Resolving Not To Make Resolutions In 2018

It’s hard to believe, but we have entered the last week of 2017. As we look forward to 2018, I thought this would be a good time to reshare the following post. It first appeared on January 3, 2017, but I think It’s a great reminder for 2018.

resolutions

It’s January so it must be time to make resolutions. Right? How have the resolutions you have made in past years worked for you? Did you keep them? What if I told you there is a better way?

This time of year my inbox and social media accounts are overflowing with plans to use for self-improvement. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming.

Resolutions Don’t Work

In the past, I would list out my resolutions. Things I want to change, things I want to accomplish. Get better, do more, try harder.

And like 92% of resolution makers, I would fail to keep them by the end of January. Even for those who make it past January studies show that 9 out of 10 quit by March. That is a pretty dismal track record.

One of the problems with resolutions is that they tell us we are not enough. Not good enough, smart enough. Not enough of anything. They tell us that with just a little more effort we can be good enough.

A Better Way

When we follow the do harder, try harder resolutions method we end up overcommitted and overscheduled. Attempting to do it all and do it in our strength will crowd out our passion and cause us to overlook opportunities to love.

Then what is the answer? Simple, hand over the controls. The one who made you knows you best. He has dreams and plans for you bigger and better than anything you could dare to dream

“For I know the plans I have for you’, says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11(NLT)

“God can do anything you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20(MSG)

So, instead of resolutions try setting goals. But not just any goals. You need Jesus-Centered Goals.

Jesus Centered Goals

Traditional goal setting systems don’t work for me. I am kind of a nerd about planning and organization. I have studied and used many of the goal setting systems out there, but just like resolutions, my goals start out with a bang and fizzle. It’s just too easy for me to try and do it in my strength. I’m also prone to striving for perfection rather than being content with making progress. I found myself making goals and then asking God to bless them.

Instead of making goals using traditional goal setting methods we need to uncover good, Jesus-centered goals. “Good goals help you steward what you have been given well” – Lara Casey

When you think about it Jesus only gave us two goals; love God, love people. How we do this will look different for each of us. That’s why we need to uncover the unique goals Jesus has for us.

But if you choose to discover your goals with Jesus you better fasten your seatbelt. You are about to embark on an exciting, unpredictable adventure. And the best part is you don’t have to do it in your strength.

“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfil His purpose-I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength can confident peace].” Philippians 4:13(AMP)

In Him, you are enough. No more striving. When you give Him control, you will experience a deep sense of who you are and know that what you do really matters.

Question: Do you make New Year Resolutions? Do they Work for you? Are are you ready to try something new? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

All The Hope And Anticipation Has Led Us To This Moment

Do you remember how you felt on Christmas morning when you were a child? All that anticipation leading up to Christmas; counting down the days, dreaming of what gifts you wanted to receive and then at last…

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Christmas morning, the excitement is so palpable you can’t sleep. You try getting your parents up at the crack of dawn. Eventually, they give in, and you dash to the Christmas tree to find the neatly wrapped presents underneath.

What Christmas Is Really About

At the beginning of Advent I wrote about the hope of the season, and now we have come to the end of Advent

In just a week we will celebrate Christmas day. In this last post before Christmas, I want to talk about the first gift of Christmas and the only gift that matters.

Now if you are reading this, I know this isn’t your first Christmas. I also know that you have heard that “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” many times. But let me ask you, is that a reality for you or just a cliche’?

What do you do with the gift of Jesus?

You Have To Unwrap The Gift

As I was writing this, I couldn’t help thinking about my favorite aunt. I loved her dearly. Because I loved her, I rejoiced in giving her gifts, regardless of the occasion, but especially at Christmas.

The unwrapping of the gifts was part of the fun. She would slowly and painstakingly unwrap her present. Her goal was not to tear the paper.

Everyone in the family would go to great lengths to use extra tape or do anything else we could think of to make her tear the paper. But she never did tear the paper, not once.

After she opened the gift, she would give genuine thanks for it and proceed to re-warp it and put it back under the tree. When she finished, you could not tell it had ever been opened it.

I just assumed that after Christmas was over, she took the gifts out of the wrapping and used them as they were intended. That is why I wasn’t prepared for what we found after her death.

