Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listen...How Are You?

I'm thinking of hanging a sign by my desk, like Lucy Van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip: "Psychiatric Help 5 cents" (can't find the "cents" symbol!). It was only 9:30 and I'd already listened to three tough men tell me their troubles. Granted, I ask. When you ask, "How are you?" are you prepared for the answer? Most people don't really tell you. They tell you they are fine or good or okay, but nobody really wants to know, do they? In fact, I once had someone ask me how I was then walk away! Another time, someone asked me and I said, "Should I tell you the truth or lie?" His reply was, "How about somewhere in between?"

I spoke with two different people in 15 minutes about caring for aging parents with Alzheimer's. One man, my age, lives with and cares for his mother all weekend, every weekend. He works all week. He has no life. He has three brothers, but he is the only one who stepped up to the plate. The other guI'm thinking of hanging up a siy told me of his friend whose mother just passed away-sometimes his friend couldn't work for weeks at a time, because he couldn't leave his mother, who also had Alzheimer's. He also had three siblings. No one helped him. Right after that, Man #3 came in and told me he hates being so busy because it's dark when he leaves and dark when he gets home. Everything that needs to be done at home has to wait until Saturday. He said, "I hate to complain; I know I'm lucky to have work."

Here's what I heard:
Man #1:  I feel so alone sometimes. No one seems to care. I'm in this by myself. I have no life of my own. 
Man #2's friend: I feel so alone sometimes. I'm in this alone. I just can't do it all.
Man #3: Sometimes I feel so stressed. I can't do it all myself.

We all have life issues. We are all dealing with some kind of stress. Some of us have aging parents we are taking care of. Some have children, maybe dependent children, who can't take care of themselves and will never leave home. Maybe we work too hard, too many hours and don't have time to take care of the things at home. Sometimes we all feel alone. Sometimes we all feel like we are doing it all, and that no one cares. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen. Sometimes, we just need to know someone cares enough to take five minutes to hear the answer to "How are you?" And when we ask that question, sometimes, we need to realize that someone might really need to unburden. Even tough men.

Lucy never had a very long line at her booth-maybe that's because people didn't like a know-it-all giving advice. We've all heard that expression, "People don't care how much you know...they want to know how much you care." When Job lost everything, his friends came and sat with him. But it wasn't long before they couldn't resist giving him advice. People don't always want our advice. They just want someone to listen. Paul instructed us to carry each other's burdens (Gal 6:2)...yes, he was talking to the church, perhaps to carry the burdens of our "brothers and sisters in Christ" but limiting it to "the church" would be so narrow-minded! He also told us that each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Rom 14:2). Sometimes, all it takes is a listening ear to build someone up. Sometimes, a person needs to unload some of the weight, if for only 5 minutes. Next time you ask someone, "How are you?" try looking them in the eye first. Care.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day: Show You Care (Life Vest Inside)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

O Come Let Us Adorn Thee

People do some weird stuff in their cars. I've seen people do all sorts of things while they're driving: read the paper, work on their laptop, shave, pick their nose, put on make-up (I confess that I've done that!) and the strangest one-once I saw a man brushing his teeth! I love this whole Bluetooth thing because now I can freely talk to myself and people think I'm talking on my built in Bluetooth that I don't have. 

What's even more interesting than what people do in their cars is what people do with their cars-how they adorn them with things. Today I followed a girl with a calculator on her trunk. No lie! It was a little plastic, pink calculator. Now why, I wondered, would you put a calculator on the back of your car? I figured maybe she had a little business going out of her trunk and this way she'd always have a calculator on hand. Why else would you need one?

You can tell a lot about a driver by their bumper stickers. Maybe you remember back in the 80s (90s?) the one that said, "I found it!" and the retort to that, "I never lost it." I have no idea what "it" was supposed to be. The new ones now are, "My child is an honor student at ___School", but I love the retort to that one, "My child can beat up your honor student." or something like that. Other recent ones are the little people which depict your family or the three black letters in a white oval, which make sense only to the person who stuck the sticker on the car.

I used to have a fish on my car. But I had to be a really courteous driver, so I took it off. 

What we put on our car has a lot to say about who we are. If we adorn our car with Jesus things, we darn well better act like a Jesus thing. We wear crosses around our necks, we tatoo our bodies. We wear our slogans on our tee shirts so we don't really have to talk about them, but it gets the point across. When I go to Christian conferences or concerts, I see people wearing Jesus shirts, but rarely do I see them in public. It's safer to wear them where people understand our beliefs. But if we are bold enough to wear our Jesus things in public, we darn well better be prepared to act like a Jesus thing--and we darn well better be prepared to answer the questions that may come! 

What about you? What do you adorn yourself with? I'm talking spiritual clothes now...not your actual clothes. Do the people you work with know who you are, and to Whom you belong? Or do you hide it, wear it only to church, where it's safe, and people understand your beliefs? Do you act like a Jesus thing when you go to the grocery store, to the soccer field, to the car wash? You can't tell anything about a person who drives a non-descript car...are you a "non-descript" person? 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, admonished the people to clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (v14). Instead of wearing the Christian tee-shirt, or adorning the car with Christian bumper stickers, fish and calculators, we are to "wear" Jesus.  He doesn't want us to wear our "Jesus thing", although there is nothing wrong with that; rather we are told to wear Jesus Himself. Because we are His, we must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience...and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col 3:12-14). Think of it like this:

When you get dressed in the morning,

Put on your shirt of compassion
Put on your pants of kindness
Put on your socks of humility
Put on your shoes of gentleness
Grab a pretty scarf and wrap patience around your neck-you'll need it! (men-sorry, you'll just have to use your imagination here, or choose a sweatshirt or something!)
Your outfit may seem complete, but it's not. You need to take your coat of love out of the closet and button it up over the whole outfit. There! Now you're ready to go!

Oh, Jesus, we will adore Thee as we adorn Thee!

Blessings Along the Path,

Song/Video of the Day: "What About Now" (Chris Daughtry) 
Note: I don't know if this song is a "Christian" one or not, but the message is so important-it's a must see!
A Girl's Message to All Christians

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seek Peace and Pursue It!

