Warm Wednesday Words: Willpower – An Unsung Hero

I canWillpower is much more then it’s often cracked up to be.  Whether it’s willpower to eat healthy, get fit, quit smoking, only drink in moderation, control anger, be humble, not gossip, resist hidden sins, etc, willpower leads to victory.  For those of us who know the Lord, calling on Him to help us packs a powerful punch to our enemy, the devil, who would sabotage our goals.  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  (Isa. 40:29-31a)  When we are wise enough to acknowledge that God’s Word has the absolute truths that may be distorted by our own perspective, we can add more power to our prayers by praying and believing, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”

Look to the Lord's strengthDiet is probably the most trivial example to use; however, in many social settings successful dieting and fitness is, by example, a colossal failure.  If someone really wants to lose weight, then that must become the focus and most jokes of food indulgence and no time for exercise need to bite the dust in favor of  long term genuine effort.  Just replace any other more serious matter (admittedly by culture’s standards) and insert the efforts, excuses and failures that we laugh about with diet and fitness, and you will agree it is an area whose successful example potential is largely a loss to offering any kind of real example to the harder areas such as serious addictions, hidden sins, etc.  In most social settings, we acclaim the one laden with food dripping with grease and loaded with carbs rather than the one with any kind of dietary willpower.

find a wayI belong to some online social support systems for the food lifestyle we have adopted (Trim Healthy Mama).  On these sites, as on other similar food lifestyles, members are encouraged to post prayer requests, pictures of progress, etc.  The comment strands of encouragement are usually too long to read them all.  The support I have gained in other  online Christian women support groups is also amazing.  We are lifetime friends and constantly lend each other strength with our prayers and words.  There are many other noteworthy types of support groups (both online and otherwise) that lend strength and foster willpower, such as for homeschooling, sports, writing,  marriage, parenting, debt reduction, recovering alcoholics, grief support, widow groups, and on and on.   Some of these support systems can be found within churches or church small groups as well.

someone believes in youAs believers, we have an added boost to will power (or perhaps the other way around) in our conscience.  Oswald Chambers said in his 5/13 Utmost devotional, “God always educates us down to the scruple.  Is my ear so keen to hear the tiniest whisper of the Spirit that I know what I should do?…The one thing that keeps the conscience sensitive to Him is the continual habit of being open to Him on the inside.  When there is any debate, quit.”  If it seems we can’t find our way, we can pray about what, if any, counsel God would have us seek.  When we are truly seeking counsel for our own selves and not using the seeking of counsel as a cover up for gossip; and in fact, are refraining entirely from gossip, then our efforts will be blessed.  “Where there is no guidance a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  (Prov. 11:14)  C.S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”  Hopefully, we will have ample opportunity to offer good counsel, not just receive it.  “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked lead them astray.” (Prov. 12:26)

build upTo have supportive friends who help strengthen you with their words and prayers is good.  Even better is to have a friend or a few friends who are close enough in proximity to put action to their words and hang in there with you through a period of your life when you need strength.   “And Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’  But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’  So they went down to Bethel.”

true friendshipWhat areas of your life do you need strength and willpower in to make it through?  What support are you seeking for that?  Are you listening for the tiniest whisper of the Spirit?  Who around you needs to lean on your strength for a season and are you able to give it?  Are you able to inconvenience your own plans in support of a friend?

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Not so Steady Sentiments

Me and TonyExuberant (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary) very lively, happy or energetic:  filled with energy and enthusiasm.
Passion (Dictionary.com) Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
Grief (Dictionary.com) A cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.

It can be a blessing and a curse to feel strongly.   I’d  rather dwell on the fun and happy…better yet, joyous, side of things, especially since what we feel deeply must be expressed some way or another.  When I was growing up, Donna Fargo’s lyrics, “Shine on me sunshine, walk with me world, it’s a skippidity do-da-day, I’m the happiest girl in the whole U.S.A”  resonated with me.  My mom loved to tell stories and laugh and joke while we cleared the dinner table and wound down most evenings.  Like anybody, I love the fun times but can embrace the occasional heartbreak, too, and sometimes even in the same general time frame.

