Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fresh Start - Happy New Year

 
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

In just a couple hours, we'll welcome in a new year - 2016. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

With that said, let's all leave behind the mistakes and failures of 2015. Let's forget about the many times we found ourselves lagging behind, learning lessons slowly, taking a step forward and then two steps back. Let's forget about the many disappointments, faulty expectations, unhealthy comparisons and many tests we may not have passed. Yes, let's leave them all behind and press beyond it all as this new year offers us a clean slate, a brand new, fresh start. 

Let's make up in our minds, as we step into a new chapter of life, that we will press on. We will not quit. We will not stop. We will keep walking. We will move full-steam-ahead into the new areas God has planned for us. We will fulfill the purpose He has called us to. We will make a difference in the lives of those we touch. We will allow God to move and work through us. Yes, it's a brand new, fresh start.

Let's dedicate our lives to the Kingdom of Heaven, let's surrender our wills and rights to whatever the Lord might have for us. Let's submit ourselves and plans to Him, let's pray for more of Him and less of us. Yes, let's make a change this year. Let's put our best foot forward and be consumed with Him. Let's put off distractions and run away from discouragement. And, when we fall, let's take advantage of God's mercy, grace and forgiveness; let's get right back up and keep striving for Heaven.

Happy New Year and may God bless you as you walk with Him. Our Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our Savior who loves us too much to leave us like He found us. 

Just a little bit longer...get ready for a brand new, fresh start. Ready. Set. Go.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Grab a Cup - the Sun's Coming Up

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  Ps. 30:5

So, if you've read any of my posts from December,  you will have read about the JOYING game. I have struggled with the word JOY for a long time. Yes, I've beat myself up on quite a few occasions for not displaying it readily. I've contemplated on why the Lord didn't install a triple-dose-JOY-button on my melancholic personality somewhere. You know, like they do the extra "pumps" at your favorite coffee house? I'll take a triple dose, three times a day, please! I know, that might sound comical to some, ridiculous to others and still others will have their own personal views of joy. That's OK.

I went through the Christmas season sharing JOY pics with a friend. Why? Simply because I knew I needed to be reminded to find some - to consistently look for it - throughout the season. And, I thought it might be a nice reminder for her as well. Yet...much to my dismay, I still found myself floundering about grieving and in a pit of despair on more days than not. Yes, I can sympathize with those who find it difficult during this time of the year. Anyhow, I won't get side-tracked riding that rail right now. 

By the time Christmas was over, I found myself the happy new owner of three wonderful JOY cups...and a new perspective. Now, as you can tell by the picture above, each one is quite different. Different sizes, colors, depths, textures, and so forth.

Hmmm...maybe that's a reminder for me that joy comes in all shapes and sizes. After all, does JOY look the same on everyone? Why, maybe joy can even be a mixture of feelings too. You see, this morning when I woke up, my heart was light, I felt good in my body and mind, I was able to get out of bed and start organizing for a special project. At this time last week, I was having a difficult time even pulling myself out of bed. Would I realize this was a great morning if I hadn't been so down during the passing days? Maybe all these emotions go hand-in-hand.

True. Some days my joy might be a bit more obscured, but it isn't dormant. It might look a bit different, sort of like my cup collection. And, sometimes I allow it to be covered up with frustration, misunderstandings, and the busyness and stress of life. I've got to watch that! Yes, sometimes I might have to dig deep, like I'm mining for oil...but it's there...somewhere. Yes, it's a promise. For while we may go through times of weeping...JOY comes in the morning.

So, I've decided to spend 2016 learning more about JOY. I've chosen it as my Life word. I've ask God and intend to allow Him to work on me and open my understanding. I want to be a better person by the end of this new year because God has worked on me in this particular area. What about you? 

Now, if you seem to be in a dark night right about now, hold on, morning's coming. This too, shall pass, my dear friend says. Let's join around the table and share our own cups of joy...grab a seat (even if you're still in your jammies)...we're in this together and the sun's coming up.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thoughts & Dominoes

After a very low experience, one can often look back and learn much from the moment. Remember, they say "hindsight is 20/20." You see, it doesn't take must of anything but a simple push to start a ball rolling downhill. The further downward it goes, the faster the pace becomes. That, my friend, is where I've found myself. At the bottom of the hill, the pile, or whatever you want to call it...flat on my back...in need of someone to help me back up. All because of THOUGHTS.

Here's a couple examples to begin with: My mind (see? thoughts!) views a table top set up with a path of perfectly spaced black-and-white dominoes. You know, all it takes is a slight push in the right direction on the very first one and...chain reaction...one by one, every domino will fall. Or perhaps, attempting to make a "house" out of a deck of cards. Same issue, one slight bump on the table and a chain reaction begins...one card falls, then two, until the house you were trying to create is leveled. 

