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“Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you  may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I was proud and smiling as I listened to my 2 year old grandson, Luke count from 1 to 10 perfectly!  Of course, he is very intelligent, but I also recognized that the “counting lessons” from his mom and dad had taken root in him.  They had captured those teachable moments here and there, and the efforts paid off.  Luke was even beginning to understand the actual values of the numbers.  His parents continued to work patiently with him as he went around the room counting various objects.
I am glad the Lord is just as diligent with me when it comes to counting lessons.  He is in the process of teaching me to count the trials of life as “pure joy.”  Since that is not my usual way to respond to difficulties, I have to set aside my normal way of thinking. 
How can I count something that is a problem as a joy?  The task is not easy for me, but these reminders help me as I learn to count His way:

     Each difficulty is an opportunity for me to grow
     Each trial brings its own “gift”
     Each testing offers me a new perspective

 

As with any lesson, learning to count the Lord’s way takes some time and effort.  But I am learning – and you can, too!  After all, we have an excellent Teacher who is patient, understanding and willing to work with us.  So the next time difficulties come your way – stop, take a deep breath and say,

“Lord, I’m ready for my counting lesson!”

The new year is a great time to take inventory, re-evaluate, make plans and set goals.  If you are like me countless resolutions are made, but most fade fast.  My “resolve” tends to weaken according to how I feel or how hard something seems to me in the moment.  That’s why I decided to change my mindset from “resolution” to “commitment.”  The meaning  behind the word “commitment” is stronger and leaves no room for excuses. 

I have chosen the following verse as my commitment for 2009:

“…to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.”  Joshua 22:5

For me this means:

  • I commit to love the Lord by staying in right relationship with Him and tending that relationship
  • I commit to live the way He wants me to live through my words, actions and attitude
  • I commit to be obedient to Him by listening and following through
  • I commit to turn to Him first in all situations of life
  • I commit to serve Him from my heart, allowing Him to prioritize my life
  • I seek the Lord’s help in keeping this commitment

I pray today you too will find a fresh commitment towards the Lord and that you will be blessed beyond measure in 2009!

 

Don’t Quit!

These are some favorite lines from a poem that has encouraged me through the years:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high, and when you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit – rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out – the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems afar,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit – it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit!

So many people are struggling in various ways…some physically, some financially.  Some are weighed down with burdens of a job or a strained relationship.  Some are in the depths of despair over the loss of a loved one.  And we are all touched by the unjust and evil happenings in our world.

But I want to encourage you:  Don’t give in or give up!  Persistence in doing the right thing with diligence is the way to make a difference.

  • Keep moving forward
  • Don’t lose sight of hope
  • Show kindness
  • Share the Lord’s love
  • Hold on
  • Don’t quit!

May you be blessed today in every way!

A Thankful Heart

“Praise the Lord!  I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart…”  Psalm 111:1

I overheard a conversation between a high school student and his teacher.  Eddie spoke excitedly about his first week at his new job.  His teacher smiled and congratulated him, then asked, ” Eddie, what do you enjoy the most about your job?”

Eddie replied, “It is so awesome!  I get to fold towels and put them on the shelf.  Some of the towels are yellow.  Some are blue and some are green!  They are really pretty and it looks like a rainbow when I am done!  And the next best thing is that they call me Edward instead of Eddie because that is what my name tag says and that is what my paycheck says.  They pay me money and I have lots of fun!  I tell my  boss thank you everyday for picking me to work there.”

Even though Eddie is considered “educationally challenged”  he has learned something that the majority of people I know haven’t learned.  He has learned to be thankful.

Consider these steps toward developing a thankful heart:

  1. Look for joy in the simple things.  It is true that most circumstances in life are complex, but usually there are unique blessings we can enjoy if we only take the time.
  2. Express gratitude.  Thank the Lord and tell others about the blessings you enjoy.
  3. Live out gratitude by showing kindness to others.  Let thankfulness flow from your heart into the lives of those around you.

As we focus on being thankful, joy and peace will be multiplied in our hearts.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 150:6

The word, “no” is one of the most commonly used words in the world.  There are countless times we have heard it and said it, yet it seems we always feel uncomfortable when a “no” comes our way.  I believe that uneasy feeling comes from the fact that a “no” is often composed of things we don’t fully understand.

