No worries?

“Daddy, do we have enough money?” asked the sweet seven-year-old when she heard of her father’s job loss.

“You don’t need to worry about that; Daddy will take care of everything,” he replied, rubbing her shoulder. Giving him a quick hug, she bounded off to play with her dolls.

When was the last time your worries and  concerns were so easily relieved? Once anxiety grips us, it can be difficult to disentangle its claws from our minds and our hearts.

God tells us nothing should make us anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

Instead, He’s telling us what to do with our concerns: Pray about them. Bring them to God joyfully and with thanksgiving.

When a burden of the heart disturbs our sleep, disrupts our days and consumes our consciousness, we honestly don’t need to deal with it alone.

We should give it to God. Joyfully give it to Him. With thanksgiving give it to Him. Because He will take care of it and it does not need to burden us any longer.

Sometimes, we are like the little girl worrying about her family’s financial plight. Sometimes, we take on things that are just way beyond us. Our heavenly Father has it all worked out. Will we relinquish it to Him?

He wants us to allow Him to handle it, and for us to run off and do whatever He’s given us to do. He doesn’t want us burdened and consumed with His work.

When we allow Him to lift our burdens, we experience first-hand His promise of the next verse, “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike what the world has offered us, we are promised peace.

Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety?

A Step Further: Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety? If you are like me, there are times it’s just hard to let go. I carry something to Him, then take it back seconds later. I bring it to Him again, and later my mind works overtime, trying to figure it out.

God knows us. He knows our minds are willing, yet our flesh is weak. He knows when we want to give something over to Him, yet, seemingly can’t.

He also provided for that.

When we feel like we can’t let go, He is willing to meet us there and supply what we need. Whatever it is we need, right there in that moment, He will supply it, if we ask. And, He’ll meet us in the next moment, and the next. Eventually it won’t be so difficult.

If you find Philippians 4:6-7 challenging to live, please feel free to ask for prayer in the comments below. My team and I will lift you in prayer.

Lavish Love

She smiled as she handed me a cup of tea. I had a cold and our nine-year-old daughter insisted on caring for me.

“Did you remember a little honey?” I asked.

She started to shake her head then stopped. “A little more than a little,” she confessed sheepishly while covering me with a favorite blanket.

I had to smile, momentarily wondering just how much “a little more than a little,” literally was!

One sip confirmed it was definitely more than I would have added, yet tasted much better too!

She certainly had gone above and beyond.  All because she loves her mom and was concerned about her.

We each have a heavenly Father who loves each of us lavishly. His heart is concerned about each one of us. And He certainly demonstrates His love lavishly.

Have you sat and recounted how God has lavishly loved on you? If you’re like me, when the storm comes and I’m swimming in disappointment, I can easily forget all of life’s blessing.

Maybe it’s time to come up for a breath of fresh air. No matter what has been happening, take a mental inventory of the last few years, or even decade. How has God blessed you abundantly? How have you witnessed lavish love?

Thank God for His many blessings.

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deed of the Lord, or declare all his praise?” Psalm 106: 1-2 (ESV)

 

What’s on YOUR Lips?

When the sun is shining, the birds are singing and spring has definitely sprung, what are you saying?

When it’s cold and dark, and horror of horrors, a snowstorm appears in April, what words are on your tongue?

When the routine is predictable and everything is just, well, just normal, what are you uttering?

Psalm 34:1 reads, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

King David wrote that Psalm. A King. If you don’t know a lot about him it might seem easy for a King to pen such thoughts.

But King David knew a lot about hardships. He knew what it was like to be anointed King, and then have to wait years for his time on the throne.

He knew what it was like to have a madman after him, constantly chasing him, trying to literally kill him.

In fact, this Psalm was written when David was acting crazy so Abimelech would drive him away, outside the city, where David could hide himself from a crazed King Saul.

Can you imagine being sweaty, dirty, hunkered down in a cave, heart pounding so loud you think you hear it’s echoes off the walls, hoping you would not be found, be caught and killed?