I can't seem to get off the topic of rest/being still/peace...etc.  I guess because it's so important to all of us. Where are we, what are we without peace? I'm not talking about world peace; although that is important, I'm not about to tackle that issue. Besides, we will never have outward peace until we have peace in our souls. Without that, we are lost. We worry. We overthink. We become afraid. A heart at peace gives life to the body (Prov 14:30).

If we desire to love life and see good days, we must peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). We need to actively and aggressively pursue peace. This is one of my favorite verses, because it constantly reminds me that peace is ongoing, fleeting. I had that peace for awhile, and I have never experienced anything so powerful and wonderful. It reminds me that it can so easily be lost.

I told someone today that my peace had been "stolen." Later, I realized that it had most certainly not been stolen; rather I had made a choice to turn my back on it, to turn away from the Peacegiver, Jesus Christ, and focus on my circumstances. 

Outward, worldly peace can be stolen. Wars break out, people are killed. But here's why our personal peace (rather than "inner" peace) cannot be stolen. First, Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Second, Jesus told us Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). Then, Paul instructs us in his letter to the Philippians not to be anxious, that when we pray, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-8). And that if we think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, the God of Peace will be with us (v9).  I love that...peace of God/God of Peace. Like they're interchangeable.

If Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and He tells us he is leaving peace with us...well then, it makes sense that He is leaving Himself. He's giving it-peace-to us. The peace of the God of peace is with us...full circle. We cannot dispute that. For me to say that my peace was stolen is like saying that someone stole Jesus away from me! Can't be done! He doesn't give us peace like the world's inexplicable. Peace in the midst of trials, turmoil, anxiety. Seek peace--be aggressive---actively pursue it, and when you you find it, hold on to it. Remember, no one can take it from you! If it's gone, you misplaced it. Go find it!

Blessings Along the Path, 

Song of the Day: Let the Peace of God Reign (Hillsongs)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dog Day Afternoon...or Morning

Today was a beautiful Autumn Saturday, and we hadn't hiked for about a month, so I took the dogs in the woods. What started out as a hike quickly turned into simply a walk in the woods. Because these poor dogs have been cooped up for so long, they were like puppies! They just couldn't decide which smell to smell first! Even though we'd been on this trail numerous times, it was as if it was their first time! Everything was new and exciting! As orange leaves swirled their way to the ground, Foxy  leaped into the air to catch them, as if she'd forgotten that this happens every year. Psycho Dog actually made me laugh at her playfulness, and I decided that we all needed to slow down! An intense physical hike was not needed; what was needed was just a walk in the woods.

I saw the lesson, or lessons, immediately. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to laugh...a time to dance...a time to refrain...(Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4). Even Foxy, who is a "working dog" understood that there is a time to play, a time to "refrain"-to rest from our labors! I needed to do the same. Not everything has to be work! Even the mundane can be transformed into something new when we look at it as if it is the first time! (two lessons right away!)

At the next "intersection" of trails, instead of continuing the way we usually go, I decided to follow the "blue" trail markers. It was a little hard to see the trail because of all the leaves on the ground, but if I looked up, there were blue trail markers clearly displayed on the trees. Suddenly, we came to a huge obstacle-a downed tree, or trees, as it appeared--right in the path. I looked around for the trail markers and saw right there in the middle of the obstacle, a big blue square. Really? Well, we'd hiked after Superstorm Sandy and encountered obstacles just like these at just about every turn, so this wasn't going to deter us.

Since I am the Pack Leader, I went first. I shimmied and ducked and finally got to a place where I had to climb onto the tree in order to get over it. I managed without too much difficulty. Foxy, with some encouragement, jumped up and over. Lucy, however, was hesitant. She just didn't have the confidence. She tried, but held back. I kept encouraging her, "Come on, you can do it!" Because I'm the "Boss," and she trusts me, she finally leaped onto the log, but her legs were shaking and her feet unsteady. Eventually, with my coaxing, she overcame her obstacle. Here we are on the other side. That dark spot right behind Lucy's ear is a huge hole. We had to be careful not to fall into the hole once we got to the other side!
Again, I saw the lesson. As we travel with God, sometimes our path becomes cluttered with leaves (our "stuff") and we start to lose the way. When we focus on the leaves (stuff) and the fact that we can't find the way, it's easy to panic. The remedy is to simply look up. The way is clearly marked on the trees. God gives us insight as we walk...His Word directs us...Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight (Ps 119:35)...a man's steps are directed by the Lord (Pr 20:24). The Bible is our trail marker. 

Obstacles will get in our way-even when we are walking in what we think or we know is His will. We, like Lucy, may panic. Maybe we feel unsure of our footing, like if we take a leap of faith, we'll fall off or worse, fall into a pit. We need to trust that our "Pack Leader" will not make us do anything that will cause us harm. For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you...(Jer 29:11). Jesus didn't promise that we wouldn't have obstacles. In fact He said, In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). If He has overcome the world, He will help us overcome any and all of our obstacles. We just need to keep going and keep looking up.

Wow! Three lessons in less than an hour! I thought, great, I have three blogs! But I saw very quickly that God wanted to give me one lesson through all three! When we lose our way, when we encounter obstacles, if we realize that there is a time and a season for everything, and we trust in our Pack Leader, we will overcome our obstacles. But only if we look at these things as if they are new. We mustn't say, "Oh, this again! I've been through this before and this is how it always turns out." Take the time to look at the situation as if it was the first time! Like Foxy, rest from your labors; rejoice in that day and leap for joy (Luke 6:23). 

Our walk wouldn't have been complete without Psycho Dog taking one last leap... and a snarl at a nice man with a camera passing by. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted!

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day
Through It All (Hillsongs)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Unlearning the Formula

I do a lot of work in Excel at my job. I use a lot of formulas and connect pages and it's all very exciting. You think I'm kidding, but truthfully, in a nerdy way, it is sort of exciting. What's exciting is when I figure out the formula, when I get pages to link to other pages and workbooks to link to other workbooks and it all connects and gives me an end result. Once I've figured out the formula, I don't really have to do much thinking...I just plug in the numbers. Without the right formulas, none of it would work. 

