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! 

Overwhelmed

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“Overwhelmed” is such an overwhelming word, isn’t it? 

I often feel the tentacles of that which is urgent threaten to strangle the very life out of me.  Do you?

There are so many things in life that have the capacity to overwhelm us …to conquer us …to  bury us … at any given moment in life. 

For me, it seems that I am traveling along just fine through the life I have been given.  I enjoy the view even though it seems that it is all flying by way too quickly. I have the pedal to the medal with my hands firmly placed on the steering wheel … when suddenly … out of nowhere … an unexpected circumstance abruptly appears in front of me and I lose all control!

Can you relate?

I might be spinning plates but I love every one of those plates!  I am focused on keeping every plate at optimum speed and I am actually doing a pretty good job at the perpetual spinning … when suddenly – something unpredictable is thrown at me and everything else comes crashing down!

Does anyone else know what I am talking about?!

For everyone … there are financial challenges … political issues that we don’t begin to understand and refuse to have an opinion on … stresses at work and stresses in the home.

For some of you … there are the challenges of being married … or of being single.

For moms there are the children … the pets … grocery shopping … cleaning … soccer practice … piano lessons … homework that lasts late into the night … and the never ending “To-Do” list.

For dads there are the challenges of career … of paying the bills … of never having enough time to go around … of exercise … of yard work … of the home repairs … of politics in the workplace.

Do you see yourself in any of the lists above?

My friend, if you and I are not careful, we will rush through life looking at all of the temporary pleasures rather than enjoying the rich, eternal view that has been given to us by God the Father. We will speed down roadways and highways that were never meant to lead us to His intended purposes for our lives. We will crash and burn rather than live and flourish!

My friend, if you and I are not careful, we will be spinning all of the wrong plates rather than dining on that which is eternal and that which He has provided. We will be obsessed with busyness rather than with fruitfulness. We will frantically spin rather than joyfully rest.

So … what do we do when life overwhelms us? 

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You! When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:2

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The Psalmist knew that there would inevitably be times in life when the word “overwhelmed” would describe our very existence; his advice is as rich and as wise today as it was thousands of years ago.

When you are overwhelmed … don’t be overwhelmed!

When you are overwhelmed … change your focus!

When you are overwhelmed … change your direction!

When you are overwhelmed … let someone else do the leading!

When you are overwhelmed … go to Jesus!

If you are overwhelmed today, something has to change in your life! Something has to go in your life!  Only you can make the change … I can’t make it for you.

Your kids can’t make the change for you … your spouse can’t change your choices … your boss won’t ease up … the bills will always be the bills … politics will always be messy.

When you are at the end of yourself … or at the end of the earth … cry out to the Lord for wisdom and for direction!

Cry out to Jesus for help!

And then listen to Him … He wants to speak to you about your daily life more than you want to take the time to listen. Often, when we are overwhelmed, we mistakenly believe that we are simply too busy to listen to the voice of the Father.

If you are overwhelmed … you must listen for the Father’s voice!  You simply must!

Put away your phone and listen.

Turn off the TV and listen.

Take a morning off work and listen.

Get up 30 minutes early … open your Bible … and listen!

Put on worship music and listen.

In these chosen and quiet moments, ask Jesus to lead you.  Ask Him to reveal His plan for your life.  Ask Him to help you with your schedule.  Ask Him to call the shots of your life.

Ask Him.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

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Don’t expect Him to agree with all of your previous choices in life but allow Him to lead you to the higher way … to the higher thoughts … to the higher place.

The best part of every day of your life is the time that is spent resting in His presence. 

In the midst of your busyness and craziness … in the midst of that which threatens to overwhelm you … carve out a beautiful place of joy and just rest in Him and all that He is.

Stop spinning plates and rest!

Stop careening through life and listen!

When your heart is overwhelmed … join the Psalmist … and join me … in following Jesus toward that which is the best part of life.

And would you like to know what the best part of life is? 

Would you like to know what most meaningful moments of life actually are?

It’s Him!  The things of earth really do go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim –

In the light of His glory and grace!”

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! 

Sound Mind

Are you dealing with a mess this week?

When all 5 of my children lived at home, I had a serious struggle with the tidiness and cleanliness of my home.  I wasn’t exactly a slob … but my! How I wrestled with stacks of laundry, mountains of unwashed dishes, unmade beds and people clutter that filled every corner of the home.

