Old Journals

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Do you journal? If so, I hope that once in a while you pull an old one down and read what you wrote years ago. I’ve been doing that lately, remembering God’s moments of grace through happy times and sad, seeing where I’ve (finally!) learned a lesson that once befuddled me and, truth be told, discovering places where I’m still struggling with the same challenges about which I filled pages a decade ago.

Here are a few quotes from the Brenda of  2005:

“There is only panic when I set my own agenda.” (That’s right, folks, I’ve been working on letting God be in control for a long, long time!)

“The people who watch us notice the ‘little things’—the daily habits, etc., more than the big events of our lives.” (Just last week, a perfect stranger passed Steve and me on the sidewalk and said, “Oh, keep holding hands!”)

“One effective tool of forgiveness is to pray blessings on those I need to forgive.” (Ever have to work, really work, on letting go of an offense? This does help!)

And then, there’s this for all you romantics out there:

“Elizabeth and I are in Colorado to enjoy the preliminaries of a wedding. When asked to write advice on a card, I found there was so much I wanted to say!

I wrote:

  • Believe the best of one another always.
  • Take walks together often; they open up special opportunities for communication.
  • Say “yes” and “I love you” many times every day.
  • Tithe, and spend less than you make.

But I also wanted to say:

  • Expect and encourage the best of each other.
  • Follow all of God’s rules, but don’t put much stock in the ones man makes up.
  • Don’t buy a TV for at least a year. Discover better ways to rest and play together.
  • Be generous to one another.
  • Don’t “keep score’ of anything in your relationship.
  • Make all significant decisions as a team.
  • Point out each other’s strengths. Make up for each other’s faults.

What do your journals say? Or if you had one, what would you have written about your lessons of long ago? I’d love to hear, so please share!

 

photo by Debby Hudson
@dhudson_creative via Unsplash.com

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Because Today We need to Trust–original post by Lucinda Secrest McDowell*

LucindaI looked up at Daddy with wide-eyed, ten-year-old amazement, “I can’t believe you burned down ‘Brookside.’”

The fire had left its devastation — everything around us was black and charred. There were no tall grasses left, no bushes, no wildflowers. ‘Brookside’ was our family’s small farm just outside town, a place where we fished, hunted, played, rode horses, and spent campouts at the cabin dubbed by my parents as “The Last Resort.”

“Oh, Cindygirl, I didn’t burn down ‘Brookside’,” Daddy replied with a grin. “This is what is called ‘controlled burning’ – setting carefully guarded fires to clean out the underbrush and make way for new spring growth. Remember, I’m a forester. This is what we do every year.”

I wanted to trust Daddy, to believe that what he said was indeed the truth.

But the blackened ground didn’t look like it would ever see green again. It seemed more reasonable to trust what my eyes saw instead of what my ears heard. Tentatively I sought to grasp what he had said. “So, it only looks like you destroyed ‘Brookside,’ but what you were really doing is preparing it for growing?”

“Exactly, “Daddy explained. “Those weeds and tall grasses would have choked back the new plants and flowers coming this spring, so we clear that away, and before you know it, this whole area will once again be covered in beautiful green.”

For another moment I experienced an internal battle between what the person I trusted was saying and what I was actually seeing.

I knew that my daddy loved this farm – that he enjoyed walking through the trails and boating on the two ponds and driving the jeep from the brooks that bordered each side of the vast acreage. I also knew that he always replenished the lands that provided wood for his pulpwood business.

Most of all, I knew that he was a person I could believe with all my heart. I chose to trust him because I knew him so well.

And my trust was rewarded with visible evidence — by the very next weekend there were tiny shoots of green peeking up all over the farm!

The psalmist encourages us to “Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).

When we are young children, our parents should embody the same kind of safety, refuge and trustworthiness as our heavenly Father. In my life, I was privileged to make an easy transition from trusting a trustworthy father to trusting my heavenly Father. But sadly, we know that is not always the case.

How can we live out the word ‘trust’ when others have betrayed our trust so many times that we have become wary?

 In this verse, the word trust is translated from the Hebrew word chacah, a verb which means to seek refuge or put trust in God. Its noun form, machacah, is actually interchangeable with our English word ‘refuge.’ So when we speak of trust, we are also speaking of a safe place to dwell – actually living in a refuge of trust.

As my childhood story suggests, one of the stumbling blocks in trusting is that trust involves saying no to our natural tendencies and yes to what sometimes appears impossible. That’s where faith comes in.

My father was a worthy object of my trust and so I chose to believe what he said instead of what I mistakenly deduced from my surroundings. I could wholeheartedly put my trust in him because I knew his heart.

What do you see when you look at your life today? Is there devastation? Have dreams been shattered? Are resources depleted? It’s pretty easy to trust that what you see must be the final reality.

But you might be wrong.

The burnt-out brush of your life right now might very well be a carefully ‘controlled burning’ orchestrated by your heavenly Father to provide ideal conditions for new growth. Maybe something in your life has to go so that God can replace it with something even better.

Will you trust Him to do that in His way and His time?

 

Originally posted at http://www.encouragingwords.net/

*Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she delights in “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.”  A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional), Ordinary Graces (2018 SELAH finalist), Live These Words,  Refresh! and Role of a Lifetime.  A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for The Write Conversation and Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/


 

Bother to Obey?