I recently came across a book by a well known author, one whose teachings and books I love and look forward to reading. The book was on how to increase your prayer to make it more effective by using this formula that she came up with, and journaling each day for like 60 days or something.  It was an ingenious little acronym.  I don't remember what all it included.  All I know is that when I thumbed through the book (as best as one can thumb through a digital version), I started to feel anxious. I just couldn't! 

I've heard of these things before. A well known one is ACTS.  Adoration (or was it Acknowledgement?), confession, and I don't remember the rest. I never made it past those two. 

Some people greatly benefit from this kind of praying. But not me. Like working in Excel, it would be work for me to figure out how the formula works, but once I've figured it out, all I'd be doing is plugging in my prayers. It's too routine, too rote for my personality. 

I think that personality plays a huge part in how we interact with God. I respect this author, but I don't think that type of praying, and that kind of book is for every personality-it certainly isn't for me. If I feel I have to journal, I have to follow the formula, I won't benefit. And I certainly won't do it. Then, I might feel like I've failed. And that would draw me away from God, not closer to Him.

I'm a creative person, and my favorite way to communicate with God is through music. I may write a worship song, or I may hear a song and stay on that song for days. I'm truly worshiping God through that song. I may even be interceding for someone through that song. Or I may be lamenting through that song. I also see God in nature and often commune with Him by being outside, in the woods, or by the ocean (repeat from yesterday...not worshiping nature, but the Creator).

Obviously, I write this blog daily. My writing and research time sometimes ends up being a study on a particular phrase or word. I even read my own blog when it's delivered in my mailbox when I wake up. It ministers to me. I might pick up a book that I'm reading that is filled with scripture on a specific topic that interests me at the time. Just because I'm not reading "My Bible" doesn't mean I'm not immersed in God's Word. I am. It's just not a formula.

Some people get up hours before they start their day and pray/intercede...whatever. I can't do that. In the back of my mind is, "What time is it? I need to shower/make breakfast/take care of dogs/pack lunch etc. so I'm not late for work." I start my day reading some sort of devotional or scripture in bed on my Kindle and I am plugged in to God all day long! It's not about following a formula---it's about following Jesus!

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus gave his disciples instructions on when they pray... when you pray, do not keep babbling, like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (that would be me, if I tried the 5am thing...unless I fell asleep first). He also told them how to pray: Our Father in know the rest, right? Not to diminish the Lord's Prayer, but for the sake of time and space...He didn't say, get up at 5am and pray for an hour, then worship in song for another hour; he didn't say, after you pray this prayer, journal. He didn't have a fancy acronym. He basically gave them simple guidelines on what to pray for-acknowledge Him, petition him, confess to Him, ask for forgiveness, and ask for protection. I have no fancy acronym because that would make it into a formula. As far as I'm concerned, there is no right or wrong way. He just wants us to pray. Period.  

If formula praying works for you, great. If you like acronym type praying, to help you remember what to do, to help jumpstart your praying, go for it! But we need to be careful not to think that we know what's right for someone else, when half the time we don't even know what's right for us! Let's not judge the way someone else prays. That's why God made us all so different! Let us rejoice in our differences!

Blessings Along the Path,

Pray (Sanctus Real)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Be Still and Rest

Sometimes, I can't get past a certain subject to move on to the next. That is the case today. Maybe you don't need it, but I do. Chances are, though, you do. That subject is rest--being still. Yesterday, I talked about the battle, which led to being still. But how do you get still?

Too often, we ask someone, "How are you?" or "How's your day going?" and the answer is, "Crazy busy!"  For people who are self-employed, my answer to that is usually, "Oh, but that's good, right?" because it means that business is good.

Not necessarily. There are many reasons for being busy. Some are good. Not all are. If you are self-employed, you may not have a choice but to be busy. You may have a demanding job that keeps you busy. Maybe you have children who are involved in activities and keep you constantly moving. Many people my age are now caring for one or both of their parents. Or, perhaps you're involved in other activities--fun activities, but ones that keep you busy, nonetheless. Sometimes, we cover up our insecurities, our pain with being busy. If we don't have to stop to look at it, maybe it will go away. Hmmm...maybe not.

Whatever it is, it's taking up your time. We live in a society that encourages us to be busy; there are even "time-management coaches" to help you prioritize your responsibilities. Our cell phones have all but eliminated the ability to "get away".  Even when we're away, we're still connected. I find myself bringing my phone into the bathroom with me at times--like I'm really going to answer it when I'm in the shower? In a world that poo-poos down time, it can be difficult to justify simply resting, being still. Saying no. Shutting down the cell phone. Shutting off the clamor and chaos of our world. Even when we try, the chatter continues in our head.

I told my daughter that I didn't have time to go to the gym. She told me that I did have the time; I just didn't want to make the time. How true. That's true of getting still, resting in the Lord as well. We feel that we have to "do" something. Pray, read our bible, call on the sick, write encouraging emails, make meals for the housebound, etc. But God doesn't need all of that. He just wants our simple devotion. Sometimes, he just wants us to come and sit at his feet. Not say anything. Not do anything. Not even strive to listen. Just be. To let things go. Because I commune with God through music, for me, to listen to some soft, soothing worship music might help me be still. Because I love nature, sitting on a log, overlooking a calm lake this time of year with all the vibrant color might make me feel close to God (I'm not worshiping nature, mind you; but the Creator of that nature). Sometimes, just letting the laundry go, turning the TV off, putting the cell phone away and just closing my eyes and saying, "Here I am Lord. And here You are. I love you Lord." 

It is only from being still that we can find rest. Be a Mary, not a Martha. We all know the story of how Mary sat at the feet of Jesus when he came to visit, but Mary was in the kitchen, clanking pots and pans, hoping her sister would get the hint. When she didn't, Martha had the nerve to interrupt Jesus to tell Him to tell her sister to help her (as if her sister wasn't there, and couldn't hear her?). Jesus tells Martha, You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed (and that one thing is that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life-Psalm 27:4). Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her (Luke 10:41-42)...Be still and know that I AM God (Psalm 46:10).The peace that you find from being still, from resting--that cannot be taken from you.