Upstairs as we cleaned out the house, we found every gift she had received from the family still in the wrapping, neatly organized to be returned to the giver after her death.

Embrace The Gift

I can’t explain how I felt when all those gifts were handed back to me, but it broke my heart. I had given them with such joy and love and I wanted her to enjoy them but she couldn’t.

In her mind, she was not worthy to receive them because she was unable to give a gift in return.

Christmas, God giving the gift of God. Matchless, incomparable, Unfathomable. Emmanuel, God with us.

gift

Can you imagine how God feels when He gives us the ultimate gift out of His great love, and we take it but then wrap it back up, put it back in the manger and leave it there? How it must break his heart.

Jesus Is Our Life

God, knows precisely what gift we need and He freely gives it to us. But the manger is just the beginning. What do we do with the gift after Christmas? I love how John Eldridge expresses it in this article titled, “Jesus Is Our Life”:

“We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of your existence. Whether we know it our not we are desperate for Jesus.

To have his life, joy, love, and presence cannot be compared. To know him as he is, is to come home. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness. The purpose of your being here on this planet, at this moment in time, comes down to three things:

  1. To love Jesus with all that is within you. This is the first and greatest command. Everything else flows from here.
  2. To share your daily life with him; to let him be himself with you. On the beach, at supper, along the road – just as the disciples did.
  3. To allow his life to fill yours, to heal and express itself through yours. There is no other way you can hope to life as he did and show him to others.

Love Jesus. Let him be himself with you. Allow his life to permeate yours. The fruit will be… breathtaking.”

My prayer for you is that the gift of Jesus will not be a Christmas ritual or a cliche’. But instead you will unwrap this priceless gift in all its fullness and embrace and receive Him. May He be your life with every breath you take. Don’t re-wrap the gift and put it back in the manger.

Question: What will you do with the gift of Jesus? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Experiencing The Hope And Promise Of Advent

Welcome to the season of Advent. Traditionally,  the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. A time of waiting and anticipation.

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The word Advent comes from the Latin. It means coming. We look back to the first Advent when a miracle happened on a chaotic night in Bethlehem. The promised Messiah who God’s people had waited on for so long arrived.

Today if you are a follower of Jesus Christ then you are a person of the advent. It is a perpetual advent, not a one-time event as we wait for Him to return.

Hope

This first week of Advent is about hope. Hope set the foundation for the entire season.

I have the privilege to live in my childhood home. In the backyard, there was a magnolia tree. We literally grew up together. When we moved into the house all those years ago, it was only about two feet tall.

As the tree and I grew I climbed its branches, and at the beginning of each summer, I would carve the year into the trunk.

Each spring it would put on a magnificent display of beauty with hundreds of pink flowers. And all through summer, it provided rich, refreshing shade.

A few years ago a strong summer storm produced straight-line winds and snapped off a massive portion of my favorite tree. The winds also severely damaged the part that remained causing it to be unsafe. There was no choice except to take it down.

Yes, I cried. I really did love that tree. So many memories and now my beloved tree was gone. But then something amazing happened. A small shoot emerged from the stump.  My tree was still alive. There was hope that it would grow again.

Advent

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“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—  yes, a new  Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” – Isaiah 11:1 NLT

From A Shoot To A Tree

As I look at my magnolia tree today that shoot has grown to well over ten feet tall. Through this tree, God showed me that the stump is not what is important it is the shoot, the promise of life is where I need to focus.

Our hope is the shoot that grew out of the stump of David’s family. His name is Jesus. He came that first Christmas, and He will go to incredible lengths to save us.

This past week I was waiting at a traffic light in a small village I was driving through. As I looked to my right, I noticed the community Christmas tree. It was enormous and beautiful. Perfectly shaped and tastefully decorated.

Then I looked at the trunk. It was cut off from the roots. In a few short weeks it will be dead. It seemed so ironic that this magnificent evergreen tree which represents eternal life would soon die.

“Exactly!” was the nudge I heard from the Spirit. The wood that made the cross on which Jesus would die to save us from our sins could only come when the tree was harvested.

From a stump to a shoot to a tree to a cross comes the hope and glory of perpetual Advent.