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Why, when it can be so hard, do we bother to obey the Lord? This (with a good bit of editing and updating) is the answer Hannah Whitall Smith gave over 100 years ago:

“When we choose obedience, we bring joy to our Lord as well. Our deep love for him is perfectly reasonable, but the fact that he loves us so deeply is truly amazing! What does ‘loving him back’ look like? For one thing, it looks like obedience. Jesus told his disciples that the first and greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). That commandment leads us to ask ourselves:

  • Will we make him our greatest love?
  • Will we follow him, even when there’s no apparent reward, even if following him leads to a life of separateness or suffering?
  • Will we let him have complete control of all we are and all we have?
  • And what if our Christian friends don’t agree with our level of devotion?

“Say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes!’ to each of these questions. Pour out all your devotion on our Lord. Give him your enthusiastic surrender, even if it upsets some of the more moderate Christians around you. Why should you care if some don’t understand your choice? An intimate friendship with Christ is both your duty and your joy. When Christ makes his ways known to us, we have the great privilege of walking in them.

“Your whole-hearted devotion is precious to the Lord. Perhaps others don’t approve, but he does, and that’s enough. Don’t hold back. Lay your whole life open to him and say each morning, ‘Lord, help me to live this day in a way that pleases you. Give me spiritual insight to discover your will. Guide my every step.’ Don’t let a day, or even an hour, go by in which you aren’t consciously following him.”

I’ve loved Hannah’s words for years. They challenge and console me. How do they strike you today?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.com

Tips for a Stunning Life

 

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I can’t take any credit for today’s blog. I got it from my friend Becky, who got it from the Tips for a Stunning Life blog found here:  and used with permission. I love this simple list and hope you’ll choose a couple of these challenges for yourself. Please let me know which are your favorites!

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. & while you walk, SMILE. It is the ultimate antidepressant.
2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
3. When you wake up in the morning, pray to ask God’s
guidance for your purpose, today.
4. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food
that is manufactured in plants.
5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, broccoli, and almonds.
6. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
7. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
9. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Forgive them for everything!
11. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
12. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
13. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
14. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’
17. Help the needy, Be generous! Be a ‘Giver’ not a ‘Taker’.
18. What other people think of you is none of your business.
19. Time heals everything.
20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
21. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
23. Each night before you go to bed, pray and be thankful for what you accomplished today.
24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed

Photo by Casey Horner via Unsplash.com

The Saying Goes…

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Steve loves those quirky signs we all see in gift shops and coffee shops. They’re usually made out of a slat of wood or a square of canvas and sport short sayings fit for coffee mugs and fortune cookies (and the little paper squares attached to Yogi tea bags.) Every once in a while he’ll take a snapshot of one and text it around to family members, or maybe post it on Facebook. A few days ago I saw one that said,

“If anything can go well it will.”

  • Murphy’s Law in reverse!
  • Romans 8:28 in slang!
  • And, sadly, something you’ll almost never hear anyone say.

But why not? Isn’t it just as likely that the toast will fall jelly side up? Isn’t it possible that getting lost will lead to a new adventure? Really, now, don’t things go well a lot of the time?

It all depends on how we approach life. Yes, there are plenty of hard times to face, plenty of bugs and bugaboos waiting to spoil our plans. But I have to land, every time, on God is in control. The Bible is full of verses commanding us to approach our days with singing and rejoicing. We rejoice

because God is in control.

because he loves us.

because we await eternity.

One of my favorite verses talks about singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Isn’t that how we almost always can—and should—start our days? It all starts when the alarm goes off. I went to school where a favorite phrase was “Expect a miracle.” Expectations are everything when it comes to attitude. And why not expect a miracle? In fact, we begin each day with a miracle—the miracle of Christ in us, with us, going before us. And today, like every day, things can and will go well.

Sing!

Trust!

Begin with the end in mind—a day spent in the company of our Lord.

And let me know how your day goes!

Kicked Forward by Beth Smith

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We all have troubles in our lives, but take a look at the life of the Apostle Paul:

  1. Given thirty-nine lashes five different times
  2. Beaten with rods on three occasions
  3. Stoned once
  4. Shipwrecked three times
  5. Adrift on the open sea for a whole night and a day
  6. Exposed to danger from flooded rivers, robbers and those who hated him
  7. Imprisoned
  8. Denied needed sleep
  9. Plagued by hunger and thirst
  10. Cold because he lacked proper clothing

Pretty horrible, right? Yet here was Paul’s response:

I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency)” (Philippians 4:13 AMP).

If Paul had quit, had lost his faith in God’s power because of his difficulties, we would be missing ten books of the New Testament. But Paul knew a secret about his strength. He had a “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows for sure what it was. He begged God to take it away, but God’s response was, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Then Paul said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT).

We all have problems, and plenty of weaknesses, but we can be strong in the Lord. God never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. And he uses our hard times.

  • Four of Paul’s letters were written when Paul was a prisoner in Rome.
  • Martin Luther translated the Bible while forced to hide in a German castle.
  • John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison in Belford, England.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote monumental Christian literature from a concentration camp.

What might God do with us if we use our misfortunes to draw close to him?

Dr. E. Stanley Jones wrote this about the Apostle Paul: “If Satan was to kick him, then Paul would determine the direction in which the blows would take him—forward!”

It’s during the difficult times of life that we get kicked forward. Those are the times we draw closer to God.

When Paul wrote that he had the strength for all things through Christ, he was in prison. Still he knew that God was using him and empowering him. Nothing can happen to us that won’t “kick us forward,” if we are determined to depend on and trust in our loving, heavenly Father. I can just see us as making the devil cringe when we say, “Go ahead! Make my day! Kick me forward!”

 

Photo by Jason Briscoe @Unsplash