The Greatest Call

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If you were to list the five most important virtues in the world – what would they be? 

What are the five nearly heroic characteristics that set a man or a woman apart from the crowd? 

Is it education? Wealth?  Good looks?  Talent? Athleticism? 

I don’t think that any of those things would make my top 5 list … and yet it seems that in our world today … those are the very things that captivate people’s attention. 

When you read  People Magazine… or watch the network news… or scroll through Google News… rarely do you see a story about a woman who is simply a good mother … or a pastor who is kind to the elderly … or a 16-year-old who told the truth. 

Isn’t that interesting and sad at the same time? 

Generally – the stories that generate the most headline coverage are those that are tout the adventures of the rich and famous … or the words of questionable politicians … or of athletes and their achievements … or of convicts and their crimes. 

However, in my humble opinion, those particular categories of people are actually not the movers and shakers of my generation.  In eternity’s headlines, which are the only headlines that actually matter let me say, those are not the unforgettable people in any moment in history. 

As the New Year has dawned, I have been giving much thought to the woman that I deeply desire to become

And, as such thoughts and dreams flood my mind and heart, I realize that more than writing a best-selling book or speaking to thousands – I just want to be a woman that eternity remembers. 

Don’t get me wrong – I would still love to write a book that will impact hundreds of thousands of lives! I deeply desire to teach the Word of God every day of my life until every person knows about Jesus! 

The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” – Isaiah 11:9

I live to make hell smaller and heaven bigger!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 

I know that I know that I know that I have been appointed by the Holy Spirit to set the captive free from depression, discouragement and disappointment.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed.” – Luke 4:18

But I also know, deep within my heart that the greatest call of my life is to be not to do. 

I am called to be like Jesus in every season and in every situation.

I am called to cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit in my life even when I am in a wilderness.

I must allow the character of God the Father to be the guiding force in every thing that I attempt to accomplish in life. 

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So – back to my original question … 

What are the 5 most important virtues that a person can possess in life?  

What are the 5 powerful characteristics that have the eternal ability to set a man or a woman apart from the crowd? 

I do have 5 virtues that I have been pondering and I am going to tell you what they are. 

First of all, though, let me tell you how this has shaken out for me. I am going to submit four of the five to you in no particular order.  In my book, there are all of equal importance. 

But that last one? The fifth one? That is the one that is dynamically more important than the rest … the fifth one is the one that can turn a common person into an unforgettable champion of greatness. So, I will indeed save the best for last! 

Here, however – are the other top 4:

Daily Kindness.

“In a world where you can be anything – just be kind.” 

Truthful Integrity. 

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6

Unending Faithfulness 

“She gave her all and did her best, not to impress others or to meet someone’s definition of success, but because she knew God was watching her, and He would honor her faithfulness.” – Morgan Harper Nichols 

Swift Forgiveness 

“Forgiveness doesn’t change the past but it changes the future.” 

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Perhaps you have guessed the most important one by now … maybe you realize what I have left out of this list of distinguished list of human greatness. 

It’s love. 

L-O-V-E. 

Love will always change your motive from selfish to selfless. 

Love will always cause you to act like the Father because He is love.  He knows of no other way to be… or to act … or to talk. 

Love is the family business. 

Love the life you have been given and the people who cross your path daily.

Love people who are cruel to you and those who disagree with you. 

Love children and the elderly. 

Love Republicans and Democrats.

Love the people you like and the people you don’t like. 

Love your friends and your enemies. 

Love your family and the people you work with.

Love when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. 

It will be people with the greatest demonstration of love who change the world not those with the most impressive education … with the biggest bank accounts … or with the most awards. 

Bob Goff says it this way … “Love everybody all the time.” 

I agree with Bob Goff. It’s my goal for 2019 … Love everybody all the time. 

The Bible says it like this … “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13:13 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

#Goals

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Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?  What were they? 

Lose weight?

Exercise more?

Get out of debt? 

Moving ahead on a life-time goal or a plan?

If you are anything like 80% of all Americans – you have already broken one of more of your first of the year resolutions.  Sad, isn’t it? 

I wonder why that is.  

Is it because we no longer have the emotional and mental stamina to stay the course?  Is it because we make lofty and unattainable goals? Is it because we just don’t care enough?

I actually have some friends who no longer believe in making New Year’s resolutions because they know that as soon as they make them … they will break them.  Sad, isn’t it? 

Why wouldn’t a person at least want to make an attempt to change a bad habit?  Why wouldn’t someone at least want to move in a healthy direction physically, emotionally or spiritually? 

Even though I have not followed through on probably the majority of New Year’s resolutions that I have made over the years – I still believe in making them. 

I still believe in the power of change and in the power of prayer.

I still believe that I can develop self control and discipline in my life even though at times in might be difficult.

I still believe that I am not perfect and that the first of the New Year is the ideal time to make some much needed and highly challenging changes in my life. 

If you never set a goal to change – you will never change.

If you never identify a weakness in your life – it will never become a strength. 

If you never verbalize a dream – it will never become a reality. 

If you never pray a prayer – you will never experience a breakthrough. 

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:13-14 

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So … over the years … this is where I have landed with New Year’s resolutions. 

First of all, I make 2 or 3 easy resolutions that I know are attainable with just a small amount of change and just a tad of old-fashioned will-power. 

Things like … don’t eat sugar during the month of January. (My younger self would say that I could never have one bite of sugar the entire year … that didn’t work.) 

Or … do one kind deed for someone in the neighborhood once a month. (My more assertive yet less experienced self would have said to do something kind for a neighbor every single day for 365 days straight … I quickly grew discouraged.) 

Or … memorize one Scripture verse every month. (My more determined yet less-disciplined self would have said memorize a verse every week … but by February I was generally already behind by 3-4 verses.) 

The second thing that I do is to remind myself what the word “resolve” actually means. 

Resolve: to come to a definite or earnest decision about; to determine to do something.

If I want to accomplish something this year, I must make a definite or earnest decision.   

I must resolve that nothing will move me from my intended course. 

I must count the cost before I make the decision.

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

And then, I pray.  I ask the Lord to show me what changes He would have me make in the coming year.  

You see – what I have learned about self is that my best and most valiant ideas are only birthed in human desire.   

I want what He wants … even if it is hard. 

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And then, after I have prayed, I sit still and listen with my journal open and a pen in hand.

And as I worship Him in those quiet moments, He always speaks to me. I inevitably feel the gentle nudging of the sweet Holy Spirit.

I wait until He speaks to me. 

I have heard His voice for 2019 and I know that He will give me the strength to accomplish these goals because they were His ideas – not mine. 

My first challenging resolution is this:

I have resolved to worship my way through heartbreak.

I have resolved that even when my world is imploding I will sing from the deepest part of me.

I have determined that nothing and that no person will take the song from my heart. 

In the past – I have worshipped when life was hard but I have also whined, panicked and cried. 

This year, in 2019, I will worship even when the tears are running down my cheeks. 

I will. I have resolved. 

My second challenging resolution this year is this: 

I will choose to trust His goodness and His promises when I am in the wilderness of life.

I have always trusted Him … but I have also worried, complained and exploded with emotion. 

This year, in 2019, I will trust Him completely in the wilderness. 

I will declare His goodness over my desert-like conditions.

I will remind myself of His promises when the enemy is taunting me with lies. 

I will.  I have resolved. 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

Here I come!

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Oh crumb!  I did it again! I wrote the numeral “2018” when I should have replaced it with the numbers “2-0-1-9”.

Let me just admit – I will probably be doing that well into March when I will finally realize that it’s a new year identified by a new number.

Is anyone else guilty of subconsciously living in the old year when the New Year has begun?! Come on … don’t leave me standing alone here in my numerical confusion!

There is something about the past that is comforting and convenient even when all that is new is beckoning me on.

I think of yesterday and I smile and remember the sweet joys that were there … I when I think of tomorrow, I am filled with a bit of trepidation and perhaps even worry from time to time. 

I must choose not just to turn a calendar page – but I must turn the pages of my heart and mind as well toward all God has for me in 2019.

Fill me with wonder again, Lord!  

Help me to believe that You have been to my future and it is good because You are good and You are already there. 

Lord, remind me during this fragile month of January that the past is a place of reference – not a place of residence.  

I am being called during these newborn days of 2019 to reside in the unknown that is ruled by a known and good Father.

I must remind myself daily … almost hourly during the month of January … that merely leaving the old year behind is not enough. I must run toward something passionately in the coming year.  

It seems that losing weight … painting my bathroom … or spending a week at the beach is not enough to give my life purpose in the coming 12 months. 

I must actively pursue a change that will change me. I must be the change for which the world around me is aching. 

The world must become a better place simply because I am living in it this year. 

I must find a reason to choose joy 365 times in 2019.

I must create a life that is more powerful … more faith-filled … and more significant in 2019 than the life I lived in 2018.

How can I do that?  Is it even possible?  Or should I just continue to write “2018” on everything that identifies my period of existence?

What if 2019 is the year that changes everything for you? 

What if you are the change that 2019 is waiting for? 

I want to challenge you – and myself – while 2019 is still a possibility of untouched wonder and delight that God’s plans for this year are beyond anything you could ever think of or imagine! 

I want to remind you – and me – why we have been called to make our presence known in any given calendar year.

This year – in 2019 – I resolve to worship more than I whine!  I declare that my life will be a sanctuary of glorious praise and unmatched songs! I will sing the great hymns of the faith that thousands have sung before me.  I will sing the new songs of this generation as they discover that we serve a God who is worthy of our highest praise! 

This year – in 2019 – I resolve to be a woman of extraordinary integrity and honor. I declare that I will live a life that is guided by principle rather than by preference.  

This year – in 2019 - I will refuse to gossip about others made in the image of God but will choose instead to give an encouraging word. I will honor others and their opinions. And, when confrontation is necessary, I will do it in person and not on social media! I will speak with words of love and in tones of kindness.

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This year – in 2019 – I resolve to give generously to those in need and to those I love. I declare that my life will be a resource for others to tap into time after time after time. I will not only give of my money but I will also give of my time, of my talents and in friendship.

This year – in 2019 – I resolve to be available for the Lord to use me in unprecedented and in unpredictable ways. I will have heartfelt conversations with children and with the elderly.  I will stop and listen to the lonely and to the weary. I will visit nursing homes and I will work in the church nursery. I will serve the Lord in the sanctuary and in the marketplace. 