To both soar high and plunge deep is the personality God gifted me with and its bane is restrained by the Christ who lives in me.  Unfortunately, that restraint is an ongoing and unfinished process.  But for most folks,  honest humility necessitates reciprocal forbearance.  I find comfort in the Biblical David, and many other Biblical characters who felt deeply.  As obvious from the Psalms, David dealt with a restlessness and a range of emotions.  Yet his confident expectation was in God that without a doubt all would be made right.  (Ps. 63:1-11)  He was hidden in Christ and an avid worshiper.  And so am I.

open my mouth wide enoughGuy Brown, Ph.D., commenting on Kay Jamison’s book,  “Exuberance:  The Passion for Life”, says that ‘exuberance appears to feed off social interaction…and in adults exuberant behavior can be regarded as youthful playing or “kidding around”…exuberance is a behavior or mode of interaction, rather than an emotion …Exuberance keeps occasional company with grief, though grief may command the greater mention.’  It is here that passion, with its’ long suffering tendency, may over ride the sometimes more flitty exuberance.  While talking at length on exuberance and all its pros and cons, Brown says, “Yet exuberance and joy are fragile matter.  Bubbles burst; a wince of disapproval can cut dead a whistle or abort a cartwheel.  The exuberant move about the horizon, exposed and vulnerable.’  There was a curious request made of God in an Anglican prayer, he says.  ‘Shield your joyous ones.’  Everyone asks God to watch over the sick, the despairing, the suffering; as well we should.  Yet, I’m thankful someone thought fit to pray for divine protection for the exuberant ones normally left to their own devices, and the misunderstandings and judgments that cloud their paths.

Brown and Jamison allow that the exuberant types can be “silly, juvenile, annoying, and disruptive”.   But thankfully, Jamison added a saving grace, “Potentially, they may be more creative, because they generate random, playful ideas.”  Though Brown was somewhat searing on the exuberant types and admitted to being more of an “Eeyore” than a “Tigger”, he did offer food for thought.

Meantime, I tend to ere more on the lighter side and find lengthy cut and dry, “left brain” centered engagements like a stuffy room, drastically in need of a breath of fresh air.  In one of my favorite Oswald Chambers devotionals (and there are many), he says, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound.  We sometimes refuse to be shallow not out of deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress….And it causes us to be a walking rebuke to other people.” (Nov. 22 My Utmost for His Highest)

humor, faith, laughter, prayerJesus promised those of us who grieve are blessed, because we will also laugh.  We are told that laughter is good medicine.  I personally think that should include belly laughter, and definitely should include a trust in God despite circumstances.  God tells us quite simply how to live:  “Be fair and just to others, compassionate and loyal in our love, and don’t take ourselves too seriously, but always, always take God seriously.”  (Micah 6:8 The Message).  Along with being Holy, Just, Mighty, Fearsome and many other things, God is also Compassionate and has a sense of Humor.  On the exuberance scale are you more the Tigger or the Eeyore?  What characteristic do you have that vacillates between a blessing and a curse?  How do you keep on the positive end of the spectrum?  How forgiving are you with failures, both in yourself and others?

Warm Wednesday Words: Intensive School is in Session

 

from dark cloudsI am in a Master’s Degree School Program as I trudge through some one way valleys.  After over 25 years of homeschooling seven children I have become accustomed to curriculum, whether bought as a package or whether I put it together hodge podge style.  I spent many an August watching kids and sometimes grandkids swim at the city pool while I poured through the following year’s school plans and calender.  Implementation of each year took off with grandiose thoughts of how organized I would be, how much they would learn and what balance of study versus hands on and field trips would be used.  In addition to hours of planning, there were many, many more hours of reading out loud, drilling of tables and verses, etc.  Admittedly, I did fall asleep a few times while reading out loud in the evenings, and my kids won’t let me live down the way I mastered “reading” in my sleep.  There were a few such times when I sent them to bed, but still under the spell of sleepy delirium, told them to do such interesting things as “Brush your teeth and get in the toilet.”  But none of those years of homeschooling required my focus as much as the intensive classroom of praying and keeping faith while an adult child wades through serious troubles.

