“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”
James 1:22, MSG
I love that the Lord enjoys speaking in the most unique ways. His desire to develop a relationship with His children is such that He would go to the ends of the earth to grab our attention and pour out His love upon us. He is always speaking, in a variety of ways. Today, He spoke in quite a remarkable fashion.
I was sitting at my desk doing some editing, and my mind wondered as I glanced out of the open blinds in front of me. Do you ever do that – let your eyes follow the path of imagination? As I looked at the scene before me, the weeping willow limbs waved and danced in the slight breeze. They are just beginning to have a hue of green in the center of the tree as more of the branches begin to open their leaves with the changing weather.
The birds like to gather on the sturdier central limbs. I keep a bird feeder beside this tree, and I love seeing the birds gather around the rim of it eating the seeds. Today, they were mostly gathering in the grass directly underneath, as they have already emptied the feeder of its contents.
Millie, my dog, also loves birds. Really, what she’d like to do is catch one! So far, thankfully, she’s only sniffed them out as she runs circles in the yard. After her morning runs, I bring her inside and lift the blinds so that she can sit on the arm of the sofa and watch them in-between her frequent naps.
I failed to do this last Wednesday before leaving the house. The next day, while I was sweeping, I noticed there were two missing end pieces from the blinds. The ends were laying haphazardly on the floor. Millie had spent the previous day watching birds, and there was a tell-tale hole right at her eye-level. She’d broken them from blocking her view.
As I was gazing at the small birds pecking at the ground in the fresh grass, a larger brown bird flew into my view. I was wondering if it might be the state bird of Georgia, so I took a moment to look it up as it perched on the railing of my deck outside. Google is a wonderful thing – always ready to help a curious girl like me!
I read about the brown thrasher, Georgia’s state bird. The bird on my deck rail had its back to me. Its long brown tail feathers shifted as it balanced against the breeze. I could sense a prodding in my spirit that is always present when the Lord is trying to get my attention.
I didn’t hear anything in particular from the Lord as I stared at this bird, so I glanced back at my screen. There I saw an option to hear the bird’s call. Clicking the play button, I heard the most amazing melodic trill come from the speakers of my laptop. Millie instantly heard it, too. She jumped up quickly from where she’d been lazing among my favorite blankets on the sofa. She looked out of her self-created peep-hole. That was when the Lord quietly spoke to me. “Be quick to hearken to My call.”
The very second the bird call sounded through my speakers, Millie responded. Instantly, she was on her feet, ready for action. This was the action that the Lord was prompting me about this morning. In whatever He calls me to do, I need to be quick to respond.
In Luke 11:28, Jesus spoke, “ . . . But God will bless all who listen to the Word of God and carefully obey everything they hear” (TPT). What blessings are we lacking? Have we carefully obeyed what we last heard Him command?
Be quick to hearken to God's call. He has great blessings in store for those who listen and obey!
If you will, let this story be a wake-up call for each of us to respond promptly to His directions for our life. Your call may look different from the call of those around you, and that is perfectly fine! It takes each of us doing our part to spread the love of Jesus and His Good News to every corner of the earth. But, what an exciting adventure to be about His personalized mission for us! You see, this life is fully-lived when in constant communication with our Creator.
Oh, how He wants to work through you! He is calling to you! Do you hear Him? Let’s not be like one who looks in a mirror and then, as quickly, forgets what we look like. Respond promptly to His call, for there is much excitement in the plans He has for your future!
“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you. . . That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”
Isaiah 43:1b -4 (MSG)
A Tough Day
Yesterday was a rather difficult day for me. Do you ever have those days where you wake up long before your alarm clock sounds and then things just don’t stop until long past your usual bedtime? Non-stop, fast and furious – yesterday was that day for me, an attack on simple sanity.
In the wee hours of the morning, realizing the evasion of sleep, I decided to go ahead and get up. After all, I decided if I couldn’t sleep, at least I could be productive! I spent most of my day at the computer, breaking for lunch around 2:00. The evening wasn’t much slower, however. Finally, I sat down to pan-fried chicken over a lovely salad at about 8:00. Then, I put that on hold to handle some new things that popped up. When everything was accomplished, I melted into the sofa cushions and turned on the television.
The first bite of that salad was perfection. I was tired and I was hungry. Then, reaching over to grab my glass of fruit punch, I felt something odd on my left hand. My wedding rings had turned around on my finger due to the cold, and I’d felt a rather sharp edge.
I placed my glass back down and took a closer look. Something looked amiss. Quickly, turning my phone’s light onto my ring finger, I looked again. Sure enough, one of the prongs on my wrap felt a little sharp because it was out of place. Alas, a hole replaced the diamond that I expected to see.
I just stared at the ring for a while. Surely the empty gray space where the stone belonged was a figment of my imagination. I must be seeing things! There was no way I could be missing a diamond!
But, sadly, I was. I put my unfinished dinner to the side. I looked all around where I was sitting and didn’t see the missing stone anywhere. I looked around my desk, under folders, and around my books. I got the broom and carefully started sweeping. I lifted every dust bunny in the dustpan checking underneath for the diamond. Carefully raking around particles of dirt and glitter with my fingernail, I checked every section of the yellow pan. I repeated this process painstakingly around my living room, kitchen, and bedroom.
My youngest son noticed my distress and lifted the sofa so that I could carefully sweep there. He kept confessing, “Mom, you’re gonna find it! You’re gonna have a dream and the Holy Spirit is going to show you where it is!” I encouraged his confessions, but my heart just felt so heavy. I prayed for the Lord to show me the location of the missing stone. I searched every nook and cranny I could imagine it being.
It was quite late when Keith called to me from the bedroom. Knowing I’d already had a longer-than-usual day, he told me to go on to bed. I complied, but just felt defeated and deflated at not having found the diamond in all my searching.
Sadly, I laid in the bed. Needing comfort that can only come from One, I began to search the Word. I ran across a parable found in Luke chapter 15. It was the parable of the lost sheep.
In the story, Jesus describes a shepherd who watches over 100 sheep in a pasture. I can imagine, if you will, the sheep calmly grazing in the lush green meadow, with the shepherd laying against a black mulberry tree playing a small wooden harp. Such a picturesque scene.
In the story, Jesus describes the persistent search of one missing sheep, which probably meandered inattentively searching for greener pastures. The story further details a shepherd leaving 99 sheep in the open field without his protection. The purpose of which, to find that one lost, wayward sheep. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, however, he joyfully carries him back to the fold and calls the neighbors to rejoice with him.
This passage of Scripture is a parable. That means it has a
specific message that is the purpose behind telling the story. In this
instance, Jesus is referring to the rejoicing that occurs in Heaven when one
lost person repents and gives their heart to Him.
The Value of a Diamond
I then began to search the Word for any mention of the word diamond. Do you know, I didn’t find very much! Ezekiel lists diamonds as one of the precious stones covering the angel Lucifer. In Jeremiah, a diamond point is mentioned as part of an iron engraving tool – an analogy noting its hardness being such that would make a difference on a hard heart entrenched in sin.
I thought it strange that as valuable as we consider diamonds to be, God surely doesn’t mention them very much in His Word! Moreover, the most valuable thing mentioned in Scripture is US! WE are so important to God that He gave His Son so that we would not have to live life here or eternity in separation from Him. We are more valuable than diamonds. You see, diamonds are hardly even worth mentioning.
This morning, I placed my ring in the jewelry box to await repair, and I’m meditating on the value God places on me. I searched high and low and in every single place I could think that diamond could have rolled or bounced. Joyfully, I accepted the help of my child, who was concerned on my behalf. But, even to the extent I looked for that small stone, that is NOTHING in comparison to how God desires us to be found in Him. How great is His love for us!
