God Buts

Recently I received some information I had been waiting for. I anticipated it, but when I got it I was very disappointed. The inner war began inside me:

  • the struggle of continuing vs. giving up
  • hearing lies of the enemy of continuing

This week has been a physical struggle as well. Not feeling well and going through some health issues had me feeling down.

However, there were God buts that kept popping up in my mind (italics mine):

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 (NIV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

The more I read the scriptures, the better I became inwardly. If I continued being stuck in the negativity of my mind, based on the news I heard, the way I physically felt, I would downwardly spiral into an abyss I could not get out of. But God, who is rich in mercy, and full of compassion and love towards me, let me know my only recourse is to continue on. And when I do, He will be there, continuing to encourage and strengthen me.

And so I encourage you to watch out for God buts. Read them and tuck them away in your heart. And when you feel like life is taking you down a negative thought pattern, remember your buts from God, and be strengthenized.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” Psalm 85:15 (NIV)

Behold

I started watching the latest season of a favorite tv show, which got me thinking some things. It was like God was talking to me, assuring me of something, that I’d like to share.

As is usually the case, the show’s writers create the script that is full of confusion, chaos within family relationships, even chaos from within. In this episode, the matriarch used one of my favorite verses in her sermon: Isaiah 43:19:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; shall ye not know it?”

Within my mind came a thought: When you wait for the chaos to settle, the answer will come.

At that instant, tears came down my cheek. I started breathing hard, I felt like God gave me a word. I can’t explain it anymore than that. I worshipped the Lord, just thanking Him for the ‘heads up’. Now I don’t what is about to happen, or who it will happen to. I only know that God saw to it that through whatever means necessary, He gave me something I needed to know. I prayed that when chaos comes, to remind me of this moment.

In the tv show, though the family suffered a loss, the chaos calmed down, answers came and decisions were made. And even though I know the episode was created from the minds of the show’s writers, I know God can use any vehicle to get His word across.

Behold…

Brand New Possibilities

Today I had an agenda to hold myself accountable: a) finish cleaning my apartment, b) clean the Benny the cat’s bathroom, otherwise known as the liter box, c) not to get nervous about today’s virtual book release party. Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t so bad.

Both mine and Benny’s bathrooms got cleaned. Once my publisher arrived, we set up doing a conference on Facebook Live regarding my book launch. At first things were going smoothly, friends came to the launch and all was well…until the technical difficulties started. While everyone was patient and we got back on after three tries, I felt a bit frustrated. My nervousness, at the beginning had left, but soon returned. Kyra my publisher remained patient, and before long we were back on track though we had lost some time dealing with the difficulties.

I remembered a verse of the day reading I glanced at before the launch party began:

“I will refresh the weary

and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25

What I truly did not like had nothing to do with the launch party: it was my face looked on the computer screen. I looked every bit of the weight I had been carrying for years and I didn’t like it. Perhaps this is where the feelings of being weary and faint were stemming from. Though I started a new diet this week, the moment I looked at the screen, I felt defeated. But the above verse gave me enlightenment and encouragement to continue.

After the launch party was over, I thought about going to a restaurant to get something that was not full of any nutritional value to drain my feelings as I usually do. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t go. Going for fast food is the thing I would have done, but today that did not happen. I knew that decision did not come from me. It was the result of praying earlier for help, and that Source kept me from venturing out and doing something that would make me feel negative about myself later.

And so I will continue on with this weight struggle. I will continue to learn what it means to not rely on myself, but on the power of God to get me through to victory. Today I believe was significant.

“You are o-pen-ing my eyes, You’re o-pen-ing my eyes Lord, to brand new pos-si-bi-li-ties…” from the song Edge of My Seat by TobyMac

God Weight

I was thinking over some things and a term came to mind: God Weight.  I defined it as weight that was only intended for God to carry, yet many believers make the attempt to carry weight they’re not equipped to handle on their own.

Since I can only speak about myself, I am guilty of being a God-weight carrier.  Words like control and independence come to mind. I try to do my best in my independent mindset to handle the challenging situations myself, rather than ask for help. This goes against God’s invitation extended to us, of being available to come to our aid, if we would only ask. For example,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”                 Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7 (KJV)

There is no need to carry what is too heavy for you, when there is Someone mightier and more than able to handle the weight, full of solutions that will conclude the matter once for all. I invite you to stop carrying God weight, give it over to Him, and I will try my best to do the same. Be strengthenized…

Feeling Dry? Get Some Hydration.

