inspired.  Some changes in life simply stink.  And then, some of the unexpected changes in life can just rip the heart right out of your chest and rob you of that precious spring in your step.

How should a person respond when the change is unwanted and unnecessary?  How should a believer respond when the transition seems unfair and difficult?

How one travels the rapids of transition may just determine how the traveler comes through on the other side of the surprising metamorphosis. I want to share with you 7 Principles of Change and how you can come through your uncharted waters of change with hope in your back pocket and with strength in your heart!

1 – Look for the opportunity in the change.  With every change comes the opportunity to grow and to experience something unknown and invigorating.  Don’t be so stuck in the past that you miss the delight of new opportunities!

2 – Embrace unchangeable principles in the middle of uncertain circumstances.  Don’t allow the difficult change in life to alter your core values.  Continue to be a person of honor, of faith, of integrity and of hope even when the world is crashing in around you.

3 – Don’t focus on what you are losing but focus on what you are gaining.  Learn from the past … be thankful for the blessings of yesterday … but hopefully celebrate the possibilities of tomorrow!

4 – Understand that every change, even those that have been made wisely and thoughtfully for the better, always come with drawbacks and disappointments.  When you face the drawbacks and disappointments of a wise adjustment, know that you have counted the cost and that it is worth it to move ahead with change.

5 – As you face the change that you have perhaps dreaded, remind yourself what your highest priorities are say a sweet but firm, “No,” to those things that are mere distractions.  Separating priorities from distractions is one of the most powerful choices a person can ever make whether the winds of change choose to revolutionize your life or not.

6 – Shake off fear and embrace courage.  When your only choice is brave, choose brave!  Faith is simply a former fear that refuses to be paralyzed by circumstances.  Faith is that unshakable substance that has broken away from the surly bonds of timidity and has determined to live without regret!

7 - Rather than panic when the waters of change erupt around you, learn how to surf!  That’s right … I dare you!  Enjoy the change!  Learn how to splash in the waters of transformation and dive into the unstable transition with enthusiasm.  Who knows?  The change that you are facing just might be the very best thing that has ever happened to you … just ask Abram!

If you can make it through an unexpected and perhaps unwanted adjustment in life with steady principles, with courage and with unprecedented enthusiasm, you will become a wiser and more principled person because of the change.

As always, thanks for listening to my heart.  As you know by now, it is not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is enthusiastically chasing after God and all that He is!

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Give Them Hope

I’ve thought long and hard about it. 

I have spent hours on my knees asking the Father, “God, what is it that people need the very most?  Father, I ask You to give me focus and purpose as I minister to the lives of those with whom I have been entrusted.  Show me, Jesus, what I have the capability of depositing into their empty, hurting hearts.”

And the answer comes quietly but certainly.

Hope.  You can give them hope.

It is an uncomplicated, but extraordinary 4-letter word.

Hope. The entire world lives in a vacuum of hopelessness.

Hope has the power to renew vision … to strengthen a weary soul … and to restore a broken heart.

I hear it again, “Give them hope.”

Hope provides a tenacity of purpose … an excitement for tomorrow … and a view of God that is incomparable.

Hope. What the world needs now is a solid and resilient dose of hope.

Hope … sweet, sweet hope.

Your calling, as a follower of Jesus Christ, is to instill hope into the hardest of hearts and into the weakened souls that God has placed within your reach.

Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness in speech.” – II Corinthians 3:12

Moms are hungry for hope … businessmen are ravenous for hope … politicians are desperate for hope.

College students are thirsty for hope … widows and widowers are grasping for hope … teen-agers need a breath of fresh hope.

Divorced people yearn for hope … parents ache for hope … and the media is clawing for a single word of hope.

When life beats up an innocent person … tosses that ravaged person to and fro … and then violently robs the mauled piece of humanity of all of their deepest dreams and highest goals … all that this bruised shell of personhood actually wishes for is to be able to hope again. 

What this devastated life yearns for is to breathe out despair and to breathe in hope.

The simple desire of a broken person is to smell a slice of hope again. Even the unforgettable aroma of hope is life-changing, isn’t it?

And what does hope smell like?  Where is it found?

Hope is conceived in thanksgiving … it grows in the petri dish of a simple song … and it blossoms in the warmth of relationship.

Hope strengthens when regret diminishes.  Hope emboldens itself when the embers of disappointment are allowed to die out.

“And our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also are you sharers of our comfort.” – II Corinthians 1:7

What is hope?  Is it possible to describe hope in its rawest and most simple of forms?

Hope is simply choosing to believe that the goodness of God will intervene in your circumstances.

Hope is the full and unshakable knowledge that God will always be Victor.  He is Victor, indeed!

Hope is the enthusiastic and celebrated anticipation that God’s loving kindness and grace will determine the outcome of your life.

Hope is the firm assurance that we, His beloved children, are so much more than conquerors through Him Who loves us.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!” – Romans 8:37

Hope is the sweet commitment that nothing … absolutely nothing … is able to separate anyone of us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created things will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  - Romans 8:38 & 39

And hope is discovered in an overwhelming peace knowing that joy can surely be found in His presence.