This year – in 2019 – I will throw off worry and will be a woman of unshakable trust.  When my circumstances taunt me and when the hard stuff of life threatens to overwhelm me – I will declare the goodness and the promises of God in defiance of the difficulties of life.

This year – in 2019 – I will spend more time on my knees than I do on social media.  I will pray for those that I love and I will also pray for those that frustrate me. I will pray loudly and I will pray softly.  I will pray first thing in the morning and I will pray as I lay my head on my pillow at night. 

This year – in 2019 – I will be kind to the lovely and to the unlovable.  I will be gracious to the fractious and I will be compassionate to the difficult. I will look into every person’s eyes and choose to see Jesus there. 

This year – in 2019 – I will take Jesus with me everywhere I go. His presence will be my constant companion, my source of strength and the reason I live! 

Ready or not 2019 … here I come!  

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

Where did Christmas go?

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It’s over … 

The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care … and have been emptied by eager little hands.

The tree is now sadly drooping and is sending ornaments to the floor below its formerly festive branches where presents used to abound.

I don’t even want to get on the scale. 

The cards have been opened and most have found their way into the trash receptacle. 

Even Aunt Marie’s fruitcake has disappeared … not sure if it has been thrown away or was devoured by some desperate soul.

One more holiday season has passed and I have yet to taste wassail. What is wassail, anyway?

The resounding glory of Christmas music is now only a distant echo.

Where did Christmas go?  

Must I really focus on New Year’s resolutions and on the dark, cold days of January?

Must I actually pay those Christmas bills … deal with the loneliness of the bleak mid-winter … and take the garland off the mantel?

Must I?

Must I pack away the yuletide spirit along with the decorations that have adorned every home we have ever lived in?

You see … another Christmas has come and gone and I find that I have left my heart in December.

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However … this is what I must convince myself to do …

I must stir up the gumption to face the uncertain days of a New Year with the left-overs of the holiday spirit that accompanies the 12th month of the year.

I must resolve to live wholeheartedly engaged in the delight of having been given 365 brand new shiny days to invest in a future that is mine … all mine.

I must determine that I will put one foot in front of the other and declare the joy of living in His presence even when my emotions are crying out in loneliness and in discouragement.

I must be “all in” to loving others … to encouraging the downtrodden … to praying without ceasing … to singing in the storm … to choosing health over an undisciplined lifestyle … to exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit to fractious and difficult people … to waiting well for all that God has for me.

I must choose to walk through life with a spring in my step and with sparkle in my eyes.

I must. 

What must you do?

There is a melancholy but hopeful little song that has often whispered its sweet melody in the corners of my heart throughout the waning days of December. 

The lyrics of this timeless tune have convinced me time after time … season after season … and decade after decade … that Christmas will indeed wield its eternal authority during March … and August … and October. 

Do you know this song? 

The title is, appropriately enough, “Till the Season Comes ‘Round Again.”

Come and gather around at the table
In the spirit of family and friends
And we'll all join hands and remember this moment
'Til the season comes 'round again.

Let's all try to smile for the picture
And we'll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through
Should we ever get lonely
'Til the season comes 'round again. 

One night holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire
Let's left our heads high
And be thankful we're here
'Til this time next year.

May the new year be blessed
With good tidings
'Til the next time I see you again
If we must say goodbye
Let the spirit go with you
'Til the season comes 'round again.

 

You see… Christmas will surely come around again.  As sure as there are evergreen trees in Vermont … as sure as there is Christmas music waiting to pop out of its 11 month storage … and as sure as Aunt Marie’s fruitcake weights down the holiday table …

Christmas will come around again … and again … and again.

As sure as there are people who are walking in darkness … 

            As sure as there is a manger waiting expectantly …  

As certain as there are angels that sing and stars that shine in the dark, cold sky … 

            Christmas will spring eternal in the hearts of all who seek Him.

You see, my friends, we are a Christmas people.  We are a people whose lives have been forever changed by the Baby Boy. 

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We have not changed Him … He has changed us. 

We have heard the song of the angels and we have not only listened … we have joined in the chorus.

We have watched in wonder as the wisest men of history have bowed in adoration … and we have bowed with them.

We have told the same story time after time that the shepherds were compelled to tell that not so silent night. 

We have experienced the joy of His presence … the peace of His victory … and the blessings of His ways. 

We are a Christmas people and nothing will ever be the same for us ever again.

Although over the next few days I might be packing away the visual remnants of the holiday season … what remains of Christmas in me is undeniably permanent.

Although December is quickly drawing to its expected conclusion … Christmas will never really be over … as long as there remains a Christmas people. 

The world will continue to rejoice and my heart will perpetually soar with the joy of this unmatchable season! 

It’s not over … and it never will be!

Christmas will always live in me! 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

The Message of Christmas

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If you know anything about me at all – you know that I am famous for my addictions in life.

My first and life-altering addiction is to the Word of God.  It sustains me … and changes me … and propels me … and encourages me.  Nothing even comes close to my affinity for and dependence upon the Bible.  I must have my daily fix … I just must!

And then … my lesser addictions in no particular order are these … I am addicted to college basketball… to the beach… to my grandchildren. I also have been known to eat way too much chocolate from time to time. 

Oh … and then there is coffee.  Sweet, aromatic, enthusiastic coffee!

And, you must also know, that one of my fiercest and most unremitting addictions is to Christmas music!

How I love the glory of the sounds of Christmas music! My delight in the songs of Christmas is deeper than I can even express on the written page.  

“Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby, you kissed the face of God!”

So passionate is my love for the melodies of advent that I have set aside October 1 as “The First Official Day of Christmas Music Season”. I awake all of my adult children on that momentous day with a link to listen to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas!” (That particular song, I might add, is the McLeod Family Theme Song!)

I have discovered over the course of my life that 3 months of the lyrics and melodies of Christmas is not nearly enough.  So – due to emotional necessity - between January 2 and September 30 – I am a closet Christmas music listener!  

Don’t judge me … just don’t judge me!

“Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

But one thing that you must understand about my affinity for Christmas music is that it is actually not the little ditties that refer to snowmen who dance … reindeer who fly … and chestnuts that roast that are my musical drug of choice.

I really don’t care about Santa, baby … or about how cold it is outside … or even about the wreath that hangs on your front door.

But I do care about the message of Christmas.  I care about it very, very much.

“Immanuel! God is with us! And if God is with us, who could stand against us?! Our God is with us, Immanuel!”

I deeply desire for the message of Christmas to nestle its way into the recesses of your heart until you are changed forever.

“Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”

This past week, I was introduced to an incredible quote by the great Chuck Swindoll.  Are you ready for it? Are you ready to smile through your tears?!

“Christmas is the one time of year when the whole world is singing our song.”

What?!!  That is so good … let me quote it again …

“Christmas is the one time of year when the whole world is singing our song.”

Thank you, Mr. Swindoll. Thank you for verbalizing what I have always known to be true.

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Contained in those 15 easy-to-understand words is the singular reason why I love Christmas music with a passion that drives me to listen to it again … and again … and again.

You see … this is the truth … during the month of December …the whole world celebrates!  

They celebrate in the only ways that they know how … by spending … and eating … and shopping … and sending … and baking … and giving … and partying … and relaxing … and decorating.

However … they can celebrate for an entire month without ever knowing “what” or “Who” they celebrate.

But we, who belong to Jesus Christ, celebrate with a different motivation and a unique intention. 

We know Who we celebrate!

We know why we sing!

And our song is so resilient … so extraordinary … so eternal … that we must sing it more than 30 days of the calendar year!  Just as the skies over Bethlehem exploded with the song of the angels … my heart explodes with the song of Christmas!

“Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings – Risen with healing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by; Born that man no more may die!

Born to raise the sons of earth – born to give them second birth!

Hark! The herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!”

And so, too, I will sing! 

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I will sing of the manger through the dark of January and through the snow of February. 

I will sing of Shepherds and Wisemen through the slush of March and through the showers of April.  

I will sing with the angels through the flowers of May and through the sunny days of June.

I will sing about Christmas through the fireworks of July and through the dog days of August.

I will sing about Bethlehem and its wonder through the cooling days of September and the colorful days of October.

I will sing about that Baby Boy during the bounty of November!

And then, when my calendar turns its expectant page to December– I will singer louder and clearer!

I will sing about the heart of Christmas during the heart of the season … and then I will sing some more! 

Nothing will stop this girl’s Christmas song … nothing at all!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

The Joy of Christmas

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The joy is palpable this time of year, is it not? It seems that all of Western culture celebrates with joy – even though they don’t know what it is that they celebrate.

All they know is that in December – there is an unseen reason for music … for merry-making … for gathering … and for giving … that happens at no other time of year.

I’d like to share with you today why Christmas is such a season of extreme yet unidentified joy.   

Let’s dig into the Christmas story together and look at three times where the word “joy”was used to describe what was happening historically.

Believe me – you are going to LOVE this!

And let me just quickly say – if you have had a difficult year – you are still going to love this! 

The joy of Christmas is especially for those of you whose worlds have been ruined by circumstantial pain and situational letdown … so read on!

Elizabeth was basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy even though she was well passed the age of childbearing. When Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house.  A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world.  

When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth, jumped for joy!   

The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy!

“In His presence is fullness of joy!” – Psalm 16:11

There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord and that is joy – even babies know that!  

Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary that this was no soft little nudging that she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap!  John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus!

The word that Elizabeth used to describe the movement of the baby within her womb is the Greek word “skirtao”. 

The word “skirtao” is used only one other place in the New Testament.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.  Be glad in that day and leap for (skirtao) for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” –Luke 6:22-23

You can, my friend, leap for joy when your life has fallen utterly and completely apart. 

When we have been vilified and rejected by people and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, that is the time that we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao!!  To leap for joy! 

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In His presence is the only place that you will ever experience true and complete joy this Christmas season.

Are you ready for the second instance of joy in the Bible?  Let’s do this!

Shepherds were dirty, uneducated men with grime under their fingernails and sludge in their brains.  

There were a group of these shepherds one night, huddled around a fire in the inky, black of night.  These muddy specimens of humanity were cold and shivering while trying to stay awake. 

Shepherds were a hopeless crew of men with nothing to look forward to - they knew that nothing about their lives would ever change.  Life can become quickly pointless if you are a man who lives with sheep drool on his clothes and sheep dung between his toes.

When the night couldn’t get any blacker and the sheep couldn’t get any more cantankerous, suddenly, in an instant of time, something so miraculous happened that life would never again be the same for these men.  