With all this hand washing I have been doing in the past months, I found my hands were getting very itchy. I realized by process of elimination I could no longer use soap from the dollar store. It seems there was something in its content that my skin was reacting to. Once I stopped using it, the itching went away in a couple of days.

I also realized that drinking water was very helpful. The more I drank, the better I felt. But when I stopped, I didn’t feel as good. I especially felt this way when I would drink a lot of water for a week, and for some reason stop.

Have you felt dry lately? Is it your prayer life? Jesus made it a point during his time on earth to consistently make time to pray to the Father, particularly early in the morning. I believe it was the energy that resulted from his praying that gave him the power to continue throughout the day. Perhaps we should prioritize prayer.

What words are you reading? Is it media soundbites of the pandemic that keep you dried out, stressing from the latest news of the virus, crippled by fear of what would happen if you or a loved one gets it? Perhaps the ‘watering’ of God’s Word will help you experience that His love through His Word casts out all fear, giving you a sound mind in the process.

How are you spending your time? Binging on watching tv shows can be a drying experience that drains the time that could be spent just talking to God, emptying how you feel about what’s going on in your world, and giving Him control of those things you can’t solve. Spending time with God is quality time put to good use. Yielding those concerns over to Him can replace the dryness you may be feeling.

Choose to no longer be dehydrated from the cares of this world, devoid of natural and spiritual moisture. Instead, seek the freshness of God’s Word, extending an invitation to be moist in the newness of God’s hydration through prayer, reading God’s Word, and experiencing fellowship with Him. I will do the same as I drink my bottle of water…

Be strengthenized…

From the NIV of the Bible:

“And when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”                  Matthew 6:6

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  Psalms 119:105

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Analysis of 21 Days

One day I felt awful. I didn’t know why, but I realized for the past few days I spent my days slumped in the chair sleeping the hours away. I didn’t feel sick, but I did feel terrible. Something has to give, I thought to myself. I knew I had to do something to change how I was feeling. Since I have read that doing something for 21 days will initiate a habit, I decided that whatever I did, it would be for twenty-one days. So here was my plan:

  • use my newly purchased spin bike for at least 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. I would go on youtube.com and search for 20 minute videos: I took a liking to the GCN site
  • I would find cardio videos for 20 minutes and videos that used weights, all to mix it up, so I wouldn’t be doing the same things every day
  • I would change my eating habits, so I bought cookbooks with the Mediterranean diet recipes, and learn how to make veggie/protein bowls

I was ready to begin. The day before the first of 21 days began, I went to the grocery store and got the food needed for this plan, and once home I cut up the veggies and lettuce, and cooked the protein; that way it would not take long to put the bowls together for a meal.

The first day was a beast on the bike, I was so out of breath, and sweating profusely; but at least I got through it while keeping pace with the video. As time wore on, it seemed after the first week I wanted to do more than 20 minutes on the bike and 10 – 15 minutes of cardio, so I upped the ante on each type of exercise. I did cardio at least 20 minutes, and one time I did it for an hour! I admit I had to stop the video a few times, but again, I got through it and felt pumped of that accomplishment. By day 15 I changed the bike class to 40 minutes, but that proved too much, so I found a sweet spot in doing 30 minutes. Then I discovered I no longer hated the bike; I started liking the exercise. Go figure!

The veggie bowls were fine, but there were many times I just didn’t want to eat anything. There were times when I forced myself to eat, and other times all I wanted to do was eat. But I noticed I cut out fried foods, soda and candy (though I did sneak in a slice of cake from time to time).

The twenty-first day was today, and I promised myself that I would not weigh myself until today. Two pounds lost….wah, wah, wah.  😦   That’s all? I thought. I fought plummeting into a valley of despair, praying to God and apologizing for not doing better.