In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

Hope doesn’t come from money … from health … from houses … from stuff … from vacations … from pedicures … from promotions … from education … from cars … from exercise … from entertainment … or from politics.

Hope comes from Him.  All the hope that you will ever need to get your life back on track again comes from Him.

Jesus.  He is enough.  He is more than enough to deliver hope.

“ … He on Whom we have set our hope.  And He will yet deliver us.” – II Corinthians 1:10b.

Hope.

Barren women need hope.

Unemployed men need hope.

Rejected women need hope.

Stressed out men need hope.

Disappointed women need hope.

Bullied teen-agers need hope.

Lonely women need hope.

Brides need hope and grooms need hope.

Anxious college students need hope.

Pompous politicians need hope.

Grieving women need hope.

And you are just the person to give it to them!

If you know Jesus … you know hope.  If you have Jesus … you have hope.

If you have hope … you can share it.  You can give it.  You can spread it.

I have determined that under my watch, every person with whom I connect will be pointed toward hope. 

I believe that it is vital to steer people away from an emotional avalanche of despair and a flood of negativity.  The power in personal relationship is found when people, young and old, are gently but firmly led toward the God of all hope.

Hope is all I have to offer.  The healing, protective, life-giving hope of Jesus Christ is at the heart and center of all true ministry and at the core of all sincere relationships.  Absolutely nothing else will ever do.

“Now may the God of hope fill you all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

As always, thanks for listening to my heart. It’s not a perfect heart … but it is a heart that is enthusiastically chasing after God and all that He is!

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The Crossroads of Opinions & Advice

I have opinions, do you?

I have strong opinions … meaningful opinions … meaningless opinions … and gentle opinions.

I have opinions about food … about colors … about weather … about books … and about people.

I have opinions about politics … and about morals … and about raising children.

I have opinions about marriage … and about worship … and about the treatment of immigrants.

I have opinions.

However, I have come to realize that my opinion is not necessarily my advice.  If my opinion is birthed out of wisdom and my Christian faith … then it would indeed be my advice.

Other times my opinions are birthed out of individual preference, likes and dislikes and my particular perspective; it is in these situations that my opinions are NOT my advice.  They are simply … my opinions.

Have I lost you yet?! Let me explain …

I like blue better than green … but I don’t expect you to like the same color that I do.  Blue is my opinion not my advice.

I would rather read a book than go to the movies … but I don’t expect you to stop going to the movies just because I would rather glue my eyes and brain to a great read. Go to the movies! Have a blast! Enjoy every minute and eat some popcorn while you are at it!  Me?!  I’ll be at home with a cup of coffee, a warm blanket and a great book. It’s my opinion … not my advice.

I like warm weather better than cold but if you want to go snow skiing?!  “Break a leg!” (Not literally of course.) You will find me on a beach, in the sunshine with a book in my hand.

Then, there are the times when my opinion might seem to border on advice. However, I hope that I am an understanding enough human being to allow you your opinion concerning these murky issues.

Let me explain this juncture in our journey that began at opinion and is traveling toward advice ….

I believe it is important to hold a baby.  I don’t believe that you spoil a baby by being lavish and generous with physical touch.  I don’t believe that “love” spoils a baby.  I strongly believe in holding, rocking, singing and enjoying the baby years.  I believe that when you cuddle your little ones, you are actually building a bridge that stretches toward the older years.  I believe that the bond that is formed during the baby and toddler years will actually help a parent navigate the teen-age years with love and understanding.  However, your child is not my childGod gave me my children and He gave you your children.  You will have to work out your parenting style with God and answer to Him for it.  No judgment on my part … but you will always just find me holding, rocking and singing to babies and little people.  Always.

I homeschooled my children for 23 years but I don’t expect you to follow my lead.  It is what Craig and I felt led to do and I would probably do it all over again! However, I know many Godly families who believe in sending their children to public school and are committed to it for the long haul.  That’s incredible! I also know wonderful parents who send their children to private school from the preschool years right through 12th grade. Wow … what a great commitment! However, I loved homeschooling … it was my opinion. The paramount issue is that every parent does what is right for his or her individual family.

Are you still with me? 

We are almost to the crossroads of opinion and advice!  And this, my friend, is where it gets interesting.

When my opinions are birthed in the wisdom of decades of living and from a Godly perspective, then perhaps it would behoove you to at least listen to my advice.

My opinion is that you will never be the person who you were created to be without developing a vibrant relationship with the Creator Who made you.  You are His masterpiece and He has an extraordinary plan for your life! That’s my opinion and my advice!

A strongly held opinion of mine that smacks of great advice for your life is to love everybody all the timeLove people whose opinions are different than yoursDevelop a warm friendship with someone who voted differently than you didShow a caring and kind love toward those who get on your very last nerve.  Develop a friendly camaraderie with someone whose skin is a different color than yours is! It is, after all, what Jesus did and if I were you … I would try to agree with HIS opinions as much as possible!