David probably penned these words under such circumstances.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

To think of someone writing those words, holding those ideas close to his heart while under such stress, wow! Maybe you are like me, and ponder my little pile of problems and are deeply humbled.

If David could praise God under such circumstances, if he could disregard the stress and worry of his days to focus on the Lord, praising him with such vigor, why can’t I?

He is With HIM, Part IV

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” John 12:23 NIV

It was the heaviest of burdens. It was literally the world against Him.  Just four days after praises from Palm Sunday still ringing in His ears, He now felt none of the accolades or the glory.

Instead of a reception fit for a King, the religious leaders: the priests, the scribes, and even the elders were all challenging Jesus’ authority.

The tide was indeed turning. Even one of his beloved, turned far from the friend He once knew. Judas had actually begun the betrayal process. Judas unbelievably had asked what he could get for giving up Jesus.

How fickle, these people.  How lonely He must have felt. I wonder if He ever briefly entertained the question, “Is it really gonna matter?”

Yet, He knew. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But, if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus knew the lonely, solitary journey to come was His and His alone.  He also knew that journey would produce the needed life- the end of a spiritual divide fraught with necessary blood sacrifice.

In John 12:27 Jesus admits to negative emotions over the approaching assignment. Anxiety, fear, and stress topped the list.  Yet, how did Jesus deal with them?

Did He ask God to take them away? Did He ask God to lighten the load?

No.

He made only one request: “Father, glorify Your name.” (Verse 28)

God gave Jesus the faith to see past His predicament. He helped Him keep His gaze fixed on the right goal: to glorify the name of God.

Even in His anguish, Jesus knew this week was not only about Him. Although He would emerge the victor over all – even death itself – this week was not about His feelings, His pain, His persecution.  It was about glorifying God.

God supplied what Jesus needed in order to do just that.

He didn’t request, “Father, save me from this hour.”

He upheld the faith God gave Him and simply requested, “Father glorify Your name.”

God met Jesus’ emotional needs, not by obliterating them, as we often request, but by providing the faithful sight to see that it really was not all about His experience.  It was truly all about honoring God.

 

Reflections:

Honest assessment: how often are my life experiences, truly, in my head, all about me? How can I proactively shift my gaze from me, me, me, to God?

Looking back on trials, can I identify when God carried me through instead of destroying the trial? Can I see where it strengthened me instead of destroying me?

Have I calculated what I could get for giving up Christ? Let’s calculate the cost…

 

Prayer:

Dear Father God, When I examine how Jesus lived His last week, I am reminded how heavenly focused He was.  He must have experienced anguish and agony beyond my experiences, yet He humbly kept His eyes on You.  May that example influence my actions and attitude. Lord, Thank You for authoring a way back to You. May I always remember the sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for reading, please return by Monday, March 14 for the next post.

Habit of Thanksgiving

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift.” II Corinthians 9:15

 

“What is a Thanksgiving Box?” our youngest daughter asked our oldest.

“It was a decorated shoe box we would fill with strips of paper outlining what we are thankful for. We’d fill it all year long and then open it on Thanksgiving Day.” Our seventeen-year-old recounted with a nostalgic smile on her lips.

“Why don’t we do that today?” her younger sister asked.

The long answer to that question involves a move, a new baby, and a cancer diagnosis all within one year.

The short answer: We got out of the habit.

As I overheard the above conversation I smiled, also taking a walk down memory lane. I joyfully recalled some of those Thanksgiving readings. The answer to the question “What are you thankful for,” went something like this:

A job,

My (stuffed) dog Beethoven,

My friends,

My family,

Hot dogs,

Marshmallows,

Living in the US,

My bicycle,

The (swimming) pool,

Jesus dying on the cross.

As I reflect on those memories, I agree it’s a shame we don’t have a “Thanksgiving Box” anymore.

