The Thought Train

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Take a few seconds and think about all that happened yesterday. Take a few more seconds and think about all that happened this past week. Take a few seconds and think about all that has happened in the past year. Are you done? Did a lot come to your mind? How much of it was negative? How much of it was focused on all of the things that went wrong or that did not play out as we had hoped? What was your mindset when you finished doing this? Are you feeling more negative? More down in spirits? Or did you have positive thoughts and memories of the good things that brought you joy?

Most of us would tend to focus on the things that were overwhelming, heartbreaking, or that went wrong in that time frame. We as humans usually gravitate towards the opposite of joy—yet that is the one thing everybody seems to say that they want and the one thing you find everyone chasing. If we want joy and peace and positivity so much, why do we seem to be so captured by the wrong and stress and negativity? In two words: THIS WORLD.

We live in this world, and Jesus boldly told us, I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.” (John 16:33 VOICE). We were told straight from the mouth of the Perfect One that we WILL have continued times of lacking peace, strength and security. But did you catch that second part? He is triumphant! The victory has always and will always belong to Jesus! He gave his life to ensure that truth and promise.

You see, when we accepted Jesus into our hearts, we became a new creation. We strive to be different, live different and think different. But the problem with that is we still live in the old world and among old creations. We try to follow the light that Jesus brings to our path … in a world filled with darkness and corrupt natures. Morals, values and desires are completely off-track and people are lost. No matter how we fight it, we all still have human nature and instinct in us, whether we are saved or not. That is why we sometimes gravitate to the things we know in our hearts we don’t even want to think or do. The Apostle Paul knows this struggle all too well. He tells us in Romans 7:15, 18-19, 15 Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. … 18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do.” (VOICE)

Unfortunately, when Eve took that apple off the tree and Adam chose to partake in the eating of it—they changes the entire course of history for human beings and the world we live in. Which makes it all the more hard for us to stay the course and keep on the true path. We must intentionally keep the Truth of God’s Word in our minds and KNOW His character so that we can strive to be more like Him each and every day. God gives us His Word, Jesus gave us a human example. It takes effort, it takes time, and it takes a deep heart “want to”. Though hard at times, it is not impossible. We know the end to the story—we win! So press on, train your mind to think on the things above and on the blessings each day brings to your life, instead of what this world or those in it may have tried to take away. Here are some versus of encouragement for you today to remind you that it is all going to work out beautifully—if you stay the course and fight for your place in God’s Kingdom.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4 NIV)

“How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:9 NIV)

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:4 NIV)

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17 NIV)

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How Many Times?

Immediately concluding that sentence would be where the typical eye-roll would take place. And you know what? I wouldn’t blame them a bit. I had to roll my eyes at myself as well. How many times, Debbie? How many promises? How many excuses and trials of life need to pass before you stick to it? Well, apparently exactly this many.

You see, we are human and we are flawed and we are broken. We have wonderful intentions, amazing plans, and passionate goals. What we often lack is the goin’-ta. (That is a Debbie-ism, so you will not find it in any dictionary.) So let’s define it here for the purpose of understanding before we move further into what my point is with this:

GOIN-TA … I was goin’-ta do that, but I got busy.
I was goin’-ta give her a call, but time slipped away from me.
I was goin’-ta spend time with them, but life got in the way.

The list goes on, and we have a million of them. But do you see where this is goin’ … and the point of the goin’-ta? Goin’-ta’s are basically excuses, procrastination and self-doubt. This is something I have struggled with all of my life. You see, our intentions and motives can be pure as the white driven snow and our hearts as genuine as the finest gold—but intentions and motives, even in their best form, will remain empty upon follow through if our goin’-ta is not attached to it.

You see, a BIG part of being a Christian is walking your walk and making sure it matches your talk. It is not portraying unshakeable joy or picture perfect moments that depict how your every second of life shines like a glittery rainbow. It is to bare your soul … to allow others to see and feel your insecurities, imperfections and struggles. Otherwise, how relatable can we truly be? How much will others be able to look at us and feel, “Me too. I’m not alone. I so get that!” That is what brings us together as women, as men, and as people. Community, connection, and the realness of everyday life.