An Upside Down Advent

In this crazy busy, often stressful season what if He wants our focus to be on that little shoot. What if He is saying to each of us, “Just where you are, seek Me in the small overlooked details of the season.”

I think He wants us to stop. Stop all the busyness that distracts us from focusing on Him and find Him in a whole new way this Advent season.

To stop just where we are and seek Him. Because if we are not careful in our tendency to race non-stop through this season, we could step on the shoot that sprouts from the stump.

Instead, let’s go slow. Let’s be still. Let’s seek the Shoot that bears witness to God’s glory breaking in. I believe He is begging us to give our attention to the little, the least, the lonely, and the lost this Advent.

“Gaze on shoots of glory to grow deep in the roots of God.” – Ann Voskamp

Question: Where can you see new life coming in what you may have considered dead? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How To Kick Worry To the Curb Forever

Everybody worries. Some of us don’t just worry sometimes we have such a problem with worry that you might say we are addicted to it. If we find ourselves not worried, we get worried that there is something we should be worried about and we worry until we figure out what it is. Then we worry about how much we worry.

worry

I should know I come from a long line of champion worriers.

Worry, Worry, Worry Been Dogging Me All Of My Life

“The painful uneasiness of the mind that feeds on impending fears.” That’s how Charles Swindoll defines anxiety (aka worry).

Because I was always worried about something, I never enjoyed the peace available to me because of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, in 1971 one of my heroes of the Christian faith, Corrie ten Boom, wrote a beautiful little book titled “Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle.” that had a tremendous impact on my life.

Now out of print, I treasure this little book. I have read it many times. One thing I have learned from the now yellowed and brittle pages is that it is impossible to worry and live in peace at the same time.

And yet faithful to my roots, I carry on the tradition of championship worrying. That was until…

A Matter Of Trust

Several years ago I was going through a tough time in my life. The situation had been going on for weeks and did not turn out as I had hoped it would. Heartbroken and in despair I looked to the Lord in prayer but what I heard rocked my world.

After pouring out my heart to Him, I heard (it was so clear it was almost audible) “But do you trust me?” What? How can you ask me that? Of course, I trust you but… He interrupted me mid-sentence, again the same question, “But do you trust me?” Yes, Jesus, I trust you but… again the interruption and the question came,” But do you trust me?” This time instead of answering “yes, but” the tears began to flow, and I opened my clenched hand and released everything that I was grasping so tight in total surrender to Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Trust believes in God’s reliability, His truth, His ability, and strength.

But do I really trust God? I have to admit that this is one of the most challenging areas of my Christian walk. If I’m not intentional, worry, fear, and anxiety are a regular part of my life. It’s as though my life is like the title of Corrie’s book in reverse. I wrestle (worry) instead of nestling (trust).

When Worries Come True

I would like to tell you that after my “trust” conversation with God I never worried again and life was perfect. But alas, this was not the case. Although I didn’t expect life to be perfect, I did think that I had put worry behind me and that the situations in my life were looking up and were only going to get better.

However,  a few months later my world came crashing down. My greatest fear, the thing I worried about most often became a reality in the blink of an eye. A meeting with my supervisor and the Director of Operations; the words “this is very difficult, nothing you have done, purely a financial decision; your position has been eliminated effective immediately.”

There it was in a heartbeat, I was 50 something, single, no living family, in debt, and out of work. What would I do? What would happen to me? Would I choose to nestle or wrestle?

When I faced my darkest moment and my greatest fear I decided to nestle. But what would the result of nestling look like in this situation?

worry

 

Well, He came through in unimagined ways. Oh, boy did He. I had two job interviews within a week with job offers from both. I was back to work a month later, and during that time not one need went unmet. He walked with me moment by moment giving me courage and peace and I cannot explain.

Each time the hurt, heartache, and disappointment welled up inside me, He guided me to Philippians 4:6 and Matthew 6:34 and once again I would nestle and gave it all to Him.

It seems the things I worried about and let rob me of peace were not too big for my God to handle.

Trust is A Verb

“We all have different lists, but our deep, relentless worries carry a similar effect. They make us uneasy. They steal smiles from our faces. They cast dark shadows on our futures by spotlighting our shameful pasts. They pickpocket our peace and kidnap our joy.” – Charles Swindoll.