Another well-thought out and life-changing opinion that I embrace is that joy truly is God’s will for your lifeYou were created to be an ambassador of heaven’s miraculous joy while sucking in the atmosphere of planet earth.  If in His presence is fullness of joy … and if He lives inside of you … guess what your earthly body contains?!  You, dear one, are the perfect fit for heaven’s joy!  Depression, discouragement and despair will try to convince you that everyone else is able to participate in joy except you … but don’t let those old scoundrels gang up on you like that! If I can live in a place of joy after years of depression … so can you.  And I must say, I like joy a whole lot better than I do depression!

So … take it or leave it!  You don’t have to agree with my opinions to be my friend.  You don’t even have to take my advice if you choose not to do so.  But I can tell you this … when we choose to listen to the opinions of others with respect and honor the world will be a more loving and understanding place.

As always, thanks for listening to my heart. It’s not a perfect heart … but it is a heart that is enthusiastically chasing after God and all that He is!

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God's Game Plan for Difficult People

Do you have a difficult person in your life?  Are you up to your neck in dysfunctional family relationships … hurt feelings … misunderstood words … and wounded hearts?

Relationships can be a picture of heaven on earth … or of hell on earth, for sure! 

When those to whom we are in closest relationship are also our “difficult person”, it is just a matter of time before friction commences, peace walks out the door and anger walks in.

What are your options in those over-heated and contentious moments?

You can choose the silent treatment … it’s been around for generations. 

Just. Stop Talking. 

I used to be an expert in giving the silent treatment; I would justify myself by smugly saying, “My father used to say if you can’t say anything nice than don’t say anything at all.”

So … I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t say anything at all. My lips were tightly sealed and so was my heart.

The problem with the silent treatment is that nothing is ever resolved.  The ugly issue might be swept under the rug of avoidance and ignored only until the next fractious word is spoken.  Then that same hideous issue will magically appear and it will be bigger and more divisive than before!

The silent treatment has never worked for me and it probably won’t work for you, either.

Another option that people often turn to when dealing with difficult people is choosing the guilt-free default of playing the “Blame Game”.  What?!  You’ve never heard of it before?!  Surely you jest!

The infamous and highly competitive “Blame Game” has its roots in the Garden of Eden.  When God confronted Adam about his decision to eat from the fruit that had been forbidden, Adam blamed Eve! The nerve of that first man!

“The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:12

Then, when God asked Eve what she had done, she said, “The devil made me do it!” (Well … that’s a very loose translation … but it is the heart of what the first woman communicated to her Creator.)

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” – Genesis 3:13

Blame often includes name-calling, misplaced responsibility and refusal to own the problem; none of those things promote healthy relationships in a family or in a friendship.

The problem with blame is that bitterness can grow between dear friends and family members.  Blame is not the healing balm that relationship requires.  Blame may make you feel better about yourself temporarily, however, the relationship will have no chance of survival.

Blame is like poison and silence is not golden.  Are there any other options?

Well … when someone is acting in an unkind and difficult manner … you can yell and scream. 

You can stamp your feet and slam doors … you can gossip and you can rant on social media.

You can act like a selfish two-year-old if you choose to … but I wouldn’t recommend it. 

This loud type of indignant behavior will destroy hearts, deepen wounds and build walls.  Childlike and angry behavior may seem justified momentarily, but when the passage of time takes place, you will realize that all that is left of a former relationship is black and charred ruins. You may also realize at that juncture in life that you were the one that threw gas on the fire rather than water. It was your decision to exhibit out of control anger that destroyed everything in its path.

God actually created you to love people who are monstrously rude!

He placed you here at this time in history because He trusted that you would indeed allow His glory to shine out of you into the darkness of people's souls.

You will only do this when you determine in your heart that you want to be like Jesus.  You will only do this when you decide that you would rather be like Jesus than give the silent treatment, play the blame game or throw an angry fit.

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” - Ephesians 5:1 & 2

When you demonstrate love in monstrous situations and choose to be kind rather than throw an emotional and well-deserved tantrum, you are saying, “I will act like my Dad!  I am part of His family and this is what we do!  We love unlovable people.  It is the family business to reach out with divine kindness to fractious people.” 

Do not ever forget that you are the beneficiary of the family genetic code that enables you to love difficult people.  It is what Christians do!

The world has a different standard of behavior and will encourage you to rationalize rude, vengeful behavior.  The world will tell you to spew your feelings out upon difficult people but the world's way has never been God's way. 

God does indeed have a game plan for every Scrooge, Barney Fife and Cruella DeVille that crosses the path of your life. God did not create you to be some whirling dervish who uses words to jab, hurt and control people.  God created you to be a man or a woman who was more committed to Kingdom behavior than to self-righteous living.  Difficult people can run away from your words but they can never escape your prayers. 

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” - Ephesians 4:31 & 32

We are all unlovable, dysfunctional and difficult in some way, aren't we?  We all can become prickly, outspoken and contentious from time to time but I believe that the reason most of us are unlovable is because at our very core we are crying out to be loved.  There will be many times in life when your decision to love a sharp and obnoxious porcupine will disarm them completely.

I believe that the Lord allows difficult people into our lives not to bring out the worst in us … but to bring out the Jesus in us!