There were always just so many other things that I desired to do rather than to make a bed or to wipe off a counter top ….

I wanted to read books with my children in the early morning hours right after wiping sleep out of their eyes -

I ached to go for long walks and to discover through their eyes the beauty of God’s creation with these little people that my husband and I had created -

How I loved snuggling with them before they took their afternoon naps -

I longed to look into their little faces and just to simply listen to the wonder of their voices …

I loved playing childhood games with them … drawing sidewalk chalk masterpieces with them … throwing the baseball to them!  None of that was a chore but it was all pure joy!

I was so focused on the delight that I lost sight of some necessary discipline during those years of hands-on mothering.

Now let me assure you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading to, playing with and spending time with our children.  Most of us should do much, much more of it.

The conundrum was birthed in my stubborn unwillingness to make sure that my home was free of germs, of disorganization and of yesterday’s mess.

I remember clearly the day when one of my dearest friends said to me, “Carol, one of the ways that you show your family that you love them is by keeping your house clean!”

I heard her! I heard her loud and clear!

Let me ask you again … are you dealing with a mess this week?

I don’t know about you but at this season of life – the biggest mess that I often deal with is the mess that has accumulated in my mind.

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Some of you may have absolutely perfect minds that are free from clutter or from yesteryear’s trash.  You may never think a wrong thought or spend one second on worry or anxiety.

However, for most of us, as we travel through life, our brains get clogged much like the kitchen sink does after a messy cooking spree.  Our minds are filled to overflowing with hurt, resentment, disappointment, failure and rejection.

Our minds were never meant to be sewers of mental excrement but if you and I are not careful … that is exactly what will happen!

If we spend too much splashing in the unpleasant details of the past … or in snuggling up to worry … or in refusing to tackle that mountain of blame … our minds will become cluttered, dusty and messy.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.” – II Timothy 1:7

God wants you to live a powerful and a loving life and the way that He has enabled you to live in that sparkling clean mental residence is through the miraculous cleaning energy of a sound mind. 

The word for “sound mind” in the Greek can also be translated as “discipline”.

You need to exhibit discipline between your two ears!

Now … there may be other activities that try to distract you from this important task  - but stay focused and do the hard work that it entails to drain your brain of stinkin’ thinkin’!

“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 thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” – II Corinthians 10:3-5

If your mind has become a messy, messy place, let me assure you that YOU are actually not your problem! You are in a spiritual battle with the enemy who would love to clog up your brain with his perspective on a situation. 

We walk in the flesh but we fight in the spirit!  We are unable to clean up our thought life with drugs, with neurological reconnections or with a lobotomy!  According to Paul and the Holy Spirit – we must attack the mental bacteria in our brains with something that is “divinely powerful”!

The best translation of this phrase “divinely powerful” that I have ever encountered is found in these two words:  ABSOLUTELY GOD!

We need a fighting technique that has not one bit of our flesh in it but that is all God from start to finish! 

There is only one way that you will ever be able to take back the real estate in your brain that the enemy has endeavored to control and that is through the miraculous cleaning and fighting power of the Word of God!

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You are unable to take the lies of the enemy captive with human thinking no matter how positive or noble it may be. What you need is something DIVINELY POWERFUL that will clean the unchecked mess that you have allowed to accumulate in your gray matter.

Let me give you some examples that might help you out here …

When the enemy comes against you in the area of finances and with thoughts of lack, you need to wipe those thoughts out with the bleaching power of the Word –

“But my God shall supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

When the deceiver of the brethren tells you that you are worthless and that no one will ever love you or appreciate you – you need to clean out that decaying mental cavity with God’s opinion on the matter –

“The Word of God says that I am royalty and that He chose me for His own possession!” – I Peter 2:9

When Satan torments you with thoughts of cancer, diabetes and other diseases, respond with this mental prescription:

“The Word of God says that He is the Great Physician and that by His stripes I am healed! He heals all of my diseases!” – I Peter 2:24 and Psalm 103:3

It’s time for us to clean up the mess that we have allowed to inhabit every corner of our thought life! 

The way you can clean up your brain is by thinking the very thoughts of God Himself!

Wow!  What a wonderful possibility!

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! 

Mirror Image

Have you ever wondered what God’s will for your life is?

Should you go to college?  Get married?  Have children?  Go on the mission field?