It’s not enough to understand what trust is. We also need to engage in specific actions; we will actually need to trust.

Think about what is going on in your life today. What areas are you not trusting God with? What are you worried about? What are you afraid of? What is it that makes your heart race with anxiety?

What situations are you wrestling with?  Is it about your health or your body? Or maybe it’s about money. Is it a marriage that’s falling apart? Perhaps it’s a concern for what somebody is thinking about you or a conflict. Maybe there’s an outcome that you desperately want and you’re afraid it’s not going to happen the way that you desire.

Don’t beat yourself up, don’t feel guilty about it, just take that worry and present it to God.

Trust is not a one and done experience. It is an intentional lifestyle. If we learn to nestle and not wrestle each time we feel anxiety welling up within us, it will set us free! Free to live in intimate relationship with Him and experience joy! And free to be who He created us to be!

Question: Are you wrestling or nestling? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What To Do When Your Life Feels Like It Is Coming Unglued

Do you ever feel like your life is coming unglued? Do you struggle with how to get it under control? What glue do you use to hold it together during life’s ups and downs?

life

So Many Choices

There are thousands of glues and adhesives on the market today. Each one with a particular purpose.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a craft project or your life situations. Choose the wrong glue for what you need to fix, and it will just fall apart again.

Glue Gone Wrong

Several years ago one of my dogs was experiencing a problem with her foot pad coming loose. Under the direction of my veterinarian, I was to apply a couple of drops of super glue to reattach it.

I thought I knew what I was doing. I carefully placed the nozzle of the tiny vial of glue on her foot and gently squeezed. Let’s just say what happened next caught me completely off-guard.

I watched in horror as a large stream of glue shot out of the nozzle. When the glue stopped flowing, I had succeeded in gluing three of my dog’s toes together as well as two of my fingers.

I felt like the worst dog mom ever. Fortunately, super glue dissolves with nail polish remover, ice and a lot of time.

Life is a lot like my experience with the super glue. It is full of surprises, and things don’t always go the way we want or plan.

Jesus Is The Right Glue

Life is about change. Even when our lives seem stable, change is happening. However, when a lot of change happens at the same time, it can seem like we are coming unglued. So how do we deal with that? How do we hold it together?

We think we can handle it just like I thought I could control the super glue. The truth is we can never keep it together on our own. There is only One who can hold us together, and His name is Jesus.

I love Colossians 1-15-17 (NLT). In it, we learn: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”

How amazing and awesome is that? We were made through Him and for Him. But did you catch those last four words, “… he holds all creation together.” Jesus is the glue.

I don’t know how many times I read this verse without catching this. Then several years ago I heard a sermon by pastor and author Louie Giglio that made it remarkably come to life. I’ll let Louie tell you himself. Please watch this short five-minute video to learn what I’m talking about (whatever you do don’t skip watching this video, even if you have seen it before).

How Great Is Our God

WOW! How cool is that? Think about it. Thousands of years before the technology existed to learn about the glue that holds us together God had Paul pen the words of Colossians 1:15-17.

Jesus, the creator, the Master Artist, signed His work deep within each of us with confirmation that He will hold us together. Not only did He redeem us by the Cross, but He is also holding us together by the cross!

So when life seems to spin out of control, and you feel like you are coming unglued, you can be confident that not only can Jesus hold you together He will!

Question: Do you feel like your life is coming unglued? What steps do you need to take to allow Jesus to be your glue? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why You Can’t Trust How You See Yourself

How we see ourselves influences everything you do. The problem is we can’t trust the way we view ourselves. Why and what should we do about it?

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I loved spending time with my grandmother. I have many wonderful memories of time spent with her. The cool thing was she was one of those people you could be so comfortable just being with that conversation wasn’t necessary.

A Lesson In Perspective

One day we were sitting together, and she broke the silence with an observation about me. She said, “K, you have such long, slender fingers.” Now grandma was a wise woman and rarely wrong, but as I looked down at my hand, I thought to myself how wrong she was about this.

When I looked at my hand, all I saw were short stubby fingers. As time passed, she made the same comment several more times, and each time I thought the same thing. Then one day I  realized Grandma wasn’t looking at the palm of my hand, she was looking at the back of my hand. So, I looked at the back of my hand and guess what I saw? Yep, long slender fingers. If I looked at my palm, I still saw short stubby fingers.