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Taking Back January 21st!

Did you know that social scientists have identified January 21 as the most depressed day of the year? 

More suicides take place on January 21 than on any other day of the calendar year.

Experts say that on this particular day, January 21, the perfect storm is brewing in the atmosphere of emotional health.  Events and circumstances converge to increase the probability of gut-wrenching, name-calling and hard-to-escape depression.

The holiday bills are coming in by the bucket-load … the weather is dark, cold and threatening … it seems like there is nothing to look forward to during these last weeks of January … families have returned home after spending Christmas together … and flu season is at its height.

It is during those bleak situational conditions that depression comes knocking at the door of your heart.  The black hole begins to call your name … loudly and repetitively. Everywhere you look … there it is … depression.

You can’t ignore it … avoid it … or deny it. 

Depression.

Perhaps you have never wrestled with depression and if that is true … you are one of the blessed ones.  If depression has never been an influence in your life, keep reading anyway.  I can assure you that there is a person or two in your life who is dealing with the devastation that only depression causes.

May I just coach you for a minute? 

If you have a friend who is depressed, be a good listener.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, be an encourager.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, hold his or her hands and pray for them.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, encourage them to go see their medical doctor and help them find a qualified Christian counselor.

Depression is real, it is dangerous and it is nothing to ignore.

For many years, I was a depressed Christian.  I loved the Lord and longed to serve Him with my whole heart but I couldn’t shake the relentless and sharp claws of depression.  There was a constant and sorrowful ache in my soul that nothing could assuage.

I went to my medical doctor and followed his advice.  I talked to a Christian counselor and listened to her wisdom.  Both of those qualified professionals, my medical doctor and my counselor, were incredible answers to prayer in my weary life.

However, it was an addiction that I developed during the worst days of my depression that actually relieved my emotional pain to the greatest degree

The addiction that I developed was all-pervasive and became my constant obsession. 

I depended on this singular craving like a starving man longs for one piece of bread.  I was fixated on this habitude like a man dying of thirst hankers for one tiny drop of water.

The addiction that I developed during my long days of depression was a complete and life-changing addiction to the Word of God.

I kept my Bible open on the kitchen counter when I was doing the dishes.

I opened my Bible to a favorite Psalm and placed it on the dryer when I was folding laundry.

I placed my open Bible on my lap when I was sitting on the floor playing Legos with my little boys.

I was so addicted to the Word of God that I wrote Bible verses on 3x5 cards, laminated them and took them in the shower with me!

I was so desperate for the healing power that only the Bible was able to offer that I never wanted to be away from its soothing oil.

The Bible delivered me from depression before my circumstances ever changed.  A miracle was taking place in my very soul!

You see, the Bible is not a flat book but it is living and active and miracle-working! 

When a mere human reads the words that God Himself has spoken, it is in that moment that a life-changing event takes place … the mere human being is eternally transformed by the power that is available in this life-giving book!

If you are depressed … go see your medical doctor and do whatever he or she tells you to do.

If you are depressed … find a great Christian counselor and allow this certified professional to peel back the layers of your emotional pain.

But in addition to those two choices, never forget the power that is only in the Word of God!

I am not a medical doctor so I cannot help you medically.

I am not an educated counselor so I am unable to give you the wisdom that a counselor is trained to give.

However … let my voice be the voice of faith in your life!  If you are struggling with depression, with discouragement or with any other malaise of the soul … embrace the addiction that cured my emotional pain nearly three decades ago!

Read your Bible.

Read it every day.

Read your Bible several times a day.

Read the Psalms.

Read the Gospels.

Read the Epistles that were written to the early church.

Read your Bible for 5 minutes in the morning … for 10 minutes at lunch … and for 15 minutes before you go to bed at night.

Write out your favorite Bible verses in a journal or on 3 x 5 cards.

Memorize your favorite Scriptures.

Share a favorite Bible verse with a family member or a friend.

What do you say, my friend?!  Shall we take back January 21?!  Shall we reclaim this singular but extraordinary day and celebrate the joy of the Lord?

Shall we celebrate January 21 like it is the very best day of the year?

Let’s declare on the morning of January 21, “This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

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Take a Deep Breath ... and Start Again

Fresh… New... Resolve... Different... Novel… Radical… Unique... Different... Unknown…Clean.

No matter what word you have used to describe exactly what you hope that 2017 will be like for you, you are now at the middle of the first month of the new calendar year where that infamous rubber has met that unyielding and predictable road.

Have your goals crashed and burned much like an out of control comet?

Are your New Year’s Resolutions smelly and moldy like the holiday food that sits untouched in your refrigerator?

What do you do when you made the wrong New Year’s Resolutions? What do you do when you simply don’t have the discipline to forge ahead with your impossible dream for the New Year?

Perhaps it is time for you to resolve again … to dream again … to take a deep breath and start over again in the middle of the month!

Let me confess to you that I have been guilty in the past of making the wrong resolutions with outrageous and crazy heart attitudes. I have mistakenly thought that I could lose 22 pounds in one month … or that I could complete a 5K with only 3 weeks of training … or that I would never get frustrated with my difficult person again.

