Yesterday morning,I went on a brisk walk. I needed a slight attitude adjustment and I thought some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise would help me out. Interestingly, but not conveniently, while I was in my forward progression down the street, so was a neighborhood garbage truck. It was rather uncanny; my pace and the truck’s duties seemed to line up perfectly. The large truck would stop to collect garbage while I moved ahead; but then, it would invariably catch up with me, and we’d be side by side again. This systematic timing went on and on. I turned right, and to my disgruntlement, so did the garbage truck. I couldn’t seem to escape its route or the awful smell that went along with it.
While breathing in the not-so-fresh-air, my mind made a connection: What if our thoughts and emotions had smells attached to them? What if the age-old phrase, your attitude stinks, were actually true in the heavenly realm? What odor would worry put off? Or bitterness? Or unforgiveness? 2 Timothy 2:16-17 refers to empty chatter spreading like gangrene—now that’s stinky for sure!
How do we rid ourselves of the “stink?” Soon after my walk, the Lord directed me to these verses: O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! May my prayer be counted as incense before you; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering (Psalm 141:1-2). Can it be that our prayers “smell good” to God?
I looked further into “incense offerings” and found Exodus 30:7-8: And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on (the altar). Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. My bible’s commentary explained that the incense represented the prayers and praises of God’s people. Also, the incense helped extinguish the smell of the dead animals that had just been sacrificed. With the explanation of this ancient practice, here is my present-day thought: maybe when we lay down our worry, pride, bitterness, or you-name-it-stinky-sin, and change them into prayers instead, then these new words become the fragrance that rises to heaven.
Today, let’s rid ourselves of the garbage-truck-odors, and then replace them with a lovely aroma of prayer instead. For me:
I will lay down worrying about my children, and instead, pray for each one of them by name.
I will lay down resentment towards my coworker, and instead, ask God to bless him.
I will lay down negativity, and instead, lift up praises to the One who gives me breath.
It’s humbling to think that our words can be counted as incense before the Lord. Let’s trust that he not only enjoys the sound of our voices, but that he also delight sin the sweet fragrance of our uplifted prayers.
Overthinking is under-trusting. This phrase came to me in the wee hours of the morning as I was tossing and turning over something HUGE in my life. Ironically, I now don’t even remember the reason for my fretting. At the time, however, I was all twisted up, both in my bedcovers and in my mind as I took turns playing the ShouldI/ Shouldn’t I and What if games. I’m not only the queen of second-guessing,I’m the queen of 222nd-guessing.
When I toss and turn, I’m like that double-minded individual that’s mentioned in Scripture who asks for wisdom but doubts when receiving it. “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James1:7-8).
What is the remedy to these unnecessary wrestling matches within my mind? Here are three thoughts that helped me remember where to turn:
1. Choose to trust God’s promises.
It’s one thing to know God’s promises, but it’s another thing to believe them. In times of confusion, will I cling to God’s truth or will I hold onto my fabrications? Questions such as these: What if I’m making a mistake in this decision, or, Did I really hear from God, can be replaced with promises such as this: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you”(Psalm 32:8). In this verse alone, God is promising to instruct me…to teach me… to counsel me. So instead of twirling with anxiety, I can repeatedly thank him for these promises and then walk confidently by faith in his leading.
2. Choose to trust God’sSpirit.
I confess: I tend to overthink his Spirit. Sadly, this fleshly pause can sometimes lead to complete withdrawal. When God’s whisper enters my heart, nudging me to do his will, my choice is to either press forward in faith or shrink back in fear. Even if I happen to be “mis-hearing”him, can I not trust my Good Shepherd enough to lead me back onto his right path? Certainly, I can! He is that good. I must remember, God looks at my faith-filled heart, rather than my flawless steps.
3. Choose to trust wise friends and mentors.
These carefully selected people can help confirm God’s truth in my life. Sharing my thoughts with those who will listen, encourage, advise, and pray is a built-in blessing from God. He knows we need each other!
With these things in place, no moreover-thinking! No more tossing and turning with needless mind-games! Instead, fully trust! Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:7). It’s time for me to follow God’s lead without hesitation.
Will you join me? We’ve got kingdom work to do—no doubt about it.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your living word and your abiding Spirit. Thank you for wise friends and mentors that you have placed in my life. In times of over-thinking, help me to recall your truths and trust your voice. Keep my heart in line with yours and make my footsteps firm. I want to move forward in faith every single day, confidently living for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
It’s only been a little over a month since the tragic Covenant shootings in Nashville, and it seems as if life has moved on for most of us
…but not for all of us.
Let’s keep our friends who are still suffering such great loss in our prayers. Life is forever changed for them.