As I focus on standing on many scripture promises, I can’t allow myself to indulge in logic and reasoning.  Oh no.  I serve a big God who is able to do exceedingly above all that I ask or think.  (Eph. 3:20).  Nothing is impossible for Him.  (Luke 1:37)  He can reach where I can’t.  (Isa. 59:1)  He will rescue my children, even when they’re not innocent if I keep my hands “pure” because of Christ.  His rescue is first and foremost the soul, but sometimes he rescues circumstances also, if He chooses to bring glory to Himself from them a different way.  (Job 22:30)  His Word that we helped them store away, won’t return void.  (Isa. 55:11) He is able to bring our children back to the Way; i.e. their own spiritual “land”.  (Jer. 31:17)  And best of all He is able to accomplish all this in spite of me, and all of my teaching efforts, because He will actually be their teacher and give them peace.  Not only does He not judge me, He makes up for my lack.  (Isa. 54:13)  That is my teaching retirement verse.  The very spring of my last year of supervising our home school, God caused that one to stand out in “neon” letters, both as a wake up call and a comfort, so that I can get on my knees before Him each day and give the teaching results to Him.  Then I’m able to start a new day with renewed faith knowing He made this day for my faith to land on and soar in, no matter what circumstances I’m in.  He causes me to repeat such promises as “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.”  (Ps. 56:3) and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6)  And most of all, He brings me around to a sacrifice of praise to Him even when I’m down.  My praises may come out in a sob but they switch my focus to Him and bring His presence into my circumstances or that of someone I’m praying for, sometimes with a surprising turn of events.

Giving the results to God as I bow my head in the “faith” school takes focus, but is rewarding.  I have set backs, where I just don’t really want to display His glory.  I’d rather stay under a pile of blankets (at least mentally) and indulge in some grief over some latest turn of events.  He is patient with me as I need a little “down time” before forging ahead in this Master program He has me in.  During those times I feel all the brokenness and all the pain and know that it is real.  There is healing in this acknowledgement and in tears, which God collects and keeps.  He hears my cries and yours!

But back in the faith classroom, He carries me to the table where I don’t see my brokenness anymore.  I see things from His perspective and it’s so much better then my own.  I’m whole and I know He is fulfilling His promises as He sees fit in my life and that of my family.  This degree program doesn’t commence until eternity, but the dividends can’t be equaled in any other program out there.  There is faith and peace for character enrichment and future crowns to lay at His feet.   This is a program that some of the most intelligent folks don’t acquire; since it requires a surrendered heart.

Who am I to question His ways or His timing.  It is enough that He carries me to a table I don’t deserve.  Do you struggle with trials and His timing?  What ways help you not see your brokenness, or that of a loved one, anymore, but rather the One who carries you?

Warm Wednesday Words: More and More

taught by God to loveRecently I was given encouraging words from several different people abounding more and more in love  on the very weekend I struggled with fresh grief.  Most of the encounters were not “planned”, but I have no doubt they were prearranged by my loving Heavenly Father.

you lift my head

The first encouragement came from a friend and mentor who shot a random friendly text to me.   She knows the mutual blessing in choosing a few uplifting words.

words as apples of goldThe second “abounder” was an acquaintance I happened to see who went straight from a casual greeting to an unexpected and genuine compliment on something I had done and how it had blessed her.  The words were as a surprise shower of  light beams diffusing healing balm onto my bruised heart.  Then there were a couple elderly sisters in Christ from my church who just did what most elderly “sisters” in the church have learned more and more to do so well; i.e., one chatted with much humble empathy, specific encouragement, and a hug, and one lavished praise about me to my husband, just as she often does to me about him.   The final dose of medicine God administered to me was from laughter and good times with family during a planned birthday celebration for Tony.   Every one of our children connected with us one way or another (and that alone is a blessing) but being able to spend time together eating, talking, supporting and laughing certainly adds to the blessing.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
children, a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons born in one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. (Ps. 127:3-5)