And the miracle of it all is that life will never be the same for you or for me as well. 

Unexpectedly, heaven exploded into their small, cold and dark world.  

The song of the angels burst forth into the war zone of earth and proclaimed the joy of heaven into the hopeless and meaningless existence of the shepherds.  

Stars were falling and bursting in rare and glorious colors while the heavens opened and a majestic angel choir began to sing a mighty symphony that can still be heard today!

Jesus invaded this dark, cold world with heaven’s joy and it is still His gift to you today.  His presence in your life makes shepherds dance and angels sing.   

Your heart can become an explosion of joy because of the birth of a Baby over 2,000 years ago.  

And what was the song that the angels sang that dark night?

“And behold, we bring you good news of great joywhich shall be to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10

The first word that the angels used to describe the birth of Jesus Christ was the word “joy”and I believe that it should be the first word used to describe you as well!  

Joy is the birthmark of a Christian because when you accept Jesus into your heart you are branded for life with His joy.  

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You have become a vessel of His presence where there is always fullness of joy. 

When the angels sang that night, they were singing to those of you with the drool of life upon your heart and the dung of circumstances in your soul. 

The symphony of heaven ricochets through the ages and has as its focused destination your cold and lonely existence.  Joy truly has come to your world and nothing will ever be the same again! 

And now – for the grand finale of joy in the Christmas story … let’s peek in on those wise men!

The star led the Magi to the Light of the World!  

When the magnificent star stopped the Magi in their wealthy tracks, the Bible says that these learned men, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.  

And what a celebration began that night!  

Only 6 words: “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” yet what richness their brevity holds. These 6 simple words are some of the most expressive words in all of Scripture.

Now – just like you savor your Christmas dinner morsel by morsel – we are going to savor the response of the wise men as well.  We are going to chew on their response to Jesus – and enjoy with them the flavors and delights that He brings to our lives.

Rejoiced” is translated as “let the hope of future blessedness give you joy! 

This word communicates to all of us, from every generation and at every moment in all of recorded history, that because of the Baby born in the manger, we can look ahead not with dread and worry but with hope and expectation.   

Exceedingly”is defined as “greatly” or even “violently” or vehemently. 

These first century professorial types did not just quietly bow down with their scholarly hands clasped in front of their wise faces. The joy that they experienced in the presence of Jesus was an explosion of joy that knocked their mortarboards off their wizened heads!  

The joy of Jesus rocked their academic world!  These men were jumping up and down in the presence of the Baby Boy King. These brilliant men were participating in the John-jump!  

The Magi were whooping and hollering because after years of study, after decades of hitting dead-ends as to the meaning of life, after a lifetime of frustrating nothingness, they had found the Creator of this miraculous universe. They had at long last discovered the Answer to all of their unanswerable questions and they had now been able to discern the wisdom of the Ages in a toddler’s sweet babble.

These erudite men were participating in a violent explosion of joy!  

The joy that Jesus delivers into your life should indeed shake some things up a bit!

“Great” in this context means “with great effort of the affections and emotions of the mind”.  

It is significant that this particular definition of the word “great” includes the word for “mind”.  The Magi were men of scrolls and cerebral intensity; at the moment this star stopped in the presence of Jesus, all that they had ever learned or studied paled in comparison to this one momentous event.  

And finally, but far from least in meaning, the word “joy”is defined as “the blessedness that the Lord enjoys”.  When these pedantic men discovered the location of the Baby Boy, they also tapped into the mother lode of joy!   

They hit a vein so rich and generous in joy that it changed every detail, both large and small, concerning their impressive lives.  

Every blessing that the Lord has ... the Magi had … and you now have ... because of Christmas! 

Joy has certainly come to your world!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

A DIVINE INTERVENTION

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Journey with me to Bethlehem, will you? 

As we begin the days of this most miraculous month of the year, rather than going to the mall together – let’s travel to the place of miracles … to the place of the angel’s song … and to the place where the Baby was born.

I’d like to invite you to travel through time with me and eavesdrop on the conversation that the Angel Gabriel had with a young woman by the name of Mary. 

Such a common name for such an extraordinary girl!

Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph, a carpenter’s son, who was several years older than she was.  Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for his darling Mary to grow up into young womanhood!   

When Mary was just 13 or 14 years old, it was settled between the two families.  Mary was to become the wife of Joseph.            

Mary was in her girlhood home one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home when she sensed someone in the room with her.        

“And coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one!”  The Lord is with you.”          

Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of one’s dreams will come true.

Favor means, simply, that God is willing to use an ordinary person for His greater plan.            

Just as the favor of God targeted the womb of Mary, I believe that the favor of God is targeting everyone and anyone who is willing to be part of God’s strategy at this historical juncture. 

Experiencing the favor of God in new ways is one of the best parts of Christmas for me!  

To think that God would desire to use my ordinary life is a gift that I never imagined I could find under the Christmas tree of life!

I can nearly hear Mary’s racing heartbeat as she attempted to process all that was happening around her this day.   

The Bible says, “Mary was perplexedand wondered what kind of salutation this was”.  Mary’s cheeks were probably flushed and her heart was beating wildly.           

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” – Luke 1:30

Sweet Mary, who was trying to wrap her heart and mind around the message of the angel may have been incredulously pondering, “Me?!  God chose me?!  I am the chosen one to carry God’s child?  I am to be the mother of the Messiah?”

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Christmas is a reminder to me ... and to you ... and to Mary ... that His ways are always higher and better than anything that we could ever think or imagine.

Christmas has nothing to do with dancing elves, reindeer with red noses or snowmen who sing.  

Christmas is about an invasion! Christmas happens at the moment when heaven’s light invades the darkness of planet earth!

Christmas is not about the holiday spirit that rushes toward us the day after Thanksgiving and compels us to shop, spend, and eat.  

Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth.  

Christmas is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one common life.  

 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37)  

Christmas, for Mary, was learning the ultimate truth of this one statement: “Nothing will be impossible with God!”  

When Christmas rolls around each year, we must embrace the absolute faith that nothing is impossible with God! 

My friend, you honor God when you ask of Him the impossible.  

So this year, rather than giving Santa an enormous and materialistic list, perhaps it would be most sincere to change your focus from temporary to eternal, from material to priceless and then to ask God for your true heart’s desire.  

Impossibility is God’s specialty!  It is what He does best!  

You serve a God Who loves to show Himself miraculous in the face of profound disappointment and darkness.

Most of us go through the Christmas season focused on self ... on what we want and desire and deserve.  Some people want a new house ... or a great piece of jewelry ... or for all of our children to come home for the holidays.  

Some folks emphatically believe that they deserve a Christmas bonus, a tree-laden with expensive gifts or someone to clean the house for the holidays.

If those are your desires, you are missing the heart of Christmas! 

 If that is all that you can ask for, may I humbly submit to you that you have Christmas all wrong! 

You are missing the difficult yet sacred lesson that the life of Mary teaches all of us today: Our plans pale in comparison to His interruptions!  

The most significant and meaningful desire that you will ever embrace is to ask God to interrupt your life with His love and His plans.  

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Christmas is about the intervention of God into our ordinary lives; it is about Christ being born into our disappointments and failures.

Then, Mary, the very young, but specifically chosen mother of Jesus, uttered one of the most courageous statements in all of Scripture.  

 “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” - (Luke 1:38

A “bondslave”was a slave who was able to go free but instead chose to stay and serve his or her master.  

Mary willingly chose to offer temporary housing to the Savior of the world because that was God’s desire. 

When her world collided with God’s ultimate desire, Mary died to self and submitted to God the Father.

Has God asked something difficult of you?  How have you responded?  

Have you said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to Your word.”

God is looking for bondslaves: He is in search of men and women who are willing to serve Him out of love.  

God is looking for those who willingly submit to His ways and plans simply because their heart completely belongs to Him.  

God desires men and women who will allow Him to interrupt their perfectly planned lives with His unbelievable and miraculous plans!  

Are you willing to be a bondslave of the Father?

Mary’s pure heart and true resolve are revealed through the final words of her statement, “ ... May it be done to me according to your word.”  

Is that the resolve of your heart as well?   

When your will comes into conflict with God’s Word, God’s Word must win at all cost.  

I declare, with Mary, that in my life, it will always be done according to His Word because I am His bondslave.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Here comes Christmas!

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Ready or not … here comes Christmas!

This is the time of year that instigates feelings of celebration, of goodwill toward men and of the joy that is unique only to this miraculous season. 

Well … for some of us it accomplishes all of the above! These uncommon and jolly folks actually endure the other 11 months in order just to arrive at December the first.

For others, however, the 4 weeks that constitute the month of December usher in a 31-days commitment to stress that raises one’s blood pressure … a sinking realization that the life that you are currently living is definitely not reminiscent of a Rockwellian picture … and a dread that overpowers any other lilting magic of the season.  

Christmas! Bah! Humbug! 

If I have just described your volatile relationship with December – you have come to the right place! I can help you with your anxiety and disdain concerning all things Christmas. 

Although I don’t believe that it is necessary to gain 10 pounds during this month … or to stand in unending lines that devastate your schedule … or to raise your indebtedness by a 4-figure number … I do emphatically believe that Christmas is worth celebrating.

So – over the course of the next four Thursdays, I will be sharing tidbits of joy from my Christmas devotional entitled, Let There Be Joy!”   

And, if one dose of healthy and miraculous Christmas every 7 days is not enough for you – you can click here to buy a copy of the devotional in order to read it every day during this sparkling, eternal and generous month!

So … let’s get started! Here is your first weekly prescription of the genuine and eternal meaning of Christmas from “Let There Be Joy!”

“It’s Christmas!  It certainly is the most wonderful time of the year!  

It certainly is the most wonderful time of the year!  

This season is miraculously wonderful not because of the scrumptious and sugary holiday cookies nor is it due to the lavish gifts found under the Christmas tree.  

Christmas is not defined by the reindeer who dance or by the shoppers who spend.  Christmas is not “Christmas” because of decorations, or parties or even by the chestnuts that you might find roasting by an open fire. 

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Christmas is wonderful because of Him… because of a Baby that was born long ago and yet continues to live on in the hearts and lives of millions of believers across the scope of history whose lives have been revolutionized by the joy of His presence.

The historical account of the birth of Jesus didn’t commence in Bethlehem or even in Nazareth but it began with an elderly couple who knew the deep fulfillment of living wholeheartedly for God.