Should you spend money or save money? 

Should you wear the blue dress or the red one?

Should you call your mom or read a book?

Should you exercise or pray?

Should you change jobs or stay where you are?!

Discovering the will of God for one’s life can be daunting … unless, of course you decide to read your Bible!

I believe that the Bible offers a strategic blueprint for living an abundant life!

I believe that the Bible holds wisdom that is still applicable for our very lives today!

I believe that when the Bible is read daily that it has the potential of giving you the life of your deepest dreams.

I believe that God’s specific will for your singular life is found in the Bible.

I believe in the power of … the wonder of … and the miraculous results of the Bible!

I believe the Bible!

So … now that we have settled that … let me share with you the ‘”guts” of this week’s blog …

One day, several years ago, when I was having my daily quiet time, I read this significant and powerful verse from Ephesians, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.” – Ephesians 5:1

In an instant I realized that this verse was telling me exactly what God’s will was for my personal life!  I was called, by the voice of the Holy Spirit, to imitate the very actions, the thoughts, the words and the emotions of God.

And then, I hunkered down and went digging for the priceless treasure that I was certain to find in this verse.

The word “imitators” is the Greek word “mimetes” from which we derive our English word “mime”.

What God doeswe should imitate.

What God speakswe should echo.

What God thinksshould be our very first thought.

What God feelsshould be our immediate response.

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As believers in Jesus Christ, it is indeed God’s perfect will for each one of our lives, to mimic those things that we see in the character of God. 

We are called to carefully and intentionally model our lives after the life of God.

As I pondered and prayed over this verse the following week, I realized that this verse is, in effect, calling me to be an actor and that I am taking on the role of God the Father.  What?!!  How can that be?

When I look into the mirror of God, I should mimic every single thing that He does!

Every single day of our earthly lives, we should be more like God than we were yesterday!  Think about it!

Every event that I encounter … every person that I meet … and every circumstance that I endure … should craft me more and more into being exactly like Him!

I should decrease in me and He should increase in me! (John 3:30)

Difficult people … and adverse conditions … and disappointing events … should only have one influence in my life … they should make me more like Jesus!

It is our goal this side of heaven to imitate God.

It is our reward this side of heaven to become more like Him.

It is our focused life calling to act like Him.

It is our daily assignment to mimic Him.

If you have ever wondered what God’s will for your life is … this is it:  To become like Him!

In order to imitate a person, you must study that person and watch how he or she acts and how he or she reacts.  You must know what this person likes and what this person doesn’t like; you must observe how the person treats people and what this person spends his or her time doing.

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Let me get specific …

When I was in college, a woman by the name of Ellen Stamps became my role model.  She had traveled with Corrie ten Boom for 10 years and had then married the beloved chaplain at the Christian university that I attended.

I loved absolutely everything about this blonde-haired, thirty-something Dutch woman!

I spent time studying her and asking her pertinent questions about the Lord, about life, about love and about marriage.

I observed the way that she treated people and how she responded to her husband.

I noticed that she always had fresh flowers in her home and made it a habit to play classical music while she was entertaining guests.

I was amazed that she never seemed flustered by difficult people but handled them with wit and with grace. I drank up her uncommon wisdom and I flourished as her joy splashed on my life.

Even today … over 40 years later … not a day passes by that I don’t ask myself,  “I wonder what Ellen would do in this situation?”

If you long to live in God’s perfect will for your life – you must imitate Him … you must know Him …  you must observe Him … you must listen to His uncommon wisdom and you must splash in the joy of His presence!

As well-loved children, every day we spend on earth, our goal must be to become more like our Dad!

We are constantly in the process of becoming more like God!” – Ephesians 5:1

41 Lessons in 41 Years

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It was a hot, humid, sticky day during the summer of 1977. 

I was 22-years-old and had met the man of my dreams! We were going to be married on this glorious Sunday afternoon in the country church in which I had grown up.

The church, that held about 180 people, was filled to overflowing with 250 of our closest friends and family members.

I waited in the tiny women’s bathroom with 8 bridesmaids dressed in all the colors of the rainbow. I was about to become a wife …

I didn’t know that day that we would, over the course of our marriage, experience infertility, cancer, repeated miscarriages, financial challenges and depression. 

All I knew that miraculous day was joy… the joy of loving and being loved.  The joy of choosing and being chosen.