But I realized some things had happened that was more than just the weight issue:

  • I was sleeping better, more soundly, and I was getting back to having a sleep schedule that aided in my sleeping habits.
  • My belly was so huge as it once was. There is more to be worked on regarding this, I acknowledged, but there was much improvement in this area. Also my ankles weren’t so swollen as they once were
  • I stuck to drinking more water
  • I didn’t eat a lot of restaurant/fast food anymore. Of the 21 days I may have done that once a week, and the last week I didn’t eat out at all. That means I utilized my kitchen and cooked a lot, putting cooked meat in the freezer and taking it out when I needed it. In turn, that cut down on expenses. And regarding the cake, if I went to the grocery store when it opened, the bakery did not put the slices that early, so I couldn’t get any
  • I committed myself to exercise six days a week, at least 30 minutes a days, which adds up to 180 minutes a week.

While I have to focus on the positive of what has taken place, I must do an analysis on those areas that need improvement. In this case, it is food intake. More veggies, less protein and more fruit. As for another twenty-one day commitment: I think I can do that.

Through praying to God, I felt encouragement to continue and not stop because I did not achieve a substantial weight loss. In talking to others, I still hear testimonies of losing ten pounds or more, which discourages me. But the question I ask myself is should the negative outweigh my goal of losing weight and getting healthy? Thank God I can say no to that question. So I will continue.

Another point I have to admit to myself. I can’t do this all by myself, I need help. The encouragement of others and constantly asking God for his power that enables me to say no to myself when I want to devour a pizza or eat a piece of cake. God says if I seek His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things shall be added. God told Joshua to keep the Law, meditating on and doing it constantly, and then he would be prosperous and successful.  I need to do the same.

Whatever is challenging  you, prosper and be in good health, even as your soul  prospers. Focus on what God has to say regarding how to live life, that He will always be with you no matter what, and if we emphasize and implement what He says in our everyday living, success will come. Be strengthenized…

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”   3 John 1:2

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayeth observe to do…for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1:8

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

Faith 167

I was watching a sermon from Pastor Shawn Johnson of Red Rocks Church that is located in Colorado. Like his other messages, this one was another good one, but it moved me to write. He gave many examples of what faith could be, and what many don’t experience. For him, one instance sent him on a downward spiral to deep depression.

He spoke of being on the floor, so deep into despair that he could not get up. His wife Jill persevered with him, even if that meant being on the floor with him. This season kept him from being pastor at Red Rocks, as he needed to work on himself. After he got better, he went to visit his spiritual father, who gave him a simple bit of advice. He asked Shawn if he spent time with God, not because he was searching for the next sermon, or he needed a scripture to base the sermon on, but if he listened to worship music and spent time with God.

Shawn had to regrettably admit that he had not. What did he have to do, and how can this be applied to the faith walk of the believer?

In his sermon series 167: Stay Home Faith, the main theme is this:

  • there are 168 hours in a week
  • of those hours, many go to church, say, for an hour, so that hour is dedicated to God
  • after attending church service, there are no more hours during the remainder of the week spent with God or others of the faith
  • What happens to the other 167?

Therein is the difference between experiential faith and knowledgeable faith. Being knowledgeable in something does not necessarily mean one has experienced it. So for example, if wedding vows said at the wedding ceremony are full of beautiful prose from each soon-to-be spouse to each other that makes the audience swoon and get teary-eyed, Shawn suggests in a funny way that that not be done. Instead he offers they not say vows like that, but wait at least a couple of years, and see if they can still say such lovely words to each other. By that time there married life has been  experienced, and maybe the words will have changed.

Or how about this one? Reading children books on how to be a parent is way different than taking the baby home and starting the years of experience of actually being a parent. The nights of staying up with the baby, not having a clue of how to stop the crying, then fast forward to experiencing how to deal with that child when he or she becomes a teenager.

But once one experiences what it is like in each of these instances, living life is so much different. Now the knowledge has linked up with the experiential, and life is now rooted and grounded, becoming richer because of the experience.

During the sermon, a picture was posted on the screen, giving an aerial view of a neighborhood that had been devastated after hurricane Harvey. The majority of the homes were flattened… except for two.  These two houses may have been damaged, but both were not flattened, they still stood after withstanding the forces of the storm. Here are the pictures:

See the source image   Image result for pictures of houses after hurricane still standing

The white house was closest to the beach. When interviewed, those that built the home stated that the foundation was built way down beneath the surface in preparation for any storms that may come. The other house seemed to be protected by the white house during the storm.