I have fictionally supposed that I could read 15 books in 7 days … or that I was able to conquer a piano concerto without first spending time practicing a boring scale or two … or that I could snap my fingers and instantly create world peace on Facebook.

I will never play another game on my phone. Ever. As long as I live.

I will never eat another piece of desert. Ever. As long as I live.

I will get up every morning at 4:30 and read my Bible for an hour and then go for a 5-mile run. Every day. As long as I live.

Ha! So much for New Year’s Resolutions!

Perhaps my challenge lies not in my desire to be a different person but is found in the tug-of- war that takes place in my ability to dream the right dream.

I must begin to dream the possible dream. I must embrace the reasonable hope. I must set the doable goal.

I desperately long to start fresh in 2017 and, honestly, there are some issues that have dogged me year after year which I strongly desire to be done with this calendar year.

I don’t want to be ruled by what I put in my mouth at any given hour of the day. And so I am determined for once in my life to set a reasonable goal. Perhaps for you, you need to set the goal of only indulging in dessert once a week. For me, it is carbs. It is always carbs. I have never met a carb that I didn’t like.

My reasonable and attainable goal is to cut back on carbs. Rather than 3 pieces of toast … one piece of toast! Rather than an entire baked potato … half a baked potato will do.

I don’t want to waste hours on my phone … or on Facebook … or by surfing the Internet. I want to use my time in creative and valuable activities. I humbly desire to commit my days, my hours and my minutes to the Lord’s leadership.

My doable goal is to spend 15-20 minutes in the morning on social media and then 15-20 minutes in the evening on the Internet. It’s doable. It will certainly take discipline but I must change my out of control habits before I lose my hours … and my days … and my weeks … and my months … and an entire year in wasting my life.

New Year’s Resolutions take discipline … and discipline is NOT a dirty word.

Discipline often hurts … it is often uncomfortable … and it always is a challenge. But it is discipline that will cultivate the best in each one of us.

I need discipline! I desperately need it … and so do you!

I am thankful for the role that a new calendar year plays in helping me to corral the out of control me in order to cultivate the new and improved me. There will be days when I don’t “feel” like being the new and improved me … but discipline makes it possible.

And, I have found, that when my resolutions are of the doable sort, that I am also able to mix in an impossible prayer request or two for each New Year!

I am praying that this year that God will use me in His Kingdom as never before.

I am praying that my ordinary life will have the extraordinary power of making hell smaller and heaven bigger.

I am praying that God will use my words to bring comfort to discouraged people … to bring hope to lonely people … and to usher in the possibility of joy to depressed people.

I am praying that God will give me uncommon strength to live with gusto and to celebrate every day as the gift that it is!

I am praying for the wisdom of Solomon … for the revelation knowledge of Paul … for the courage of Esther … and for the faith of Peter!

And I am praying for you.

I am praying that this year, in 2017, that you, my friend, will live in your sweet spot in life. I am praying that your life will impact all of eternity because of your daily choices. I am praying that you will learn the delight of discipline and the power of dreaming God’s dreams for your life.

I am praying for you, my friend, that each day will be a day of joy simply because you splash in the miracle that He loves you!

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It Ain't Over Till It's Over!

Christmas isn’t over yet for me and it shouldn't be “over” for you either!  You see, when the calendar comes around to January 2 each year, that is when the hard work of Christmas actually begins.

It is amazingly easy to celebrate this spectacular season of holiday magic when the red and green decorations are on display on doors, on windows, in living rooms, in churches and in places of business.

It is extremely easy to embrace the spirit of Christmas when yuletide music is blaring in every mall, on every radio station and in every sanctuary.

It is admittedly easy to remember the holiness of the sacred season when the Christmas story is being read around the family table, in Sunday school classes and as life-changing treasure in every sermon.

It is “easy-peasy” to demonstrate the heart of the season when the world stands in awe of the glory that belongs only to Christmas.

But what happens when the dreary days of January slowly pass? Where is Christmas in January?

What happens when February is loveless … when March refuses to march by … and when April doesn’t bloom like spring flowers?

Where is Christmas then?

Where is Christmas in May when it rains and rains and rains?

Where is Christmas when June holds no hope of destiny or of new beginnings?

Where is Christmas in July and August when the sun bears down without respite and when everything in life seems dry and withered?

Where is Christmas in September when all of your heartfelt plans are dying and blowing in the wind like brown leaves rapidly falling from the trees?

Where is Christmas in October when you have experienced no harvest year after year after year?

Where is Christmas in November when there is little to be thankful for?

Is Christmas found only in December when once again that infamous wreath is hung on your front door and the local radio station begins to play the strains of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”?

The hard work of Christmas happens in your heart and in your lifestyle when the world says that Christmas is over.  Christmas was never meant to be “over” but it was always meant to be a perpetual celebration of all that we believe in Christendom.

The God of the universe came as a Baby to save His creation from their sins.  That one piece of information alone deserves celebration and thunderous applause 365 days of the calendar year!

Christmas washes away the depression of January and replaces the dark residue with a song of hope.

