Whoa There, Thoughts!

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I mentioned to you a few days ago about how my thoughts were keeping me up at night. It’s like a vitamin commercial I saw a few days ago where this man walks into a dark room full of bright neon signs. The signs read all kinds of familiar thoughts, and one by one, the man turns off the lights. When he reaches the last—and only unlit—sign, he pulls the cord, and the words, “Nighty Night” light up. What a perfect picture of my nightly battle to calm my mind and get to sleep.

The trouble for me is that my mind not only spins at night; it turns all day long. I find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because my mind is already fretting about what comes next or if the next paycheck will arrive before the next bill or if scientists are going to discover that lettuce is fattening. You know, the usual. The psalmist who penned Psalm 94 understood the turmoil of various thoughts yet still found comfort and delight in the Lord.  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
— Psalm 94:19

The multitude of thoughts. Yep, I get that. Delight of the soul? Well, sometimes, but not typically when my thoughts are on a never-ending roller coaster. Weariness? Sure. Fatigue? Absolutely. Delight? Is that even possible?

It is, and I discovered the secret in my daily Bible reading yesterday. Well, I say it’s a secret, but the truth is, it’s in the Bible in full view of all who read it. Somehow, I’ve just missed the power of this verse until now. But now that I’ve seen it, this verse will join my ever-growing list of favorites.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.
— Proverbs 16:3

As I read through Proverbs 16 yesterday, verse three jumped out at me. I read it again and again, then looked up the various words of the verse to gain their full meaning. I’m so glad I did!

The word “commit” means to roll (which is very similar to the word “cast” in I Peter 5:7). As Christian author, Lysa Terkeurst put it, “This may sound unusual, but consider this: we roll heavy things. We roll things we can’t carry. We roll things too awkward or burdensome to bear alone.” She’s right. To commit our works to the Lord means to roll them on Him and allow Him to carry them. We don’t have to.

The word “works” is no mystery. It refers to our actions, deeds, or paths. When we commit our works to the Lord, we’re essentially handing Him our calendars and to-do lists. We’re saying, “Lord, there is too much here for me to handle, so I’m giving it to you. Please lead me to do what You want me to do when You want me to do it, and please help me live in Your strength today. Thank you for reminding me I don’t have to face today or any other day on my own.”

We could stop right there and be blessed, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part. The verse says if we commit our works unto the Lord, our thoughts will be established. So, what exactly does that mean? I’m so glad you asked!

The word “established” is defined as “to be firm, stable, or fixed; to be prepared, arranged, or settled.” Oh, hallelujah! That’s what I want. I desire my thoughts to be stable, fixed on the Lord instead of my to-do list or my troubles. I would love for the Lord to prepare and arrange my thoughts instead of allowing every idea that pops into my head to have free rein. And did you notice the last word in the definition—settled? That’s my word for 2019. Coincidence? Definitely not!

No wonder the psalmist could say he found delight in the comfort of the Lord despite the multitude of thoughts within him! He’d discovered this “secret” as well. It would seem he had learned how to roll his problems, decisions, and worries onto the Lord thereby allowing God to direct, settle and stabilize his thoughts. And if he can do it, my friends, then we can too.

Are you seeking comfort today? Are your thoughts keeping you up at night and running you ragged during the day? If so, I invite you to roll those burdens onto the Lord. Better yet, He is encouraging you to do just that. The outcome is a lighter load and a brighter spirit. Who doesn’t want that, right?

Protection Versus Perfection - A Repost

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Last Sunday, I heard a quote that I have since traced back to its source (I think).  The quote can be found in a book by Paul David Tripp, and it goes like this:  "God will not protect us from what He will perfect us through."  No offense to Tripp, but to me, the phrase makes more sense when worded this way:  "God will not protect us from what He’s using to perfect us."  Same meaning, I believe, but the second way jumps out at me more and causes me to take note.

The Bible tells us over and over again that the Lord is our protector, our shield, our refuge, our hiding place, etc.  So why is it, then, that it seems we're so often under attack?  Why does He allow sickness to linger?  Why does He allow trials to come?  Why doesn't He protect us from the storms of life or the waves of the crashing sea?  I think the above phrase answers those questions, don't you?  If God chooses to not protect us from a particular thing, then we can rest in the hope that He is using that thing to perfect us. . .to make us more like Him.