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Where has 41 years gone?  It has disappeared like a vapor in the reality of all that life has brought to us.  I blinked and 4 decades has passed by …

In honor of our 41st. wedding anniversary, I thought that I would share with you 41 tips… 41 words of wisdom!

So here goes… 

“41 Ways to Love the Marriage You Have Been Given!”

1 – Forgive frequently and easily.  Craig and I have often said that the first one to forgive is the one that wins!

2 – Find joy in the little things in life.  A shared cup of coffee in the morning … watching a sunset together in the evening … a phone call from a child who lives far away.  This is the stuff of which life is made! The little things in life are actually the big things.

3 – Pray together. Mountains move when a married couple takes the time to pray together for their children, their finances and their concerns.

4 – Serve together. Serving side by side is one of the building blocks of a great marriage.

5 – Listen more than you talk.

6 – Never even allow yourself to think about the “D” word.  If you don’t think it… you will never say it. If you never say it… you will never pursue it. (If you are wondering what word I am talking it… it starts with a “D” and ends with “ivorce”.)

7 – Remind yourself that it is not your job to “change” or “fix” your spouse. Love your spouse exactly the way they are today.

8 – Invest yourself in your spouse’s interests.  When we were first married, I realized that my husband loved watching football on Sunday afternoons.  Rather than feeling second place to a “pigskin,” I began to read the sports section so that I could be prepared for the Sunday afternoon ritual.  He was amazed! I love amazing this man of mine…

9 – Look at each other when you talk.  Make eye contact.

10 – Never raise your voices.

11 – Never call names.

12 – Don’t compare your spouse to anyone else’s spouse.

13 – Believe with all of your heart that this one person is your priority above everything and anyone else.  Then act like it.

14 – Don’t go to bed angry.

15 – Realize that your spouse is not God.  Your husband or your wife can never be to you what only the Lord can be.

16 – Don’t ever talk about your spouse behind his or her back. Only give good reports about your spouse to your parents, his parents, your children and your friends. Be respectful of your spouse – in private and in person.

17 – Say “I love you” often.

18 – Hold hands when you go for a walk.

19 – Say an encouraging word to your spouse when the tension is high.

20 – Choose to be a happy person.  It takes two happy people to build a happy marriage.

21 – Leave the past in the past.  Don’t bring up past failures, mistakes or wounds. It’s like bringing last week’s garbage back into the house.

22 – Read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and then apply it to your marriage.

23 – Make worshiping the Lord together a priority.

24 – When you are most frustrated with your spouse – that is the moment when you should choose to be the kindest to them.

25 – Be kind to your spouse’s parents and siblings. Include them in holidays and in family gatherings.

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26 – Have devotions together at least once a week.  This doesn’t mean you need to sit down together and read 10 chapters in the Bible together… just talk about the Lord and what He has done for you. Share a thought with your spouse that you had during your personal quiet time. Talk about the things for which you are thankful.

27 – Have your own personal quiet time every day.  This one simple discipline will deliver a strength to your marriage that can never be measured.

28 – Smile at each other across the room.

29 – Share the responsibilities of the home.  Talk about expectations and figure out who gets to do what!

30 – Learn the power of compromise!

31 – Never lie to your spouse. Be a person of honor and tell the truth.

32 – Never correct your spouse in front of other people – especially in front of your children.

33 – Don’t expect your spouse to be perfect because you are not perfect either.  Together you might make a perfect couple… but alone, you are simply not perfect.

34 – Give your spouse the grace that you wish he or she would give to you.

35 – Remember why you fell in love… recall favorite memories… laugh about yesterday’s challenges.

36 – Remember that the covenant you made is not only with each other but it is with God!

37 – Laugh at his jokes even when you have heard them 1,000 times or more!

38 – Remember that your spouse is your partner and not your enemy. You win together and you lose together. When only one spouse wins … marriages loses.

39 – Keep the minor things minor.

40 – Act like adults and not like children.  Tantrums are not allowed!

41 – Choose each other anew every day.

Happy Anniversary, Craig! I love being your wife!

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 it Takes to Make a Difference

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If you have read my blog more than a time or two, you know by now that I am a list-maker … a list-lover … a list-idolizer.

Lists simply help me to organize the thoughts that tumble haphazardly through my brain; they enable me to give boundaries to the roller-coaster emotions that fly helter-skelter through the caverns of my heart.