Christmas is what brings true Love in February and is what offers Light to the cold and windy days of March.

Christmas causes all things to be new in April and then plants a resilient garden that will spring up in the days of May.

Christmas gives destiny and hope to June!

The message of the Christmas story offers the breeze of the Holy Spirit to the relentless heat of July and August.

The Christmas story promises new and vital growth in spite of September’s dying leaves and gives abundance to the harvest season of October.

Christmas is the prayer of Thanksgiving in November and then explodes with joy and with triumphant song in December!

As believers in and as embracers of the Christmas story, it is our serious responsibility and willful discipline to exhibit all that Christmas represents every day in 2017. 

If you and I don’t sing … who will?

If you and I don’t rejoice … who will?

If you and I don’t celebrate … who will?

If you and I don’t give to the less fortunate … who will?

If you and I don’t tell the Christmas story … who will?

If you and I don’t demonstrate the goodwill of Christmas in 2017 … who will?

I have a challenge for you this year. It’s a simple challenge and easily doable but you will need to take personal responsibility for actually carrying through on this calendar challenge.

On the first day of every month this year, will you read Luke Chapter 2 and be reminded of the miracle of Christmas?  Will you allow your soul to be rejuvenated by the power of the Gift that was given not only in December but also in March … and in August … and in October?

Will you listen to the lyrics of “Joy to the World” on the first day of every calendar month this year?  Will you allow the heart of Christmas to be your constant companion and your greatest challenge this year?

Will you smile at strangers in February and will you volunteer at the City Mission in September?  Will you give a financial blessing to a single mom in April and bake cookies for your neighbors in June?

Will you share your faith in Jesus Christ during every month?  Will you invite people to your church in May and in July?

Even heathens and the unchurched celebrate Christmas in December but we are the people of the living God and it is our call to sing the song of Christmas even when the world is silent!

I dare you to BE Christmas to the world 365 days this year.  I challenge you to enthusiastically embrace the call of Christmas even when the world ignores it.

The message and heart of Christmas is so victorious and so resilient that it should soar above every other season of life! Nothing … absolutely nothing has the power to quench the song of this defining and triumphant event.

It ain’t over till it’s over, my friend, and Christmas is never really over.  The song of Christmas has only just begun!

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Just One Thing

What if I told you that there is one simple change that you could make in the coming year that would change your life exponentially?

Would you do it?

What if I told you that there is one daily discipline, which takes about 15 minutes a day, that is stronger than an anti-depressant, more powerful than a personal trainer, and brings greater comfort and wisdom than the most renown counselor you could possibly find?

Would you participate in this discipline?  Would you?

What if I told you that I, a formerly depressed woman, currently experience such joy and peace in my soul that it reaches far beyond my circumstances, past the difficult people in my life and overcomes my socio-economic level?

What if?  Would you believe me?

It is not a “magic” fix although it is indeed a miraculous prescription!  I have found that participating in this simple yet meaningful practice delivers eternal rewards and rejuvenates the woman that I am with inexpressible joy and purpose.

Are you in?  Are you willing to take the plunge with me at the beginning of this brand new year?

If you know me at all, and you understand the miracle that God has caused to happen in my life, then you know exactly what I am going to tell you to do.

Read your Bible.

Read your Bible every day with joy and delight!

Immerse yourself in its powerful principles and in its extravagant peace.

Think about the Word of God … talk about the Bible … make it part of your emotional DNA.

Read your Bible.

Did you know that the Bible has healing power over sin, sickness and emotional pain?

“He sent His word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20)

Did you know that the Bible is able to do for you what other resources are unable to accomplish in your life?

“My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:28)

The Bible is the greatest source of healing, of comfort, of wisdom and of peace that has ever been known to humanity.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me.” (Psalm 119:50)

Whatever you have gone through in life, the Word of God has the power to heal and to assuage your pain!  I guarantee it!

Whatever you will face in all of your tomorrows will be bearable because of the wisdom and strength found in the Word of God!  I guarantee it!

So many people just simply don’t know “where” to begin reading in the Bible.  I don’t believe in playing “Bible Roulette”.  Have you ever heard of “Bible Roulette”?!  That familiar but frustrating game is when you just open your Bible and frantically look for a magic answer to whatever conundrum you have found yourself in on any given day of the year!

I believe that God’s Word is powerful and a wise counselor.   I also believe that the Bible holds the answers for God’s children when applied appropriately, when treasured daily and when a heartfelt longing for God’s opinion is desired.

If you are wondering how to approach reading the Word of God during this calendar year, let me give you a couple of suggestions:

1 – Set aside 15 minutes a day to read your Bible.  Perhaps on the weekend, you would be able to set aside 20-30 minutes a day.  We spend our lives doing so many different and various activities and ignore the importance of daily time focused on God’s heart and on God’s will.  God’s heart and God’s will is only found in the Bible … it is His eternal gift to us! 

We go to the gym, play computer games, talk on the phone, watch pointless TV shows and clean things that will just need cleaning again tomorrow!  The investment of time that you give to the Word of God will be the best investment of your entire life!