Know Your Real Worth
Today, as you go from task to task, in meetings, on the phone, on the computer, cooking, cleaning, taking care of your family, studying, wielding a hammer or a pencil – whatever it is that you do – remember your worth. First, you are more precious than diamonds. Second, He created you uniquely and as one-of-a-kind. Lastly, you are rarer than the rarest of diamonds. If we are to be lost, let’s be lost in our awareness of who He sees us to be. Further, let’s be found realizing His love for us and worshiping the One who knows our true value.
What is your real worth? In short, you are priceless.
Never forget your real worth. You are priceless! Let's get lost in our awareness of who God sees us to be!
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
There’s rarely a time when I can’t appreciate a bit of encouragement. Scripture tells us many times not to be discouraged, and I imagine the reason the Lord spoke it so many times was because it is a trap into which the enemy often plots for us to fall. Years ago, I heard a story told by Bishop Carlton Pearson about a woman who attended his church when he was a little boy. Her name was Mother Sherman. She would ask him, “You yet holdin’ on?” He would affirm that he was holding on in the faith, to which she would respond, “Well, keep on keeping on then, baby” (Pearson, 1997).
100 Day Promise
No matter how old we are, we all need encouragement to keep holding on to our faith. This past week I was scrolling through Facebook. I saw that a friend had posted a photo of her child celebrating his 100th day of school. I immediately thought of my last 100th day of school when I taught first grade, and I scrolled through my gazillion photos to that day so that I could share my photo on her page. The date was January 23, 2013.
In the photo, I was standing in my kitchen in front of my pantry. My intent was to take a photo of my hair and makeup, and the outfit that I’d put together for that day. I’d used baby powder in my hair to give it that gray look and a black eye liner to draw lines where wrinkles might show up from 100 years of laughing at or scolding little children. I had on pearls, a turtle neck, jogging pants, bedroom slippers, and a bathrobe. I knew my first graders would get a kick out of my get-up for the day.
As I looked back on that photo taken so many years ago, something caught my eye. It was part of a 4×6 index card that was poster-puttied to the pantry door where I could see it every day. On it was Scripture. 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (NKJV). That photo on the 100th day of school was taken when I was still holding on to a promise in the Word.
Holding On to the Promises
Holding on to the promises in the Word truly became a lifestyle as we used it to war for the health of our son. The battle wasn’t easy and we at times became weary. But holding on was the only viable option! Have you ever been there? Maybe you are even there right now – holding on and waiting for God’s Word to come to pass in your life.
Waiting is rarely fun. However, the way we wait may impact the outcome. At the very least, it determines our mental health in the waiting. A few years ago, Chris Tomlin wrote a song titled Whom Shall I Fear. The lyrics reference the Scripture found in Isaiah 54:17. Tomlin wrote, “nothing formed against me shall stand. . . . I’m holding on to Your promises. You are faithful” (2012). Truly, God is certainly faithful to perform His Word. In fact, Jeremiah 1:12 (ESV), reads, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over My Word to perform it.'”
The Hard, Long, Unfair Place
The promise written on that card and hung on my kitchen pantry door has been fulfilled in the life of my son. In the waiting, it was hard. It felt long. Things felt unfair. But we kept the Word of God in front of our faces every single day, in various locations all around the house. The wait was hard, but God was our Comforter. It was long, but we were never alone. It felt unfair, but God brought new mercies every day to help us endure the difficulty.
If you are in a place that seems hard, long, and unfair, keep holding on to the Word. Keep on keeping on, God will never fail you. He will never leave you. His Word will never disappoint. Do not be discouraged, keep holding on.
Remember, there will come a day when you will be able to tell how He helped you overcome today’s adversity and step into tomorrow’s miracle. Keep believing for a miracle. Charles Tinley (1905) wrote, “we’ll tell the story, how we’ve overcome.” When that occurs, your miraculous testimony becomes the key to someone else’s breakthrough. You see, the Word tells us in Revelation 12:11a, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.”
Keep believing! Keep holding on to your promise, your miracle is on the way. Indeed, it is on the way! Keep holding on!
Today's adversity is tomorrow's miracle. Keep holding on!
“God conceals the revelation of His Word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says.”
Proverbs 25:2 TPT
I loved playing Hide-and-Seek as a child. My siblings and I would play it in our big, woodsy back yard or in the house on rainy days. We’d spout chants of “no peeking” and “count slowly” as the three of us ran in different directions away from the fourth child who was “it.”
One of my favorite places to hide in the house was under the kitchen sink. I could curl myself up on the side that didn’t have the plumbing, though I’m sure my mom didn’t appreciate my shifting her cleaning supplies. I could stay quiet there for a long time, hidden behind the dark brown doors.
I’d keep my giggles smothered by my knees as my hands curled around them to keep me in the confined space. Then I’d listen intently until I heard the screams of one of my siblings being found in another part of the house. Quickly, I would make my escape so that I could touch base without being tagged. If my brothers ever opened the cabinet door behind which I was hiding, there’d be no place for me to run. The startled feeling of being found was always followed by the immediate sinking feeling that I was now “it.”
Love of the Game
My love of Hide-and-Seek hasn’t changed much since I’ve grown up. But being “it” is the most fun for me now. I love watching little children scurry to hide from me before I close my eyes and count slowly and loudly.
Not too long ago, I had the privilege of watching the daughter of a friend while my friend worked. The little girl was about three-years-old. Together we played a game of Hide-and-Seek. I closed my eyes and began to count slowly and loudly to ten before announcing, “Here I come!”
My eyes opened. I could hear light giggles and noticed a child-shaped bulge in the curtains by the big picture window. In the space where the curtains nearly touched the floor, ten of the cutest little wiggly toes peeked out.
I spent some time calling her name and announcing the various places I was looking that I hadn’t found her. With each announcement of “no, she’s not under the table” or “no, she’s not behind the chair,” her giggling increased. When I finally “discovered” her hiding in the curtains, she squealed joyfully, eyes dancing, as I uncovered her. We then began Hide-and-Seek again, the hiding place rarely changing between there and under the bare table.
There’s not much credit one can take when finding the obvious hider. It took no skill at all to find my friend’s sweet little one. You can’t brag a lot when you tag the person under the sofa cushion. The cushion-covered body is hard to miss! It becomes quite exciting, however, when you finally find a hider in the most obscure place! This makes the game’s challenge very rewarding.
I was thinking over this experience when talking with a friend recently. You see, God plays Hide-and-Seek with His children, as well. The difference is that God doesn’t hide Himself from us. Instead, He hides Himself for us to find. While my friend’s little girl wasn’t intentionally giving herself away with her giggles and visible toes, God is very intentional. He, too, wants us to find Him.
Proverbs 25:2 reads, “God conceals the revelation of His Word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says” (TPT). Digging into the Word helps us to learn more about the principles that help us live a more victorious life. Scripture contains simply-stated rules to follow, to be clear. It also includes hidden treasures that reveal more of God’s character and love for us. Other verses we must ponder and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand.
Rules of the Game
In one article, Bill Johnson explains one of the reasons for God hiding things for us. He states (2013) that “Revelation always brings responsibility.” Becoming aware of God’s expectations of us makes us responsible to carry out what we’ve discerned. James 4:17 (TPT) puts it this way, “So if you know of an opportunity to do the right thing today, yet you refrain from doing it, you’re guilty of sin.”
This is not a comfortable truth perhaps, but it is certainly a truth we need to hear. As we begin this new year, I pray that we will all dig into the Word. It’s my desire that we learn more about God, His character, and His love for us. I also pray for nuggets of wisdom that the Holy Spirit helps us to uncover so that we can make application of it into our lives. What excitement we get when we’ve discovered something new that we didn’t understand before!