Not only was that time we set aside to answer the question imperative to keep us focused on our blessings, the memories of reading the responses proved to be a priceless treasure to each family member.

Thankfully, we can certainly resurrect an old habit. I know just the shoebox we can use…

 

Reflections:

How can I practice thankfulness?

How regularly do I thank God for His gifts to me?

 

Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for the innumerable blessings You’ve gifted to me. Thank you for the things I’m so accustomed to having that I take them for granted and forget how blessed I am. Above all, I thank You for Your great love for me personally, that Jesus surrendered His life so I might choose to be reunited with You. Amen.

 

Action: Please share how you maintain a thankful attitude!

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, November 30, for the next post.

Thanksgiving: Thanking God in Tough Times

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

This week, those of us in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving.  We remember what the Pilgrims did, thanking God for seeing them through their first year here in their settlement.  They were thankful for God saving many of them, although not even half their original number.  They were thankful for the crops they had harvested, after suffering from hunger the year before.  They were thankful for friends they had made, although many of their Native Americans neighbors were first seen as potential enemies.

God had indeed blessed those who remained.  And they were thankful.

Do you ever wonder if some of those few First Thanksgiving attendees were still stewing over all that was lost?  Did they truly feel thankful in their heart of hearts?  Did they desperately miss their former way of life, if for nothing else, that their precious loved ones were still with them, they ate familiar foods, and they thought they knew what to expect?

Maybe you have had a wonderful year, and your heart is bursting forth with thankfulness.  If so, I am so happy for you!  God has indeed blessed you richly!  For those who are struggling to feel thankful this week, you are not alone.  Often, in the midst of thanksgiving, pain is present.

I imagine for those remaining Pilgrims, that Thanksgiving was a day they simply focused on what blessing they had right then and there.  Maybe that present picture was not what they had imagined, or had hoped for, when they set out to cross the ocean, (life rarely is!), but after that challenging year, they saw the evidence that God truly loved them.  They could sit next to their neighbors, even those they might have originally labeled as enemies, and drink in the beauty of the colorful harvest.  Their stomach could eagerly anticipate what their noses already detected: a feast was on the way.  A feast with unknown foods, but they would be feasting just the same.  They would be feasting as God had planned.

We are to bring our requests before God, not with worry, but with thanksgiving.  When you think about that, is there a mental murmur of grumbling?  If we have a request, you might argue, it is usually not something we are joyful about.  Most of our requests are concerns.  Yet, the Bible is quite clear: we are to be anxious about nothing.

That includes not being anxious is we don’t feel all the warm fuzzies of thankfulness.  God appreciates it when we can list our blessings even in the midst of brokeness and pain. He appreciates when we can honestly list our human limitations, and ask for His help and grace.  When we are at the end of ourselves, and still can’t get to a place of not feeling anxious, then, He can reveal Himself to us.

We can acknowledge the blessings of today and still be mourning the loss of yesterday. We can miss someone dearly, and yet still praise God with our hearts and tongues.

He loves us.  It’s a simple sentence, but not a simple concept to wrap our minds around. He does loves us, and yet He still allows us to have challenges in this life.  He does that so we can learn to trust Him, no matter what.  He promises He will redeem everything, (Romans 8:28) and He does.  Even when it takes a lifetime.

I pray each of us can name the blessings of the present, no matter what we may have lost in the past.  I pray we each search for how God is going to use our pain for good, because He will.

Reflections:

Monday: How do you picture the first Thanksgiving?  Recall the historical facts of what the Pilgrims endured.  Imagine how you might have felt had you lived through that first year.

Tuesday: How has the past year been for you?  What blessings have you experienced?

Wednesday: How might you celebrate Thanksgiving in your heart, even though you are not living out life the way you had planned?

Thursday: How is God redeeming your pain? Are you willing to let go of the pain, and let Him take it?

Friday: What are you thankful for today, that you may have taken for granted before?

Thank you for reading!  Please return by December 2 for the next post.