2 – Choose a Scripture once a month to memorize.  At the end of the year, you will be the beneficiary of 12 new Scriptures that are hidden in your heart!  On the first day of every month, simply write out a verse on a 3 x 5 card and then carry it around with you.  When you are waiting in a line, read your memory verse … when you are in a doctor’s office, read your memory verse … when you are on the verge of frustration, read your memory verse.  By the end of the month, it will be written on your heart! {Pick up a set of "Joy for All Seasons" scripture cards here}

3 – When you are in a difficult situation in life, get on your knees with your Bible open.  Ask God to speak to you through His Word.  Reverently open your Bible and bask in all that He is and all that He has. The best place to start is to study the verses that are on your daily plan for that day.

4 – Make it your personal goal to share with someone once a week what you are reading in your Bible.  Ask God to open doors for you to share a Scripture with someone. Perhaps you could set a monthly appointment with a friend and determine that you will only talk about the Bible!

5 – Remind yourself that as the children of God, we do not primarily read the Bible for information but for transformation.  Even if your mind does not understand what you have read, your spirit is being renewed, strengthened and restored!  I guarantee it!

“So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever!” (Psalm 119:44)

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:1-40

Joyful Thoughts to Ponder:

What is the best time of day for you to spend time reading your Bible? 

Has God ever brought a Scripture to your mind when you were in a difficult place in life?  What was that Scripture?

What Scripture verse will you memorize this month?


**This is a devotional out of my new book, "Joy for All Seasons - a 52 Week Devotional". You can purchase the book HERE.

 

SPECIAL COMBO OFFER!

Get Carol's newest devotional book, JOY for All Seasons AND our new scripture card set for only $30 (plus shipping)!

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Because of Christmas!

The days of matchless wonder are upon us … we are reminded that a Baby was born in an obscure village to an ordinary mother.  The Savior of the world has come.

Heaven’s grandeur has invaded earth’s mundane with a miraculous gift.

The Divine has left the enormity of eternity and has entered the limiting boundaries of time.

The joy of His presence has come to trump depression, to defeat discouragement and to conquer gloom for every day of every decade of every century.

Peace now rules over confusion and discord.  The Savior has a Name … He is known as “The Prince of Peace”.

Light has obliterated darkness and nothing will ever be the same for humanity in all epochs to come! Where once darkness had authority … now Light rules and reigns!  Where once shadows marred the view of abundant life … now unclouded horizons are ablaze with possibility!

My friends … it is Christmas!  Let the rejoicing begin!  Let the perpetual and triumphant song of the Season find a resting place in your weary heart.  Please … please … please … do not allow the trappings to swallow up the treasure. What a lethal mistake that would be!

Do not allow the temporary to diminish the miraculous.  What an enormous error of gargantuan proportions that would be!

Do not allow your disappointment with life begin to create a murky fog that disguises the gift you have been given. What a sad legacy that will leave!

Hope has come and your world has been refreshed, renewed and restored.  Hope is not wishing upon a star nor is it fictional fantasy.  Hope is simply choosing to believe, with renewed fervor and with joyous vigor, that God’s promises are true.  God is a good Father and you are not forgotten.  Your name has been written on the Savior’s hands.  And while we are hoping … we are a people of grand celebration!

Do not allow human obstacles or the fiasco of other’s lack of enthusiasm to mar your potential for living a life of Christmas impact.  Something so extraordinary has been born in us that demons tremble … darkness runs and hides … and the angels stand to their feet with a joyous roar of encouragement. Temporary setbacks are a false alarm!  He has been born in you and you have been born again!

You can be at rest … you can embrace peace.  Everything is going to be just fine in spite of the stench of your life.  Hope and peace are the personal endowment that heaven has given to you.  That’s right … it has been given to YOU!

And if peace and hope are not enough to fan the flame of your Christmas zeal, let me remind you about the joy that has come!  The Name of the Savior is “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us”!

“In His presence is fullness of joy!” – Psalm 16:11

Because the presence of the Creator of the universe has been delivered to planet earth … joy has accompanied Him on this vivid journey!  He never leaves home without joy!  And He brought joy not to keep it selfishly to Himself but to generously give it away!  Jesus lavishly and liberally shares the atmosphere of His presence … which is described with one word … and that word is JOY!

“And behold, I bring you good news of great JOY which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord!” – Luke 2:10

Peace … hope … joy!  What marvelous gifts He brings!

And, as we ponder the meaning of Christmas, let us not forget that Love was born in that crude manger nearly 2,000 years ago.  Love like the world had never known … Love incarnate … Love visible … Love powerful … Love triumphant!

All babies come wrapped in their own personal blanket of love.  And, for the Babe named Jesus, His blanket of love was not even for Himself but it was for you. He has come to share His blanket with you. His covering of unearned love was always meant to be shared with a world in pain.  He shares His most resplendent endowment with you … Love.  You have been covered and comforted by His eternal and personal Love.

If you are questioning God’s love for you today, remember Christmas.  Think about the Darling of heaven who was sent so that you and I could experience the love of heaven.  Think about the preposterous reality that Jesus left the streets of gold, the adoration of the angels and the presence of the Father just because of love for you. 