There is nothing in the Word that will do anything short of giving us abundance in every area as we learn and grow in Him. It’s really just a matter of playing Hide-and-Seek. What truths have you discovered so far this year?
Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times.
Romans 12:12 TPT
The morning was a slow-starting Saturday. While Saturday isn’t necessarily my favorite day of the week, I love the sluggish starts that Saturday allows. Extra patience never needed, I appreciate staying home as I get in extra stretches and don’t feel rushed to jump into makeup or other confinements that make one presentable to society. I donned a very comfy pair of pants befitting the brisk breezy conditions outside. Unlocking the kennel gate, I walked my impatient dog and then strolled to the coffee maker.
I always prefer my table cleared and covered with a black tablecloth that matches my window valence. This morning, however, the table was completely covered with baskets and cleaning products. I’d heard sounds earlier in the morning that made me believe that I’d find it in this condition. I mentally prepared myself to have patience and be calm. Sure enough, it was every bit as bad as I had imagined.
I saw my husband leaning over the still-full washing machine messing with the red metal twisty thing behind the heavy machine (post-coffee known as a water valve shutoff handle). I looked at the dusty mess covering my table and his general stiff demeanor. Clearly what he was discovering was going to cost time and resources. The amount of the cost was yet undetermined.
I felt poised. The last couple of loads had given me a warning message. The message usually meant that the screen that filtered dirt from our well outside needed washing off. In bright red lights, it read F02. Failure. This is not a task that I can do myself. I always wait until my husband has free time to look at it and muscle the hose from the spicket. He’d just returned from a business trip the previous Tuesday, which coincided with the day I’d left town for a writer’s conference. The washer had been free from use and corresponding error message for a week. It wasn’t until this lovely, lazy Saturday morning, that the problem resurfaced when he started a load before I’d even made it out of bed.
I watched my husband work and waited quietly until he explained the problem he saw. He stated that the valve itself had a leak and he was concerned about the impact of the leak on the sub-floor. I followed my initial gasp quickly with an audible, “oh no!” It had been less than two years since we’d completely gutted the kitchen and laundry areas all the way down to the floor joists. The job had been a considerable expense, and my husband and dad spent a great deal of time to complete the project. I didn’t want to ever repeat that messy, inconvenient experience. My husband grabbed his jacket and his keys and headed to our local home improvement store for the parts that he needed.
As I poured my cup of coffee, I felt a nudging of the Lord not to worry. I put aside thoughts of a damaged floor. I sat down to allow the warm beverage to help soothe my body as the Lord’s words had soothed my soul.
It wasn’t much longer before Keith returned, new valves in hand. He told me that He felt God speak to him on the way to town that our floor hadn’t been damaged. I told him God spoke the same thing to my heart, as well!
Thankful in the Mess
He quickly replaced the valve and tightened everything down. I cleaned up the now-damp dust bunnies that covered the floor area where the washer rested for so long. I began to think about all the things I was thankful for in this situation. First, we hadn’t had to call a plumber. Keith had been able to make the repairs himself much faster than I’d have thought possible. Keith hadn’t hollered, busted his knuckles, or made guttural sounds of manly agitation at any point in the morning. Secondly, I was thankful that the floor under the washer felt quite sound. We’d made wise purchases when replacing the sub-floor, a couple of years previously, and that investment had paid off. Thirdly, I had the opportunity to clean an area that had been quite neglected for two years. I even found a missing gardening glove!
As I cleaned with all these pleasant thoughts in mind, I felt thankful for Keith. I spoke those words to him as he put the washer back in place. Then I spent the next little bit cleaning out the baskets of cleaning supplies that I kept on top and restarted the washer to finish the cycle from the last load.
Continuing with my morning cleaning, in a rare throw-it-away stage of mind, I heard beeping permeating my brain once again. Sure enough, F02 clearly flashed on the window of the washing machine. Failure. Two choices were before me. I could get irritated or I could be patient. I chose the latter while I texted Keith to let him know. Once again, I began the process of taking everything off the tops of the washer and dryer. Laughing, I thought that at least everything was clean and more organized on top this time. It certainly made the job easier.
Each time Keith adjusted part of the machine, I was confident that this latest action would be the one that would repair the washer. I would place my non-skid mats back down on top of the washer and dryer, and return my baskets of gardening gloves, vegetable buckets, and cleaning supplies. I’d love to say that it my great faith pushed me to return everything back in place so promptly. I must admit, however, that seeing my table covered in these items caused me feelings of tension. I can hardly stand my things being out of place if it is in my ability to make them orderly.
By about the fifth time, I just left everything on the table. Putting items back where they belonged wasted my valuable time. The beeping sound and error F02 message still sounded each time the washer got to the final drain cycle. It was almost a taunting noise – coming just when we thought we’d found success. At this point, we decided Keith had done all he knew to do. The machine was an old one, and it would be best to make the drive into town to investigate the models available for a replacement of the much-used washer.
I got ready to go, trading the comfortable black lounge pants for more confining
blue jeans and quickly added some color to my face – all the things I prefer to avoid on Saturdays. I laughed and chose not to get agitated or feel drained just because my washer wouldn’t. We drove an hour into town. After the sixth appliance store visit, however, I was tired. Patience ceased to be a virtue in my possession. I believe there must be a rule that appliances must be located in the furthest possible point from the entrance and exit doors. I was tired of comparing prices, looking for the best deal, and trying to stretch my too-short arms into a too-deep washing machine drums. So when the sales clerk stated that she had a front-load washer in stock and would give us an amazing deal on it due to our extended wait, I was elated!
We walked back to the front of the store to pay, headed to the truck, and pulled around to the loading area. We waited and waited, and then we waited some more. No one came bearing anything resembling a washing machine box. Keith returned to the customer service desk to discover that the washing machine we’d paid for was not in the store and would need to be ordered. It would be in the following Friday.
I felt impatient with patience. My desire to go home, watch Keith put in our new washer, and unload my table of its burdens outweighed all other thoughts. I wanted to crawl into bed listening to the quiet hum of a new washer and feel the zero-vibration promise of the new washer, so unlike our older model that made the glasses in my china cabinet chatter.
Looking into the eyes of my husband, hoping by some miracle that he could make this news not be true, I decided that, again, I had a choice to make. I could choose to vent my frustration on the hard-working clerk, or I could remember that she could very well walk into my church the very next day. What would I do if she did? Would my behavior embarrass me now and later, or would I choose to follow my husband’s patient lead? I chose the latter.
Patience is not always an easy choice. I suppose that if it were, everyone would do it. There is a verse in the book of John in which Jesus stated that in this world we would have trouble (John 16:33). Today seemed to have been full of trouble and opportunities to lose my cool. But in true Jesus-fashion, He left us with the promise that we could have peace no matter the troubles we face, because He’d overcome the world.
No matter how things appear on the exterior, the inside of each human is full of emotions at various states of expression. Some are aloof, some are relaxed, some are joyful. Others are volatile or on edge – but there isn’t one person on the planet who doesn’t have emotions. No matter the difficulties we face, it’s wise to remember there’s nothing more important than showing love to people.
Be Patient in Trouble
I don’t know that Sharon will remember the tired woman with the nearly-bruised ribs who reached into every washing machine on her sales floor. I’m unsure if she saw the man who pulled my husband and me into a prayer huddle on our way out the door. I don’t know how many other people she’d served that day. I’m not sure who had lost their patience with her when things didn’t work out as they planned. Thankfully, I held my tongue in check when I felt my emotions edge toward impatience.
Romans 12:12 (TLB) reads, “Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always.” I often fall short in various troublesome situations, but the Word reminds me to be patient. God never fails to help us overcome failure. Patiently hold to the hope of His purposes.