So yes … I am flawed. I am constantly having good intentions with bad follow-through. I am excited about everything all at once, and then equally overwhelmed when I sit down and see all I have packed in and committed to. To put it simply—I am human. I could say I need to give myself grace, and maybe I do. But I need to be careful I am not using that as an excuse or tool to allow me to continue certain behaviors and bad patterns. I can give myself grace for past mistakes and for making the same bad choices over and over again … but I cannot give myself grace for not learning from them or taking the necessary steps to change things. That is not grace-deserved. That is procrastination, laziness and busyness in action. So, what is different this time around?

NEED. One simple word. NEED. I NEED to slow down. I NEED to give my schedule some whitespace. I NEED to have time to enjoy this life God has blessed me with. I NEED to say yes to things that really matter and fill my life and heart with joy and purpose, and be okay saying no to other things. Things that may still be wonderful, but not necessary in this season. I NEED to have my peace back. I NEED to have my joy back. And I NEED to have Jesus as the center of my life and my days in order to fill this aching space in my soul. I have shifted from I WANT to I NEED. That is how I know it is different this time.

Things that used to bring me so much happiness … just haven’t been. Things that never used to make me upset or bother me … they are now. Where there was kindness and calmness … there is now frustration, impatience, and short-temperedness. Where there was trust and security … there is worry and lack of self-worth. These things all stem from one definable thing—not cultivating my relationship with Jesus. Yes, I am leading Bible study. Yes, I am studying the Word and reading daily. Yes, I love Jesus with all I have and am. But have I been feeding that relationship in a one-on-one sacred way and pouring into him while allowing him to pour back into me? No. No, I haven’t. I have been going through the motions. I have been checking things off of my to-do list. A place I never wanted to be in … AGAIN.

When did my passion fade? When did I start just being on auto-pilot and not really feeling and following? I have had A LOT of changes in the past 6 weeks. I was married at my church in front of friends and family. I was abandoned 6-days later by the same man. I moved from the country to the city. I went from a large home to a small apartment.  I went from isolated in my atmosphere, to surrounded by people at all times (as an introvert, this is a very hard place to be). The changes have been immense, and I did not factor in the emotions that would come with that. All I know how to do is be strong. All I know how to do is be alone. So I snapped right back into Debbie-mode and moved full-force ahead with life and commitments, not allowing myself time to feel and heal. And then it all came to the surface.

So now, I work through it. But not in the way that comes naturally … by taking control, drowning myself in things and opportunities, by acting tough and able. Not this time. This time I work through it genuinely and without a Band-Aid on top—without withholding from Jesus. I give it ALL to him, not just the things I want to and then try to hold onto the rest. I sacrifice sleep in the morning to sit with God’s Word and sip coffee. I sacrifice sleep in the evening to have Scripture as the last thing that saturates me and fills me before I lay my head down to rest. I spend my breaks and lunches reading and studying to make sure Jesus is included all throughout my day and keep the truths in my head instead of the lies, and to keep leaning on the strength of my Savior. I choose the commitments that speak to my heart, instead of the ones that speak to my “want to”.  I step back from social media, television and other things that drain my time instead of build me up. I eat healthier and take better care of myself so I can be better for God and others. I listen, learn, and live it out … without turning back and looking in the rearview mirror or allowing what is going on in the world to determine where my focus lies.

January 1st is a time many decide to implement changes and a time when people reflect. For me, it cannot wait until January 1st. Time for change is now. Time for steady commitment to Jesus, myself, and others is now. And the truth is, I don’t want to wait until the 1st of a month or the 1st of a year or some significant date that I always try to attach my “I’ll start this on…” to. Because all that does is rob myself of the growth. It robs God of the glory. It robs others of my best self. The time is now. The need is crucial. The goal is undeniable. If you have found yourself feeling off, knowing that you are not being your best self and that the world is gripping you more tightly than Jesus is … then I urge you to get onboard with taking back your life today. I urge you to surrender all, and start all over. Don’t think about how many times you have had to start over again, think about how many times you have never stopped trying. God sees you. God knows what you need and when you need it. It is us who stand in the way of allowing Him to provide what we need. Break down the walls. Become vulnerable. Tell him you need to start from scratch, and ask Him to show you how and to feed your desire. He will, sweet ones. He will.

