All Things

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has an important message about how life works.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

—Romans 8:28

I’m not a good juggler. Are you? At the moment, I have so many possibilities in the air that some threaten to crash down, hitting me squarely on the head.  I’m juggling a maddening whirl of exciting opportunities. Work projects, looming writing deadlines, and a few self-imposed (should I say, self-inflicted?) prospects.

All the while, I’m comforted by Paul’s assertion about “all things.” Vision and reasoning point me to the opposite conclusion, but I see God’s Divine plan in my chaos.

Whenever I ask myself if it takes all this to get to success, I hear a sage voice which once said, no circumstances “are so great that they cannot be built into the very steps of the staircase by which souls mount up to heaven.” Sounds good. Lead me to the  staircase.

All things; that means everything is good. This heavenly math equation assures us that no evil has final power. God’s work in our lives results in only one possible outcome—what’s best for you. The only condition is your affection; as long as you love and trust, you come confidently to “all things.”

And so, if you are having one of those David vs. Goliath moments—facing giants and feeling over-matched by the sheer pressure of all you have to do, or if an unexpected circumstance has just caught you off-guard—remember this. He is moving you into your “all things” position and weaving every element together in your life.

Have you heard about autonomous drive? Nissan announced that, by 2020, they will pioneer the self-driven car. Working with global experts at top universities, the Nissan 360 program will introduce a car that steers, brakes and accelerates without any help from you.

God can do that right now. Get in the back seat; let Him drive. If you love Him, you’re in a splendid position.

What Do You Fear?

How many fears should you have? I believe the number should be zero.

According to WebMD, 19 million people in America experience phobias. A phobia is an intense, prevailing, irrational fear that leaves you powerless over your reactions. These extreme, life-altering feelings of anxiety aren’t diminished by telling yourself your fears simply don’t make sense.  If all 19 million have two fears, the total number of fears is close to 40 million. That’s a long way from zero.

“I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”—Psalm 3:6, NIV

One fear many experience is aerophobia, fear of flying. It can be triggered by real experiences, like severe turbulence, or imagined ones. Earlier this summer I needed to travel from Nashville to Memphis for a conference and hated the thought of a 3-hour drive. Then, I discovered SeaPort Airlines.

I’ve been on jumbo jets but never anything as small as their fleet. Yet, it was a wonderful hassle-free experience that made my journey fantastic. Small plane, yes. Could I have reached out and tapped the pilot on the shoulder, sure. Boarding at the private airport in Memphis, a German traveler got on with a 2-liter Dr. Pepper. That’s how different it was. If there was ever a smidgeon of fear of flying small aircraft, it’s gone now.

There is a natural purpose for fear when it protects us from danger. The problem today is that people exist in perpetual fear; that’s not how God intended us to live.

When we are fearful, where is our confidence in God? Trusting Him involves refusing to let fear impact how we respond to people or situations. God demands complete trust and dependence.

There are 336 references to the word “fear” in the New International Version of the Bible, including stories of Biblical heroes melting in fear in the face of their enemies. Not so with David as he fled from his son, Absalom.  David commences Psalm 3 counting his enemies, but he concludes, in verse 8, by affirming, “Real help comes from God.” (Message Bible)

Cancel Fear with Faith

I want you to know today—I am praying for your healing and health. I proclaim the power of God’s Word and promises over you, even if I don’t know you by name…God does.

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iStockphoto, Tom Fullum

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

—Proverbs 30:5 NIV

I don’t claim to understand why some are healed and some are not; what I know for sure is that God wants us to trust Him for healing. If I’m wrong about that, nothing else in the Word makes sense—but since I know I’m right, everything makes sense. As a believer completely healed of Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, I know that God still does the hard stuff.

He wants us healed and understands our interest in our healing not taking forever.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.—Proverbs 13:12 NIV

The enemy’s words are always the opposite of what God says. And the enemy uses fear to block our healing and our blessings.  Be assured today that things are happening in the spiritual realm that we cannot see or measure. Consider, for example, what happened after Daniel prayed  (Daniel 6). In the lion’s den, lions acted like lambs. An angel of God gave them lockjaw—(look that up; it’s a real pathological ailment.)

I’m confident that everything God promised, everything He has ever said to me will be given to me.  I believe I will accomplish everything the Lord said about me. I believe I possess all that the Lord said that I have. This is the level of faith I claim for you.   Be confident;  your deliverance is on the way!