How then, do we rest? My soul finds rest in God alone (Psalm 62:1). He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest (Ex 33:14)...ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls (Jer 6:16)...anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that none will fall by following their example of disobedience (Heb 4:9-11--read in context: Heb 3 and 4)....In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)...and of course, most of us know the one from Matthew 11:28...Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you will find rest for your souls. 

In repentance. In choosing the better way. In asking where the good way is. In seeking His Presence. In drawing near, coming to the Savior. If you're weary, worn or worried, come to still, choose the better way, and simply rest. You will find peace...and that cannot be taken from you.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song(s) of the Day (It's getting increasingly difficult to narrow it down!)
Worn (Tenth Avenue North)
A Little Longer (Jenn Johnson; Bethel Church)
Be Still (Kari Jobe)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From Contentment to Fear and Back

I apologize in advance for the length of today's blog. I just couldn't seem to edit it down. If you  don't have time to  read it, I do hope you'll revisit when you do have the time.

A few weeks ago, I was living in a state of contentment. It was bliss. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before, and I'd been living there for several months. I had chosen to be content with where God had placed me, and it seemed to have spilled over into my everyday life. 

The anxiety I'd lived with for most of my life seemed to have disappeared. I was calm. I didn't rush. I really saw the lessons God was showing me. Things that typically threw me didn't seem to bother me. I felt almost drugged, I was so calm. I loved it! To my surprise, my blood pressure had even lowered to a very normal 120/78. I thought I had finally figured out the secret to stress-free living. I even blogged about it! (See "A New Outlook on Stress-9/30).  September 30th. Today is October 23rd (at least it is at the time I'm writing it!) - a mere three weeks.

Three weeks.  A lot can happen in three weeks. I lost a dear friend and a cousin, both in their 50s---my age. My husband, also in his 50s, had surgery (and if you have been following my blogs, you might remember that I had this fear that he was going to die). I had several doctor visits, tests and procedures, then waited for results from those procedures. On two separate occasions, my blood pressure was high-alarmingly high. One doctor, based on some symptoms I presented, told me that I could have something that, when I researched it on the internet (don't EVER, EVER do that!), sounded as if I didn't have long for this life. Saturday night, I'd convinced myself I was going to die.

How did I go from peaceful and content - more content than I'd ever been in my life, to fear-irrational fear? How, in three short weeks, did I manage to convince myself that I'd suddenly developed all kinds of maladies and I should get my affairs in order?

Well...first, having two contemporaries die will do that, I think. It makes you think of your own mortality. Doctors don't help. They mean well, but they scare us. Showing enough concern to schedule procedures, but waiting another three weeks for that procedure doesn't seem to concern I be concerned?

But the bigger picture shows someone who is much more upset than I am. Satan. His goal is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He doesn't want us to be content or peaceful. He wants us to live in a constant state of anxiety and stress because that means that our focus has been taken off God and onto ourselves. Which means another small victory for him.

Back at Black Bear, LLC Headquarters, he calls a meeting in his corner office-in the War Room. Up on the screen is a picture of New Mary, content, peaceful, calm. "This is unacceptable!" He screams at his minions.  "Mary Flaherty is not allowed to be content. She's never been content. You know her; you've followed her all her life. Come on, this is a brainstorming session. What's her weakness?"

"Oh, that's easy!" Anxiety, says with a smirk. "Me! And my good buddies, Fear and Doubt. We'll hit her health. Bring her into unknown territory. She won't last long." 

"Do it!" Satan orders. "Bring her down. Do not allow that contentment (this he says with disgust, as if the very word causes him discomfort) to stay. Get rid of it. Overpower it. Do whatever it takes...well, what are you waiting for? Get out of here! Go!"

And off they go. Next thing I know, anxiety is creeping in to that old, familiar place. The fear of the unknown medical issues leave an opening. In the pit of my stomach, there is a door with a nameplate that says, "Anxiety." Anxiety doesn't need my has its own key.

Fear comes next. It has frequent flyer miles it hasn't used, and decides it needs a takes up residence in my mind and from there, comes the invitation for Doubt to move into my heart. 

I know I'm slipping. I know it's unreasonable. Worst is, I know I've lost my peace. Peace was trying to live comfortably in my heart, but the high blood pressure of Doubt squeezed it out. I've allowed a coup. My usurpers have established dominance. Old Mary is back-they are thrilled! But New Mary is did this happen? How do we get back our power, our peaceful land?

A counter-coup is necessary. And the only way to do that is through the Word of God. All I need to do is bring these thoughts before God and ask him if they are right and true! Tell these annoying gnats flying in my face to "take it up with my Boss!". Get off the Treadmill of Thoughts! But I can't seem to do it on my own. It's not working! That's when we have to call on the battalion at our disposal!

On our own, we can do nothing, especially when a coup is being launched. Sometimes, the battle is too big, or too advanced, and the only way to take back control is to allow our God to fight the battle. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's...You will not have to fight this battle. Take your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you (2 Chron 20:15-17, selected). 

Our position during the Lord's battle is to stand firm. We put on our battle gear and we do not allow ourselves to be moved. We take our positions-on our knees. It gives me great peace just knowing the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Ex 14:14). When the waves of doubt, fear, and anxiety come, instead of trying to hold on, we need only call on Jesus, who rebuked the waves and said, Peace! Be still! (Mark 4:39). Only then did the waves die down and it was completely calm. The only way back to contentment is through peace and the only way to peace during a battle is to let the Lord fight it. Look to Jesus, who is right there in the boat with us, saying, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40)

Faith conquers fear. Peace conquers anxiety. Contentment conquers doubt. Jesus conquers all. Bow down and look up.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song(s) of the Day:
Because I needed several quieting songs to calm my soul today, I'm sharing them with you. The first one is the traditional hymn sung beautifully by a boys' choir. Listen as you feel the need...
Be Still My Soul (Libera)
Be Still and Know That I Am God (Stephen Curtis Chapman)
Be Still and Know (Scripture Lullabies)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ready? Set...Wait!

"Get over here...NOW!"

"Don't wait! Call...NOW!"

