Set your minds and keep them set…

Bible-readingIt was entirely unintentional (read, guilty as charged), but recently I offended a friend who made some strong comments about a speech at one of the political conventions, which I mistakenly interpreted to mean she was getting really ‘worked up’.   I was wrong, was told that in no uncertain terms, because that’s how Jamaicans roll, and promptly apologized.

However, I am still deeply concerned about the nature/content of comments I’m seeing and hearing from some fellow believers in Jesus, expressing their views on the candidates for president and politics in general.  Our participation in the vitriol, anger, and fear/hate-mongering, coupled with blinders-on, impassioned, and almost deified expectations of one candidate or another is seriously alarming me.

Hard life experiences have ensured that I’m neither “super-spiritual” nor self-righteous, so I’m blaming this increasing concern and hyper-awareness on my recent study of Paul’s letter to the believers at Colossae.  He wrote;

If then you have been raised with Christ to a new life,…aim at and seek the rich, eternal treasures that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above, the higher things, not on the things that are on the earth…” Colossians 3:1-2 Amplified Bible

Paul was not telling them to be so “heavenly-minded they were of no earthly use”, but that their worldview, and how they lived their everyday lives were to be influenced primarily by how God sees things.

Because we believe in Jesus, we are challenged to daily approach, comment, and act on socio-economic, racial, political, cultural, and every other issue in accordance with God’s perspective and directive.

Of course, determining and acting on God’s perspective isn’t always easy or popular.  I’m still trying to figure out how anybody would read the Bible and conclude that slavery was okay with God!

That kind of evil and our other general craziness only happens when we come to God’s Word with our worldview already set in place; with hard hearts and minds stubbornly made up; just searching for ways to make the Bible say what we want to justify our self-willfulness.

Come November, I am going to exercise my right and privilege to vote for one of the three candidates for President, giving more weight to what they’ve already done,

“You will fully recognize them by their fruits…” Matthew 7:16a Amplified Bible,

and after much prayer asking God alone to guide my decision.

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all you heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 Ibid

Meantime, I continue to seek to know God’s viewpoint on everything, holding my peace, and confident that,

“He changes times and the seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings…” Daniel 2:21 Ibid

so no matter who is elected, I’ll still be… just living the thing.

Ann Marie

Disappearing destinations…

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

It felt good to swing a golf club again. It had been at least three years since I had played the game and I realized just how much I missed it. I was surprised that I could still drive the ball 150 yards; 100 yards straight and 50 yards to the right. Anyway I was thankful that after three surgeries I still had a good range of motion and no pain.

By that evening, however, things had changed. Fast forward one week and I am having an unexpected surgery to remove my left implant and clean up an infection that two strong antibiotics couldn’t heal. This wasn’t part of the plan and just like that I was back at square one.

Home for two days and on the couch, held hostage by my nightly physical therapy treatment, I lost it. Physically I was fine, but emotionally I was done; I didn’t want to do this anymore. With tears streaming down my face and one hot flash after another sapping my energy I gave into despair.

I felt like I was on a journey whose final destination kept disappearing around the next bend. This bump in the road threw me for a loop because just when I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel; it turned out to be a train.

Not surprisingly God was faithful in the midst of my struggles. You see, that train turned out to be full of the hands and feet of God in the form of wonderful friends and family; people ready to speak truth and scripture into my situation, reminding me to live like I really believe those scriptures and not let my feelings take over.

The first thing one friend said was, “The Lord is keeping you on your knees”. Simple words packing powerful conviction and definitely not a bad place to be. Katelyn, one of my favorite 10 year-olds, told me to listen to the song “No Matter What” by Kerrie Roberts. One line says;

“No matter what, I’m going to love you; no matter what I’m going to need you. I know that you can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not I’ll trust you, no matter what”

The song is now part of my daily play list and a great reminder to me that God is stronger than my feelings. Katelyn’s mama gave me this verse:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I camped on this verse for the better part of a week letting it become part of my thinking. If God has commanded me to be strong and courageous He will give me the power to do just that. This time it came through his praying people who make me feel surrounded by love and filled with gratitude to be…..just living the thing.

I Will Still Praise You

Author, Sonna Evans
Author, Sonna Evans

It was a long day. I was up early with a headache; way too early. My day was already slated to be a long one. One of those days where things just need to get done so you just plow through them. I had an evening meeting, and then one of my clients had to go to the emergency room. I really had no room in my tight schedule for this. I started to feel flustered.

Well, everything got taken care of and I hit home late, tired, and worn. As I walked toward the door I saw my dogs in the window. I had left them locked up so this was not a welcome sight. In a nanosecond I also remembered that I had not taken the trash out that morning. Ugh! My dogs like to get into the trash when they are left out.

In those couple seconds as I walked to the door I realized that after this never ending day I might have to walk into the house and pick up trash. And, just as I was about to unlock the door this thought jumped into my mind;

“Lord, even if I walk into a mess that I will have to clean up, I will still praise You.”

Seems kind of silly, but sometimes it is a small thing that becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I was not going to let a little trash steal my joy.

What is it that causes you to stop praising your Lord? We often find ourselves in circumstances that can try to rob us of our contentment in Him. I want to be able to walk ever so closely with Jesus that when those things come I can say:

  • I lost my mom…I will still praise You.
  • I have cancer…I will still praise You.
  • My child walked away from the Lord…I will still praise You.
  • My husband had an affair…I will still praise You.
  • Things did not go my way…I will still praise You.