What? I flipped my hand over several times with the same result. Back of hand, long slender fingers – palm of hand short stubby fingers. It turns out both of us were correct.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, perspective matters.

Why Does It Matter

What does that have to do with discovering who we are created to be? Simple, we tend to look at ourselves from our perspective, but we can’t trust that we see is true.

“Your perspective will influence how you invest your time, spend your money, use your talents, and value your relationships.” Rick Warren – Purpose Driven Life.

The key is seeing ourselves from God’s point of view.

When We See As God Sees

Who do you see when you look into the mirror? Who do you think Jesus sees?

We tend to think the only assessment of ourselves we can trust is our own, but that just isn’t true. Jesus is the only safe mirror through which we can see our true selves.

“In Jesus, we have a mirror we can trust – He will reflect our true identity back to us directly.” – Rick Lawrence, The Jesus Centered Life.

I have to be honest when I look in the mirror from my perspective I don’t like what I see. That’s because I still see myself from my point of view.

But just as when I changed the posture of my hand I saw it differently, the more I begin to embrace how Jesus sees me it is transforming me.

I love this quote by Brennan Manning in his book, Abba’s Child, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.”

Wow!

If we want to discover who He created us to be, we have to change our perspective. We have to define ourselves as He does.  We must see ourselves through His eyes.

“Jesus wants us to know what He sees in us-what He knows is true about us. He is unwilling for us to live under the shadow of a lie about who we really are.” – Rick Lawrence, The Jesus Centered Life.

That’s a game changer. Where I see broken, He sees mended. I’m learning to see myself through His eyes, one grace step at a time.

I think Matthew West’s  song “Mended” sums it up well:

 

Question: Are you looking at yourself through the right eyes? If not what is stopping you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

September Is Coming Are You Ready

Some of us are clinging desperately to August. Don’t go. It’s too soon. Others joyously embrace September, welcoming the new season of campfires, hoodies, and football. Which camp do you find yourself in?

September

If you ask me what my favorite season is, I will tell you it’s fall. Don’t get me wrong. I love spring with all the new life and vibrant colors it brings. And summer, well it goes without saying that it’s never long enough. Winter, oh winter, I love a good deep snow or two, but then I’m pretty much over it.

A Bittersweet Season

Yep, I love fall. Especially September. But I have to admit that September is always bittersweet for me.

I recently watched a video on YouTube. It was about sisters, one over 100 and the other in her high 90s. It was meant to be comic, and it is. But it was also sad.

Someone was visiting and brought old photographs for them to view. They recorded their reactions and interactions.

The oldest sister was almost deaf and forgets to wear her hearing aids. The other sister shouts to try to make her hear. Then she provides play-by-play commentary about her not being able to hear.

The oldest sister gets her glasses so she can see the photos. She tenderly looks at each picture lingering over each one. She says nothing, more or less oblivious to anyone else in the room. You can tell by her expressions that memories are flooding through her mind and heart.

The other sister shouts at her to no avail asking why she would want to look at “those pictures.” Finally, giving up in frustration she comments that she doesn’t want to see them because they make her sad.

I can see myself in both sisters.

September holds so many memories for me. Camping with my dad. Mom’s chili cooking on the stove. Hiking in the mountains with friends. Helping my grandpa with the final harvest of his garden and doing fall cleanup for my grandma. Swinging on the porch swing with my grandma or my aunt.

The Song’s Of September

As I pondered the video and the changing seasons, I realized there had been a lot of songs written that talk about September. Lyrics began popping into my mind.

For instance, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”: “Do you remember the 21st of September? Love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasing the clouds away. Ba de ya – say you remember Ba de ya, dancing in September, Ba de ya- never was a cloudy day.”

Or what about Neil Diamonds “September Morn”: “September Morn, We danced until the night became a brand new day. Two lovers playing scenes from some romantic play. September mornings still can make me feel that way.”

Of course, there is the classic “Try to Remember” by Ed Ames: “Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green, and grain was yellow. Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow. Try to remember and if you remember then follow.”