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Big Things

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It can be really hard to push forward, when you feel you are constantly being shoved back. When every turn feels like a constant battle, and every decision turns into a mountain of headaches. We have all heard the saying that after your hardest times will come your biggest blessings. But in the middle of that storm or trial you are facing, do we really want to hear that? Let alone have the strength to believe it? Often times we try to just push through in our own power, convinced that all of these things are happening because we are doing something wrong or making bad decisions.

We begin to second-guess ourselves. We begin to become anxious and worried about every itty-bitty detail. We tend to want to throw our hands up in the air and say, “Forget it. If God wanted this to happen then He would not allow it to be so hard. Maybe it’s Him telling me this just isn’t right.” Well, maybe. But maybe not. Maybe it is the enemy putting up every attack and stressor to your weaknesses that he knows will put a wrench in your plans. Why would he bother to do that? Two words …

BIG THINGS. When God is working on big things for you and your future, it puts the enemy on edge and alert to steal, kill and destroy. Here’s the kicker—when you willingly obey, trust and step into God’s plan for you—that is when Satan is the most scared and will go to great lengths to create conflict and turmoil in every step you take. The last thing he wants is someone surrendering to God and walking in faith, especially when they cannot see what is beyond the staircase. He wants to keep us wondering, worrying and uncertain so that we will choose a different path that may appear easier or simpler.

What we need to take into consideration when we are ready to stop, give up or run the other way and impulsively choose the opposite or easier route, is this: God can see tomorrow, next week, next month and 10 years down the line. He knows what He has in store for us and how He desires for it to play out. We cannot even see the next minute or around the next corner. We look at how WE want it to play out, not realizing that often the way we want things is not good for us or will cause even greater heartache down the line. We often cry out to God and ask for signs and confirmation of things—yet when they come in a form other than what we hoped or expected, we are quick to say that it must mean this or it must mean that.

What if it simply means that His answer to our request is perfect, but we had already built up expectations of the way we want things and how they should fall into line. Instead of discounting Him, we need to learn to say, “Okay God. I asked you for a sign and you gave me one. I have to say, I don’t like it and it is not what I had visualized that I wanted you to do. But it is from You, Your ways are perfect, and You have only my best interest at heart. So thank You for this sign, thank You for steering me in the direction You want me to go. Whether I understand or not, whether I like it or not … I will obey and follow. Because I know what You have on the other side of it is so much more than I could ever have for myself. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for changing things that need to be changed. And thank You for never letting me settle for less than YOUR best for me. I choose You.”

Let me reiterate that this is NOT easy. Sometimes the scariest and most uncomfortable thing we can do is surrendering to the unknown. But God works when we step outside of ourselves and our own plan, and knits together a tapestry for our life that we could only dream of in the wildest fairy-tale. So give it all over to Him—ALL of it—trust Him with your money, your plans, your time and your life. He has such good things for you and will reward you bountifully for obeying him freely and with genuine faith. Sweet ones, I am so excited and expectant for what God will be able to do for you when you allow Him to shake things up!

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) 

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)

Make Peace With The Old, Start Loving The New

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I struggle with “all-or-nothing” syndrome. I see other people working out five days a week, so I feel I need to work out that much to be good enough. I see other people eating Paleo, vegan, or healthy 5 to 7 days a week, so I feel I have to eat healthy just as often and in just the same ways for me to be good enough. I see several Bible studies happening and feel I need to have an involvement in all of them in order to learn as much as I can and not miss out. Then I hear God’s Voice telling me, “They are not you, and I don’t want you to be them”. A strong reminder that He has made each of us unique for reason, yet every single one of us in the image of Himself. None of our paths should try and mirror anyone else’s. As long as we are listening to God, we learn how to love who we are just the way we are, and we spread that same unconditional love to others…then it’s not up to us to try to run someone else’s race.