In “The Children of the Day” bible study on Thessalonians, it is clear that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy had a handle on encouraging since they acknowledged twice in chapter four of the first book that the Thessalonians were pleasing God and also loving each other well, and to do so even more.   Beth Moore points out that we are commissioned to abound more and more in living for Christ, and that, indeed we will increase in something, be it living the Christian way, or otherwise, which soon enough becomes the opposite.  She says,  “More and more one direction will force its antithesis into less and less….Human emotions have an inherent propensity to grow.  We can hate more and more or we can love more and more….(And about love)…You and I have no power to affect divine love.  It is perfect.  All we are left to do is ask to know it more and more.  And right there in the increase, a miracle of decrease is forced into play:  as we are more and more aware of His love, we fear less and less.”
perfect love casts out fear

I want to abound in love more and more so that I am bothered less and less by those who are unable and/or unwilling to love as the Lord does, and be able to abound in forgiveness, grace and love toward the unloving.  After all, we’ve all been there in that horribly blind spot in which our own vision sees ourselves less needy then we really are and God less magnificent then He really is.  Paul and his co-writers said this in 1 Thess. 4:9, “About brotherly love:  you are taught by God to love one another.”  God will always raise up some who will seek to abound in love more and more because they are as one taught to love by God, Himself.  That kind of love is portrayed on the cross and it doesn’t play favorites because it is God’s love in us, not something we contrive!  Of the three gifts that remain, love is the greatest.

29df00ac3a23e0edc1268ddd97267b20So what is my response to being overwhelmed with encouragement, even as I occasionally struggle with grievous things?   Though I try to show kindness and encouragement, anyway, it is to do so even more!  1 Thes. 4:10b, “But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more.”

grace abounds in deepest waters

In this season of your life and in this very moment you are abounding in something…even more.  Is it what you’d like to abound in?  If so, how can you practice it “more and more“?

Warm Wednesday Words: Broken Hallelujahs

face down broken hallelujahEveryone has times when their “hallelujahs” are broken; i.e. they grieve, yet still worship.  For some, their worship may look and sound the same while their heart is broken.  For others, the words, music and energy won’t come for a spell.  They are worshiping in silence as they process their grief.  They may be soaking in the worship they are hearing.  A lump in the throat may prevent the escape of words even if they tried.  A groan might be the only sound for them.  For still others, the worship of grief may start slow and crescendo.  There are many biblical characters who grieved and worshiped.  Job lost all of his children in one day, he stood up, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground and worshiped, saying in effect, ‘I came into this world with nothing, it’s not mine to hold onto.  The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’  I’m betting those words were poured out in heaving sobs as he lay on the ground.  Jacob mourned for Joseph many days and refused to be comforted.  Hannah accompanied her husband to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice, but because she was barren her “worship” came out in a torrent of silent bitter brokenhearted prayers, which God heard and answered.  David mourned as he prayed for his child Bathsheba bore him, but worshiped after he knew the child had died and, therefore, his mourning would not induce God to relent.  This probably was not the jubilant and expressive worship that had characterized David on the day the arc was returned, not that we all, at least consistently, have such expressive personalities in worship.  But we are told he worshiped.  David also mourned when Saul and Jonathon died in battle, and several other occasions.  The instance of David seeming the most broken was when Absalom was killed, in which he sobbed for him and publicly grieved.  In fact Joab had to sternly counsel David to snap out of it and encourage his men.   Rachel  had great difficulty giving birth to Benjamin and mourned for her children in a lament (which is a song and likely a sort of mournful worship). She died in childbirth.  In this prophesy given by Jeremiah, God heard and promised that her reward would come.  She represents all the mothers in Bethlehem who lost their baby boys because of jealous and wicked Herod’s edict, and every mother who has ever suffered for her children.  Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched in grief and terror as the crucifixion of her son unfolded before her eyes.  John (19:25) tells us that there were three other women there with her united in grief.  (Yay, for sisterhood!)  Mary had pondered the things God had told her in her heart.  She had significant  insight into what was unfolding.  But this was her son.  There were no words or songs recorded from her position of grief, loss and agony that day.  Yet, she knew.  She worshiped in silence as she grieved.

stronger in the broken places

God expects us to grieve.  Jesus grieved for Lazarus.  But we are to grieve with hope, because He wants us to see things from His perspective.  (1 Thes. 4:13)    Ps. 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”  When your hallelujah is broken, do you find a way to worship anyway?   Your grief is not the final say.
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