God’s Word calls us to praise Him, in fact in Luke 19 Jesus says if we don’t praise Him even “the very stones would cry out.”

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!” Psalm 146:1

“With all my heart, I will praise the LORD.  Let all who are helpless, listen and be glad.” Psalm 34:2

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3

What is it that is currently threatening to steal your peace, joy and contentment? Our circumstances do not dictate whether God is worthy of our praise, He is always worthy! Because of this truth, we can still praise Him.

Father in Heaven; God of mercy, grace and compassion, thank you for Your love. Gently remind us when the circumstances of life seem too overwhelm us, that You are sovereign, that You have us in the palm of Your hand and that we can rest in You as we are…just living the thing.

River Watching

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

I’ve been reading the book of Joshua each morning while sitting outside on my little patio area drinking coffee, and was reminded that God makes a way for the promises He gives to be fulfilled.

In Joshua 3-4 God told Joshua to lead his entire nation of people across a river that was at flood stage to take control of land promised to them decades before. As soon as the priests’ feet touched the water, it withdrew and as God held back the water, the people crossed on dry land. Once the nation had safely crossed, God released the waters and the river resumed to its flow.

I’m sure Joshua had questions and a lot of disbelief to work through as he listened to God while looking at the impossible feat ahead. But God kept His word, and a pathway across the water was made.

Was there fear in the middle of the riverbed? Did they think about all the potential “what ifs”? For instance, what if the water was suddenly released? The impact would crush them and even if it didn’t, babies can’t swim. And I doubt that many adults knew how to swim given their extended stay in Egypt and the long time spent wandering in the desert.

What if their enemies took advantage of this opportunity? They could have been attacked by enemies from behind, and from enemies ahead! After the last one crossed over, the water returned, and I’m sure there was finality…and more fear, because even if they chickened out the option to go back had been removed.

When I read this story, I see that God provided a way for the vision and instruction He gave. I see that He kept his people safe as long as they were obedient. I see He closed the door behind them so evil people couldn’t pursue them, but it also took away the option to turn back once they had committed so they could only look ahead, and I see that they had success as they moved forward. (Side note, do we really experience success or triumph when we look backwards? – queue salty picture of Lot’s wife)

I struggle a lot with things I feel God has told me, because those things have not come to fruition and right now many things do not even seem possible. Did I hear God right? Do I keep hanging on? Am I in a waiting phase? Or did He change His mind? Honestly, I am not sure. But one thing I know is that as long as Israel was obedient, they were taken care of, and God kept His promises. So it is safe to live in obedience.

Admittedly, I have not been very successful in my obedience lately and am glad for the reminder that when God speaks, He provides a way for His word to be fulfilled, regardless of the seemingly immovable obstacles. So, my (sinful) heart is willing, and while I am waiting… I’m just living this thing.

Confessions of a Modesto Critic…

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

I don’t love Modesto. Though I have tried to guilt myself into a better attitude, it takes several days of grieving after visiting one of the cities on my list of “preferred places to live”, till I finally surrender to my residential reality. And, this is where Jonah comes in.

I don’t like reading about Jonah. Visions of man-swallowing fish are disturbing, which is largely why I have not taken up paddle boarding. And creepy fish aside, I relate all too well with someone running the other way when God requires difficult obedience. I tried that years ago. It didn’t go well for me either.

However, I must admit that I still have ‘Jonah episodes’… every time vacation is over. Like this week, when I resisted returning home for the umpteenth time.  I asked God why I can’t seem to fully accept living in Modesto.  I’ve always viewed this city as a temporary lay-over on the way to my real destination – somewhere safer, more beautiful, more cultured, more spiritually significant.

As I read about Jonah’s plan to catch the next ship to some place other than where God called him, bells go off in my head. Jonah wasn’t a rebel, he had valid reasons: Nineveh was an evil city, which today would rank highest on everybody’s ‘places to avoid’ list. Sounds familiar.  But what’s wrong with living the dream? Everyone on House Hunters finds their ideal home, in their favorite location.

Then I read the part about “the word of the Lord” telling him to go. Up to this moment in time, I have not seen my life in Modesto as specifically designed for a purpose. It’s been my default. And my wanderlust is not really disobedience; more like window shopping.

Contrary to Jonah’s commitment to a vacation lifestyle, God called him in the opposite direction. His life’s purpose was not to find fulfillment, it was to fulfill the will of God, and God loved the people of Nineveh. That part of the story fit the missing piece to the puzzle of my discontent.

When “living the dream” is my focus, life is all about me. When my focus is obedience, I partner with God and His purposes. And His love for the souls described in Jonah 4:11 showed me His heart for Modesto. He loves the people here. 

A beautiful location is not the criterion for God’s blessing or the indicator of His activity. I can choose to believe these years “stuck” in Modesto have not been just my default, a waste of time, or a mistake, but an intentional placement of God. I don’t want to end up like Jonah, angry that He used me to care for a city from which I want to escape. I want to be a willing participant and part of His solution. So I do want to love Modesto, because God loves her.

I also think it will help if I watch less HGTV and focus on… just living the thing.