And finally, “September Song” written in the 1930’s: “Oh, it’s a long time from May to December. But the days grow short when you reach September. When autumn weather turns leaves to flame one hasn’t time for the waiting game. Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few… September, November… And these few precious days I’ll spend with you. These precious days.”

By reading the lyrics of these songs, it appears that September is a time of romance and dancing. But in all seriousness, the lyrics of each song reflect what both sisters were feeling about the photos. And what I feel when I remember my past Septembers.

What Can We Learn From September

My memories are precious. They bring a warmth and a comfort. But they also bring a little sadness.

I admit that as I was writing this, memories escaped my eye and rolled down my cheek. But they were memories that contained both sadness and joy.

Just as the meteorological seasons change, the seasons of our lives change too. They bring both joy and sorrow. A time to look back and a time to look ahead.

This is the song September sings to me: “Don’t grieve that it’s over, be grateful it was. Laugh that you lived and dance that you dared and inhale all that happened.” – AnnVoskamp

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Don’t live safe. Believe that you are His beloved because you are. It’s only when you trust that He loves you that you really begin to live.

“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20

Welcome to September. Embrace this new season because the best is yet to come!!!

Question: What is September singing to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

How to Face Your Fear Head-On And Conquer It Every Time

Fear is an everyday enemy that can confine us to prisons with high fences. But fear is not meant to drive our lives.

Fear

I was reminded how fear could rear it’s ugly head without a moment’s notice last October as I cared for a friend’s three dogs while they traveled.

Our time together started out no differently than all the previous times. That was until Monday night. We went out around 9:30 pm for our last potty run of the evening but our usual routine got turned upside down.

Keep in mind that my friend’s house is in the country. Although there are neighbors nearby, they are either not home or in bed this time of night, so it is very dark.

Staring Danger In The Face

Did I emphasize how dark it was? I’m talking no pole lights and on this particular night no moon or stars either. No problem, I have a little flashlight I use to light their path while they take care of business.

Out we go one at a time. Rocky. At 13 years of age gets to go first. Next, it’s the (at the time) 16-week old puppy, Murphy, followed by Max, a 15-month-old rambunctious teenager.

A field of weeds borders the house in the back and on one side. Murphy and Max both like to explore the weeds but not tonight.

Murphy went to the edge but stopped before entering the weeds. Then put his nose straight up in the air and took in a scent for a long time. I should have known that something was up.

Things got really interesting during Max’s turn. Max headed for the back weeds but stopped, turned, and began to walk cautiously towards the weeds to the side of the house. He came to a complete standstill just at the edge of the field. Not moving a muscle, not making a sound.

I shined the flashlight out in front of Max, and that’s when I saw it. What? No! Whoa! Crap! Two pairs of eyes glowing eerily back at us. It is amazing how many thoughts your mind can process in a matter of nanoseconds.

Imagination Run Amok

Downright creepy. For a moment I felt like I was standing in the middle of the moors facing the Hound of the Baskervilles. All kidding aside, what were they?

Fear

All I could see were glowing eyes. Maybe deer but they didn’t seem large enough. What else might they be? In this area they logical assumption, Coyote.

One of the critters lowered its head and took a couple of slow steps toward Max. I quietly said, “Max we need to go inside.” as I gathered the slack in his leash. Since Max is a lover and not a fighter, he had no objection.

We made a slow, deliberate retreat to the house as I walked backward to make sure we were not being followed.

Fear Is A Liar

Tuesday night we decided to go in the front yard since there is a light on the corner of the garage. But the results were the same. As I aimed the flashlight at the field, they were back, two pairs of glowing eyes staring at us.

Wednesday, I brought a spotlight with me. I was going to get to the bottom of this, so I left the boys in the house and went outside. I pointed it in the direction where the critters had been the previous two nights.

There they were, moving along the edge of the field. The spotlight drove back the darkness so that I could see the truth. With great relief, I saw that they were, in fact, deer and not coyotes.

Fear

Light exposes fear for what it is, a liar. My experience with the boys was a great reminder that fear is powerful and can be paralyzing, but it doesn’t have to be if we fight with the right weapons.

In Psalm 119:105 the psalmist tells us, “ Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” And in John 8:12 we are told “Jesus spoke to the people and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Light pushes back the darkness and reveals the truth.  Jesus is the light which drives back the darkness of the fears we face in our daily lives, no matter what they are.