So maybe I only take a walk two days a week for an hour. So maybe I only eat healthy for about four days a week, then still pretty healthy another two, and then the last day is a full-on cheat day for me. Maybe my hips and thighs are a bit wider than they used to be, and more bountiful than a lot of the people that I know. But then again my heart has become much bigger than it ever has before, and that’s the part of my growth that I want to focus on. And that’s what I want other people to focus on…the size of my personality, the size of my heart, the size of my love, giving, and serving. So if I want others to focus on those things inside me and not on my outside appearance, why can I not seem to focus on those same things for myself?

Some of us are programmed to think we are supposed to stay looking like we did when we were 18-years-old, so that everyone will say, “Wow, look how great she still looks!” “Wow, look how tiny she still is!” “Wow, look how great she has been doing!” We want to be validated and feel we’ve “still got it”. But what is it that we had that we want to still know “we’ve got”? When I look back to my 18-year-old days and into my 20s…I didn’t have a lot of depth in knowledge, heart, soul, and priorities. So why do I want to keep myself in a time of my life where the only positives I had going were largely my physical attributes?

When we find Christ, our old selves are stripped away and we are given new selves. Ones who see, think, and live through the eyes and truths of the Lord. Not through the things of this world and what is important to modern day society. My now 40-year-old self realized the attributes I largely possess are internal qualities, and the physical has fallen by the wayside in importance. I realize that I no longer want people to notice those things or recognize those things in me, I no longer want to be validated or feel wanted because of my face, figure, or how I look in a specific outfit. I don’t even want to be known for them anymore. Perhaps that is why I have become more comfortable with my new self, instead of taking drastic measures with diet and exercise to alter back to the pre-Debbie that I was just a year ago. I would rather diet on the spiritual truths and living water of our Almighty Father and exercise my heart and my growth in knowing Jesus. That’s how I know Christ has changed (and continues to change) my heart.

Instead of being constantly focused on keeping up with others who are losing weight, eating healthier, or changing their lives in certain ways…I would rather keep some of my extra pounds and be filled with agape love that I use to serve in ministry, to take care of my children, to learn and understand God better. Do I want to be healthy? Absolutely. Do I want to eat better? Absolutely. Do I want my life to become something that I feel is so structured that I no longer enjoy it or feel that I’m living? Absolutely not. If I eat healthy sometimes, it’s okay. If I am making an effort to get some exercise in and eat better, even if it’s not as much as everyone else is doing, and I still happen to keep some of my newly-found pounds on…it’s okay.

I’m learning that my effort doesn’t have to result in the same outcome that everyone else’s does, nor be as restricted or regimented because I need to be and do what works for me and the life I have been blessed with. I’m okay, for the first time in a long time, just being me. If I lose a little weight and look a little better, great! If I don’t, I will still serve in ministry just as wholeheartedly, I will still love and take care of my kids just as deeply, I will still feel overwhelming joy in my heart for this life, and most importantly I will still love myself and grow daily in my relationship with God. It’s not my jeans size, routine, or trying to mirror someone else’s physical changes that make me a woman of God. It is not whether I am physically beautiful by the world’s standards that makes me worthy or that will draw someone else to love me. It’s the pure love in my heart for Our Savior, the gentleness they will see in my soul, and the overwhelming joy I have for life and serving that make me stand out from the crowd…and that is the beauty I want to be recognized for. So this summer I am thankful for my curvier hips, my expanded waistline, and my thicker arms and thighs…they remind me the Lord has provided for me in abundance and are a constant reminder to love myself from the inside out, letting Him shape and form me in His own way and time.