God never fails to help us overcome failure. Patiently hold to the hope of His purposes.
Tonight, as I avoid looking at the pile of baskets, cleaning supplies, and gardening gloves on my table, I thank God for the beeping of Failure 02. We escaped serious, costly damage to our laundry floor because we discovered a leaking valve. We now own a new, much-needed washer replacing the broken one. I have a husband who sets the standard high when I feel my own emotions slipping.
What a blessing to have a friend we’d not seen in years pray over us! It didn’t matter that he did so right in the middle of the front aisle of a home-improvement store! I feel incredibly thankful for the messages of love God constantly pours over me through His Word and His people. I’m thankful for the attainability of patience. Like love, patience is a choice.
The Choice is Yours
In conclusion, I want to encourage you to choose patience if you are dealing with something frustrating. There is a song by Hillsong Music, titled “Elohim” (2016) which declares that God’s promises will never fail even when we are in a trial. The song goes on to say that God is patient because God is love. This refers to the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that declares that “love is patient.” (Click the title to play this amazingly peaceful song. Music often sets the atmosphere and helps us achieve a more patient outlook on our experiences.)
Look for the things about your situation which are positive. Also listen to see if God is trying to speak to you, even in the midst of difficulty. God constantly whispers comforting confidence into the hearts of His children bringing calm to the chaos. I recently wrote an article about God speaking in the strangest ways. Read the article when you have time. But most importantly, hold on steadfastly. Be persistent. Our failures are not permanent and God will not fail you. Choose patience and joy. Focus on the opportunities God may be bringing your way. Remember Romans 12:12: “Be happy in your hope. Do not give up when trouble comes. Do not let anything stop you from praying” (NLV).
We can learn patience even from moments of frustration or failure. Patience 101 is a prayer away.
God constantly whispers comforting confidence into the hearts of His children bringing calm to the chaos.
My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in His presence, freely asking according to His will, sure that He’s listening. And if we’re confident that He’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours. 1 John 5:13-15 (MSG)
Lessons from God
You can learn a lot from animals. Whether a cow, dog, or fish, God can teach life lessons using anything! One spring morning, I was out walking my dog. Not the classy, go for a morning constitutional, get a little fresh air and exercise kind of walk. This was the “I don’t want to clean up behind you in the house” kind of walk. This is a routine for us. Every morning, when I open my bedroom door, I see Millie sitting up and looking at me from her kennel. She knows what is coming. She has heard me moving around in my room. Millie heard me open the bedroom door. She knows I am going to let her outside as soon as she finishes jumping and wagging after being set free from her confinements.
Second Chance at Spring
That morning, the air was cool. It was warming up a little more each day and it looked like we were getting a second chance at spring in Georgia. Some of my bushes that were hit hard by a freeze right after blooming were budding again. Tiny white flowers opened along the boughs of my bridal wreath spirea and little pink tassels covered the Japanese Fringe Flower. That excited me, because I hadn’t been able to enjoy their colors nearly long enough a few weeks earlier when they bloomed the first time!
As I walked Millie, keeping her on a tight leash until we were away from my flower beds, I looked at the freshly cut grass. I always keep my eyes down, watching where I am walking, for many reasons. One of those reasons is so that I can look for any type of trash that needs picking up. I usually find a piece or two on my short morning walks around the yard, but this morning was different. There was nothing to pick up where I was walking. I breathed deeply as I walked. It was then that the peace and quiet of the country air was shattered.
Across the dirt road and through the woods came the loud, low bellowing of a lone cow. My closest neighbors don’t own cows. Nobody anywhere on my road owns a cow. But someone not too far away apparently had a cow or a bull that spring.
Cows used to be quite a fascination of mine. As a young child, I had a toy cow on wheels connected to a bell-shaped bulb. When I squeezed the bulb, the cow lifted its head and mooed. I called cows “moo cows” most of my life. In fact, when I was in elementary school I wrote the word “moo cow” in each of our home dictionaries to prove that it was really a word.
I had lots of cow-themed items growing up. My parents gave me a collection box full of cow figurines. Shortly before we married, my husband’s best friend gave me a pillow case. The print on it read, “Something in the way she moos.” I had cow stuffed animals in my bedroom, and my best friend gave me Mary Moo Moos that were adorable.
Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby
I remember as a teenager when my fascination with wanting to own a real cow began to wane. I was visiting my grandparents. They had a house and a bunch of family-owned land in the country. As I was out meandering on the dirt roads, I walked near a farm of a distant relative. I could see cows in the field. I climbed up on the round metal poles of the pasture gate and watched them. Several of the cows came close to where I was. They were SO pretty, but then something hit me . . . the smell. My goodness, they didn’t smell pretty.
Sometimes things may look fantastic at a distance, but when you get up close enough to see the reality – then, not-so-much. This morning’s unusual sound filtering through the woods fascinated me because it sounded so forlorn. Maybe it was “something in the way she moos” that made it stick out in my ears. Hearing cows in the rural area in which I live certainly wouldn’t be shocking – even with the knowledge that my closest neighbors don’t own cows.
The bellow the cow made this morning sounded very distinct. It sounded almost like the cow was communicating something very clear and specific. It sounded desperate. Lonely. There were no other moos answering back. Never having owned cows myself, I was intrigued with the sound. I began to listen to see what the Lord might be wanting to teach me from the cow moo. I felt inclined to do a little research.
Bringing my dog inside, I put her leash beside the buffet just inside the front door. I picked up my phone and googled, “Why do cows moo?” The results seemed consistent, but I ran across one article, written by Kristofor Husted, that peaked my interest.
Why Cows Moo
Mr. Husted, a journalist and reporter for Harvest Public Media, met with a cattle geneticist to inquire from him why cows moo. I have no idea what prompted him to ask that question, but I’m glad that he did and that he went to someone who was experienced in all things bovine. Mr. Husted reported (2016) that cows seem to communicate for a variety of reasons.
First, he stated that when cows are moved to new locations, they often call out trying to find other cows that they know. Cows also moo when they are looking for a mate for purposes of reproduction. Cows moo when their calf (or the mom) has been lost and they are trying to locate one another. Finally, it was reported that cows also moo when they are hungry, need to be milked, or are stressed in some fashion (heat, trapped, etc.) Mr. Husted tried to get a recording of cows mooing but was unsuccessful. In explanation, the geneticist simply stated, “happy cows don’t need to moo” (Husted, 2016).
It was that last line that I found most interesting and made the most sense in describing the lowing of the cow that morning.
The cow-call that I heard earlier sounded so anguished to my ears. It didn’t seem to be happy. It caught my attention and made me alert. I wanted to go locate from where the sound was coming to see what was going on or if there was something I could do to help.
Thinking on that mournful moo made me contemplate what our cries out to God must sound like to Him. Unlike my lack of understanding of the reason behind the cow calling out this morning, God knows every situation in our lives. He knows our reasons even before we cry out to Him. He loves each of us without condition and is concerned about everything that is of concern to us.
Luke 12:6-7 reads, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (NKJV). That He takes count of every hair on our heads has always fascinated me – I lose hairs with every brush or washing of my tresses. So, if even that detail doesn’t escape His eye, then no doubt He notes any situation of greater meaning to my life. No problem is too big or too small for God to know about, care about, and be able to do something about.
Communicating with God
Let me preface my next few paragraphs by saying that communicating with God should not be reserved just for times of trouble. (Who wants to hear from someone who only calls you when they need something?) But just like good parents appreciate when their children come to them when a problem is stirring, our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him with situations we face. And while parents may sometimes already be aware about situations that are troubling their children, God certainly already knows every detail of every aspect of our lives before we call out His name.