The Bible describes Elizabeth and Zacharias in the loveliest of ways: “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”   - Luke 1:6

Elizabeth and Zachariashad been married for many years and yet still had no babies.  The heartache must have been wrenching for this man of prayer and his wife, but the Bible records they continued to walk blamelessly in every aspect of their relationship to the Lord. 

For the priest Zacharias and for his faithful wife, Elizabeth, there had been no 3 a.m. feedings, no messy diapers and no sweet giggles and baby smiles.  Their life had not turned out in the manner that they had hoped for or prayed for.

Disappointment is part of all of our lives, isn’t it? Disappointment is surely part of the human experience.

How do you respond to disappointment?  Do you use it as an excuse for over-indulgence or for griping and complaining?   

Although Elizabeth and Zacharias had empty arms and dashed hopes, they continued to serve God wholeheartedly as the years continued to pass.

The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous one avails much! (James 5:16)  When you continue to live a righteous life and continue to pray in spite of your human disappointment, your prayers will still get the job done!

The Bible also says that the righteous live by faith. (Hebrews 2:4) Elizabeth and Zacharias continued to walk by faith and not by sight.

Elizabeth’s name actually means “God is my Oath”.   

Elizabeth believed the promises of God long after others would have given up in frustration.  She believed that God was listening to her prayers while her friends cooed over their own babies and then decades later when her circle of friends experienced the joy of rocking their grandchildren to sleep.

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I hope that the first lesson you will learn in the Christmas story is to be patient with God.   

Trust God even when your circumstances are challenging and continue to live a righteous life through long days of disappointment.  

Pray fervently and believe that God is listening to your prayers.  

Allow the steadfastness of Elizabeth to remind you that true believers walk by faith and not by sight. Although she was barren, she continued to believe in the promises and in the nature of a faithful and miracle-working God. 

Zacharias was chosen to be the priest this specific year who would enter the holy place in the Temple. It was his turn to offer incense to God on behalf of the people.  

However, as Zacharias was standing beside the altar of incense, he received a surprise visitor!  The angel Gabriel had been sent from heaven to bring a life-changing message to the elderly Zacharias and Elizabeth.

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard,”were the words of the heavenly messenger at this history-changing moment.  

After all of the years of waiting and praying and believing, heaven’s intervention was about to be experienced in the life and marriage of Elizabeth and Zacharias.  

Could it be true?  Was it even possible after decades of marriage that they would conceive and bear a son?   

Would Elizabeth’s elderly frame be able to withstand 9 months of pregnancy and then the pain of giving birth?  

I wonder if Zacharias’ heart was joyously asking, “God, are You really this good?!”

It is true:  God absolutely hears your prayers.  

The Bible instructs Christians from every generation to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep right on seeking, knock and keep on knocking! (Matthew 7:7) 

Don’t give up, my friend, don’t ever give up!  

The message of Christmas speaks into our silent world today: we serve a God Who answers the prayers of His children.   

While you wait, and while you pray, don’t ever give up!  Wait in faith and pray in hopeful expectation

For what have you been praying?   

Perhaps you are praying for an unsaved spouse or for a rebellious child. Maybe your fervent prayer is for a breakthrough in finances or it might be that health concerns have dominated your prayers for years and years.   

You need to follow the example of Elizabeth and Zacharias and continue to pray with expectation and with hope!

Christmas is a time that reminds us that miracles really do happen, that prayers are actually answered and that heaven is just one response away.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible!  

“Impossible” is what the God of Christmas does best!”

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

“For that … I am grateful!”

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Gratitude is not an emotion.  It is a choice.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday.  It is a willful determination. 

Choosing to be utterly grateful and sincerely appreciative should consume more of our lives than a single holiday is able to facilitate.  Thanksgiving should be remembered and honored for more than just a month of the calendar year. 

Thanksgiving should indeed dominate every waking moment of our lives on every day of every year. Being grateful for the life that we have been given should be our first thought in the morning when we awake from that sleeping stupor.   

Counting our blessings should fill every minute of every hour.

Our “Gratitude Lists” should be enormous and never ending.  When one notebook is filled with the blessings of our lives … then we should start another one … and another one … and another one.

Thanksgiving is more fulfilling and delicious than a gourmet meal!

Thanksgiving is more celebratory than a parade marked with colorful balloons and loud marching bands!

 Thanksgiving is more victorious than a championship football game! 

 Thanksgiving is a calling … it is a determination … it is life at its finest.

My friend … you haven’t lived until you have chosen to exhibit extravagant thanksgiving on the worst day of your life!

I don’t know what pain or challenge has marked the days of your calendar in 2018, but let me assure you that each one of us can dig deeply down into the experiences of this year and loudly proclaim, “For that … I am grateful!”

Life is hard at times but there is always … always … something for which to be grateful!

Can you discover the good in the midst of the hard?  Can you see the fingerprint of God in spite of human pain?

I have traded my sorrows for a song of unending gratitude to the Friend Who made me … Who sustains me … and Who loves me.

I refuse to be distracted by disappointments but I choose to be captivated by His power and grace. 

There is always … always … something for which to be grateful! Always!!

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I don’t know what pain or what joy has filled the days of this year, 2018, that will soon be history to all of us, but I hope that your ability to give thanks and to celebrate your many blessings has roared over the circumstances of your life.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns has always been, “We Gather Together”.  Although this song is song traditionally only at Thanksgiving, it was actually not written by the Pilgrims nor was it written specifically for this American holiday. 

This beloved hymn of the church was written in 1597 after Holland had suffered devastating losses in battle to Spain.  Dutch citizens had been weakened by the pervasive and cruel exile of thousands.  In order to help Holland acknowledge their turbulent past yet look ahead to a promising future, the words of this triumphant hymn were penned by a young tax collector, Adrianus Valerius:

 

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

He chastens and hastens His will to make known.

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,

Sing praises to His Name, He forgets not his own.

 

Beside us to guide us our God with us joining,

Ordaining, maintaining His Kingdom divine.

So from the beginning the fight we were winning;

Thou, Lord, was at our side, all glory be Thine!



We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,

And pray that Thou still our defender will be.

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;

Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!


What have you gone through this year?  Has your life been devastated by disappointment and by losses?

Have your joy and hope been taken captive?

I have found that when in a battle, it is the most appropriate time to sing and to sing loudly! 

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Battles do not have the power to diminish the human song of thanksgiving but battles should always fan the flames of honest gratitude and cause the melody triumphant to burst forth in spite of tragedy.

 I pray that you will discover with the pilgrims of old … with Adrianus Valerius … and with me, “So from the beginning the fight we were winning, Thou, Lord, was at our side, all glory be Thine!”

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

You! Are! Doing! It!

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Take a deep breath … now … release it peacefully knowing that you are doing this!!

You are slowly but surely utilizing the unmatchable power of your faith to help battle the wicked enemy of depression!  

You! Are! Doing! It!

I hope that in this battle you will recognize me as your “Faith Coach”. Together, we are employing a three-pronged attack that will enable you to fight for joy.

First of all, I want to remind you to see your medical doctor.  Just do it!  Make an appointment today and tell this trusted medical professional exactly how depression has tormented your soul and then … take his or her advice.

Secondly, let me remind you to find a certified and trained counselorJust do it today! Talking with this counselor will sustain you both emotionally and mentally. A counselor is able to peel back the layers of one’s pain and then discover the root cause of the depression that has invaded the borders of your life.

Faith

And then … there is the overwhelming, restorative, mountain-moving, Red-Sea-parting power of your faith!

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ.” – II Corinthians 10:3-5 

My sisters … my brothers … put up your dukes spiritually

Your faith may just be the most significant component of your arsenal as you fight depression’s unwelcome onslaught!  The faith that you have in Jesus Christ and the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit is well-able to dismantle depression, to wash away discouragement and to combat an overall sadness of the human soul.

Let’s review what we have learned so far …

The Word

In this faith prescription, we have already talked about the importance of reading your Bible every single day.  Read your Bible when you don’t feel like it … when you don’t have time … and even when you don’t understand it.  Spend time memorizing the words written on the sacred page of God’s anointed Word.

“My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your Word.” – Psalm 119:28

Worship

The second healing vitamin that was distributed as a vital component of your daily fighting strategy was the injunction to worship the Lord out loud!  

Sing in the shower! Listen to worship music while you are driving! 

Put your hands in the air and even dance in the living room! Whistle while you work! 

Out-sing your emotional pain!

Worship is not a feeling and does not depend upon your feelings. Worship is a choice … it is an act … and it might take a little bit of discipline on your part. 

We are called to worship the Lord in spite of our feelings and in spite of our human pain.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” – Psalm 42:11

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Giving … Service … Witness

The third area of your faith that will actually help you fight against the arch-enemy of depression is when you choose to willingly die to self and subsequently choose cheerfully to give to someone else.

The healing begins when, knowing that you need to be served, you choose to serve someone else instead. 

The power is realized when you witness rather than whine.

So … my practical advice to you today is to encourage someone else.

Write a sweet e-mail to one of your friends who is currently struggling with their own set of circumstances.

Phone a high school friend whom you haven’t spoken to in years.

Send flowers to a young mom.

Take a widow or a widower out for coffee. 

Bake cookies for your neighbors. 

Pay for someone’s coffee in the drive-through lane.

Write your pastor a note of encouragement.

Slip a $20 bill to a young father at church. 

Look beyond your own pain and choose to be a blessing to someone else. 

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35 

If Jesus Himself believed that it you would find a hidden blessing in giving rather than in receiving … I would take Him at His word if I were you!

You might need to force yourself to get out of bed … take a shower … and make an action-packed plan for your otherwise gloomy day.

If you are able – rake someone’s leaves.

Tell the cashier at the grocery store that she is doing a good job.

Volunteer to clean the church.

Take an elderly person to their doctor’s appointment.

Don’t allow depression to rob you of your purpose!

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today”.” – Hebrews 3:13

Find a Friend

I love the hidden treasures that I find in Scripture!  As I was reading the Bible a few weeks ago, I found a rich deposit of wisdom for those of us who battle depression!

It was an a-ha moment on an otherwise gray day!  I was in a dark place due to the trauma of my circumstances but I read my Bible anyway. This is what I read on that difficult day – are you ready to shout?!!

“But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” – II Corinthians 7:6

Wow … just wow!

Did you realize that we serve a God who comforts the depressed?!  Isn’t that good news for us?!  And – one of the ways that He comforts us is by the people that He sends across our pathway.

So, today, if you are struggling with depression, find a friend!  

Think of the most joyful person you knowand ask him or her out to lunch.