Jesus taught on this wise:

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-28

One hour of going to church is not enough. Spending time obtaining knowledge to complete a sermon is not enough. Reading about being a parent is not the same as actually being one, and saying vows at a wedding ceremony need to be coupled with the experience of married life. The experience of reading God’s Word, having it implanted in your heart is how foundation is established. Learning how to pray is one thing; actually doing it is quite another, as praying causes the relationship between you and God to flourish and deepen. Asking God for help brings him into the situation, causing the foundation of faith to become take root, giving the believer not only a knowledge of knowing what could happen, but experiencing what has taken place. This type of faith, when molded with the experiential, offers a foundational faith that can withstand the storms of life, allowing the believer to stand.

So what can you do with the remaining 167? I hope you will apply a chunk of it to foundation-building…be strengthenized.

 

Someone to Lean On

There is a Volvo commercial that I love, not because of the product being presented, but because of the song entitled Lean On.  One line sticks with me throughout the day:

All we need is somebody to lean on…”

I found the original version of the song, and it sounds nothing like what is in the commercial. It is more fast-paced, a song you would hear in a club perhaps. The version in the commercial is just the opposite: slowed down, and has the tone of comfort to the one listening to it. 

More than ever, this line is what many of us need. Millions worldwide are looking for answers to lean on, conclusions that would help them come to terms with their fear and concerns over the virus pandemic.

If only we could find that someone to lean on.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary includes in its definitions of the word lean to mean

to cast one’s weight to one side for support

to rely for support or inspiration

to incline, defined further as to lean, bend, or become drawn toward an opinion or course of conduct

A verse comes to mind: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7

A fisherman with a fishing rod casts the line forward, to get it in the water and lure a catch of fish. On the end of the line may be a worm that will lure the fish to come and take a bite. What do you want to cast out into the deep? Is it the fear you have been experiencing from news of the virus spreading worldwide? Is it the concern you have over bills piling up because you have been laid off? Is it not knowing if your business will permanently close or remain open?

As you cast (representative of leaning) your finances out into the deep, reel in God’s provision. As you cast fear out into the deep, reel in God’s peace.  Cast out whenever something nags at you that would cause you to experience the negativity of your situation and concern of you and your family. Believe that God will make a way; only believe He can do so. You may have to wait for it, but keep asking and keep believing.  That is the essence of leaning in and having Someone to Lean On…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy and Seek

Given the time we are currently living in, I went to the store to get some groceries. As you probably know, water is hard to come by, and items that once were in large quantities are quite nil. I find myself trying to guess the day of the week and the time to go to the grocery store in hopes of finding that the delivery has been made and the food is somewhat plentiful. Sometimes that works, and other times it does not.

Shopping malls are closed, so I can’t get my shopping fix on. Amazon and DSW online had become my coping mechanisms, until I realized that needed to stop. I began to think of what I really needed to buy that would assist me in living life, not just buying stuff that I really didn’t need, if I am honest with myself.

Then I as led to Isaiah 55. It was a passage I needed to read. This passage presented an invitation to anyone who is thirsty and has no money coming to a place to buy, but money would not be needed, and you could buy what you wanted, “without money and without price.” The second verse really got me thinking. Reworded, the verse asks a question I had to consider. Why spend money for things that don’t satisfy, and why waste some much of your time on things that don’t satisfy you?

The next part of this chapter offers a solution. Incline, or listen to me, God says, as an everlasting covenant will be made, making the one who inclines a witness to people, who don’t know you and you don’t know them. But because of your witness to them they will run to the Lord. And here is the verse that is popular with many: God’s ways and thoughts are higher than what we possess. Later in the chapter it speaks of God’s Word, once declared and spoken out into the atmosphere, will not return void, as one goes out with joy, being led by peace.

In times such as these, what should we do? Buy things we don’t need and stay to ourselves, or get the Word out, being an encourager to as many as we can about the Lord? If we buy the right things to satisfy our inner thirst, that satisfaction will enable us to proclaim to the world.

If you purchase the right things to quench your spiritual thirst, joy and peace will come your way. The writer challenges us to seek the Lord while he can be found, and call on Him while He is near. With all this time on our hands, what better time to seek God.

Buy freely, and seek intently…