God’s Word tells us that when His children cry out to Him, He hears them. Psalm 34:17 reads, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (NKJV). Psalm 50:15 reads, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (NKJV). Psalm 86:7 (MEV) reads, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.” Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) reads, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”
Communicate to Build Relationship
God longs for us to communicate with Him. According to Merriam-Webster, (n.d.), communicate means to “share. To convey knowledge of or information about: make known; reveal by clear signs. To cause to pass from one to another.” Communication is a two-way street, with both parties sharing and listening to one another. Communicating with God isn’t just about calling out when situations are starting to look scary. It isn’t merely about desperate times calling for desperate measures. Instead, communication is consistently acknowledging our reliance on the Lord and desiring to develop deeper relationship with Him.
We communicate with the Lord in our thoughts, the focus of our hearts, our actions, and with our voices. For most of my life, praying out loud was something that terrified me. The reason for that was because I was forgetting my intended audience of one, and instead was more concerned about what I sounded like to people. I still, at times, struggle with that – especially in a crowd. But the Lord has been showing me that I generally begin to feel more comfortable when I frequently practice something that, at first, makes me uncomfortable.
Lift Your Voice
But praying, declaring the Word of God, and crying out to God – out loud – well, there is something different about that I’ve noticed. I don’t know that lifting our voices has an impact directly on God (He’s not deaf, nor is He nervous). I think, however, that praying, declaring the Word, and crying out to God aloud causes something different to happen in us.
Barbara Ho, (n.d.), in talking about the children of Israel marching around the walls of Jericho and then obeying God on the seventh lap by yelling, stated, “Have you ever wondered why He had the people shout? Of all things to have them do, why that? Because lifting our voices takes faith. Sometimes just stating facts aloud validates the reality of whatever the situation is. It somehow makes it real.”
Staying quiet in prayer takes no guts at all. Speaking out takes courage. It takes faith. Voicing our prayers aloud means we can no longer hide behind appearances.
Lifting our voices takes faith. Wow. Boy is she right. I can pray all kinds of crazy, wild prayers in my head, and God the creator of the craziest things (Google weird ocean animals and be amazed) hears me but isn’t ever surprised. But if I start praying and declaring the Word of God over big, crazy dreams – aloud, where I can hear me, or other people can hear me, when THEY know the crazy things I am believing for – that is a little different, isn’t it?
Is Your Crazy Showing?
I’ve seen humorous memes on Pinterest that say things like, “You might want to tuck that back in, your crazy is showing.” Society is mostly about conformity. Sticking out usually makes people feel awkward. But if we are going to be crazy about anything, let it be about Jesus, and let it be something that makes our faith stronger!
Besides building our own faith, speaking the Word aloud in prayer might encourage someone else to believe big for themselves. The “Me Too” movement, begun in 2006, is still a hot topic in the media right now. But what if we say “me, too!” when we are praying with people about things that are unattainable without God’s intervention? He’s more than able to do for your prayer partner the same as He can do for you! Think bigger! Call out to God! He hears us and longs to communicate with us. For what are you believing?
And, of course, it is very good if a man has received wealth from the Lord and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and to accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. The person who does that will not need to look back with sorrow on his past, for God gives him joy. Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 (TLB)
I love to laugh. I love to look for spectacular things that others are doing and calling them out. Encouragement is so easy when you are seeing great things going on around you in the people you know and love. But what about when things are not going so well? What if you have made a mistake? How do you move forward then? How do you live a life of no regrets?
If you have never made a mistake in your life, you can probably stop reading here. If you just sat down with a fresh cup of coffee and have nothing better to do, but still fall into the “I’ve never made a mistake in my life” category, feel free to keep reading. For the rest of us, I hope that reading this post will bring some relief. I pray that you find encouragement on how to move forward from past mistakes.
A few weeks ago, I chatted with a mom who had decided to homeschool her children. In our conversation, I remarked that I had never regretted my choice to homeschool my children. I’d questioned it at times. I’d made sure that I was hearing clearly from the Lord about that choice. But I felt no regrets about homeschooling.
My eldest son has now graduated and is attending a local technical college. Looking back on the years I spent with him one-on-one causes no feelings of regret at all. There are many things in my past that I wish I could go back and do differently. Yes, many. Homeschooling my boys just isn’t one of them.
I don’t know that there is a worse feeling in this world than the pain of regret. Our minds can feel absolutely tormented if we have thoughts like “what if I had only” or “I wish I had” playing on repeat as we think about various life experiences. Regret is defined as “to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.); to think of with a sense of loss: pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone” (regret, n.d.). Even reading that definition makes me feel rather disgruntled in my heart! No one wants to feel the pain of regret. Knowing that, I doubt there is one person on the face of the earth today who has not felt regret about something in their life.
It is human nature to try to avoid pain. Some pains are beneficial. Pain may help us achieve goals we have set. It may keep us from further damage to our bodies or to others. But the pain of regret is one that we typically want to sidestep. And while none of us want to make regrettable decisions, few experience a life of no regrets. An article in Psychology Today states, “Regret is the second-most common emotion people mention in daily life . . . and it’s the most common negative emotion” (Grierson, B., 2017).
The youth pastor at my church signs his emails “No Reserves, No Returns, No Regrets” (E. Hidalgo, personal communication, May 9, 2018). That isn’t a shabby motto by which to live. Wouldn’t it be great if, at the end of our lives, we were able to look back and say that we had no regrets? And yet, so many people experience this painful emotion. Psychologist Amy Summerville, in an article in National Public Radio (2017) states that it is repeatedly thinking over events that tend to bring about the most negative feelings. She states:
Rumination is having thoughts spring unwanted to mind and we’re chewing them over without actually getting anything new out of them, they’re just repeatedly, intrusively, becoming part of our mental landscape. What we’ve found is that people who have ruminative regret, tend to be the people who are experiencing the most negative outcomes. (Perkins, L., Boyle, T., Klahr, R., Vedantam, S., & Cohen, R., 2017)
Picture this – imagine that you are visiting me near my house in the country. We are taking a walk down a dirt road near a green, grassy field. The wind is blowing lightly, causing the grasses to dance in the breeze, and a neighbor’s cows are standing around chewing.
We stop and enjoy the pastoral scene. It’s quiet, but as we study the cows we are thinking that they should have swallowed that bite and taken another by now. I can imagine laughter as we mimic their chewing motions.
The Webster Dictionary describes the root of the word ruminate as coming from the Latin word “ruminari” which “in turn derives from ‘rumen,’ the Latin name for the first stomach compartment of ruminant animals (that is, creatures like cows that chew their cud)” (Ruminate, n.d.). While we don’t spend a great deal of time chewing our food, cows do. In fact, Webster states, “Literal rumination may seem a little gross to humans, but to cows, chewing your cud (that’s partially digested food brought up from the stomach for another chew) is just a natural part of life” (n.d.).
There are things in life about which it is good to ruminate. Thinking over the great things God has done in your life, success, dreams, meditating on the Word and things He has whispered to you as you’ve listened in prayer. These are all healthy, productive ruminations. Some thoughts, however, are best forgiven and forgotten. Learn what you can from these negative experiences and then move on. Don’t waste time regretting what you can do nothing about.
Scripture has a lot to say about how to deal with regrets. God knew we wouldn’t always make perfect decisions, and we’d need to have a way to clean up our messes and get back on track! This is where I want to focus. This is how to live with no regrets! While there is great wisdom we can glean from brilliant minds, there is no better source than the Word of God with which to hold as the standard for our decisions.
First, let me say that when we make a mistake, we need to ask for forgiveness if our actions affected anyone else negatively. In a letter to the church of Macedonia, Paul writes to tell them that he had previously written them some harsh corrections that he later regretted. Yes, even Apostle Paul had regrets! But he states that he didn’t regret the letter now because by calling them out on some things they needed to be better about, it had caused them to adjust their lives so that they were now living in the way that they should. In 2 Corinthians 7:19, he states “Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret” (MEV).