As I’ve been praying over the parents, spouses, and loved ones in this tragedy, the Lord brought to my mind and resurfaced a poem I wrote in 2009 about another tragic loss of a young child. So, following the Lord’s lead, I went to my “writing cabinet” and dug it up.
It’s entitled “Holding onto Life”. I’m sharing it today as a reminder and a prayer.
For all those who have lost a loved one to a tragedy, hear Jesus whisper to your heart:“I’m holding you both.”
“Holding onto Life”
O, my God
O, my God, no!
A heart of sorrow, tears of pain-
This, my God, is more than a sting.
Where’s the victory? Where’s the hope?
No, no, no, I cannot cope.
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, Holding onto Christ…
He gently whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of sadness, tears remain,
An earthly loss for a heavenly gain-
And this is the story that You wrote?
Reassure my heart, You love “the most.”
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, Holding onto Christ…
He sweetly whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of aching, tears make stains,
Tears of anguish well up again-
I’m trusting, trusting—the Living Hope.
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, holding onto Christ…
He softly whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of longing, tears untamed,
Release, hold on, release again-
Remind me she’s singing with the heavenly hosts.
Let my soul hear her boldly boast,
“Holding onto Life! Holding onto Life!
Holding onto Life! Holding onto Christ!”
While I cling to Your vow, “I’m holding you both.”
O, my God
O my God, help me say… "Yes."
Do you sometimes feel hopeless when it comes to getting your "act together" as a Christian?
You think you've failed the Lord miserably, or destroyed your witness thoroughly, or messed up his plans completely.
Well, you're in good company.
Let me remind you of Jesus' disciple, Peter.
He was a young fisherman by trade, and had a "pistol" of a personality.
Peter was the one that spoke BEFORE he thought.
He also was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk on water.
And...he reactively chopped off a Roman soldier's ear.
And then, on one of his worst days, he denied his best Friend three times.
Words to describe him would be spontaneous, impulsive, and immature.
It's safe to say that he didn't have his "act together."
But the good news is this: Jesus chose Peter, as is. While on the earth, Jesus walked with Peter, talked with Peter, corrected Peter, encouraged Peter, and affirmed Peter. What gives me great hope is that the God-man was able to see this young follower not only "as is", but also what he was going to be.
Peter was a work-in-progress.
And goodness, how he did progress! We can find the rest of Peter's faith-walk in the book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit entered in and transformed him. Amazingly, the same man that shouted, "I don't know Him!" and ran for his life the night Jesus was betrayed, later became the man that took his stand (Acts 2:14) and proclaimed Him as the resurrected Lord and Savior. As a result, about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41). And that was just the beginning of his ministry! We can observe how he matured into a great leader through reading his God-inspired letters, 1 and 2 Peter.
Peter's growth that spanned over decades of his life should encourage us!
Jesus CHOSE him when he was not much older than an out-of-control teenager. But through the grace of our Savior, and the power of His Spirit, God did great things in and through him.
And He will do the same with any willing heart.
Don't give up. Allow God's word to mature you and his Spirit to mold you, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.
Take hope in the fact that you are His beautiful work-in-progress.
I thought I would repost this advice for those who are in the midst of a bleak long winter...
A couple of weeks ago, on a cold dreary day, I was cocooned in a blanket on my couch for my usual Saturday afternoon nap. With college football on in the background and my little dog nestled at my feet, I couldn't help but feel the oncoming winter, not outside my home, but inside my soul. As I lay there, I was talking to God about it, saying, "O God, here it comes...that old familiar gloom that I'm going to wrestle, off and on, for the next several months. Please GIVE me something to help me move forward in this season."
Wrapped in my blanket, he unfolded a plan.
Before I go further, I want to empathize with all of you who deal with depression of some kind. And also, I want to ask for grace from those of you who do not. A way to explain a depressed spirit is to compare it to a rainy day. When it's raining outside, one cannot say, "It's not raining." Likewise, someone who is dealing with depression, is indeed depressed. To say, "Get over it", is defeating on many levels.
We may not get over it, but with God's strength, we can function in it. Just like opening an umbrella, putting on a rain jacket, and stepping into galoshes all help shield us from physical rain, these steps below can help you and me when the gloom creeps in.
Here is the unfolding that took place as I lay listening to the Lord. Its outline is the acronym GIVE:
G--Give yourself grace, one day at a time. Do what you can do that day. Also "G" stands for these things: Get sleep--so important! Get dressed--I mean that spiritually first. Spend time with the Lord every morning and let him speak truth into your heart. God's word is my life-line. I need him to reroute my thinking EVERY morning. Also, Get dressed physically. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Simply freshen up. Get out of your PJs (even if you're putting on other comfy clothes). Here are your options: Get up or Give in. Choose to get up, and with grace, inch forward.