There is a wide variance in the word “no”…

There are BIG no’s and small no’s.  There are clear no’s and blurred no’s.  There are truthful no’s and deceitful no’s.  There are clarifying no’s and confusing no’s – and I could go on and on.  It seems the tiny word “no” is in reality much bigger than it looks.  After much thought, I have decided that it is truly difficult to fully understand a “no” – yet I have found it helpful to focus on what I do know about “no”…

  1. “No” usually means a vast range of emotions with flood my heart and mind.  So I ask myself:  How can I work through these feelings in a positive way?
  2. “No” usually means that there is much more to the situation than what is readily seen, so I should carefully consider all that surrounds a “no” that is directed at me.  So I ask myself:  What is the truly important information here?
  3. “No”  usually means that there is a “yes” for me nearby.  That yes may be in a completely different direction on a path that is yet unclear, but there are always options.  So I ask myself:  What are the possibilities open to me because of this no?
  4. “No” usually means that there is some action needed on my part in order to move forward.  So I ask myself:  What is the next right thing for me to do?

We may not be able to understand all the parts of “no” – but learning to be aware of the parts we do understand will certainly help equip us to face the “no’s” in a more productive manner.

“Life’s difficulties and troubles are not intended to arrest your progress, but to increase your speed.”  ~ A.J. Russell

Think back to this familiar childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  That seemed to be a good retort when cruel words were spoken, but that statement could never overcome the imprint those cruel words left behind. 

The truth is:  words are powerful.  They most certainly can cause wounds that hurt and last a lifetime.  But the good news is:  words also have the power to encourage and heal.

Proverbs 16:24 says:  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Finding the right words doesn’t always come easy.  It helps if you do a little thinking and plan ahead.

I borrowed (with permission of course!) the following exercise from a study guide my husband, Rick recently wrote.  Take a few moments to complete the following sentences:

  1. The most encouraging word is…
  2. The most refreshing word is…
  3. The most beautiful word is…
  4. The most peaceful word is…
  5. The warmest word is…
  6. The kindest word is…
  7. The most comforting word is…
  8. The most needed word is…
  9. The most neglected word is…
  10. The most powerful word is…

Purposely try to find an opportunity to speak these words of encouragement.  When we choose to use words that are “pleasant” we can truly make a difference to those we encounter each day.

“Perhaps you will forget the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.”   -Dale Carnegie

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.  -James Allen

The human thought process is intricate and amazing!  From thoughts creativity and achievement flow.  Yet thoughts can also fill us with discouragement, paralyzing our progress.  Because thoughts are so powerful, it is beneficial to learn to “lasso” our thoughts to keep them focused in the right direction.

Thoughts stem from three basic sources:

  1. Information taken in – either true or false
  2. Opinion – mine and others
  3. Feelings – based on reality or imaginations

Information is all around us and we take it in constantly.  The information can be true or false.  It can be something we purposely learn or something that is passively placed in our mind.  It is certain that anything we allow ourselves to see or hear and every circumstance that touches our lives does contribute to the thinking process.

Opinions help shape our thoughts.  The opinions of others – what they believe or how they feel about issues – those things enter our thought process.  Additionally, my own opinions will either contrast or blend into those of others.  No matter the source, opinions definitely contribute to the thought process.

Then feelings come alongside and add even more complexity to the process.  Feelings can stem from reality or imaginations.  They can be intense or mild.  Feelings can be fleeting or constantly present.  Feelings can remain the same or change in an instant.  Feelings can have solid explanations or come from nowhere and confuse our thoughts. 

Added to the mix are certain thought tendencies unique to each individual.  For the most part, the natural inclination for many people is to think more negative thoughts than positive thoughts.  Here are some of those tendencies:

  • Fearful thoughts
  • Worried thoughts
  • Guilt filled thoughts
  • Blaming thoughts
  • Angry thoughts
  • Greedy thoughts
  • Pride filled thoughts
  • Obsessive thoughts – not able to let go of a certain thought
  • Runaway thoughts – one thought builds on another and spirals out of control

With all these components weighing heavily in our thought process, it might seem that we have no control or that there is no way to harness our thoughts.  Yet, I believe that there are some suggestions that are helpful:

  1. Be aware of all input – make sure to choose some positive input each day
  2. Apply the filter of truth – challenge the false or misleading information and choose to believe what you know to be the truth
  3. Replace old thought patterns with new – purposely choose to set aside the negative thoughts as soon as they enter your mind and find something positive to dwell on
  4. Pray specific scripture concerning your thoughts – find verses that are uplifting and helpful to you and ask the Lord to help that truth become a reality in your life

These ideas have proven to be beneficial to those who want to”lasso” their thoughts.  The steps are not complicated, but they don’t come easy.  There must be a purposeful decision moment by moment to take thoughts captive.  When we do, we find ourselves living a happier, more productive life.