Small Sacrifices Create Mighty Moments

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It happened…again. I planned to get up early and spend time with Jesus; just the quiet, dark, devotionals and my thoughts. Why does it always happen that when I plan to spend this precious time with my Savior, something always seems to interfere and obstruct my efforts? I know, the easy answer is the enemy. I plan to grow and cry out to and spend time with God, so naturally the enemy throws a twist in things because that is the last thing he wants me doing. But it is more than that—it is my blatant choice to choose other things over God. Some extra time putting on make-up. One more time with the snooze button. Endless excuses of all that went wrong the night before. In the end, that is all everything amounts to . . . excuses.

Yes, I was up all night with a sick child running a horrid fever. She was unsettled and in pain, and as a mother I could not sleep knowing my child was in such a painful state. I only had 40 minutes of sleep last night, 40 minutes in the past 24 hours. Many would say, “Well that is completely understandable then, there’s a very valid reason you did not have the time!”. But is there, is there really? I already had pretty much no sleep all night and knew it would be a rough day at work, so what would that 40 more minutes really cost me? Being sleep deprived but with a sense of comfort and peace at spending those moments with Jesus would have given me more strength than that 40 minutes of sleep I just had to have. But is that what I did, did I heed his calling to spend time with him in the absence of sleep? No, it hurts my heart to say I did not. I laid there, minute after minute and hour after hour, trying to close my eyes, tossing and turning, becoming frustrated and praying for sleep.

Instead of praying for sleep, I should have embraced this tender time with him. I should have asked him to just give me the strength to get through the day, instead of praying to sleep so that I could rely on my own strength. I should have . . . I should have. How many times have I said that? How many times do you say that? In that moment, we know what we need to do and yet time and time again, we choose the alternate route. More times than not, we regret that decision. But yet we repeat this pattern over and over. We are human; we are selfish, controlling and creatures of habit. When will Jesus be important enough to always be our first choice?

You see, we were not meant to handle things on our own. We were not meant to control things in our own strength. We are not taught to drown out God’s voice and prompting in order to attend to our own agendas. Those are choices, choices we willingly make. God has much to say about leaning on Him for strength, sacrificing in His name’s sake and relinquishing control. Let’s take a look at what God says is the proper way to deal with these things while we are in this world.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:13 MSG)

Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GNT)

Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people. (Mark 10:45 ERV)

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

I was very worried and upset, but you comforted me and made me happy! (Psalm 94:19 ERV)

I could go on and on and on. The Lord tells us very directly that when we were saved by Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross, it gave us the privilege of letting him carry our burdens. Burdens may look different to each of us; lack of sleep, defiant children, a crumbling marriage, financial struggle, family discord, and so forth. But he tells us that he wants to carry them all, if we will just allow him to. Part of how he carries these is when we spend time with him. When we talk to him and lay our burdens down, he lifts them up with grace and mercy. He enables us to do things (and get through things) we never could on our own. So why do we fight so hard against this surrender when we know the relief and blessing it brings? Whether it is something you see as miniscule or whether it is something that feels like the weight of the world . . . make the sacrifice to hand it over. Sacrifice your pride. Sacrifice your strength. Sacrifice your time. Sacrifice your sleep. Sacrifice your control. In these things, Jesus can give you back ten-fold what you offer to him, and he smiles and beams with joy at each attempt we make to spend time with him, no matter the circumstances. He is worth it—isn’t it time we show him that?

Handing It Over Through Scripture Repetition

Recently (very recently) I was in an incredibly difficult situation in which the enemy could have easily gained a foothold. The enemy knows our weaknesses; he knows what will crush us and make us drop to our knees. He studies us and makes his mark by capitalizing on those areas in which we struggle the most. But the great thing about dropping down to our knees is that we are in a position to pray and seek God. We are in a position to choose to take in the strength that the Lord freely gives us to help in our trials and storms. And when we choose this over letting the enemy continue to beat us into the ground, God can do amazing things.