We live in a "now" society. We want everything NOW! We stand in front of the microwave and say, "Hurry up!"  We complain if our internet connection takes more than 3 seconds. We get impatient and frustrated if we have to wait in line for more than 3 minutes. And how many times has the car behind you honked their horn a millisecond after the light turned green? Anticipation. Frustration. 

In a society of "now," it's difficult to wait when it comes to God, but God often asks us to do just that. Wait for the Lord. Can't get more direct than that! And in case you didn't understand, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Ps 27:14). That should explain it. 

We are blessed when we wait. Blessed are all who wait for him (Isaiah 30:18) Well, there it is again--can't get more direct than that!

But sometimes, it's just so agonizing! Waiting for results from a medical test or procedure. Waiting for the word that your bid for that perfect house has been accepted. Waiting for a job interview after pursuing employment for six months, a year, maybe more. Waiting for God to open doors of ministry after 15 years. Waiting. 

The Psalmist had trouble waiting too. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalm 130:5). Hold the phone...what's that?  In His word I put my hope! Yes...that's the key. We find the way to wait by knowing and declaring His Word over our situation. The Psalmist cried out from the depths (v1) just as we often cry out from the depths of our despair, the depths of our souls. But as much as he cried out, he soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning... In case you're not sure how much...he repeats...more than the watchmen wait for the morning (v6). Imagine being the night watchman: all is still, all is quiet; you're fighting to stay awake, just waiting for that first light.

Yet...the paradox of all this waiting is that God is a "NOW!" God.  When God decides to move, it's NOW! Moses pleaded with Pharoah to let his people go out of Egypt, into the desert for a three-day festival. Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and even the deaths of firstborn males couldn't change the mind of that stubborn (and in my opinion, stupid!) man. (Come on, Pharaoh, was all of that necessary for a three day leave of absence?) But in the middle of the night, Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron, saying, "Go! Get out of here! Take your people and leave before we all die!" A "NOW" God did that.

The Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. When that pillar moved, they moved. When it stopped, they set up camp. They followed their "NOW" God. Imagine setting up your tent and just getting settled, when you hear, "Ok, people, it's time to move...NOW!" I would not have made it as an Israeli wife.

And how about David? Anointed to be king as a shepherd boy then sent back into the field to tend to the sheep. I imagine David may have just shrugged and thought, "Okay, whatever." He was a teenager, after all. He was anointed for ministry as a teenager and did not take the throne until a good 15 years later as king of Judah; it was another seven years before he was made the king of Israel. 

We might wait 15 years or 15 minutes, but when God says, "Ok, now's the time," will we be ready? Will we hear Him? Or will we have gotten so tired of waiting, our attentions will have been diverted? Will we follow that pillar of cloud/fire, following God along the way, even though it may not be leading us where we desire to go? Will we put our hope in His Word, as the Psalmist did? Will we trust that God is all-knowing, and ultimately knows what's best for us, even if it means to wait? Even if it means that what we thought we really wanted we don't get? He is "I AM," the God of the present tense, a NOW God. Sometimes He says, "NOW...wait."

You know that feeling when the microwave finally dings? When the cashier finally says, "May I help you?" When the light turns green (and no one honks their horn behind you)? When you finally get the word that the results were benign? That the offer was accepted? That we'd like to set up an interview? Finally! How often have you heard yourself say, "It was worth the wait"?

Relief. Excitement. Readiness.

Are you willing to wait? For it is in the waiting that we learn and mature, and are changed into His likeness. And when He says "NOW!" will you be ready?


Blessings Along the Way,

Song(s) of the Day:
More Than the Watchman (Marty Goetz)
Psalm 130, The Watchman (Sons of Korah)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We Are Family

Today I attended the memorial service of a cousin I barely knew. I remember her from growing up; mostly from our simultaneous visits to our grandmother's trailer "down the shore".  I remember when I was about 10 and she about 9, having just learned how to do a round off (sort of twisting your body in the air during a cartwheel to land on both feet at the same time). I showed her this, thinking that, being the older cousin, I would be teaching her something new. What I didn't know was that Bernadette was an athlete and a gymnast! She got up and did a perfect round-off! And probably a flip! I was now intimidated by my younger cousin!

Listening to the eulogies given by people close to her, people who loved her and had all the inside jokes, made me realize that I wished I'd known her better. She sounded like the kind of person I would have loved to hang out with! Meeting her nieces and nephews-my extended cousins-and seeing all of this extended family that I had no knowledge of made me want to know the surviving cousins more! I saw so much that I've missed out on.

Family is so important and, sadly, the thing we most often take for granted. When I hear of people who are estranged from their families, or members of their families, it saddens me. Unforgiveness is a cancer that eats away at families; destroys relationships. The bitterness that feeds the unforgiving soul harms everyone affected, but ultimately destroys the unforgiving person. The unforgiveness that steals the joy of relationships, family or otherwise, takes hold of a person so fiercely, that they often cannot recall exactly what led to the depths of their unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leads to emotional, psychological and physical ailments. 

Jesus told us to forgive. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25). The verse before that says that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). If we have unforgiveness in our hearts, we have sin in our hearts, and the blessing that is ours through Christ Jesus just may be withheld-until we forgive. It sounds harsh, but there it is. I'm not saying it, He did.  I'm not a theologian; maybe I've misinterpreted it, but that's what it means to me. If we withhold forgiveness toward someone, then God may withhold forgiveness toward us. We miss out on the blessing.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, sent some "Rules For Holy Living" which is the title in my bible. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col 3:12-14). This is not a suggestion, but a command. We can only forgive by putting on the love of Christ each morning, just like we put on our clothes. We really cannot do it on our own. 

God forgave us by giving us His only Son, Jesus Christ. He suffered a cruel and agonizing death so that we could be free from the bondage of sin, the punishment of death, and the chains of hell. Jesus forgave the very ones who crucified him!  How dare we think that we are exempt from holy living, and permitted to choose not to forgive. Forgive as the Lord forgave.