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…”—Exodus 14:13a, NIV

Reach up your right hand, at this very moment; allow God to take hold of you. This gesture is not about you holding God’s hand…for you might let Him go…but He will never let go of your hand.

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”—Isaiah 41:13 NIV

So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows, and sparrows, as small as they are, fear absolutely nothing. (Matthew 10:31 NIV)

The Help You Never See

When our enemies heard the work was complete and the surrounding nations saw our wall, their confidence crumbled. Only one possible conclusion could be drawn: it was not just our efforts that had done this thing.    God had been working alongside us.  —Nehemiah 6:16 (The Voice)

 Here’s one thing we assume about God’s Word: people who have a whole book named after them are usually pretty remarkable. Indeed, the story of Nehemiah is an example of why miracles and labor go together. The Book of Nehemiah illustrates The Power of Purpose.

You were born on earth to fulfill your purpose. I will not presume to know what your assignment is, but I can tell you this: just like Nehemiah’s, your mission is restoration. Whether that mission is to sing a song, write a book, preach a sermon, or save a city, you are in the restoration business. Your task inevitably involves renewal, repair, building and rebuilding that benefits someone else. Bottom line: you are to help others live their best life, in fellowship with God.

The important thing is this: when you are achieving your destiny, when you are in the right position and when you are doing the work you have been assigned to do, the wok of the Holy Spirit is present. In fact, the Holy Spirit is right there, working beside you. Incredible, isn’t it? The third Person of the Godhead, Himself providing the help you cannot see.

You also may not see the enemies who oppose you. “Enemies?” you ask. “Why would I have any enemies?” Great question. You will have enemies; know that and move forward. Nehemiah clearly saw those opposing him and the work.  But when those enemies observed Nehemiah’s success, they lost their confidence.

How do you know God is partnering with you on your assignment? Here are some indicators. God is there when:

  1. You apply yourself, without reservation to the work He has given and refuse to stoop to distractions or nonsense. Use Nehemiah as an example; his response to critics was: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
  2. You realize you must cling to God as your only support. Your close relationship with Him ensures a positive outcome.
  3. Great work is being done and results are the blessed and successful. When that happens, God’s support is undeniable.
  4. The plans of evil collaborators are clearly defeated in the end.
  5. You celebrate early—even before you see your work completed, because you know that the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

Tell Them Your Story

Then Joshua told the people…your children will ask you why these rocks are here. Tell them “The Lord our God dried up the Jordan River so we could walk across….”  He wants everyone on earth to know how powerful he is. And he wants us to worship only him.

—Joshua 4:21-24, CEV

I knew a woman once who was not exceptionally talented; however, she was undoubtedly the best liar I have ever met. She could tell you something without flinching and absolutely none of it would be true. Consequently, I learned to discount anything I heard her say. And, I want you to know that I consider lying to be deceitful, dangerous and an unacceptable habit to develop. In fact, bogus stories can lead to great risk for everyone whose lives are touched by these fabrications. In the end, I came to realize that, if everything I discerned about this person was a hoax, I never really knew her at all.

Real stories, on the other hand, can be uplifting, healing and extremely helpful. Think of the best real stories that have been published in modern literature, like “The Perfect Storm.” Real stories can be a powerful form of communication that connects us to one another.

One of the reasons I am committed to writing a book about my healing from stage four cancer is that I want to document my journey for others. I am convinced that people don’t actually believe that God does the hard stuff anymore; I want them to know that He does. In fact I read an article recently that declared: stage four cancer cannot be cured, only treated. “Wait just a minute,” I said out loud (to no one). “Medical science has just declared me an impossibility.”

The power of sharing your true story is that it helps people understand that they are not alone. It becomes much easier for others to know for certain that, if the Lord provided an inexplicable miracle for me, He will do the same for you.

Scholar and author, Dr. Brené Brown teaches that the path to understanding involves being vulnerable about our imperfections.  As you tell your story, don’t be reluctant to show your warts. Don’t erase your experience “wrinkles” with emotional Botox; our faults and failures are what make us real.

Why not practice telling your personal story? Starting today, share the good news about how you are living out God’s purpose in the world. Someone needs to hear from you.

Wherever You Pitch Your Tent, Build an Altar

then he set up his tents and built an altar there to honor the God of Israel.