One of the ways we can take in the strength of God is to talk to Him. We cry out to Him, plead to Him and whisper to Him. Yes, we do all of these things. But another way we can speak to Him and hear from Him is through His Word: the Bible. When we read the Scriptures, we get to know Jesus, and when we know Jesus, we know God. They are one and the same and an exact image of one another. So knowing the Word is knowing their character, promises and truth.

Repeating or memorizing Scripture is powerful. VERY powerful. I can attest to this personally. Remember at the beginning of this article when I said I was recently in an incredibly difficult situation? Well, this is nothing new for me. I am a single mother and have been for a decade. Money is always tight, I have no friends or family in my area, I work full time and I have a very low self-esteem. To put it mildly, the enemy has a boat load of ample ammunition on where he can attack me. But one of the big ones is with my job. I am the sole provider for my children and I have them 24/7/365 on my own. In this world if you don’t make money, you cannot take care of your family. It is just the way it is and there is no getting around it. But the way I have been looking at it all of these years was completely wrong; and I never saw that until God allowed me to walk into this very difficult situation.

I had looked at providing as something that I am solely responsible for. In my own power, under my control and up to me to make sure it is handled no matter what. I am a perfectionist and people-pleaser (with a little bit of A.D.D. and OCD mixed in). I know, I know…how on earth is she single, you are wondering? Right! Anyways, once put in this situation at my place of employment, my very first reaction the first 24 hours was sheer worry and fear. Oh my gosh, how will I provide for my children? How will I pay the bills? What if I get money taken out of my paycheck, or worse, get fired and don’t have a paycheck at all? My body went into flight mode and I was off and running with the “what if’s”. The “what if’s”—those will get you every…single…time. And we are famous for them!

But all of the sudden, something shifted. The next day, I chose to give it to God. Now mind you, I have given A LOT of things over to God. I am good at that. What I am also very good at is taking them back. Over and over and over again. This time was different. I have been doing a Bible study with my church entitled “Attitude” for the past 9 weeks. Until this situation happened, I don’t think I really saw how drastically I have been changed by it, for the better. The old me would have stressed, feared, been anxious and let it affect my sleep, mood and spirit for days or weeks on end. But this time, I gave into it for 24 hours. At that point, I took the power from the enemy and I handed it over to God. From the very second I did that, and committed to NOT take it back again, my whole demeanor changed. I had a peace of mind and calmness in my heart unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I was not worried and felt that no matter what He allowed to happen, we were going to be just fine. Because He promises us we will be, and He has faithfully proven to me that He keeps His promises.

So I handed it over and began to recite one passage of Scripture. Just one. I put it as the background on my iPad, I put it on the background of my desktop computer at work, I wrote it on a piece of paper and set it in front of me during the day. I repeated this one Scripture, and then would say a small prayer. This was a routine for 3 days straight. The morning came to face the situation at work. I recited it over and over before I went into the meeting, and I took the Scripture written on the piece of paper and held it in my hands the entire time. While I was being spoken to, I was listening but I was also reciting the verse over and over in my mind. I felt God with me. He was in my attitude, my responses and my confidence. I have never felt like that before and have never responded in such a manner of grace and security, especially in the middle of a storm. That is what happens when you don’t…take…it…back. Leave it in God’s hands and let Him give you the peace and promises for your situation.

I am sure as you are reading this each and every one of you can think of at least one time when you have walked into a situation in your own strength and remember how you have reacted. Perhaps you can also think of at least one time when you have walked into a situation in God’s strength and remember how you reacted to that situation. If you have, I am certain you noticed the difference. There is a reason pastors and Jesus and churches all are on the “Scripture Memorization” bandwagon. Because it works and it is powerful! Not just memorization, but repetition. If you have not tried it, I urge you to the next time you find yourself walking into a storm or trial. See what it does for your heart, your peace of mind and your assurance that God holds you and will be your provision. No matter what.

Below is the Scripture I recited so many times that it went from being a recited verse to a memorized verse, in only 3 days. You can search the concordance in your Bible for any word or situation you may be facing and find a verse that will feed your soul for your specific circumstances. I pray this will be a help to you now and in the future, as you allow God to keep your burdens and carry them for you.