Is there someone with whom you are acquainted who is a true encourager?  Make a coffee date with that dear one!

I live in a new city and have left all of my precious friends over a thousand miles away … but I looked up a college friend with whom I haven’t spoken in over a decade … and we have met now for lunch two times.  What an encouragement she has been to me! A true gift from the Father! 

I drove nearly two hours to have lunch with another lifetime friend just because I was aching for her wisdom and her strength.

I called my college roommate who lies 5 hours away and invited myself to her home!  She always makes me laugh!

And next week … I am having lunch with a woman whom I haven’t seen in over 30 years … but her faith is strong and vibrant.

I have to make myself do these things … but I know that it is part of my healing prescription … and I am in … all in!

Are you?

And finally …

If you battle depression, know that I am praying for you today.  Please know that I have not meant for my answers to be trite or preachy … but they have come from a heart filled with the wonder at what God can do in one person’s ordinary life.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

Worship Your Way Out

So … what is that wise and tested prescription that will enable us to fight against the onslaught and the emotional damage that depression inflicts upon an unsuspecting person’s mind and heart?

What is it? 

Let’s review …

* - See your medical doctor. 

* - Talk to a trained, professional counselor. 

* - Read your Bible every day.  Memorize a verse a month or a verse a week.

* - Worship!  Worship Loudly!  Worship Often!

But let me just say … I am not done giving you your healing instructions about the commitment to worship just yet.  

Would you allow me tutor you on a deeper level concerning how the choice to worship has the exciting power to cleanse your thought life … holds the divine prescription that will heal your emotions … and … has the definite possibility of  changing the very way that you process your situations?

Would you?!

I believe that breaking out in song and worshipping the Lord, in spite of one’s circumstances, is a theme in Scripture from Genesis through Revelation.

Joseph honored God even in prison … 

Moses worshipped the Lord when everyone else was grumbling and complaining …  

Joshua had to choose worship the Lord when facing the walls of Jericho …  

Ruth worshipped the Lord even during her grief …

Hannah worshipped the Lord as she left her little boy at the temple … 

Samuel worshipped the Lord when separated from his family …

Esther fasted and worshipped when her entire people group was about to be slaughtered …

Job worshipped the Lord at the worst moment of his life … 

David worshipped the Lord while in the depths of despair …

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego danced for joy in the fiery furnace … 

Daniel worshipped the Lord in the den of lions …

But the story that I love most of all is the account of King Jehoshaphat as told in II Chronicles 20.

King Jehoshaphat and his nation of Judah were being attacked by three enemy nations that were ferocious and vicious fighters. The enemy forces that were coming toward Judah possessed overwhelming numerical superiority.  

Have you ever been attacked by something that you knew you were absolutely no match for?  Cancer? Divorce? Addiction?

The military forces of the nation of Judah were absolutely no match for the armies that were invading their land.  In the natural, there was no way that Judah could win … they were about to be slaughtered!

Have you ever felt like you were about to be absolutely slaughtered by depression?  By discouragement?  By bitterness?  By anger?

King Jehoshaphat gathered the entire population of his country and they sought help from the Lord!  

“So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord.” – II Chronicles 20:4

They didn’t “google” how to destroy a massive army … they didn’t post their despair on social media … they didn’t pull out the tissues and buy chocolate!

This desperate nation and this wise king sought help from the Lord!

The Bible tells us that they fasted … they prayed … they gathered in the house of the Lord … and they declared that their eyes were not on the enemy nations but their eyes were on the Lord!

And then what did this soon-to-be-annihilated people group do next?

What do you do when you are all out of options … when your circumstances refuse to change … and when you know that you are about to be defeated?

What do you do?!  I believe that you should do what King Jehoshaphat and the entire nation of Judah did at the worst moment of their life! 

“They stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel, with a very loud voice!” – II Chronicles 20:19

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Now remember … these people didn’t know what was going to happen next!  All they knew was that they were in serious trouble!

They were wondering if their homes were going to be pillaged … if their livestock was going to be destroyed … if their wives and daughters were going to be raped and murdered.

In the natural – they didn’t see any reason to praise the Lord but they worshipped Him in spite of their emotional pain and fear!

I can do no less at the worst moment of my life!

As believers in Jesus Christ, we must not allow our circumstances to steal our song!

We must not allow depression to deprive us of the healing power of worship!

You will not “think” your way out of a battle … you will not “eat” your way out of destruction … you will not “shop” your way to victory … you will not “weep” your way to advantage.

You will worship your way out of the battle!

You will worship with a very loud voice!

I remember one Sunday morning when I was in deep, deep emotional pain.  My world seemed to be crashing in around me and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change my heart-breaking circumstances.  As I stood in the congregation with 100’s of others, I decided to lift my hands to heaven even though I didn’t “feel” like it in the natural.

The worship team was between songs … and suddenly … one of the team members with a powerful, soaring voice broke out into “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”!! The congregation listened while she touched heaven with her worship.

I remember thinking, “Do I believe that?!  Do I believe … in the deepest part of me … that God is faithful?!”

And although I was weeping … I knew that I knew that I knew that I did believe. 

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I believe that my God is faithful even when I am being attacked on all sides.

I determined in that dark, yet promising moment, that I would sing in spite of my pain. 

I would sing in spite of my hurt.

I would sing in spite of my questions.

I would sing!

What will you do?   

I can’t sing for you … only you can make that choice … but I can guarantee you that you will never regret your decision to worship in spite of deep emotional pain.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  

And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls!” - I Peter 1:6-9

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

The Power of Worship

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A medical doctor. 

A Counselor.

Your faith.

Remember?!  I believe that it will undoubtedly require a three-pronged attack to help you conquer depression! Now … it is true … you can try one thing … or two things … if that’s all you choose to do or want to do.

However, I can guarantee you that all three of these things will help you land the winning blow!

Your doctor … a trusted counselor … and the power of your faith!   

As I have said repeatedly, I am not a medical doctor nor am I a trained counselor – but I do consider myself a trained professional in the arena of faith!  So when it comes to asking questions about how your faith can dismantle depression … well … then … I am your girl!

Last week, the faith advice that I gave to you was to read your Bible every day!  

Did you do it?  I certainly hope so because your faith will give you the relief that other solutions will never be able to offer.

Your faith gives you power to overcome rather than the ability to just cope.  

Read your Bible!  

Read your Bible every day … or even two or three times a day if you are in the pit of despair.  

I know that I know that I know that Jesus will meet you there as you open the Word and as you drink in His wisdom and splash in His promises.  

(If you missed last week’s blog, you can access it by clicking here.)

So … in addition to reading the Word of God that was divinely meant to bring healing to your life … is there anything else that you can do?  Are there any other spiritual disciplines that might just bring the healing power of God to rule and reign in your life?

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I am so glad that you have asked … because I can’t wait to coach you! 

Now that you are reading your Bible every day, the next part of your healing prescription is to worship. 

Lift your hands in worship!

Lift your heart in worship!

Open your mouth in praise!

Let a song rise up from within!

Dance in His presence … jump up and down for joy!

Worship has the innate and divine ability to counteract all of the effects that depression has had upon your life.

Oftentimes when depression comes a-knocking at my door, I just turn on a Pandora worship station and I let it play while I am doing the dishes or when I am folding clothes.

Or I choose a YouTube Channel that is filled with the songs of my favorite worship leaders and I just let it play all … day … long.

I let it play all … night … long.

David was a man in the Bible who often dealt with discouragement, melancholy and even depression. He was also a man who cried out to God in the midst of his emotional pain.  He didn’t allow the malaise of his soul to separate him from the Father but he used it to propel him into God’s presence!

Did you know that David had a son who died? Certainly sending a baby boy to heaven is reason enough for a man to throw himself into the depths of depression. 

I cannot imagine a pain more horrific or paralyzing than the pain of losing a child.

If anyone deserved to crawl into the black, bottomless pit of depression and never come out again, it was David.  

But, what you deserve to do and what you should do are two different roads entirely. 

“So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.  Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. - II Samuel 12:20

It is breathtaking to me that at the very worst moment of David’s life that he chose to change his clothes and to worship!

David removed his garment of mourning and he put on a garment of praise.

He prepared himself for time in God's presence.  When you are walking through 

depression of the very worst kind, like David did, you need to change your clothes. 

“To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” - Isaiah 61:3

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Choosing to dress yourself in a garment of praise may be the most difficult choice that you have ever made in your lifetime – but it will also be the most powerful choice you have ever made.

It will be the healthiest choice you have ever made. 

It will be the most life-changing choice you have ever made.

After you have read your Bible, then you joyfully and willingly put on your garment of praise!  Get ready to dance in spite of your feelings! 

And then what did this ordinary man do who was experiencing gut-wrenching grief?

“He came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.”

If you long to flourish and to move beyond the disappointment and the depression then this is what you will do:  You will worship!  

David chose to move past his emotional pain and into his destiny.  

While you are gasping for air, you will lift your hands heavenward and emphatically declare the goodness and faithfulness of God.   

We have been given very powerful weapons to use while reaching for an abundant life and worship is one of these weapons.  

Worship is one of the most powerful cleansing agents to deal with the pain of your past. 

Worship will heal your mind and your memories; it will take the power out of your pain and restore you to emotional health.  

Worship does not stuff our pain but it brings hope to our weary and storm-tossed souls.

So, my friend … if you are dealing with depression today … please see your medical doctor … find a trusted counselor … read your Bible … and worship!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

The Power of My Faith

Has depression touched your life?  Or the life of someone that you love?

Last week, I began a series of blog posts about the power of our faith to fight this debilitating disease.

If you missed last week’s post, you can read it by clicking here.

If you are new to my viewpoint on depression, let me quickly remind you of a few key points that I shared last week.

If you are depressed – go see your medical doctor.  Do whatever he or she tells you to do.

If you are depressed – find a Christian counselor and allow this trained professional to help you peel back the layers of your pain.

And, in addition to those two actions, never forget the power of your faith to help you battle the depression that is raging in your soul.

One more reminder before we move ahead … I am not a doctor nor am I a trained professional.  I am just a girl who has overcome depression and now I live to help others overcome this epidemic emotional challenge.

When I was battling depression in my 30’s – I went to our family doctor and I spoke with a Christian counselor often.  However, there was one more choice that truly helped me to live victoriously.  Can you guess what it was?! 

It was the power of my faith!

I learned during those days that it was a three-pronged attack that would help anyone – including me – to live in a place of joy and hope.

A medical professional … a trained counselor … and faith.