Walking in unforgiveness leads us away from the Father, away from the blessing, and away from the calling (if you are a disciple of Christ, you have been called!). It leads us into discomfort, discord, dissatisfaction, disharmony, disease and dysfunction. Choosing to forgive leads us away from sin and to the Father, to the blessing, to our calling. When we choose to forgive, we draw close to the One who removes the pain; the One who supernaturally heals us from our hurt.

My prayer for you (and me!) today is that we would desire to walk in the blessing of forgiveness. That God would reveal to you and me those places where we have chosen to stay in unforgiveness; reveal to us those individuals that we have held captive to our debt. That we would release that person's debt to us, even though we desperately want to hold on to it and continue to make them pay; even if we don't feel like it and even if we don't feel any different after we do! Don't wait until the death of a family member for it to hit you in the face; it may be that very family member that you've held in unforgiveness and then it will be too late.  Don't wait until it's too late. Forgive as the Lord forgave.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day
We Are Family (with lyrics): Sister Sledge

Video of the Day (I wrote what I wrote before I saw this video; she and I agree!
Power of Forgiveness (Mother forgives killer)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do Not Despise the Process

My new favorite show is The Voice.  I love it because it's really all about the voice, not about the looks. I got this idea in my head that gee, maybe I should audition for the show. I even chose my audition song! I practiced it a few times and thought, well, that's not too bad!

Three things prevented me from actually pursuing this.

Number 1: I don't audition well. Somehow, in my dreamworld, I'd forgotten that. Just about every time I audition for a musical, I blow the vocal audition. I get so nervous that my pitch is off.  I forget everything I ever learned-all the technique, all the breathing, all out the window. 

Number 2: There is a process. Well, yeah! Did I think I would just practice my song, and show up on stage in front of the coaches and an audience and sing my little ditty? And they would all turn around and fight over me? Ha! No, there is a process. You first have to send a video, then attend an open audition. The audition is "a capella" (without accompaniment), and you have to prepare two songs. If you are called back to the next round, you have to have three songs prepared, which can be accompanied. Only then do you get to go to the live stage with the coaches. It's a process.

Number 3:  Simply...what was I thinking???

It's that way in ministry. When we hear the call of God on our lives, we get excited and want to jump right in and serve-which is great! However, too often we want to jump in at the end-the deep end, instead of testing the waters at the edge, or starting in the "baby pool". We're too old for the baby pool! We already know how to swim! We think we can just dive right off the high dive without proper training and preparation, without following the process.

What we fail to realize is that the process is there for our protection! Imagine if The Voice let anyone take the stage just because that person said they could sing? What if they couldn't?What if God allowed us to get up in front of 5000 people because we had a call to preach or teach, and we had no idea what to say or how to confidently take charge of our audience, or failed to engage them? We would stand there after everyone left (which would most likely be very quickly) and say, "What was I thinking???"

There is a process, and part of the process is preparation-and learning. Learning to prepare, review and rehearse our material, learning how to engage an audience, learning how to be poised and confident. Learning and honing our craft. Perhaps taking classes, courses, lessons, maybe finding a mentor. And of course, immersing ourselves in God's Word. Just like swimming, we need to work our way up to the high dive. I dove off the high dive once...notice, I said once.  It hurt my head.  Yes, I worked up to it, but I wasn't properly prepared. There is a technique, which I was unaware of. Diving in to the deep end of ministry or anything, for that matter, without knowing the proper techniques and without having been trained can prove to be painful, or even disastrous. 

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zech 4:10, NLT). God is delighted that we want to serve Him! Whatever place you are in now, know that you have not been forgotten. Do not despise the process! If He has called you, He will bring you to the places He wants you to serve. It won't be a big stage-at least not right away. He may call you to that place after a time of preparation, but He might not. Will you be content to serve unnoticed? Are you willing to be taught? Are you willing to wait? That's the person God is looking for. Be that person! And don't look for me on The Voice. I won't be there! But you will find me cheerfully serving as a singer on my church worship team. And knowing that God knows my name is much more desirable than fame.

Blessing Along the Path, 

Song of the Day:
I Am Not Forgotten (Israel Houghton)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Unprotected Waters

I recently saw the movie, "Captain Phillips," about a merchant marine captain whose ship was hijacked by Somali pirates.  First, and totally irrelevant to this message, I must say that Tom Hanks has just jumped to the top of my "great actors" list! He was unbelievably fantastic in this movie, especially at the end. I won't say too much about the movie, other than what's in the trailer, so as not to spoil it for some of you who have not yet seen it.

In April, 2009, Captain Richard Phillips' Maersk Alabama was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, and had been issued a warning from the U.S. Maritime Administration (following NATO advisories) to stay at least 600 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia due to heavy pirate activity. Captain Phillips ignored those warnings and traveled roughly 300 miles off the coast of Somalia in order to maintain a faster and more direct route. He knowingly put his crew of 20 in danger. He ignored the warnings. And because he ignored the warnings, the pirates picked up his ship on their radar and went in for the kill. He was in unprotected waters...anything was game.

The crew tried all the tactics they knew in order to deter the pirates from entering the ship, but the pirates were determined and persistent. Nothing was going to stop them! Captain Phillips ordered his crew to lock down in the engine room - a wise move, as they were able to control the ship from there. Ultimately, 
Captain Phillips was taken hostage by the pirates. That's all I'll tell you about that!

Sin can be very much like those pirates. We are all familiar with sin, and we are all especially familiar with the sin that personally entangles us. We know the triggers, we know our weaknesses. The thing about sin is that we are issued a warning to stay far from it. We know right from wrong, yes; but those gray areas-everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1) - those things that are perhaps not necessarily wrong, but not necessarily right or good for us-that's where we often get tripped up. Just as Captain Phillips received e-mails specifically for his ship, warning him of pirate attacks, we receive "Holy Spirit e-mails" in our spirits, our conscience. But like Captain Phillips, who preferred to take a shorter route, knowing that he was taking a risk, we often want to take the shortcut, the quickest way, the way that feels good at the time. We know, however briefly, that we are taking a risk, but we ignore the warnings. And when we ignore the warnings, we put our ship and our crew in danger.