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Who Do Others See In You?

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Are you going through a storm or trial in your life right now? In some way or another I believe most of us are. How are you handling it? What is working its way through the cracks in your heart and soul? You can only react one of two ways–of the world or of Jesus. As I write this, I am going through a very big storm and I had to stop and think about my reactions to the situation. First, I only have so much control…the control of what I will choose to feel, think and do. I cannot control the other people or the situation itself, so I need to focus on myself. Will I show people the world: being anxious, worried, fearful or angry. Or will I show them Jesus: being secure, confident, positive and trusting. In all honesty, my first 24 hours encompassed the latter. I was crying, consumed and fearful. However, as I began to redirect my focus to the Lord I felt a sense of calm come over me. I don’t want to spend my days and hours in anxiousness and paranoia of what may or may not happen…I want to keep living life as best as I can in the process. Whatever happens will happen and I know God will be with me. After focusing on the right things, I was able to put the storm where it belongs–in Jesus’ hands, so he can carry the burden and have power over it. So, think about who are you emulating through your storm. Are you responding like the world has programmed you to, or are you allowing Jesus to lighten your load and take the wheel for you?

Feeding The Mind Feeds The Soul

Feeding The Mind Feeds The Soul

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We all know that knowledge is power. BUT, the type of knowledge we feed ourselves determines the power we are letting into our lives. Are we searching for knowledge that comes from other people? From the media? From unreliable sources? Or are we turning to the Word of God and the Scriptures for the knowledge that we need and desire? When we can answer that first question and start gaining knowledge from the correct source, we have won half the battle.

“Through God’s words we gain an understanding that God is the one who gives the gift of knowledge- that is an understanding or awareness of something. The Lord however, grants knowledge to those who have an honest relationship with him. This collection of bible verses give insights to the value of knowledge and the path to gaining it.” (Proverbs 2:6 NIV)

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” (Psalm 119:66 NIV)

Now that we have the first half of the battle taken care of, the second half of the battle is CONTINUOUSLY feeding ourselves that proper knowledge. Are we reading something every single day to combat the lies of the world and keep the Truth in our hearts and heads? Are we still thirsting to know more, learn more and seek more? If we aren’t, perhaps we should pray about it and ask God to put the desire in our heart to take that special time to pour into Him—and ourselves. God created the thirst for knowledge and He created it to be insatiable on this earth. We should never stop striving to learn more, grow more and be more. NOT be better than others. NOT be self-centered or egotistical. But genuinely knowledgeable and able to help others when they have questions about Christ. Or better yet, to be able to answer them confidently when asked why WE choose to be a Christian and what that means.

You DO have to make the choice to put God first, spend some time with Him instead of your busyness and worldly tasks and to train yourself to make this a regular part of your life (I promise, those things will STILL be there when you are done…but you will often have a fresh new perspective and will be much better equipped to deal with them). Again, if it is not in your heart, this will never work. If you hunger for it, want it and are willing—there is nothing He won’t bless you with. And if you aren’t but want to be—ask Him to put that desire in you, to make you long to know Him better and fill your life with selflessness so you can give Him the time and effort He deserves to learn all you can about Him in your time on this planet. And if you have no desire for any of this then, well, that is absolutely your choice and you have to do what you think is right for you—but if that is the case, I am not really sure why you are still reading this! (sarcastic humor meant in the kindest way). Here are some ways we can continue on the thirst for knowledge and make the effort to fulfill our goal of consistent learning and growth (key word here—effort. This does not just happen because we want it to, I am sorry to burst your bubble):

  • Carry a book in your purse or bag at all times. When you are waiting at the doctor, dentist, DMV or anyplace else you may be then you can grab it and get a few pages in.
  • Have a reading goal for the year. Whether it is 2 books or 200 books, know that you CAN do it and let your motivation to stay in a right mindset and to know God better fuel your actions and decisions to push forward—page by page, chapter by chapter.
  • Invest in a compact Bible for your purse or bag. I got one on sale at Barnes & Noble that is a tiny little thing and fits perfect in my purse, and it was only $3.00! Then no matter where you are, what you are doing or what may come your way…you are ready and armed to hear a positive Truth and promise from God and to keep soaking in His knowledge.
  • I cannot say this enough. Pray, pray, pray! Ask God to give you wisdom. Ask God to help you understand the Scriptures in a new and deeper way. Ask God to show you which books He may want in your hands and heart for this season. Pray, Ask, Listen.