But the greatest of these is faith!

So now …let the faith prescription begin!

When I go to the doctor’s, I want him or her to tell me EXACTLY what to do to get better … and then I obey!  I don’t argue … I don’t think that I know more than he does … I don’t try to “one-up” this medical professional.  I just simply obey.

So … as a trained professional in the arena of faith … here is the first part of your prescription that will give you strength in your battle against depression.

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The Word

Read your Bible every day … read it when you don’t feel like it.

Read your Bible when you don’t understand a word that you are reading.

Read your Bible when your emotions are roaring in pain.

“Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” – Psalm 119:18

Read your Bible before you make your bed … before you check your e-mail … and before you turn on the TV.

When I was in the depths of despair, I read my Bible more than once a day.

I did the dishes with the Bible opened on the kitchen counter.

I folded laundry with my Bible opened on top of the dryer. 

I played Legos with my little boys on the family room floor with the Bible propped open beside me.

I would write Bible verses on 3x5 cards, laminate them and take them in the shower with me so that I was never away from the power that is only found in the Word of God.

The Bible is a cleansing agent… it will wash away your emotional pain.

The Bible is a strengthening agent… it will give you emotional strength when you are weak.

“My soul weeps because of grief, strengthen me according to Your Word.” – Psalm 119:28

The Bible is wisdom… it will give you answers to your desperate questions.

“Your testimonies are also my delight; they are my counselors.” – Psalm 119:24

The Bible always ushers in the possibility of the miraculous… it will heal the deepest places of pain and hurt in your life. 

“Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.” – Psalm 119:49

If you don’t know where to read … start in the Psalms and then read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Read in those sections of the Bible over and over and over again.

If you have a hard time understanding what you are reading in the Word … that is o.k. … just keep reading. We don’t read the Bible primarily for information but for transformation!

The Bible is not a “flat” book.  It is not just words on a page.  The Bible is living and vibrant and is able to cut the emotions out of you that cause you to stumble and fall. 

“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

I often confess that during those years of deep, deep depression that not only was I living in that black hole of chronic emotional distress but that I also developed an addiction.

The addiction that I developed wasn’t to alcohol … or to over-the-counter meds … or to self-harm … but the addiction that I developed was to the Word of God.

“May your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight.” – Psalm 119:77

And then I discovered the absolute joy of not only reading the Word … but of memorizing the Word.  I memorized a Bible verse every week and declared that particular verse over my soul.

“I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” – Psalm 119:111

Oh!  There is so much more that I want to say this week … but for today … let me just gently but powerfully remind you to read your Bible. 

When you make a commitment to treasure the Word of God above your emotional challenges … it is then the healing will begin!

“If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.” – Psalm 119:92 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

A Vicious Blitz


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Have you ever felt the tentacles of discouragement threaten to choke the very life out of you?

Have you ever been so weary that you weren’t sure you could face another day … deal with another person …  grapple with yet another challenge?

Is your world colored by a gray melancholy that has shrouded your life in a relentless, emotional fog?

It’s called depression.

 Depression is impacting our world in epidemic proportions.

If you are not depressed – you probably know someone who is.

No one is immune to depression’s onslaught … the elderly deal with it … teens are impacted by it … young moms are grappling with it … men might try to ignore it … and even children are being diagnosed with depression at alarming rates.

Sadness and grief are normal human emotions – we all grapple with those feelings from time to time.  However, major depression is much more than just a mere day or two of discouragement.

According to healthline.com, “Depression is a diagnosable condition that is classified as a mood disorder and can bring about long-lasting symptoms such as overwhelming sadness, low energy, loss of appetite and a lack of interest in things that used to bring pleasure.”

Christians are not immune to the emotional disease of depression.  However, as believers in Jesus Christ, the way that we attempt to fight it might look differently than those who don’t enlist the power of their faith in the battle.

There are, of course, different types of depression and these different types have various causes as well as various treatment options. I am not a PhD nor am I an MD with worldly credentials that give my voice expertise in this particular venue.

I am just a girl who has overcome the dreaded emotional disease of depression. Now, in this season of my life, I deeply desire to help others who are fighting the onslaught of the blackness of heart and mind that I once knew so well.

I fought a horrific battle with depression in my mid-30’s and I have determined to be a voice of joy in all the years that I have left on this earth

My heart aches for people who find themselves in the vicious blitz that depression brings … I long to be a woman who understands, who listens, who encourages and who gives hope in the battle.

I am determined not to waste my pain but to use it as a springboard for ministry.

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For the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you what I have learned in my battle against the most relentless emotional disease of our day – depression. 

First of all, if you are depressed, go see your medical doctor.  Make an appointment today!  And then – do whatever your doctor advises you to do.  If he or she advises you to take medication, prayerfully consider that option.  I am not opposed to medication that will enable you to think more clearly and then arrive at a healthier place emotionally.

After all – if you were dealing with diabetes, you would be on insulin.

If you had a cold – you would take a decongestant.                                                        

If you had cancer – you would prayerfully consider chemo or radiation.

I have gone through two very difficult periods of time during which I took medication that helped me to combat depression.  My intent was never to stay on the medication long term but to use it as an avenue to achieve my goal of clear thinking and healthy emotional habits.

Secondly, if you are depressed, go see a Christian counselor and allow this person to peel back the layers of your pain.  It actually does help to talk to someone who can offer powerful mental strategies that will enable you to deal with your pain whether it is historical or current.

You can find a Christian counselor through your church or by a simple Google search of your area. 

If you feel that you are unable to afford a counselor or your insurance does not cover counseling, call Focus on the Family and they have a trained team of professionals who might be able to help you. Here is the link to their counseling services.

As you battle against depression in your daily life, in addition to medical consultation and counseling services, never forget the power of your faith to help you walk in the joy for which you were created. 

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Again, if you had cancer … you would pray and worship!

If you were battling infertility … you would pray, fast and read the Word. 

If you had been diagnosed with lung disease … you would ask others to pray for you!

In fighting emotional or mental challenges we must always enlist the power of our faith to heal, to recalibrate and look toward the future with hope.

Would you allow me to be your voice of faith in the battle against depression? 

Would you allow me to speak victory into your life as you come against discouragement, deep sadness, grief and emotional pain?

I am not an MD or a trained counselor … but I am a woman who has battled valiantly against depression and now triumphantly I stand with my heart set free and with my countenance fixed on hope!

So … here we go … over the next few weeks … I will be sharing a spiritual prescription with you!  I will be giving you each Scripture that was in my arsenal as I combatted the adversary known as “depression”.

I will be conferring upon you the lyrics to worship songs that changed my outlook from gloomy to joyful!

I will be reminding you of the healthy spiritual practices in which we each must engage in order to be the beneficiary of extraordinary mental health.

So … join me next week as we continue this journey together!  It truly is a journey toward joy!  And, let me encourage you, to invite a friend who is also battling depression.  Who knows?!  You might just change his or her life!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

What to Do On the Worst Day of Your Life, (2/2)

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This week’s blog is a continuation of last week’s “Joy for the Journey”, which can be accessed by clicking here. 

We all have a day that defines us … we all remember a moment in life when the world stopped turning for all of the wrong reasons.

It’s interesting, isn’t it?  Each one of us is able to reminisce about the sweet days in life and talk unceasingly about the precious moments of living … but when it comes to verbalizing the very worst day of one’s life …suddenly there are no words.

There is no need for conversation … or for communication.  Perhaps, as you ponder the unique and unrelenting agony of that day, all that you are able to do is to look into the distance and remember what it felt like all over again.

All you can do is shake your head in repeated disbelief.

However, there are some miraculous choices that I have discovered in my journey that have moved me from a place of unrivaled disbelief to a place of hope and even peace.

May I share some of them with you today?

Last week, I encouraged you to do three things when your life has been ravaged by some unexpected storm.

Just say, “Jesus!”

Hold your Bible.

Remember the last miracle.

However, as I was finishing my blog last week, I knew that there were several more powerful choices that would help you get your footing as you wrestled with emotional pain, searing disappointment and relentless grief.  So today … let me share a few more life-giving decisions with you.

Find a trusted group of friends who will stand in faith with you and pray for you.

Carefully select this team of valiant warriors and then send an e-mail or a text message to the entire group inviting them to pray for you and with you.  Ask them to send Scriptures or the lyrics to songs as you endeavor to hold onto the anchor of hope during the storm that is assailing your very life.

This group of caring and faith-filled friends should be your “safe place” as you heal from the aftermath of the vicious onslaught of the blast that has damaged your life.

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Friends … we all need themWe especially need them when life is at its very worst.

We all need trusted men and women who will hold up our arms when the battle is fierce.

We are unconsciously desperate for brothers and sisters who are focused on the victory when we, the wounded, are focused on the battle.

I love this small piece of information that the Holy Spirit and Paul included in the letter to the Church at Corinth:

“But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” – II Corinthians 7:6

Find a Titus or two … or three or four … and allow these dear friends to comfort you until the pain and the depression subside.

Another important component of your ability to navigate the tsunami of circumstances is to find a fighting Scripture and then declare it … memorize it … sing it … pray it … think about it … until you experience the breakthrough of God’s goodness in your life.

Just three days into my battle with cancer, the Lord gave me this Scripture in my daily quiet time, “For never again will the wicked one pass through you; he is cut off completely.” – Nahum 1:15b

That Scripture became my very life-line during the 5 surgeries, the horrific treatments and the dreaded tests that filled the calendar of my life for over 2 years.

Open your Bible, my friend, and read the comforting Scriptures in Psalms or in the Book of John.  Ask God for a Scripture that you can literally cling to - no matter how strong the wind is and no matter how high the waves are.  The Scripture will save you time after time after time.

When the winds of change take your breath away … your fighting Scripture will breathe the breath of God into your empty lungs.

Not only will your fighting Scripture revive you … but it will also propel you into a mindset of victory even when your circumstances refuse to change.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fighting Scripture and use it often!

And, then, please … please … please … don’t forget to worship!

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As the waves of emotional pain continue to beat upon your heart, if you are physically unable to sing … then just lift your hands to the Father. 

You can “think” the words to well-loved choruses … even when you can’t utter a sound.

The horrific news that may have caused you to lose your voice for a period of time should never have the ability to squelch the song in your heart.

Listen to worship music especially when your tongue has been muted by pain.

Lift your hands in the air even while the tears are coursing down your cheeks.

May I just gently encourage you to participate in the worship experience even when you don’t “feel” like it?