It's amazing how that applies to our thought processes too. One wayward thought, if not counter-acted, will lead to another, then another, and before we know it, we find ourselves in a stressed out or depressed state that could've been avoided. (Yes, I'm talking to me here! Lord, help me. I'm sure I'm not the only one though.)

 True, it's easier said than done. It takes discipline and practice. Consider this: My New Year's goal is going to be to become better at putting down my imagination when it could be hazardous. So, on January 2nd, I have a little pesky thought come into my mind. I have to replace it with a positive thought. I do. OK, happy dance, I'm on a roll! "Going to get this whipped by February," I think to myself. Then on January 15th, I find myself thinking about the fact that all my children are soon going to be out of my home. (Some days I'm completely alright with that fact.) With that thought, I start thinking about how quiet the house will be with just me and Pops at home. Then, I wonder what we'll do to keep ourselves busy since we no longer have to fight with teenagers to keep their bathroom tidy. Well, what if they end up going off to college or entering the military? What will happen to them? Will they be able to make it? Have a I taught them enough to help them live a good moral and productive life? What if I haven't been all the mother I was supposed to be? What if...and before you know it, I find myself worrying about stuff that hasn't even happened and might never. Case closed. 

See? It's ever so easy to let our minds run away in the wrong direction. Needless stress; harmful to our spiritual, physical and social lives. Yet, it's a tactic the enemy of our soul knows how to easily tempt with nonetheless. And most often, we're not alert enough to realize it's a trap. Oh, one more thing, not to mention, now that I've failed that New Year's resolution, I'm probably going to blow the other ones too. I'm such a failure! See? The domino effect rules!

The Lord knew what He was talking about when He told us to cast down imaginations and take every thought captive. He knew the impact just a single thought could make. It can become devastating to our lives if we don't replace it with a positive thought or a scripture from God's Word. Like I said, this is easier said than done, it takes discipline. And yes, this is truly one of my New Year's resolutions. I'm asking God even now before January 1st gets here, that He will help me overcome and conquer this issue in my life. I sit here right now with a pile of strewn dominoes scattered across my table.

I don't want to allow myself to be tempted in this area, I don't want to go through yet another depressing day when I don't have to. What about you? It's certainly avoidable and God will be our helper. And, no, I'm not going to get it all right the first time. Neither will you. I probably won't have it whipped by February either. I'm going to flounder and have to pick myself back up on occasion, but that's what overcoming is all about. Taking one step at a time and if you fall down, just getting back up and trying all over again. That's how we become disciplined. Practice makes perfect. Life could be so much more victorious if we get there in our minds first. Such a simple concept.

Let's all work together, reminding each other when necessary, to make this new year a fresh start and to keep our thoughts on the right track. As we begin 2016, let's focus more on the promises of God. Let's not get so low that we can't help ourselves or someone else up. Let's take one day at a time, one thought at a time and deal with each in a constructive way. Let's build a domino masterpiece! Together, we can do it. Now, hand me a domino~

Lord, help me to make better choices
in my mind. Help me to throw away thoughts
that will be destructive to my life. I want
to replace them with your promises.
Let me not give up when I fail. I want to 
persevere and overcome.
Amen~

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lights. Candles. Action.

"I am the light of the world..." John 8:12 

Christmas lights decorating yards. Candles placed in windows. Stars shining in a midnight black sky. 

What do all these have in common? Lights. They beckon to us. They invite us to draw near, to come near and see the wonder. 

Many families bundle up in their cars this time of year, wander about throughout neighborhoods which aren't their own, and peer through frosted windows as they take in the wonder of twinkling Christmas lights and lighted nativity scenes. There's something about those tiny lights which dance about! Then, there's the tradition of leaving the candle burning in the window...welcoming a loved one home. It's true, lights get our attention and we simply must go check it out. They are something which cannot be ignored. Our eyes continually seek out light.

Long ago, it was a special star in the sky which beckoned shepherds and led the magi to the humble birthplace of baby Jesus. Light played such an important role in that first Christmas drama. Just imagine, a drama playing out without a spotlight to guide the eye toward what's happening. Without the light...all is dark.

Enter Jesus. (stage right) He is the light of the world. He beckons to us from Heaven to draw near to Him. He continually invites us to follow along as He leads us toward our heavenly home. Oh, the awe and splendor of our King!

So, enjoy the lights of the season. Don't forget in the middle of it all to allow the light of God's love to shine through you and also draw you closer to Him. Pause and sense the wonder of it all. Lights. Candles. Action.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Play the Game - JOYING

 "...send portions unto them..for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10

So, maybe it's a simple no-brainer for you, but it was as if a light bulb went on in my head and my heart yesterday with the whole idea of this JOYING thing. (If you'd like to find out more, click here)

For years I've wondered, "What exactly does JOY look like?" You know, us humans like to see results. Right? We all have to work at the faith aspect. It's easy to see and believe, but seeing without believing is....you know, much more difficult. (Hey, I think that's in the Bible somewhere, isn't it? lol) 

So, when I tell you I'm JOYING, when I think about joy now, I realize that it's not just something that we passively accept. No, it's something that we actively pursue. Something we must do. The joy of the Lord is our strength! OK, I accept that. But if I turn up the volume in my life and take a look up close and personal, I think that to feel that strength, I have to take joy in doing the things He suggests. 