In turn, He wants us to reflect His light to others so that they can draw close to him and live in faith, not fear. See Matthew 5:16.

Starve Your Fears

God’s most frequent command is “Fear Not.” There are over 300 occurrences in the Bible.

“Feed your faith, starve your fears.”  – Ann Voskamp

The best way to starve your fear is to slow down and be still, spending time in scripture. The more time you spend in the Word, the more you will find yourself talking to God rather than thinking about what you fear. Without the fuel of your focus, your fears will die of starvation.

When I saw those glowing eyes, I feared the possibility of attack. But the truth is the only thing attacking me was fear. We don’t have to worry about what‘s up ahead or fear what is around the next corner because Jesus is already there lighting the way.

Question: What fears in your life do you need to illuminate with the truth of Jesus? How can you be a light to push back the darkness for others this week? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Learning About God And Life From A Do-Over Dog

This post is a revision of a post that first appeared on September 19, 2016.

Is there such a thing as a do-over for humans or dogs in life? Do you believe that God uses dogs in our lives?

Do-Over

 

How God Uses Dogs To Enrich Our Lives

There are currently about 340 different breeds of dogs not to mention all the various mixed breeds. Of all the animals that God created none is more suited to live and work with humans. And I believe God planned it that way.

Think of all the ways that dogs serve us. Therapy dogs, Police K-9 officers, cancer detectors, seizure alert, search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, helping those with PTSD, and companions. The list could go on, but you get the idea.

But over and above all that, I believe that God uses dogs to reflect His unconditional love for us better than anything we encounter in this life. Perhaps that is why dog is God spelled backward.

I have had a love affair with dogs as long as I can remember. And God has used them to teach me lessons since I was eight months old. That’s when the family dog taught me to walk (no kidding).

Always Room For One More

Two years ago I found myself with a profound desire to adopt another dog. I already had two dogs and a cat, so the whole idea seemed a bit crazy, but the feeling persisted.

I met two different dogs, and both adoption attempts fell through for various reasons. Then there it was. A picture on Facebook of a rescue dog needing a furever home. Something about her eyes drew me in and wouldn’t let go. They were soft and kind. I had to meet her.

Do-Over

The shelter that was caring for her was located nearly fifty miles from my home. No problem, I enlisted a friend, and on a brisk Saturday morning in April we set out for the shelter.

First Impressions

The attendant brought her into the room. I have to admit that my heart sank a little. She wasn’t what I had expected. She seemed small, and she showed undeniable evidence that she had recently given birth to a litter of pups.

The shelter had named her Jilli. She was not overly enthusiastic in her greetings. A bit shy, she would take a treat if offered and then retreat. After feeding her a boatload of treats, we went outside for a walk.

The walk didn’t produce any different results. Offer a treat, and she was right there. When the treats were gone, she was off to the end of the leash.

Everything I knew about dogs and temperaments was telling me that this was not a good match. So we went back inside, and I told the attendant I was sorry, but I didn’t think this would work.

From Jillie to Sadie – A Do-Over

My friend and I decided to look at the other dogs currently at the shelter, but I didn’t feel a connection to any of them. I decided to go to Jilli’s kennel once more time before we left.

She stood silently at the gate just staring at me while all the dogs around her were incessantly barking. I stared at her for a long time but still felt that it would not be a good idea to adopt her. And so amidst the protests of my friend, I decided to leave.

I got as far as the end of the kennel run, but I couldn’t leave. The attendant who had helped me was standing there. She happily obliged as I asked to see Jilli in the meeting room one more time.

Another staff member saw Jilli headed to the meeting room and showed great enthusiasm about the potential adoption. I asked him if he knew this dog and when he indicated yes I asked him to join me.

After talking to Anthony for just a few minutes, I found myself seeing Jilli in a whole different light. And when he looked at me and said, “No one ever looks at Jilli when they come to adopt.” My heart melted, and the deal was sealed.

Adoption papers in hand, Jilli left the shelter with a new name. Sadie jumped happily into the car and headed to her new home for a chance at a do-over.