Lists … I love them.

And may I just say … there are lists in the Bible!  If it’s good enough for the Holy Spirit … it’s good enough for me!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – Galatians 5:22

This week … I am making yet a new list for you and for me. 

And … have I got a list for you!

This is a life-changing, wonder-working, destiny-setting, mind-blowing list that will turn you into the person you always wished that you were but sorely knew how often you fell short.

This list will enable you to become the friend that you always wish you had been … the spouse that you always wish that you had … the parent that you dreamed about becoming … and you might even become the disciple of Jesus’ dreams!

First of all, the reason that I made this list is because I realized that at the core of anyone of us, what we truly desire in life is to make a difference.

Sure … stamps in the passport would be nice … a substantial savings account wouldn’t be turned away … education never hurt anyone … but the most valuable and sustaining desire that any of us have is to simply make a difference.

I long to be remembered after I leave planet earth for a kindness done.

I deeply desire to live beyond the dash in my tombstone with the invisible legacy that I have graciously bestowed in the lives of my family and friends.

I want acquaintances who don’t even know my name to say, “Remember that girl with the smile? Didn’t she just walk in a room and light it up?”

I want to cross my finish line and hear the Lord say, “Carol! You did good!!  You were a blessing to history! You made a difference!”

So … what does it take to make a difference? Do you have to have your picture on the front of a well-known magazine?  Must you be the host or hostess of a daily TV program?

Must you write a book that is a perpetual best-seller in order to be recognized as a truly impactful person

Is it a pre-requisite to travel to China and feed the hungry for in order for you to be considered for induction into history’s “Hall of Fame”?

I think not.  I think that perhaps the quest to make a difference begins with the simple yet eternal habits that one establishes in life.

So … here it is … you asked for it … well … maybe you didn’t ask for it but you are getting it anyway!

What It Takes to Make a Difference : Living Beyond Your Dash

1 – Smile.  The world is aching for someone with your smile.  Smile at babies … at strangers … at your family … at your enemies … at your best friend … at your spouse.

Smile in line at the grocery store … smile at the mailperson … smile at church … smile at stoplights … smile at work.

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2 – Say something kind to someone every single day. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, if you haven’t said something kind to someone, get out your phone and text someone a word of encouragement.  Then, turn your phone off and go to sleep!

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.” – Proverbs 19:22

3 – Be faithful.  If you say you are going to do it, do it.  Don’t make up excuses or try to wrangle your way out of a commitment.  Just do it.

4 – Tell the truth.  Don’t exaggerate, fabricate or fictionalize your words.  Be a man of woman of integrity every day of your life.  You will never regret it.

5 – Give something away once a month.  Buy a mug for friend … a book for a child … a bakery goody for a widow … a gift card for your pastor … a flower for your neighbor.  If you can’t afford to buy it – look through your stuff and find one of your favorite items and give it with joy! Your generosity will out live you!

6 – Laugh often and laugh easily.  Don’t be Scrooge, the Grinch and Cruella deVille all rolled into one prune-faced Christian.  Be a delight to be with! Be the kind of person that others just can’t get enough of.  My friend, John Mason, calls this being a contagious Christian!  I’m in … how about you?!

7 – Don’t talk about yourself.  Ask questions of others. I have learned that others are far more interesting than I will ever be.  Be an involved listener rather than a self-absorbed talker.

8 – Figure out what you do well … and then do it! If you are a writer, write.  If you are a gardener, garden well. If you are a servant, serve others with gladness.  If you are a giver, give liberally. If you are a mentor, gather young friends around you. If you are good with money, help others who aren’t.  Live in your sweet spot in life!

9 - Scatter joy wherever and whenever you goI would much rather be known for having too much joy than too little, wouldn’t you?! When you are going through a trial, it is then that your joy becomes the most valuable commodity that you own.  Don’t let anyone steal your joy!!

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10 – Read your Bible every day and apply its principles to your life.  Your Bible is God talking to you!  It is your Creator revealing His heart to you!  It is the will of God unfolded on the written page!  If you want to live a great life … then read the greatest Book ever written!  The Bible is not a “flat” book but it is a Book of miraculous transformation. The miracle begins the instant that you open it and begin to read!

11 – Pray more than you worry. Praying is NOT “worrying on your knees”.  Prayer is worship … it is communication … it is declaring the promises of God!