I know what you may be thinking.  Some days we'd rather have the protection than the perfection, right?  We'd rather sit comfy in our haven of safety and enjoy life rather than endure it.  That's the human way--swayed by our emotions and current circumstances, often losing sight of the big picture and ultimate goal.  Think of it like losing weight.  We say we want to lose weight and place ourselves on a strict diet plan.  But when we've had a rough day, we'd much rather choose the double cheeseburger over the salad, right?  So, what is it that keeps us strong and helps us to choose the healthier option over the one we really want at the moment?  The ultimate goal.  The big picture.  The motivation to lose weight and get healthy.  If we don't lose sight of those things, we'll accomplish what we set out to do.

The same is true in our spiritual walk.  When we're going through hard times, instead of complaining to God about not protecting us, how about we try to keep in mind the end goal which is to be like Christ.  We all want that, right?  It's easy to admit it on the good days, but it's time we hold fast to that truth on the bad days too.  Not only will it give us the motivation to make it through, but it will also encourage us to praise God in the storm.  What a privilege to know that He is molding and making us in His own image, that He loves us enough to take the time to make us perfect and complete in Him.  Yes, He's a good, good Father!

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
— James 1:2-4

Is It Well With Your "Sole"?

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You all know by now that my adorable pup is far from perfect. The experts say a single dog year is equal to seven human years, which would make Barnabas somewhere in the mid-to-late teens. That sounds about right. He is the king of temper tantrums, and his favorite way to show his displeasure at not getting his way is to take all the blankets and pillows off the couch, through the doggie door, and out into the backyard where he rips them all to shreds. I’ve lost count of how many pillows and blankets have been the victim of just such an attack.

During his most recent hissy fit, he discovered that I had put away all the pillows and blankets except for his ratty throw that has somehow survived multiple tantrums. I can’t say what happened next because we weren’t home, but my best guess is that in his effort to get the blanket off the couch and out the door, Jason’s new hiking boot (which happened to be sitting beside the sofa) got tangled in the blanket and made the journey outside. The reason I say this is that Barnabas has never, ever destroyed a shoe. Blankets? Yes. Pillows? Definitely. Every toy we’ve ever bought him? Sure. But never, ever a shoe. However, once the boot was outside, it seems the temptation of a new chew toy was too much for my moody mutt, and he ate through the entire back and the sole.

To say we were upset when we discovered this misbehavior would be an understatement. Those were brand new boots. Jason had only worn them like three times. And they weren’t cheap either. I felt sick to my stomach when I surveyed the damage. Once again, Barnabas’ indestructible blanket had survived, but the same couldn’t be said for Jason’s shoe.

The good news is that we caught Barnabas in the act of chewing on the shoe, so we were able to discipline him then and there. His remorse was evident as he tucked his tail and inched into the house where he crawled into his crate and pouted for a while. He could tell we weren’t happy with him, and part of me wanted to comfort him. But, I had to be strong and firm. He had to learn his lesson.

The next day, as the three of us headed out for a short hike, I commented to Barnabas, “See the old shoes Daddy has to wear. That’s your fault.” I wasn’t still angry with him—a little sick to my stomach maybe, but not angry—but I teased him nonetheless. Jason, in his gracious way, said, “Don’t bring that up. It’s over and done with. He knows what he did was wrong.  It’s been forgiven, so let’s forget about it and go on.”

My first reaction was a fleshly one. I wanted to pout like a scolded child who had just been reminded of her lousy attitude, but fortunately, the Spirit was at work in me as well. He brought to my mind the reminder that He, too, has forgiven and forgotten many wrongs. I’ve done horrible things in my life—things I’m not proud of—but God doesn’t remember them anymore. They’re under the blood of Jesus. Forgiven. Forgotten. Never to be brought up again. I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful for that! What a blessing to know such grace.

Today, it might not be well with Jason’s sole, but I’m glad I can say, “It is well with my soul!” What about you? 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
— I John 1:9