—Genesis 33:20, Contemporary English Version

One of the memorable songs of the Motown era—made famous by the Temptations—was a seventies tune with lyrics written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”  It has been said that the extended instrumentation on the song is as famous as the vocals. The Temptations’ version is an enduring depiction of classic soul.  And soul music always tells a riveting story.

Remember the lyrics?

 Papa was a rollin’ stone

Wherever he laid his hat was his home

And when he died

All he left us was alone.”

 I have no idea who the writers had in mind as “Papa,” but on this we can agree:  there are better examples of family leadership. Personally, I have only lived in four different cities in my entire life. Three of those major, lifetime moves were guided by my late husband and life partner and were based upon God-given directions about ministry.

As a Biblical example, Jacob was a papa whose transitions were broad. Jacob was undisputedly one of the most unique individuals who ever lived. The Genesis account (chapters 31 to 33) describes one of the great transitions he engineered for himself and his family. Spiritually, he transitioned from being a trickster, swindler and cheat one day to becoming a Prince with God the next.

The King James Version and other translations say that Jacob named that altar in Shechem “El Elohe Israel” or “God, the Great God of Israel.”

I am creating my personal El Elohe Regina, celebrating God, the Great God of my own life. My personal altar is a place that will forever bring praise to God and allow me to celebrate the great work that He has done in my life and in the life of my family.

Whatever your ballad, whatever your story, be like Jacob and decide this:  wherever you pitch your tent, you just oughta build an altar.

Summer Is As Sweet As Apple Pie with Ice Cream

I marvel at the funny actions of my one-year old great granddaughter, Lizzie. She often walks around looking up at the ceiling…it’s as if she can see angels. When we look up and follow her gaze, we see nothing. Perhaps the cares of the world and the mundane concerns which come with decades of daily living have dimmed our abilities to see whatever it is that Lizzie sees. There is something remarkable about the uninhibited gaze of a toddler.

How wonderful it would be to see the world without eyes dimmed by years of skepticism or unbelief or hazed-over by life’s many disappointment. When I took Lizzie outside for a stroll the other day, I noticed that she does the same thing outdoors. She looks up and beholds something beautiful.

Life is wonderful all year long, but it is especially so in the summer. Summer is just sweeeet! I have decided that I will apply my “Lizzie gaze” to all that I behold in God’s beautiful world. I want to truly see the things I would ordinarily miss.

There is something about summer that allows us to recognize that God is everywhere! God is in every  movement; He is in every word that we speak. Whatever actions I take or perceptions I have, there is God!  When I rise up in the mornings and greet the summer sun beaming through my wide bedroom window, and whenever I eat or drink, rest or work–I meet God at every turn.

and he gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are.

“We are his children,” Acts 17:28—Contemporary English Version

God’s eye is upon us. He sees every action, every movement that we make. He feels every emotion of our hearts; He knows every thought before it is fashioned. He understands the words we are preparing to speak, even before we utter them.

Summer is another season of bliss, a time to rejoice in all that God has given us to enjoy. I rejoice in the angels seen only in the eyes of a toddler. And in a short summer rain falling softly on the roof. And in a slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, eaten outdoors beneath a canopy of trees. All is of God. Since all is in God and of God, and since we are alive in Him, this is the day to rejoice in Him.  Today I thank Him for the deep, blessed, love-filled treasure of every breath that He gives.

 

Fathers Paint Beautiful Pictures

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”

Proverbs 13:22

Fathers create beauty when they invest time, energy, love and patience into children. The investment of about two decades can result in a lifetime of blessings for several generations.

The most memorable photo I have of my father is of him at the end of the day. Dad was leaving the foundry with soot on his face. I love that picture because It captures the authenticity of who he was and the impact of Dad’s work ethic.  A traditional blue-collar guy with a strong back and grit under his nails, Dad’s legacy gave us the gift of perseverance.

Fathers with a strong work ethic cultivate in their children the seeds of persistence, a pattern of not giving up. We need people in our lives who pass along important lessons, by word or example. Fatherhood comes with rich opportunities to share inspirational lessons that last a lifetime.

Here are seven authentic lessons fathers can teach children:

1. Feed those thoughts and dreams. Thoughts and dreams need nourishment. Feed them with good information, great books, and positive people. Nourished dreams have a way of coming true.