Once we chart our course, once we give in to temptation, we enter those unprotected waters. That's when satan and his pirates pick up our ship on their radar.  An unprotected ship in unprotected waters?  Let's go! Anything is fair game now. We are now in enemy territory. There is no guarantee of safety! And those pirates, once they spot our lonely ship, will stop at nothing to enter and take control of the ship. Their goal is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Once we've allowed satan and his pirates access to our ship, we open ourselves up to be taken hostage. He will not stop at anything. Muse, the Pirate Captain, once aboard the Alabama, says, "I'm the captain now."  As soon as we give in to sin, we allow the pirate captain to take over. Later, as a hostage, Captain Phillips tells Muse that "the Navy is not going to let you win!". But Muse responds, "I've come too far. I can't give up."  Satan is the same way. He is not going to give up. He will not just go away and leave us alone, even though he knows that God is not going to let him win. 

But guess what? Our crew is in the Engine Room, controlling the ship from there. We have a host of heavenly angels ready to do battle for us in the Heavenly Realm, the Holy Engine Room, if you will. The rest of John 10:10 says, ...but I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. We may be held captive for a time, but Jesus' death paid our ransom! We are set free from sin and bondage through his blood!

Captain Phillips called on the war ships, on the Navy, the ones more powerful than he. We need only call on Jesus, the One more powerful than us, than the pirates, than the pirate captain. At a moment's notice, He will come. May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.(Psalm 79:8). He will deliver us. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him (Psalm 91:15). 

He will save us from that temptation before the pirates even find our ship. But if we've already given in to that sin, He will deliver us from it. He will not allow us to be controlled by the pirate captain forever. We need not live in shame for his mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23). And Psalm 91:15 tells us that not only does he deliver us, but he honors us!

Of course, the best course is to avoid those pirate infested waters; to take the route that has been charted for us - the one that is protected. To heed the warnings when we are tempted to veer off course. But in those times when we fail, we can know that God will be there; the One who holds all power and dominion will fight for us! We need only call on the name of Jesus!

Blessings Along the Path,

Video of the Day:  Look at this with "Spiritual" eyes (and go see the movie!!!)
Captain Phillips Official Trailer

Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips                      The real Captain Richard Phillips

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Treadmill of Thoughts

I hate the gym. Actually, I hate organized exercise of any kind. I think I'm allergic. No, really! I often feel like I'm going to throw up when I exercise. I think treadmills are especially stupid. I just can't figure the things out. It used to be simple, but now there are so many options and controls- speed, incline level, resistance, intervals-that's a good one-it speeds up and slows down on its own. Keeps you on your toes, so to speak. One treadmill I was on even offered some sort of simulated walking course around some mountain. It took so long, I quit and went home.

You know what else I hate about treadmills? That feeling of going nowhere! After 45 minutes of brisk walking/semi-jogging, I can boast that I've gone what...3 miles or so? But I haven't gone anywhere! And when I want to stop and get off while it's moving-I have to quickly step to the side ...otherwise, I'll just spin out of control, like George Jetson, going around and around and around crying, "Help Jane! Stop this thing!"

And then there's that weird feeling when I stop and get off.  I'm walking on the floor, but it just...I don't just feels really the floor should be moving me along but it's not, and I can't figure out how to walk normally again.

Our thoughts can be like treadmills. You get a thought in your mind and you just think it over and over and over. It starts out as a seed, but you water it. It becomes obsessive. It grows. It festers. It intensifies. But it goes nowhere! The more you try not to think the thought, the more you think it! It exhausts you! It speeds up, then slows down, then speeds up again, all on its own-it comes and goes in intervals. You can't figure out how to stop it, how to get off. There's a way to step to the side, but the treadmill seems to go faster and faster and, like George Jetson, you can't get off-you just start going around and around, calling, "Someone help me! Stop this thing!"

Joyce Meyer says that we need to think about what we're thinking about.  That makes sense to me.  We don't have to let any and every random thought come into our heads. We get to decide what we want to think about. In fact, we are commanded to do so. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things (Phil 4:8). We are told to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). But what does that mean and how do we do that?  "I just can't help it. I don't seem to be able to stop. My mind seems to have a mind of its own!"

Yes, you can help it and yes, you can stop. We all have the power to do that if we have the "mind of Christ." When we take a thought captive we are essentially capturing it. Once we capture the thought, we bring it to Christ and say, "Is this a thought that is right? True? Pure? Admirable? Noble? Lovely? Excellent? Praiseworthy? If that's too much to remember, how about just asking Him, "Is this true or right?" If it's not, then we find the thought that is right or true. We find those thoughts as scripture-in God's Word. And we can ask Him what is right and true.  Then, we make those thoughts obey. Yes, you have the power to do that.  They are your thoughts in your head. Make them obey.

The more we get into the habit of capturing our thoughts and making them obey Christ, the easier it becomes, until we no longer have to "think about" the thoughts-we begin to recognize them as soon as they come-and we either deny or allow them access to our minds.

There is this safety device on the treadmill that you are supposed to clip on to a piece of your clothing. It stops the treadmill immediately should you falter, or fall. Most people don't use them because they're too cool. I do. I don't want to find myself in an emergency situation and have no way out. Like the safety clip on the treadmill, that verse from Philippians is what gets us off the treadmill of thoughts. And when we get our feet back on solid ground, it might feel strange at first, as if those thoughts should continue to move us along like the treadmill of thoughts previously did, but eventually, we remember how to walk normally again.  How to walk in the thoughts that are right, noble, good, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. 

Blessing Along the Path,

Song of the Day:
I Will Run to You (Hillsongs/Darlene Zschech)

Video of the Day:  Warning-while this is funny, you'll see that many people hurt themselves pretty badly, and some of them did some pretty stupid things.  While you watch it, think of the parallel-the treadmill of thoughts.
People falling off treadmills:  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's Not Fair!

Recently, I was corresponding via email with two friends who have retired and relocated to the south. I said, "I'm still here. No fair!" 

My husband, recovering from surgery, gets to sleep till 10:00 am every morning and I have to get up at 5:30 for work.  "No fair!" 

I have had some medical issues lately, and while the news wasn't bad that I got yesterday, it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I went home and cried, "Why do all these things have to happen to me all at once?" I may as well have said, "It's not fair!"