No longer am I sitting around waiting for JOY to come to me. Who out there doesn't feel a bit more glee, get a little bit more satisfaction out of life, than when you're giving yourself away? Yes, I know there has to be some kind of balance. True. However, the Bible does tell us it is more blessed to give than to receive. Why? That's JOYING!

It's amazing the effect a picture can have on the brain. They say a picture paints a thousand words. I challenge you today, start playing the JOYING game by taking a picture of something with those three, simple little letters: J O Y. Send that photo to a friend or loved one via text or email, then tell them to send you one the next day. Start this little game and see what happens. Sometimes, we need to slow down and take notice. This simple game will remind us to do just that. JOY.

I know I might be a late bloomer, realizing this at the old age of....well, I'm not going there. Better late than never, right? Jesus started the JOYING game thousands of years ago. Oh, come let us adore Him. Stop. Take a moment to realize the things He has given us. Himself, our families, friends...there is so much to be thankful for, even during Christmas seasons. Half the JOYING game is about finding things to be thankful for and letting others know. JOY to the world. 

Go snap a pic and start playing. It's a delight. It's simple. It's a wonderful time to share a little reminder. Look for JOY as you go about today...and don't forget to share. Blessings~

Thursday, December 3, 2015

JOYING!!!

There are so many negative things going on in our world these days. From terrorist acts to neighborhood robberies, etc. I'm not focusing on those types of things in this post so I won't continue listing them, just enough for you to get the gist. With that being said, sometimes we have to give it extra effort to find JOY in the journey. 

Our days get so filled to the brim with to-do lists, work duties, places to go, appointments to keep, as well as children or the elderly to look after. Sometimes we completely miss so many important little things God has placed in our lives to bring us joy. We find ourselves overwhelmed and under-satisfied. We think to ourselves, "This is not how my life is supposed to be!" We remind ourselves about the phrase "abundant life" in God's Word and wonder what that's all about.

I, too, have found it difficult more often than not to find JOY during days in my life. What? Where is it hiding? "Here, JOY! I give up. Where are you?" It's kind of like a Hide-and-Seek game, you see. I have found though, that there are opportunities for joy all around us on any given day. 

Sometimes it is found by simply stopping to take notice of the simple things that we often overlook and take for granted. When we awake in the morning, we can take JOY in the mere fact that we are alive and loved by God Almighty. Simple things. Next, we can often find JOY by giving to others. It doesn't have to be big, just simply giving of our time, prayers and simple things. Finally, we can find JOY in taking notice of the small things others do for us. It's really simple when you think about it. 

I think that is why Jesus gave us the commandment to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He knew if we'd do that, we'd notice the little JOYS associated with living for Him. And the second great commandment: love others as ourselves. He also knew the JOY that we could bring into each others lives if we would take an extra moment to go above and beyond. 

It doesn't take any big ado. A simple text to a friend could brighten their day and bring an extra ray of sunshine and JOY. (The simple picture I shared above was texted to me from a dear friend one morning. It touched my heart and brought a smile to my day.) Sharing something God gave you with a neighbor or co-worker could be just the thing that sparks something big in their life. We are called to be witnesses to those we meet...do we witness that there's JOY to be found? 

So, there's a new thing I'm doing in my life and I challenge you to do the same. I often find that my days are much brighter when I'm JOYING with someone in my life. JOYING! When I'm giving myself to the the Lord and being about His business and making Him big to others. When I'm sharing, caring and loving others more than myself and doing something about it.  I know, that can hurt and stomp on the toes a bit, but it's so true. Why wait for someone else to bring JOY to our life when we could step out and touch others first? That's God's way!  God so loved that He gave...

This holiday season, let's reach out to bring, and find, JOY in the midst of the season. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That's JOY! And it can be found in any season, in the midst of any circumstance.  

Please stop and leave a comment below...and share how you found JOY or how you brought JOY into someones life today. What did you do to bring God JOY today? Thanks in advance for sharing. Bless you as we cultivate the art of JOYING!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Are You Sure?


Every time we have an "aha" moment with God and feel like, "Hey, I finally got it!" - as sure as there is a God, there's going to be yet another test from the enemy of our soul...the "Are You Sure?" test.

Grabbing tightly onto Phil. 4:13, "I can do ALL things through Christ...", and hanging on to the truth of Romans 8:37, "I am MORE than a conqueror!" 
 
If you find yourself in the proverbial test-taking room with me today, grab my hand and let's do this together. Blessings upon you!