He came because of love.

He died because of love.

You live because of love.

Christmas, at its heart, is all about love.

Christmas is about an eternal, unstoppable, unbelievable, miraculous, outrageous, zealous love that has taken aim at your cold heart.

Because of Christmas … we can sing joyously and we can give generously.

Because of Christmas … we can love the difficult and we can forgive the offender.

Because of Christmas … we can hope for the impossible and we can trust the good, good Father.

Because of Christmas … we can dance on top of pain and we can rejoice in spite of tears.

Because of Christmas … we are His.

He has been born for us.  He has been born in us. We have been born again.

Merry Christmas, my friends.  Merry, joyful Christmas!

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3 Things When Christmas is Hard

What do you do when Christmas is hard? What do you do when your bills are stacked higher than the presents under your tree?

What do you do when you are spending your days in the doctor’s office rather than at the mall?

What do you do when there is nothing to sing about?

What do you do when there is no family to come home?

What do you do when Christmas is hard? What do you do?

You know, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year for some people.  For many folks, holiday greetings are holiday groanings and every bit of Christmas cheer has disappeared from their lives.

And so, if you are one of those lonely, discouraged people this December … I am writing this blog for you. I hope that my feeble words will some how encourage you to take a deep breath, to look beyond the holiday trappings and then to listen … just listen … for the music of the season. If you can’t join in the song … perhaps at least … you can listen.

If Christmas is hard rather than happy for you this year, may I suggest just a few healthy options for you to embrace? It was only two years ago that I was walking through the hardest Christmas of my entire life. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was spending my holiday season in doctor’s offices, hospitals, treatment facilities and having horrible tests.

However, I was determined to celebrate Christmas in the most meaningful way possible. I resolved not to allow the circumstances of my life to rob me of the joy that only Christmas brings. I didn’t want to waste one single day of this blessed season at a pity party that was thrown only for me.

Perhaps what I learned during my dark Christmas will help you with your “hard” this year.

First of all … be more aware of others than you are of your own pain or disappointment. Look at people’s faces and pray for them whether you are in a doctor’s office, in a line to apply for unemployment or are by yourself at the grocery store. Look at people’s faces and pray.

Make eye contact with all of the people who cross your pathway this year. And, after you have looked into their eyes, after you have breathed a short prayer of blessing, then do one more thing for me.

Smile. Just smile at someone else. Smile at a child. Smile at a lonely older person. Smile at a harried mother. Smile at a tattooed and pierced teenager. Smile at someone whose skin color is different than yours. Who knows? Maybe they are doing “hard” this Christmas as well. Maybe what they need is for you to simply smile and pray.

Can you invite a neighbor over for coffee and cookies? Can you make a lunch date with a childhood friend? If you are going to be alone on Christmas morning, invite another lonely person over and share breakfast together.

If your family lives far away and there will be no Christmas gathering this year, ask your pastor if there is a family at church who needs some extra love. Plan an evening of games, Christmas movies and shared treats. Who knows? They might need you more than you need them.

Secondly, be thankful. Be thankful for Christmases past and for the blessings of yesterday. Be thankful that you live in America and are allowed to celebrate the holy and sacred time of Christmas. Be thankful for the songs of the season and for the cards that you receive in the mail. Be thankful for your health, for food and for shelter.

If you can’t find the joy of Christmas … then every day just write down one thing for which you are thankful. I have learned that “thankfulness” and “joy” are not so very far apart.

Be thankful for a pet … for a phone call … for an e-mail … for a kind word from a stranger.

The third thing that will change your perspective on Christmas this year is the decision to be a giver. Give Christmas cookies to the children next door … give a twenty dollar bill to the young mom waiting in line … give a gift card to your pastor … and give your elderly aunt a phone call!

Giving is one of the most meaningful facets of this last month of the calendar year. 

Even if you know that no one is buying a gift for you … you can give of yourself to others. If you don’t have any money to buy gifts, then give of yourself. Give a family heirloom to your grandchild or a family recipe to your new daughter-in- law! Give one of your favorite books to the widow at church or volunteer to babysit for a single mom.

Clean the church … write an e-mail to a missionary … teach Sunday School … or give some time this month at the homeless shelter. There is an entire world out there that is doing “hard” this year and you can truly make it easier for at least one of them!

And if I could just gently suggest one more thing to you this Christmas season … go to church and worship. You will never truly experience Christmas in its glory and its richness without a sacred awareness of that Baby in the manger.

As you sit in the pew of a bedecked church, listen for the wonder. Listen to the ancient Words that the pastor reads from a Book that is alive with joy! Watch the children as they gather to hear about the shepherds and the angels. Join your voice with the voices of other weary pilgrims who are desperately in need of the Messiah Who has come.

And you know what? It’s o.k. if you cry … let the tears come. Jesus came for your “hard”. The reason He was born as a baby was to infiltrate your disappointment with His hope. He came to wash your discouragement away with His joy … and He came to give you a reason to sing again.

The words “hard” and “Christmas” are not mutually exclusive … they just happen to be … a perfect match! 

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