Worship is the one of the greatest healing tools given to us by God the Father. 

Worship doesn’t stuff the pain of your life but it cleanses the pain of your life!

Worship ushers the presence of God into your pain so just do it!

And finally, declare truth over your devastation. 

One of my dear friends told me not to ask questions like, “How did this happen?”

Or, “What did I do to deserve this?”

This wise sister reminded me that those questions are futile because they do not lead to hope. She told me to get God’s heart on the matter and then declare that truth over the destruction.

This seasoned warrior of the faith also advised me that God was not worried about my situation … that He was still a good, good Father … and that this was not the end of my story.

Isn’t that powerful truth?!

And so, rather than discuss your disappointment from the well of your emotions … when you talk about your pain … talk about the truth!

My God is well able!

There is no mountain that He cannot move!

Nothing is impossible to God!

God is not finished with me yet!

He will indeed accomplish what concerns me!

So now you know … this is how we fight our battles …

Just say, “Jesus!”

Hold your Bible.

Remember the last miracle.

Find some friends.

Fight with the Word of God.

Worship!

Declare truth!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

What to Do On the Worst Day of Your Life (1/2)

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Have you ever been in a place of raw, unexpected pain?

I have.

Have you ever experienced gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and soul-tearing agony?

I have.

Have you ever wondered how you could get up another day to breathe again … to perform ordinary tasks again … even to live again?

I have.

What does one do at these torturous moments?

What do you do on the very worst day of your life?

The very first thing that I did on the worst day of my life was to cry out to the Lord.

It was the only thing that I could do … that I knew to do.  It was a reflexive and instinctive response. 

When there is nothing else to say … say, “Jesus!”

I just repeated the matchless name of Jesus over and over and over again.  I found myself lying on the floor with tears streaming down my face and uttering the most powerful word in all of recorded history, “Jesus!”

I said, “Jesus!”

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I recall that the next thing that I chose to do was that I just held my Bible.  I didn’t open it … I didn’t read it … I just held it and it held me.

Just the simple action of holding that beloved and sacred Book in my weary arms broke through the monstrous shock of the situation. Just touching my Bible ushered in an atmosphere of peace in spite of a horrific and unnecessary storm.

I held my Bible.

(Even now, as I remember the inexpressible anguish of that moment, my stomach is in knots and my heart is in my throat. But somehow I carried on and so can you.)

In spite of the sobbing and the heartache, I knew that the next thing that I should do was to call a friend.  It was impossible for me to trust my own reactions and the raging emotions that were dragging me to panic so I called a dear friend, who was able to minister to me, pray for me and quote the word over my life. 

Do you have a friend like that?  Do you have a friend who will drop absolutely everything to stand by your side during a wicked storm?

If you don’t have a friend like that … then be a friend like that!

Cultivate sweet friendships that will have the tenacity and the resolve to love you, to tenderly care for you and to pray for you on the very worst day of your life.

I called a friend.

My sweet friend encouraged me to remember the last miracle that the Lord had done on my behalf. I began to recall time after time after time that God had come through in miraculous and undeserved ways in my life.

He gave me living babies after sending 5 babies to heaven!  What the doctors said was impossible was possible with my God!

I remembered!

He healed me from an all-encompassing 7-year battle with depression. I encountered His presence where there is always fullness of joy!

I remembered!

He stood with my husband I through a season of betrayal in the ministry.  He was faithful even when people were not!

I remembered!

He healed me from an aggressive form of cancer. My God is a healing God!

I remembered!

He brought a beloved son back to the Lord after years of searching. He tracked my son down and tackled him for God’s Kingdom and for God’s glory!

I remembered!

I reminded myself that He has done it before and that He will do it again!

I remembered!

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The Holy Spirit then gently reminded me of the story in the Bible when the Lord had just fed a crowd of 5,000 men plus countless women and children with only 5 little loaves of bread and 2 tiny fish. 

It was truly just crackers and sardines that the Lord used as the basis for one of the greatest recorded miracles in the Bibe.

The Bible says that the entire crowd ate and was satisfied! It was a sumptuous holiday feast of heaven’s culinary expertise! 

Immediately after this incredible miracle, on that very same afternoon, Jesus sent His disciples into a storm of monstrous proportions. 

The Bible describes the disciples as being filled with fear and in a state of panic and terror as the storm raged around them. Jesus, as you know, then came to them walking on the water. 

Jesus came to these disheartened disciples on the very waves that threatened to destroy them. Think about that for a moment and then read on …

“Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” – Mark 6:51 & 52

Every time I read this verse written by the Holy Spirit and Mark, my heart stops within my chest and I find myself on my knees in His presence. 

There is a hidden detail in this verse that never ceases to perform a quick self-examination of my memory.

The disciples had not learned anything at all from observing the miracle of the loaves and the fishes! Their hearts were so hardened that they had developed spiritual amnesia concerning what the Lord was capable of doing on their behalf!

The next time that you find yourself in over your head, surrounded by seaweed and dangerous winds, remember the loaves and the fishes. 

The compass that will lead you out of the storm is your ability to recount the miracles that God has done for you in the past even when you are in the midst of the most horrific moment of your life.

The miraculous God on the shore who provides in abundance is also the God of the storms! 

I remembered … will you?

Will you remember the last miracle?  Will you recall the faithfulness of God in your life even though today your boat is being tossed by life-threatening waves?

If you are living through the very worst day of your life … my simple wisdom to you today is to say, “Jesus!”

If the storm is raging around you … my tried and true advice to you today is to just hold your Bible.

If you are frightened by what the future may hold for you … my input into your life is to remember the last miracle and to praise Him for it.

(This blog, “What To Do On the Worst Day of Your Life” will be continued next week on October 11.)

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Autumn Prelude

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The squirrels have started to gather in my yard this week … filling their little cheeks with the nuts that linger defenselessly under my trees. 

The geese have begun their pilgrimage back to places sunny and warm… I hear their determined cries as they bravely wing their way south.

My flowers are now “September flowers”. 

Do you know not what “September flowers” are? They are the flowers that were brilliant and young in June but now they are dismally weary and completely worn out. They are still “my” flowers – but they just look so bedraggled now.

The change of seasons is knocking at my door

Autumn awaits me while summer scurries silently away without even a polite wave good-bye.

Change … the only thing that never changes is that everything always changes.

Seasons come and seasons go … the years turn insistently to a new page. There is a bittersweet beckoning to the new, which in truth, has been seen many times before.

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest;

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;

Join with all nature in manifold witness –

To Thy great faithfulness mercy and love.”

How I have loved the long, spectacular days of summer! How I delight in sitting on my deck and watching the birds dash across my back yard singing and chattering for all of creation to hear!

There is nothing that a glass of iced tea, a back deck and a summer afternoon can’t cure!  Nothing at all!

But summer has bid a dreaded adieu once again to this girl who delights in the brief season of green grass, the buzzing of the bees and those brilliant fireflies sparkling in the evening’s closing chapter.

I must now prepare my winsome heart to welcome autumn.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.” – Browning

I actually have nothing against autumn – I just shudder when I consider that the months of September, October and November are singing the prelude for the frigid days of winter.

September, October and November have my complete attention as they prepare to play the glorious symphony that uniquely belongs to autumn.  This yearly triumvirate harmonizes in rich tones of glorious color, frosty mornings and pumpkins ripening on the vine.

“You have crowned the year with Your bounty,

And Your paths drip with fatness.

The pastures of the wilderness drip,

And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.

The meadows are clothed with flocks

And the valleys are covered with grain;

They shout for joy, yes, they sing!” – Psalm 65:11 - 13

But I know what comes after the autumnal prelude … winter comes next.

The stark, cold days of winter always follow the splendor of harvest-time.  Always.

Summer whistles … autumn resounds … and winter is silent. Absolutely silent.

“While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

And cold and heat,

And summer and winter,

And day and night

Shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Now … I believe that I shall divert from my autumnal ponderings to reach the point of this missive.

Believe me – I am going somewhere with this.  I really am.

How I have loved being a mom!  I have loved the days of holding and rocking … and the years of potty-training and two-year-old tempers!

I delighted in the season of sidewalk chalk drawings … basketball balls bouncing on the driveway … and long afternoons of reading books out loud.

During that season of my life, I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to plan new adventures … to engage in new activities … and to make up new songs! I couldn’t wait to tell the daily story in which one of my children was the hero or heroine in a fantasy tale woven by their mom.

I found unmatched pleasure in the family games that we played … in the endless questions that they asked … and in the long walks that we took.

It was all just glory to me!

And then came their senior year in high school and I fell into an early melancholy. 

I could barely enjoy the memorable events that are unique to one’s last year in high school because I so dreaded what the following year would bring.

I couldn’t live in the present because the future was knocking loudly and unapologetically at the door of my heart.

I couldn’t relish in the defining moments of their last year at home because of the foreboding of what came next.

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After crying my way through two entire senior years, I finally took the time to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit … the One Who never changes.

And He will be the stability of your times,

A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;

The fear of the Lord is his treasure.” – Isaiah 33:6

When the Lord deposited that valuable verse into my heart, I changed my tune rapidly.  I regretfully realized that my children were never meant to be my stability – only the Lord could provide that.

And so I began to enjoy the season that was a prelude to the greatest change of my life. I loved each senior year that followed and was fully engaged emotionally and spiritually in every event, every memory and in each sweet finality.

Although I miss my children daily and deeply – there is joy in this new season of life that I have never before experienced. My children have become 5 of my dearest friends and each one sings a melody that is solely his or her own.

And may I just say … I love each melody that they contribute to my life.

So … autumn … bring it! 

I welcome you, harvest season, with my arms open wide and a heart that is completely yours! I will drink of your fruit and will dance in your beauty!

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Life has taught me that even that which has been formerly dreaded brings a rare treasure all of its own.

I will rejoice in the golden days of autumn because He, indeed, is the stability of my times.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Four Words to Change Your Life

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I often drive by myself across the country!  

Now, not many woman of my age are brave enough to undertake such an epic pilgrimage but I find myself fully engaged in the experience.  I am invigorated by the scenery, encouraged by the music I am playing, strengthened by the books on CD to which I am listening and fascinated by the weather that I am encountering. 

Last year, in early January, I was once again driving across this great nation from southern Oklahoma to my home in Western New York.  I was only a couple of hours into my 20-hour drive when I wondered if I should continue or not … the weather was wintery and white. 

I have found that on this frequent trek, I often stop at the same hotels, the same restaurants and the same gas stations. 