What’s on your list of how to make a difference?!  I’d love to hear from you!

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 5-Minute Prayer Experiment

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I have 5 grown children who have all left me!  The nerve of those kids …

They are now pursuing their gifts and destiny in the only Kingdom that really matters.

They are figuring out life for themselves without their mamma’s daily input or opinions.

They are on a journey of joy … of pain … of challenge … of significance … of success … of failure … of hope … of love.

Now, I certainly hope that what my 5 children learned while living at home has given them some type of road map for the journey of life.

I hope that they haven’t forgotten to pray … to read the Word … to be kind … to sing … to play … to dream … to make meaningful priorities … to be unselfish … to trust God.

That timeless saying is really true –

“A mother holds her children’s hands for just a little while but she holds their hearts forever.”

But … that’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about today.  I actually want to talk to you about prayer.

So - allow me to segue …. Or perhaps I should just begin again!

I have 5 grown children who have all left me!  The nerve of those kids …

The hardest days of the year to be away from all of my children is on the day of each of their births. 

(You know - I am not sure that birthdays are for the person who is born on that particular day as much as it is for the mother.)

A mom remembers the joy … the pain … the challenge … the significance of the day of each of her children’s births.

A mom remembers and cries … and smiles … and sighs … and aches … and prays.

My youngest was born when I was standing on the threshold of 40 and she has been one of the greatest miracles of my entire life.

After giving birth to 4 of the most dynamic, energetic and creative human beings ever born, I was given the gift of one more.

Her birthday is May 30 and this year I wasn’t with her on her birthday.  She was celebrating with friends and some of her siblings in the city where she lives which is thousands of miles away from me! (The nerve of my kids!)

What I often do on the day that commemorates the birth of one of my children is to spend extra time in prayer for the one whom my heart is celebrating.

There ain’t no heart like a mama’s heart!

There ain’t no prayer warrior like a mama prayer warrior!

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I pray for the birthday child’s walk with the Lord and for wisdom in all of their life decisions.

I pray that they will be kind and that others will be kind to them.

I pray that they will climb mountains with diligence and experience valleys with humility.

I pray that they will think like God thinks and experience the joy of His presence.

I pray that they will be people of honor and of integrity.

This year, as I was ending my prayer celebration in honor of Joni, my youngest, I began to think about whose birthday was next.  I realized that the next birthday that belonged to a member of the original Clan McLeod was on September 2 … which was basically three months hence.

And then, I had the instant realization, that these two birthdays were separated by a mere 3 months … a little over 90 summer days.

A light bulb went off in my spirit!

The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment,

“Carol – what if you prayed for specific needs in all of your children’s lives for 5 minutes a day for the next three months?  It will take you 25 minutes a day – 5 minutes for each of your 5 children.”

The Holy Spirit continued His prompting …

“Carol – would you want to do a “5-Minute Prayer Experiment” with me?!”

I was literally breathless with anticipation to see what I, prayer and the Holy Spirit could accomplish to strengthen my kids’ lives in only 5 minutes a day over a period of roughly 90 days!

The next day – I found one scripture for each of my children that I would be praying over them over the course of the next 2,160 hours.

I was in!!  All the way in!

So … let me tell you how this works …

Every day from May 30 through September 2, 2018, I will spend 25 minutes in prayer; this will consist of 5 bursts of 5 minutes each.

Sometimes it is when I am walking … sometimes it is when I am unloading the dishwasher … sometimes it is when I am folding clothes … sometimes it is when I am driving.

Sometimes I pray out loud and sometimes it is an inner prayer.

I pray the Word over each of my children and I pray for specific needs in their individual lives.

5 minutes a day.  All summer long.  90 days.

The minutes fly by and the presence of the Lord is tangible!

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I am expecting God to intervene in the lives of my children and I am beginning to realize that expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.

A mother’s prayer is a powerful way to impact the lives of their children even after they are grown and gone.

Our grown children can run away from our words but they can never escape our prayers so our strategy should always be to talk less and to pray more!

It’s not too late for you to join me and the Holy Spirit on this journey!  Why don’t you take the month of August and pray 5 minutes a day for your children or for those people that you love the most?

I’d love to hear all about your 5 Minute Prayer Experiment!  And just know .. while you are praying for others … I will be praying for you!

“Prayer is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian.” – Spurgeon

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!