So…what is YOUR desire? Do you already thirst and actively seek knowledge? If so, what is your method of doing that? Do you want to have a passion for God’s knowledge but don’t know how to do that? Ask Him…He will answer. Do you have a reading goal for this year? If so…what is it and have you already picked out which books those will be. I have committed to reading 36 books and doing 21 Bible studies this year…and I have them all picked out and written down in the order in which God showed me I need them. I am so excited. I am almost done with my first book of the year already and can’t wait to keep going! Leave a comment and let’s talk about this! I can’t wait to support and embrace all of the ways you will be seeking the right knowledge in your lives!

 

New Year, New Me!

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Fresh, new, positive and full of hope…that is the attitude a new year seems to bring. As I look around and listen at my workplace, at my church, in my home and just everywhere I go: I am noticing that people just seem optimistic and excited about life. Negativity seems to have disappeared, and that sense of heaviness that the end of the year brings when we reflect on all of our struggles and trials seems to be lifted somewhat. It is a beautiful thing to see and seems to have a domino effect on those around us. We see it, feel it and want that in our own lives.

However, as time moves forward and the days, weeks, and months creep by…we tend to lose that excitement and light-hearted attitude. The demands of life return. A new set of trials emerge. Unexpected struggles ensue. But what we need most during these times IS that carefree and positive attitude. Studies show that a positive attitude and happy thoughts can actually heal illnesses, prevent the advancing of disease, reduce stress and allow an individual to handle circumstances much better. So, how do we adopt an optimistic and grateful attitude that will last ALL YEAR LONG?

You MUST think these words each day—“New Year, New Me”! My pastor spoke these words just days ago and it had a profound impact on my thought process. It is easy for us to say that at the very beginning of the year. But how often do we say that after the newness of a fresh year has passed? Probably not very often. And that may be the problem. Our lack of consistency in stating the positive allows for the negativity and hopelessness to creep back in. There are many ways to keep the positivity, even on hard days—it is a matter of willpower and “want to”. We WANT our days to be easier and lighter, so why do we not put in the few minutes each day to make this happen? Busyness, procrastination, exhaustion…the list is endless. But when we do that, we are letting emotions rule, instead of letting God’s Truth rule. Here are a few ways we can lighten our days:

  • Every morning profess out loud, “New Year, New Me!”. Yes, even if it is July, October or December 31st! Every single day is a new day in a new year!
  • Spend as little as 5 minutes silently talking to God in the wee hours of the morning before anyone is awake, or read a small devotional. Quiet, intentional time with Jesus before the days demands weigh you down.
  • Look around at the world and remind yourself of all of your blessings: Did you wake up this morning? Do you have a place to live? Do you have an income? Do you have clothes to wear? Do you have food to eat? I am not talking lavish living…but if your basic needs are met you have so much more than so many others—and we often so easily take that for granted and ignore it.
  • Connect with someone at your church or in your community, or even a friend online. Take 15 seconds a day to text something uplifting and encouraging—and be consistent in it (this is something I struggle with but need so badly). This will not only bless them and may be just what they needed at that moment, but it will bring you thankfulness and blessings also. Remember, you may be the only Jesus that person connects with that day.

Now, keeping that in mind, let’s end with a few Scriptures that can help remind us how we are supposed to act and live. NEW. PURPOSEFUL. JOYFUL. BLESSED. Be good to yourself and others each day of this new year and watch how your attitude, your relationship with Jesus, and your life turns around!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

“Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.”  (Colossians 3:10 MSG)

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)