I--Initiate. Physically, do something productive. One day it may be as small as clearing the kitchen sink of dirty dishes; another day it may be to write a book! Again, grace for each new day. Also, Initiate relationally. Send one text that asks someone how they are doing or how you can pray for them. Or, make a phone call. Or, meet someone face to face. Think about somebody else rather than yourself. Get "willfully lost in the rain" by praying for dozens of people you know and love. Your choices are: Initiate... or isolate. Today, choose to Initiate.
V--claim Victory "in the rain". The grey clouds may not stop rolling in and spilling out, but you can choose to be victorious as it pours. This is where my faith in Christ becomes my stronghold. HE is with me always as my closest Companion. I am never alone. He is light and love inside of me through his Spirit. His grace and strength move me forward no matter how I feel. In the rain, I can and I will rejoice. Victory in it, or victim of it. Ask the Lord to help you choose the former.
E--This is very practical: Eat well, Exercise regularly, Enjoy a wholesome hobby. Quite frankly, I really don't like eating healthy foods, ugh. I'm trying to develop a taste for broccoli and other green things, but chips and chocolate will always be my favorites. In the aging process however, I'm much more aware of the adverse effects of unhealthy eating. Therefore, I'm inching forward in the nutrition department. Concerning, Exercise, just do it, says Nike. Pick something; anything is better than nothing. I walk with a friend and we pray together; this has been transformational for me in numerous ways and I highly recommend it to everyone. And then, Enjoy. What do you love to do? Make room for this activity (or non-activity; for example, I enjoy my Saturday afternoon nap, "watching" football with my husband.) Eat well, Exercise, Enjoy or... escape into unhealthy alternatives. Again, ask God to help you choose the former.
On that cold dreary day in November, I rolled over inside of my cozy blanket on the couch and thanked God for his detailed Counseling session. (To think, it was free!) And then a little later, I decided it was time to get up. I went to the kitchen and cleared the sink of the dirty dishes...claiming absolute victory, in the rain.
I'm in the midst of leading a group of ladies through my ABC devotional in which every letter of the alphabet has a Biblical phrase to live by (https://www.respitefortheweary.com/category/awesome-bible-concepts-abc). Today we came to the Letter "L" and I thought I would share it with all of you. It's a familiar story, but as we enter a New Year, let's hear it again for the purpose of choosing "the good part" from the "get go"...
Loving Lord of my Life? Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42.
In the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus was speaking to a room full of people who were hungry to hear truth. His words were full of life and peace, so the crowd sat a His feet, feasting on every word. Meanwhile, Martha was scurrying back and forth in the kitchen preparing food for the people. When she looked up and saw Mary sitting at Jesus' feet, she became indignant. She asked Jesus, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." Jesus, who loved Martha dearly, said in response, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one…". At this particular time, Martha was allowing the distractions of the world to keep Jesus from being the Lord of her life.
Loving Lord of my Life! Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42 (same passage).
Jesus continued His conversation with Martha and pointed to her sister saying, "For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Mary often sat at the feet of Jesus in order to hear His soothing words; they had become life and peace to her soul. She intentionally chose to make room in her life to be still before Him so she could receive His words of grace and guidance; for Jesus, friend of sinners, had become the Lord of her life.
In comparing these two sisters, both friends of Jesus, here are a few questions:
Who do I most resemble, Martha or Mary?
What are my main distractions in my life today?
Do I want to sit still with the Lord Jesus, with His living word?
Ugh, the Martha/Mary story. Oh so convicting at times! Interestingly, my post writing was delayed because I have been scurrying back and forth a lot lately. Whew, I'm tired. Then I hear the words, "(Chris, Chris) you are worried and bothered by so many things…". How quickly I can get off track.Thankfully, Jesus waits for me to be still, both body and soul. I must remember that my morning quiet time with Him is the most productive thing I do all day. There, I make Him the Lord of my life all over again-- listening to His words of healing and hope, obeying Him when He tells me to pick things up or put things down, trusting Him with my Edited agenda. When I am filled up in this way, my heart and mind are different; the scurrying and worrying are changed to peace and prayer, and the things I do become an act of worship rather than a list of frustrations. The day, all day, belongs to my Lord.
Make a intentional decision to be still; choose the one necessary thing…the good part…it will not be taken away from you. Slow down to a complete stop, then really listen at Jesus' feet, so you can be refreshed in truth and rerouted in love. He is waiting especially for you.
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25
Please come; touch us with your reviving love. Remind us of your truths so we can be strengthened once again. As we open your word, pour into us just what we need for the moment. Refresh us in your Spirit. Amen.