Is it fair that babies are born addicted to crack? Is it fair that my dear friend, who gave so much to the community, died of lung cancer and never smoked a day in her life? Is it fair that someone is born into poverty with no hope of escape? Is it fair that a young woman becomes a drug addict after one dose of heroin? Is it fair that a 50+ grey-haired man loses his job because he is old?

How dare I decide what is fair and what is not? I have a warm house, a job, a bed, in which I can sleep till 10:00 (on Saturday, if desired!), a husband who loves me (and still has a job!), children who have grown into responsible adults, and basically, good health. I could go on and on with the blessings I do have. Why do I focus on what I don't have?

My bible's concordance is strangely silent on what is "fair."  I'm sure there are other synonyms of "fair" but after the "just" lesson the other day, I'm not going there.  The one reference I found is in Proverbs 1:3. Paraphrased, King Solomon basically says that the proverbs that are following are useful for many things, including what is fair. 

I guess he would know. He had to decide what was fair when two prostitutes came to him with one baby.  The first claimed that they had each had a baby, but the other one accidentally smothered her baby in the middle of the night.  That woman took the first one's baby and claimed him as her own. The second one, the one who'd presumably lost her baby, swore that this baby was indeed her own, and the first one was lying. There was no DNA testing back then, and the King probably got tired of hearing these two bickering prostitutes, and said, "Oh, just get my sword and I'll cut the baby in half. That way, you'll each have a baby...or, a half a baby." That's fair right? After all, don't we do that with our children? Break the cookie in half? (Of course one always swears the other has the bigger half!)

Of course, the real mother said, "NO! Don't kill him! Let Number Two have the baby!" That's when Solomon knew that this was the real mother.

I'll tell you what's not fair...arresting an innocent man for the crime of supposed blasphemy. Allowing a real criminal to be released instead of an innocent man.  Beating that innocent man to the point that he is unrecognizable-for blasphemy? No fair! Stripping him naked. Yes, we see the loincloth in the movies and in pictures, but my guess is they stripped him completely naked. Striking him on the head. Forcing him to carry his method of death to the place of his death. Kicking him when he was down. Spitting in his face. Hurling insults. Laughing and mocking him. Pounding nails into his flesh, through his wrists. Pounding nails through the tender bones in his feet.  Leaving him to die. Watching him die. Waiting for him to die. Hoping he would die before sundown so that they could go home and enjoy the Sabbath. 

I'll tell you what else is not fair. That same man did all that so that I wouldn't have to. He did it all without lashing out at his accusers. He never screamed, "This isn't fair! I don't deserve this! I am GOD! I'll get you for this!" He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7).He did it silently. He did it willingly. He did it for me. And for you. 

He has suffered every injustice known to man-everything known to you and more. He knows it's not fair. But He wants to know how you will react in the face of injustice. Will you scream, "It's not fair!" or will you remember the man who suffered so much more than you are suffering? The next time you say, "It's not fair!"...remember the One who went silently and willingly to his death in your place. Instead of saying, "It's not fair!" why don't we try saying, "Thank you, Jesus!"

Blessings Along the Path,

Video/Song of the Day:VERY COOL!

David Garibaldi-Jesus Painter 
(to the song "We Will Never Be the Same-David Crowder Band)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Just" God

How often have you prayed and heard yourself saying, "God, I just want to ask you..."  or "God, I just come to you..."  "God, I ask that you just (insert request)..."

I started this blog thinking, "Well, I'm just (see, I said it too!) going to explain to people that we must never reduce God to "just" God...but I was surprised when I looked up the definition of just. So I really don't know where I'm going here, but hang on...come for the ride with me.

The Oxford Dictionary, which is like the Bentley of Dictionaries (have you ever seen the SIZE of one of those???) defines "just", in the adverb form (which it is here) as the following:  exactly, very recently, barely, or simply, only.  

I sort of stumbled on the definition I was looking for---barely. The word, "barely," (in keeping with Oxford) means "in a way that is just (ha, there it is again) possible, but only with difficulty." I was under the impression before I looked this word up, that by saying, "I just ask, I just come, or just do..." that we limit and diminish God to someone lesser than Who He Is. He's "just" God. But if I replace "just" with some of these other words, including barely, here's what happens:

"God, I barely ask...I ask it in a way that is possible, but because of my unbelief, it is difficult."
"God, I simply come."
"God, I only come"
"God, I ask that you do this...exactly this..."

Wow, did that change my view of the word "just."  It also convinced, or rather, convicted me that I often judge others in their praying because they use the word "just"...and all of this while I am supposed to be praying as well! I was going to set the record straight here today on the "just" subject! Ouch! Or as Joyce Meyer would say, "Ouch, hallelujah!" It's a holy ouch. A spiritual conviction meant to show me my fault but also meant for my growth. 

In today's world, we tend to over-educate, over-stimulate, over-think, and over-analyze. God wants us to "just come." Just come to Jesus. Simply come. Come only to Him. Come exactly as you are. Come in a way that is just possible, but maybe with difficulty. We don't have to over-analyze, over-think, or over-educate ourselves before we come. We don't need to be perfect. We don't need to have it all together. If that were the case, not one of us would ever come! Simply come. He will meet you where you are. Even if you already know Him, keep coming! Come every day. Come afresh.

Funny, the adjective, "just" means, "based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair; deserved or appropriate in the circumstances." And we are told in God's Word, that He is just. ...everything he does is right and all his ways are just (Daniel 4:37). Ha! What an ironic twist---the very God that I thought we diminish by using the word, "just" is just that,,,just! I love when He does that!

What's holding you back today from "just" asking? From "just" coming? He's not "just" God, but He is a just God. Make no mistake---He may be a just God, but He is a loving and merciful God. He will not condemn you, but he will convict you...just like he did me. But did you notice how I loved it? That's the difference between a condemning God and a convicting God. A just God convicts. And that "holy ouch" of conviction helps us grow closer to Him and to be more like Him. It is my desire to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [my] God (Micah 6:8).

Blessings Along the Path,

Songs of the Day
Come Just As You Are (Crystal Lewis)
Micah 6:8 (Monroe Crossing)