2. Words have power; watch them. Be careful of the words you speak. Breathe life and light into children with words of motivation and encouragement.

3. Affirm their divine destiny. Every day, point children toward their best future.

4. Nurture the power of faith. Faith lets us accomplish what others label impossible. Faith fills the darkest moments with light.

5. Be grateful. More than saying “thank you,” help children cultivate an attitude of appreciation—valuing what you have and appreciating what others do for you.

6. Be Forgiving. When you let go of hurts, you remove a burden from your own heart. Forgiveness isn’t so much about freeing the one who hurt you as it is about freeing yourself. Counting wounds detracts from the powerful things you can do.

7. Love unconditionally. This last lesson is the most important. A heart of love touches and heals like nothing else in the universe.

On Father’s Day, 2013, may all of the children, mothers, and wives be especially appreciative of fathers who are willing to teach authentic lessons. The celebration of Father’s Day is always an occasion to remember what having a father really means.  And, for me, it is about appreciating a husband who was present; one who knew instinctively how to be a fantastic father.

To all of the fathers who take time to paint masterpieces, Happy Father’s Day!

Life Is Like A Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

    I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation,  filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;  Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.—Psalm 139:14 The Voice

I saw my friend, Sarah, walking by me the other day with her head down. “Look up,” I said. “Things are going to get better.” I wondered what life had delivered that made her look so forlorn. As I walked on, I concluded that Sarah was probably suffering from a huge dose of feeling ordinary…which nobody is, by the way!

You are uniquely you. The talents God has given you set you apart. Your gifts make you extraordinary, even if there are days when you feel that you are just another cookie-cutter replica of Joe or Jane Ordinary. Whatever you may think, you are not just another common, mundane person taking up space on earth.

You were born an original. You are the exclusive, distinctive, matchless person God had been working on for a long time.

Your life reflects how unique you are. No one else has had the exact same experiences.

Many of us see our lives as commonplace. We view our contributions as run-of-the-mill. We look at our lives as middling and mediocre. Just like the painstakingly familiar peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Delicious but unglamorous.

I’m afraid that people are giving up their appreciation for treats that have long been our mainstay—like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They are trading PB&J sandwiches for trendier snacks. Like hummus, for example. I haven’t exactly developed a taste for this growingly popular dip. Of course, I know it’s wonderfully low in fat, high in protein, and made from those healthy legumes—chickpeas.

At our house, we took the mundane PB&J sandwich to a new level recently and made it extraordinary.  Someone brought home a container of freshly-made peanut butter from the deli and a jar fresh-fruit laden jelly. How healthy is that?

I should have reminded Sarah that life is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it’s up to you to make it extraordinary. You may look like everyone else, but you’re not. Tap the power God has given you by recognizing the wonder in who you are.

 

THE STRATEGY OF HOPE

 Hope is a strategy. One of the ways that we face life is the path of hope. Inevitably, we will face disappointments, setbacks, regrets, frustrations and failures. But God has given us ears to hear. Listen to the music of hope…there is music in the air. God has given us eyes to see. Open up your eyes to beauty.

I was looking out the window the other day and saw a honeysuckle vine climbing the trunk of a tree and almost reaching my second floor window. Who knew that honeysuckles grew that tall? God gave me eyes to see the delicate white flowers and the ability of smell so that I could enjoy the sweet fragrance.

God gave us hope so that we could always believe that there was something more wonderful ahead. Our miracle was waiting, just around the bend in the road in front of us. Hope gives us the encouragement to keep going, even if we do not see the object of our hopes.

Sometimes we slip backwards and say to ourselves, or to others, “This is hopeless. I’m giving up. I’m going to quit.” We become dissatisfied so easy. Giving up and quitting has  become far too easy.

Hope is such a small word, only four letters, yet we toss it around so carelessly. “I hope its sunny tomorrow.” “I hope I get the new job.” We generally associate hopefulness with wishful thinking, but hope in God is so much deeper than that.

The psalmist asked a question that I ask of you today:  what’s the problem? “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God…” Psalm 42:5.

The next time you find yourself defining a situation as hopeless, stop and reconsider. With the great God of the universe on your side, nothing is hopeless! Even when your plans have failed and the way seems dark, our commitment must be to hope in God.

It is springtime. Everything is growing and blooming.  Let’s also practice growing hope in our hearts. You are never defeated when your strategy is hope.