Or, as my grandmother would observe, “The same old … same old!” 

I am definitely a creature of habit if nothing else! 

One of my favorite places to stop on such a journey is Cracker Barrel!  The bathrooms are spotlessly clean and the food is always mouthwatering in this country girl’s estimation.   

Honestly - what is there not to like about Cracker Barrel?! 

I was battling a terrible cough and cold on this particular day and the weather was cold and icy.  I decided to take a break, stop at my oasis of choice (that would be Cracker Barrel!) and run in to go to the bathroom.  I honestly didn’t feel well at all and wondered if I just needed to stop for the night.  

I was tired of being by myself and weary of the weather and my hacking cough. 

As I walked out of the bathroom, an elderly, toothless woman was walking into the ladies’ room.  She grinned at me but her daughter quickly ushered her past me.  I held the door open for them and the cheerful grandmother continued to grin at me as they walked by. 

Do you want to know what kind of grin it was that I encountered from this wrinkled face?   

It wasn’t a grin that merely was born in her facial muscles but it came from the very depths of her very soul. 

As she passed by me with a limp and a smile, I noticed that her coat was too big for her and that her daughter was impatient with her. But I continued on to the hostess in Cracker Barrel intending to order a hot tea to go. 

When I finally had my hot tea in hand and decided that it was time once again to brave the elements, I found myself exiting the restaurant at the same time as my new, yet ancient, friend. Her daughter was in front of her racing to the car and ignoring this sweet yet fragile piece of humanity. I walked beside her, quietly visiting with her, until I opened the door of her car for her.  

I closed our conversation with the words, “Well … have a good day!” 

She looked at me, grinned once again, and declared, “Thanks … I always do!” 

Her daughter slammed the car door and roared out of the parking lot as I stood there shivering in the frigid temperatures.  

I’ll never forget her words, “Thanks … I always do!” 

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Do I always make it my goal to have a good day regardless of what I am going through?   

Do I always attempt to make every day a good one when people don’t treat me well, when the conditions are inclement and when my circumstances don’t quite fit the life I want to live? 

Oh! That the words of my life would be, “Thanks!  I always do!” 

Do I always endeavor to have a good day when I am by myself, when the journey is long and when I am coughing up disappointment? 

“Thanks! I always do!” 

Those four memorable words refuse to leave my heart; I have thought of those four life-changing words so often over the past year. 

“Thanks! I always do!” 

What does it take to make every day a good day?  What are some simple disciplines that you and I could incorporate into our ill-fitting, impatient life?

Will you indulge me as I share a short but sweet list with you today? 

Here are some things that you and I might consider if our goal is to turn every day into a really good day!   

I like to call it my “Thanks! I Always Do!” list. 

1 – There is nothing that impacts your life like who is in your life so choose your friends wisely and prayerfully. 

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2 – Take the time to fall in love with the life you have been given! Enjoy the scenery as you travel through your epic existence! 

3 – Listen to music and even sing along! Turn your life into the rich and rare melody of your favorite song! Remember that music can turn the worst day into the best day! 

4 – Remind yourself daily that it is not about what life has to offer you but it is about what you have to offer life!

5 – Discover your gifting and calling and then live enthusiastically in that place! 

6 – Remind yourself often that it is impossible to live in a place of selfishness and joy at the same time.  Absolutely impossible.  Selfishness and joy are mutually exclusive – they cannot exist in the same heart or in the same home. 

7 – Every day is a sacred gift given to you by your Creator – a day that is both holy and beautiful.

8 – Until further notice … celebrate everything!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

An Unquenchable Song

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Oh!  How I try not to be deemed as old-fashioned! 

Oh!  How I ache to be at least in touch with the needs, the thoughts and the trends of the younger generation! 

Oh! How I desire not to come across as out of date … out of touch … or over that infamous hill. 

But let’s face it – at this age – I do indeed have a lot of years of living under my belt. 

At this point in my life’s journey - I know a thing or two about life … about marriage … about parenting … about choosing well … about waiting … about wisdom … and about prayer. 

At least I hope I do. 

I try to dress fashionably youthful yet not come across as that older woman in teen-age clothes.  

I like to think that my style is “timeless” rather than “yesterday”.

I sincerely attempt to sprinkle my speech with well-chosen colloquialisms of the day without seeming inconsequential or sarcastic.

I am certainly not “hip” … but neither am I antiquated.

I often read what my 20-something daughters and their friends are reading so that I will keep my fingers on the pulse beat of those incredible people known as “millennials”.

I follow young moms … young authors … young pastors … and young thinkers on all types of social media.

I even know what Reddit and Tumblr are … do you?!

However – I do believe that the place where the numerous years of my life is perhaps the most obvious is in my choice of music.  

Sigh … 

I am a musician and I have raised all of my children to love music.  Three of my five children majored in music in college. 

We McLeods know our music … 

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am hopelessly outdated, old-fashioned and vintage when it comes to the music that I enjoy. 

First of all – I’ll take a waltz over hip-hop, a sonata rather than rap and a concerto over electronica any day of my life!

Chopin, Gershwin and Debussey are on my playlist rather than Beyonce, Maroon 5 and Drake. 

(As a matter of fact – I don’t even know who Drake is. I had to look up who had the #1 song on Billboard.) 

And, when it comes to Christian music, it’s true …  from time to time I do enjoy Bethel, Hillsong, and gifted contemporary musicians such as Lauren Daigle.

However, the Christian music that truly inspires me is at least decades old! 

Music has always had the rare and rich ability to touch my soul in the very deepest place of me.   

My heart aches with unmatched joy when I hear these lyrics:  

“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold … I’d rather be His than have riches untold.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands:  I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.”

I am forced to the altar of my heart as I evaluate those challenging lyrics.  Would I?!  Would I really rather than Jesus than silver or gold?!  Would I truly rather be His than have riches untold? 

And the whisper of my heart cries … I would!  I would rather have Jesus than anything!

And then, there are times that I sit and reminisce over the legacy I have been given due to a family that valued the church and loved the Lord. In those sweet moments, I can still hear my father’s voice singing:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest Name that I know!

Fills my every longing – keeps me singing as I go!” 

Oh, Dad!  You were right!  Jesus is the sweetest Name that I know! He fills my deepest desires and He has never failed to give me an unquenchable song! 

And I must admit that one of the unarguable perquisites in judging a song to be a truly great composition is that it must hold solid theology and undeniable truth in every line –

“Great is Thy Faithfulness – Oh God, my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee!

Thou changest not – Thy compassions they fail not!

As Thou has been thou forever wilt be!” 

I want to know Jesus better because of the songs that I sing.  I want to declare Who He is over my circumstances as I sing my songs of faith that the saints in every generation have sung before me. 

And, finally, who can resist the triumph that springs forth in an ordinary person’s soul when these words are proclaimed with the power of the accompanying melody: 

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee! God of glory, God of love!

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the Son above!

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness – drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!” 

You might judge me as “old” due to the music that sings perpetually in my soul … but I believe that it is music that has kept me young!

The unmatched song that continues to dominate the soundtrack of my life has given me a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eyes.

How about you? What is your favorite song?  I’d love to hear from you … and sing a stanza or two together!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

The Grace Muscle

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How many of you have a difficult person in your life?  Perhaps some of you have more than one difficult person that you encounter daily.

Maybe some of you ARE the difficult person in a relationship … have you ever thought about that?!

Difficult people are just so … so … so … well they are just so difficult!

Wouldn’t it be nice if every friend or family member in your life could be compared to Mary Poppins?  Or Pollyanna?  Or Mother Theresa?

Instead … I often feel like I am stuck in a relationship with Cruella deVille … Scrooge … or the Grinch!

I have often asked the Father, “God, is it Your will for me to stay in a relationship with a difficult person?!”

And then He reminds me that He is in a relationship with me … and I know that I tend to be rather difficult at times.

Actually – the Holy Spirit has just recently reminded me that Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Judas would betray Him.

Judas was definitely difficult.

The Holy Spirit has also tenderly pointed out to me that Jesus chose Peter to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Peter would rebuke Him, cut off a soldier’s ear and deny Christ three times.

Peter was undeniably difficult.

God never shies away from using a difficult person for His purposes and for His plans.  Should I give you a list of difficult people that He has used over the course of history?

Abraham … Isaac … Jacob … Jonah … Samson … David … Moses … Paul … you … me …

If God doesn’t shun difficult people then neither should we.  However, we must employ the strategy, the wisdom and the heart of God when navigating the stormy relationship waters that difficult people tend to stir up.

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God always confronts difficult people, including me, with love, with righteousness and with truth. When I confront difficult people in my life, I often give opinion rather than truth, frustration rather than righteousness and judgment rather than love.

I need to be more like the Father.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” – Ephesians 4:14 & 15

When God allows my life to collide with that of a difficult person it is not so that we will beat each other up until someone bleeds but it is so that one of us – perhaps both of us - will begin to act more like Jesus.

Every difficult person that you encounter is an opportunity for you to reveal the character of Christ in your less than perfect body.

Difficult people are not meant to bring out the worst in us but they are meant to bring out the Jesus in us.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31 & 32

What if God has allowed a difficult person or two into your life to develop your grace muscle?

What?!  You didn’t know that you had a “grace muscle”?!  That’s too bad … because your lack of awareness of it simply means that you haven’t used it nearly often enough!

And … it also means that the next time you employ your grace muscle … you might just be sore for days.

It often hurts to give grace to difficult people but it is part of the calling of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Ouch!

Grace often hurts the giver but it heals the one who receives it.  And, in the long run of life, it strengthens the one who has given the grace.

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“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

Another strategy that Christ often utilized when dealing with a difficult person is that He put that fractious person to work in His Kingdom!

He gave Moses a million or more people to lead out of slavery … He gave Paul some books to write … and He gave Peter a church to build.

Service can miraculously mutate a cynic into a believer!

Ministry often morphs a skeptic into a partner and transforms a whiner into a witness.

So, now, when you think about your difficult person doesn’t this change your perspective? Rather than getting all bent out of shape at the prospect of spending another day with Cruella, determine that you are going to be like your Father!

You will speak the truth in love rather than vomiting your opinion in frustration.

You will reveal the character of Jesus every time you hang out with Mr. Grinch.

You will give grace upon grace whenever Scrooge knocks upon your door.

And … you will challenge that difficult person to invest their life in something bigger than himself or herself. 

And perhaps … just perhaps … you will roll up your sleeves and join in the work with your new friend!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!