Seeking forgiveness when we have made a mistake causes regret to fall away. We first need to ask forgiveness from the Lord. The good news there is that going to God for forgiveness of our sinful choices has only one result – forgiveness! 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (MEV).
Now don’t think that you can just do whatever you please, hurting other people, and thinking you will have no consequences for your behavioral choices. That just isn’t the case. In fact, there is another stipulation to receiving forgiveness. You can’t expect God to forgive you if you don’t forgive other people. It is a command to forgive – a choice we need to make. Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (MEV).
To be clear, there is no limit on how many times we should even forgive the same person of the same mistake. Jesus said, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22, MEV). That is a lot of forgiveness, but what a weight we release when we release others. Living a life of forgiveness puts you on the path to a life of no regrets.
There is a common expression that is derived from a 1938 book by Emmet Fox. In Fox’s book, he states that drinking poison with the intent to protect yourself from others is pointless as there is no “doubt who will actually receive the benefit of the poison” (Fox, 1938). The more common expression I know has been credited to many different people with a variety of negative topics, but I’ve heard as “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person hurt by holding a grudge, rehearsing past wrongs, or hanging on to anger and resentment is the person doing the holding. You are much better letting those negative emotions go, forgiving, and moving on. The person who is really freed is you.
Forgiving others doesn’t mean that you are saying that what someone did to you was right; it doesn’t excuse their behavior. It doesn’t mean that what you did to someone else was right when you ask for forgiveness, either. Instead, forgiving the wrongs others have done to you keeps their behavior from hurting your heart further. Lewis Smedes (1984) wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner is you” (p.133). But the choice to forgive is yours alone to make – choose to have no regrets.
Learn And Move On
The second thing that I wanted to address about having no regrets once you have sought or chosen forgiveness if needed, is to learn from your mistakes and then put them behind you. When I was growing up, I did a lot of cooking with my mom. She is an excellent cook and I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with her.
One day, I was pulling a hot dish from the oven. I was so focused on not burning my hands through the potholder that I wasn’t paying enough attention to where the top of my hand was. The knuckle of my pinky finger contacted the oven rack. There is still a light scar from that mistake, but I learned to be a whole lot more careful when pulling something from the oven and am that much closer to having no regrets in the kitchen!
Sometimes You Win
I’ve often heard the expression, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” In fact, author John Maxwell has written a book by the same title. I prefer not to learn the hard way, but if I go through something hard, I surely hope I learn something from it! Once you’ve learned something, hold onto the lesson but then move forward. Don’t keep rehearsing the negative experience – that is counterproductive!
Psychologist Amy Summerville had mentioned that choosing to mull over negative events produces negative feelings (2017). Therefore, we must choose to stop. Philippians 3:13 reads, “Brothers, I do not count myself to have attained, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (MEV). That same passage in The Message reads:
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back (Philippians 13:12-14, MSG).
The Passion Translation ends verse 13 by saying, “I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead” (TPT).
Choose To Focus
Choosing to put things behind you doesn’t give you amnesia. But as you work through the decision and process of forgiveness, learn from the past, and focus on the positive, the sting of regret fades. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. See, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not be aware of it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (MEV).
Choosing to put things behind you doesn’t give you amnesia. But as you work through the process of forgiveness, the sting of regret fades.
What does it look like to have a river in the desert? It looks unnatural. In fact, it looks supernatural, because only God can cause a lush, thriving, flowing river to spring up from a dry, lifeless wasteland. Acts 3:19 reads, “And now you must repent and turn back to God so that your sins will be removed, and so that times of refreshing will stream from the Lord’s presence” (TPT). Living a life free from the pain of regret is attainable by turning to God, repenting for any wrong you’ve done, and then moving forward in refreshing relationship with the One who loved you enough to lay His life down for you before you were even born.
Live Life with No Regrets!
There are multitudes of quotes sharing how to live without regrets. Most are serious and thought-provoking. I believe the reason for this is because it is such a serious and real emotion that most experience at some point in life. But we can choose to forgive the past, learn what you can from it, and focus on a more positive future. Don’t look back – live life with no regrets!
What’s in your hand? Right now, my computer keys, but often you will find a pencil in my hand. I love to write. Sometimes, when I talk, I can’t think of exactly the right thing to say right in the moment. Witty remarks, humorous responses, wise connections – sometimes the perfect response eludes me until after the moment has passed. At that time, I usually think, “Ugh! Why didn’t I say THAT?”
Writing is different. When I write, if I type out something and then think of a more ingenious way to put it, a simple hold of the backspace key allows me to completely re-work the words until they flow off the tongue exactly as I want. Oh, to be able to always speak with such grace and flow! Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to reverse what we’ve said and say it correctly all the time with no one wise to our error?
God Doesn’t Miss a Thing
I have been staying quite busy lately. You, too, huh? Every moment seems to be filled with work, school, church, side projects, laundry, cooking, yard work, and other chores to take care of my family. I was just telling someone yesterday that it didn’t seem that I’d had time to write just for myself in quite a while (note the last blog date – shocking!).
Well, I suppose God must have heard my complaint, because this morning’s post came from a heavenly wake-up call at 3:44 this morning. I heard song lyrics in my waking moment. “I am the wind in your sails, I am the wind in your sails, I am the wind in your sails” (Cook, Gretzinger, Hesler, & Hesler, 2015).
As I stirred with that song in my heart, I felt the Lord speaking to me that many times we falter back and forth trying to decide on a direction to turn in life. But our error, sometimes, is just our lack of decision making. He will bless whichever way we go – we just must decide to do it so that He can bless it.
Just Get Moving
I thought that was a pretty wild thought, especially for so early in the morning, but then I contemplated the lives of my natural sons. If they are doing something that isn’t essentially wrong, against our beliefs or morals, or different from the way they have been reared – I don’t care what they are doing if it is honoring of the Lord and of our family name.
Want to go to school? Great! Do it and do it well, just decide already and get moving! Want to work full time? Fine! Get a job that will meet your needs in the long-haul and go after it! Want to play in a band? I think that’s a great idea – let’s just make sure that it is in an environment that will make you flourish as a person and grow in your walk with God. Your dad and I will cheer you on, just get moving!
And this is what I felt the Lord speaking to me before it was even “bright and early” this morning! Still pitch black outside my window pane without a breeze in the sky moving the trees outside my window, I heard “I am the wind in your sails.” It was like the Lord was asking me, “What is it that is in your heart to do, My child? Whatever it is, do it. I will bless it; I will blow My breath of approval upon it as you step to send you sailing on your way. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you can use what’s in your hand.”
The Blessing of Our Father
You see, just like I want the best for my children, God wants the best for us. I want my children to use their natural gifts and abilities to help them decide what they want to do in life. I’d also love it if whatever they chose to do was something they really were going to enjoy – for it to be something that they were passionate about. While not everything we have to do in life moves our hearts or stirs our passions, (some things are just needed to get us from where we are to where we want to be) we do have the choice on what we are going to do.
As a child, I remember learning Scripture that became an early foundation in my life. One was Proverbs 3:5-6, which reads, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (KJV). The Message translation reads, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:6). The version listed at the top of this writing is, “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success” (Proverbs 3:6, TLB). So what’s in your hand?
In each of those versions, I get the concept that if my heart is focused on the Lord, trusting in Him, He will direct me. You only need directions if you are moving or planning to move. In the book of Isaiah, there is a passage that reads, “Therefore the Lord waits [expectantly] and longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you” (Isaiah 30:18, AMP). He’s waiting – what do you think the Lord is waiting on? Perhaps He’s waiting on US! Yes, He could just be waiting for us to do something so that He can bless it! What’s in your hand?
God is waiting for us to do something so that He can bless it!
Isaiah 30:21 speaks to that concept as well, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (AMP). If you are turning, you are making movements. He is saying that He will confirm the direction AS YOU ARE MOVING. And as you are making steps, you are doing so by faith, with the goal to please Him with every decision. That is a lifestyle choice that any natural parent would want to bless, so what makes us think that our Father would do any less? So what’s in your hand? Hebrews 11:6 reads, “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him” (AMP).
Lisa Bevere posted a video sharing some insights from her book, Without Rival. In the video, she shares that God is the one who plants dreams and desires within our hearts. What’s in your hand? She says that it isn’t an ambitions or competitive nature in us that drives us to pursue these ideas and desires, but that we actually fulfill Proverbs 3:6 that says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him” when we acknowledge that the ideas come from Him! (Bevere, 2017) Continuing, she says that we can pray to God concerning our desires, “God, it seems too big for me, it seems too grand, but You are the one that seeded this in me for Your glory. I’m going to acknowledge You and I’m going to walk in Your way” (Bevere, 2017).
What encouraging words on which to focus! Those God-dreams, desires, and abilities are given to us for a purpose, and we need to do something with them. We can couple Proverbs 3:5-6 with the passage in Isaiah 30:21, as Lisa Bevere suggests, knowing that as we go about doing what we feel led to do, while recognizing and acknowledging that the desire is from the Lord, we can expect further directions on the steps we need to take next and for the Lord to bless what we are doing. What awesome promises are in the Word! They surely will give us a great foundation from which to make sound decisions.
So, this morning, I feel the Lord stirring my heart. There are things that I’d like to do but starting them is up to me! There’s a song written by Helena Barrington titled “That’s When” that has been recorded by multiple artists. The version that I had on repeat in my car back in the 1990s was by the group TRUTH. Some of the lyrics are “What’s that you have in your hand? I can use it” (Barrington, 1994).
Perhaps the Lord is saying to you today what He was saying to me, “I am the One who gave you that gift – use what your Daddy gave you!” What’s in your hand? This passion to write – I can choose to make the time for it, or I can roll back over into the sheets and wait for the day to break. But if I choose the latter, will I have the time to make it happen? My pastor has quoted Leonard Ravenhill many times, saying, “The opportunity of a lifetime needs to be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity” (1986). Another similar expression that I have often heard is to strike while the iron is hot! We need to get busy doing what we feel called to do and now seems like a pretty good time to start!
Don’t Roll Over
This morning, I had an idea for writing. I chose to get up and write. What’s in your hand? What ideas has the Lord been stirring in you? What are you doing about it? Or are you just rolling back over into a comfortable position?
Use what you have in your hand. Do what moves you! Perhaps you are waiting to find out if it is His will for your life. Let me help you with that! Is it in line with the Word? Will it minister to others, bless your family, or move you along? Does it have potential? Perhaps His will is for you to step, and He’s just waiting to bless that step! He won’t force you – He’s already given you an invitation to move. What are you waiting on? Step out into your dreams. Start! There’s no time like the present, so don’t roll back over and get comfortable in complacency.
I encourage you to listen to the song “The Voyage” by Amanda Cook. This is what the Lord was ministering to me this morning. Amanda sings, “He’ll send the rain wherever we end up” (Cook, 2015). You see, He’s ready to place His stamp of approval on your path. He’s your Father and He loves you! He wants to bless your steps – you just must take the first one. He’ll be there to cheer you on. You can do it! He wants you to be successful!
Get your copy of the author’s book Believing for a Miracle available on Amazon.
Listen to the soothing sounds of Keith Murray’s song Peace in the Stormhere for free featuring Caleb Murray on bass, or purchase a copy of the entire album Peace in the Storm from the artist’s website.
I recently went to Walt Disney World with some of my closest friends for a “girls’ weekend.” It had been close to thirty years since I had been to Disney, and I had never stayed past dark. This weekend was to be the exception. I was eager with anticipation and expecting to have a great time!
Prepared with matching Believing for a Miracle shirts, we approached our day. I am not even certain whose idea it was to wear the shirts, but it was a great one! The shirts served a dual purpose. First, it made it easier for Disney’s Cast Members to recognize us as a group when seating us on rides. Second, wearing the shirts gave us the opportunity to start a conversation with those who saw us and were curious about the words displayed. (I had the opportunity to share how God healed my oldest son from cancer and am currently praying for a young lady named Adolyn as a result of my friend talking about the shirt with me.)
The weather was a perfect temperature. Wearing short-sleeved shirts and long pants kept us comfortable all day and ready for anything! While it had been chilly at home the week before, in sunny Florida it was a beautiful 80 degrees. It was warm enough to enjoy an icy orange sherbet and ice cream treat, but cool enough that we weren’t sweating as we walked around on the black asphalt. We even rode a water-ride since one of our friends had the foresight to come prepared with a poncho for each of us. It was a grand adventure. And we loved experiencing each detail of every ride together. Even the time spent in the queue lines made way for peals of laughter over things as simple as how to properly hold a water-bottle. (Yes, there can be joy even in seasons of waiting!)
Everything in the park was so beautiful in the daylight. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like at nighttime. Throughout the day, my friends and I “oohed and ahhhed” over one display or another, and each of us took a plethora of photographs. The flowers, greenery, and intricately-woven ribbons in stunning displays were breath-taking.
As the sun started to set, my friends and I began to make our way toward Cinderella’s castle. The park had not been overly crowded all day, at least not as much as I knew was possible. There was so much to see and do at the park, but the rides and activities were so spread out that even with the vast number of people within the gates, my friends and I had room to walk two-by-two most of the day.
The closer we got to the castle, however, the more crowded it became. It seemed that everyone was looking forward to seeing the lighting of the castle. We had arrived 15 minutes prior to the scheduled lighting. Even with that early arrival time, hundreds of people seated themselves en-masse before the castle. There were just as many standing along the fences. People were laughing and talking with loved-ones, taking photographs, and pointing at one interesting item or another. There was a definite, tangible excitement!
I took several pictures of the castle and some of my friends, but then I began to look around at the people. I like to watch people anyway, and I found it particularly interesting watching the crowd that evening. There was such a diversity of people – different ages and ethnicities, various backgrounds. There was such a colorful array of people, and I found the details of all that I was seeing absolutely fascinating. But as I studied the crowd, one dominant emotion surfaced in the eyes of each person – expectation.
Expecting, according to Merriam-Webster (n.d.), is defined – to wait, stay: to look forward: to be pregnant; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of. I literally had no idea what I was expecting, exactly. I had never seen Disney at dark. But I knew that whatever it was – it was going to be worth the wait.
What if we, as believers, were all in a state of expectation, all the time? What would that look like? Would people notice and inquire what was so different about our gazes? How piqued would their interest be? Would our demeanor or expressions raise their own personal awareness enough to ask?
Looking among a crowd of gatherers with their eyes peeled to a darkened castle, the light in their eyes was one of expectation. We were none of us disappointed. Over 200,000 lights dripped down the turrets and walls of Cinderella’s castle after the lighting explosion was complete.
The castle, in its enlightened splendor, was breathtaking, and tears pricked my eyes. What I saw was even better than what I had expected, and Holy Spirit nudged my heart. Was I expecting in my real life with even a fragment of the eagerness of the lighting of the castle? Did my eyes hold a light of holy expectation? Did that level of hope make me look different from those around me?
The truth is that God has limitless love for us and boundless resources. While those who work at Disney are big dreamers and have much in the way of finances and connections as resources, they can’t even compare to the dreams and supply that God has for us. My favorite Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, and reads “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV).
Don't limit God's ability because of a human's limited imagination. Take the limits off! Expect the miraculous!
To whom is that verse a promise? The prophet Jeremiah originally wrote the verse to the elders, priests, prophets, and other people whom had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon (see Jeremiah 29:1). But this verse is also a promise for us – that we can expect the miraculous – not because the idea is a mere fancy, but because it’s an expectation of our faith.
I may not have a clue HOW things will work for my good when I’m facing a difficult situation in the natural, but I can expect and believe that He will work all things for my good. His Word declares that truth in Romans 8:28. It is our faith that pleases and moves God. Hebrews 11, dedicated to defining faith, gives a multitude of examples of people who lived by faith. But if we are not expecting God to move on our behalf or expecting to see the miraculous, we might miss out! Don’t settle! Be expecting to see God do what His Word says He will do.
Are the things you are expecting going to be worth the wait? If not, maybe you are thinking on too small a scale! Get your expectation high! Believe unwaveringly for the miraculous! And be looking for God’s directions so that you don’t miss any opportunity that He has for you.
His love for you is greater than you could possibly dream, and He only wants the very best for you. Believe it, trust Him, and expect the miraculous.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter or Facebook! To read about some of the purposes of God-given dreams, read the author’s post Stepping out into your Dreams.
“Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, AMP)
“The Lord answered me: ‘Write down what I show you. Write it clearly on stone tablets so whoever reads it can run to tell others. It is not yet time for the message to come true. But that time is coming soon. The message will come true. It may seem like a long time before it happens. But be patient and wait for it. These things will happen. They will not be delayed.’” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, ICB)
I have some friends in my life who have costumes for seemingly every occasion. These people are so much fun to know! But today, I feel like I need to raid their closets to see if they have any pom-poms. I bet they do! If I could do that, I would be waving them in the air squealing excitedly. I would tell you to keep pressing in. Keep pushing forward and focus on your dreams! Keep dreaming! You’re not too old and you’re not too young! You can do it – don’t give up! I believe in you!!!”
To begin, I think everyone at some point in their lifetime needs their own personal cheerleader. We all have had hopes and dreams. We’ve had ideas of things we would like to accomplish. But often, we let the demands of life and fear of our personal inadequacies come between the dream and the reality of seeing it accomplished. Sometimes we need someone who will encourage us to keep going toward those ideals for which we are hoping.
Chasing Your Dreams
This week, my husband was sharing about this very topic at church. He was telling about a God-given dream he had mentioned from the platform several months earlier. He told about how our pastors had encouraged him to pursue his dream. The first words he used to describe what they did was “pushed him” and then he corrected it to “provoked.” They had “provoked” him to pursue his dream.
Provoke One Another
The word provoked often has negative connotations associated with it. According to dictionary.com, it can mean, “to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex” (Provoke, n.d.). I have two children, I was a teacher, and I have 3 brothers of my own. As a result, I completely understand this definition, and it is the first one that comes to mind when I think of the word provoke. But the next three definitions of provoke are my favorites. And these are the ones to which my husband was referring. Provoke (n.d) means “to stir up, arouse, or call forth (feelings, desires, or activity). To incite or stimulate (a person, animal, etc.) to action. To give rise to, induce, or bring about.”
For certain, our pastors had used their words and behaviors to stir him up to keep pursuing his dream until the dream came about. They didn’t just leave it to him to do on his own. They kept asking him about it. Our pastors told him that they were excited about it, and that they knew it would be amazing. They believed that he could do it. They believed in him and his dream.
My husband then shared a story about the prophet Elijah. This story is found in the Bible, in the book of 1 Kings. There was a drought in the land, and the Lord told Elijah to go to a specific brook near the Jordan River. God told him to drink from the brook, and that He had commanded the ravens to bring food for Elijah to eat. Elijah obeyed the voice of God. He drank from the brook. The ravens also brought him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening.
The brook eventually dried up, however, because there had been no rain in the land. The Lord then told Elijah to go to the village of Zarephath, where he would be fed by a widow. Elijah went to the town, saw a widow gathering sticks, and asked her for a cup of water and a bite of bread. The widow told Elijah that she didn’t have any bread. She only had a handful of flour and a little oil. She was getting ready to fix that last bit for herself and her son. After that they would die, since there was nothing else for them to eat.
Do Not Be Afraid
Elijah instructed her not to be afraid. He told her to make a little bread for him first, then to prepare a meal for herself and her son. Elijah stated that God had said there would always be flour and oil in her containers until it began to rain again and the crops grew. The widow followed Elijah’s instructions. 1 Kings 17:16 reads, “There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah” (NLT).
This part of Elijah’s story is spectacular. But Keith pointed out Sunday that if the brook hadn’t dried up, the widow woman and her son wouldn’t have had enough to eat. They would likely have starved to death during the drought. Elijah’s obedience to God’s command brought provision and life to someone else.
Your Dreams Impact Others
This struck me hard Sunday! I don’t know that I had ever thought of it quite that way before, and I made it personal. My obedience to God’s direction could lead to someone else’s breakthrough! God gives us dreams for a reason. They can be a blessing for us, but they can also bring blessing to others.
After church Sunday, there was a precious lady who approached my husband. She wanted to speak with both of us, and I joined their conversation as quickly as I could. The woman told us that she’d had dreams and abilities that had gone dormant in her life. She reported that as my husband had been talking from the platform about not giving up on your dreams, her own personal cheerleader kept elbowing her. She felt that the Lord was resurrecting those dreams within her. We had the opportunity to encourage her and pray with her before she left and I am now looking forward to hearing reports from her about the progress she is making toward her goals.
Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams
A couple of days later, I saw a post on Facebook from another person telling about how he’d had a dream. He wrote that he’d been told by a family member that he had believed in his dream all his life, but that maybe he’d missed it. After all this time, it was just time to move on. I found this announcement of defeat heartbreaking. I don’t know what all happened in his life to distract him from pursing his dream. Legitimately good, noble, or even responsible activities may have caused the delay, but to have your dreams squelched by someone else is regrettable.
Proverbs 13:12 reads, “unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around” (MSG). Sometimes having a cheerleader in your corner provoking you to keep going after hearing what you know God has told you to do is just the break needed to awaken dormant dreams. Once you’ve got that jump start, write that dream down somewhere so that you will see it often and the dream stays alive.
Stand on the Word
You can also find Scripture that you can stand on as a source of encouragement. I saw a video of a friend’s daughter quoting Philippians 4:13. She is two years old, and her mom said that when her children tell her they can’t do something, she has them say their verse. What a terrific thing to train oneself to do! Anytime something negative comes into your mind telling you that you can’t do what God says you can do, quote Philippians 4:13, just as that sweet little girl is learning to do. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).
There is a multitude of other great Scripture to encourage yourself in the pursuit of your dreams. One is found in 2 Chronicles 15:7. It reads, “But as for you, be strong; don’t be discouraged, for your work has a reward” (HCSB). Another favorite is found in the book of Psalms. “May He grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. Might we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers” (Psalm 20:4-5, NLT).
Get a Cheerleader
Tell your dreams to someone you trust – someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable toward the pursuit of those dreams. Remember what the Lord has laid on your heart to do, and go after it! God gives us gifts and talents for a purpose, and Proverbs 18:16 tells us that those gifts open doors for us.
Finally, keep in mind that as long as you are living on earth, God has a plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 is my most favorite verse, and reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (NLT). Your dreams can make a tremendous impact on your own life. Likewise, they can be the key to opening doors of breakthrough for someone else. God gives us dreams for a reason, and He wants only what is good for us. Keep pursuing your dreams. You can do it – don’t give up! I’m cheering for you!
For more encouraging words on expecting miraculous things, read the author’s article, Expectation.