A Big Mistake

The meet and greet with my existing two dogs couldn’t have gone better. It seemed like we were off to a great start. Fast forward three weeks and I was questioning my decision to bring Sadie home.

Thoughts like; “What Have I done?” and “This isn’t working out.” ran through my head. There were some behaviors towards dogs not part of our pack as well as some destructive behaviors that caused me to have second thoughts. Then there were the emotional scars from undeniable abuse. There were no two ways about, it this poor girl had a lot of baggage.

I didn’t want to take her back to the shelter, but I just didn’t see any other options. As I wrestled with what I should do, I felt the gentle nudge of the Spirit.

I felt God telling me that Sadie was intended to be part of my life and to “Just love her and give it time. I have much to teach you about life and love through Sadie. And I want you to share the lessons I teach you with others. Just trust me.”

Just A Couple of Do-Over Girls

So, now here were are three years later. God has indeed taught me and is continuing to teaching me many lessons through Sadie. The first one being,  do-overs are possible and not just for dogs. I love occasionally sharing those lessons with you here. And just for the record, I loved on Sadie the way God asked me to, and now I find myself madly in love with her, and I wouldn’t give her up for the world (I think that’s another lesson).

As I sit at my desk writing, Sadie is lying at my feet. We are just a couple of do-over girls on a journey to wholeness. Forgiven, secure in His love, becoming who we are created to be.

Question: Has God ever taught you a lesson in an unusual way? If so, how? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Hope Is The Only Thing Stronger Than Fear

We live in a violent world, seemingly broken beyond words but is all hope lost?

hope

A look at today’s headlines tells of terror attacks, government wrongdoing, and an economy that is in deep trouble. I have heard others say these are dark times we are living in and indeed they are.

An Unexpected Discovery

Several years ago I was asked to write a devotional for a Christian publication based on the movie, The Hunger Games. The movie is an adaptation of Suzanne Collins book of the same name.

At the time I had not watched the movie. In fact, I had put this movie on my “do not watch” list. The concept of a film about children killing children was just too dark, too gruesome.

I was wrong. I watched the movie in preparation for my writing assignment. It got inside me and held my imagination captive. The characters stayed with me after I finished watching.

There is no question that The Hunger Games is a dark and violent movie, but I also found it to be a story about hope. Hope in a dark world.

Dark Times Surround Us

The movie follows the exploits of the lead character Katniss and is set in a post-apocalyptic United States, now called Panem,

It is a dark, heartbreaking world of those that have and those that have not. A world where the poor are made hungry to feed the excess of the wealthy, a world where violence is made regular and celebrated, and a world where power trumps humanity.

We are kidding ourselves if we do not see this as an indictment of today (aka George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World). The world of this movie is not that far off from the world of here and now.

But throughout the film, there is an undercurrent of hope.

The Antidote For Fear

At one point in the movie, President Snow and the Gamemaker have a discussion about why there is a winner of the games. President Snow’s answer is hope. He says, “It’s the only thing stronger than fear”.

President Snow goes on to say, “A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it is contained.” President Snow recognizes that Katniss, the “girl on fire” is coming to embody the hope of a better world, a liberated Panem, so he orders Seneca to “contain her”.

Small acts of kindness spark hope, and a spark can turn into a blaze.

Dandelions In Spring

Have you ever come up against impossible situations? Have you found life utterly intolerable? Katniss and the citizens of Panem certainly did.

What are the most common robbers of hope in your life (e.g., illness or pain, relationships, financial setbacks, world events)? In what people, circumstances, or things are you inclined to put your hope?

Despair comes when we believe what our eyes tell us: that when difficult circumstances play their hand, the game is over. Holding fast to hope means being unwilling to let circumstances have the last word.

hope

At one point in the film, Katniss recalls a memory that helps lift her despair. She says, “The dandelion reminded me that I was not doomed. The dandelion in spring, the bright yellow flower that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.”

Where Is My Hope?

Fear says circumstances tell us what is true about God. Hope says God tells us what is true about circumstances.

The people of Panem put their hope in Katniss, but as I finished watching the movie I pondered where do I put my hope?

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:11 NLT.

As believers in Christ, we have a reason for hope as we see God’s faithfulness on a daily basis. Even in times of trouble, we know that all things will come together for good for those who love the Lord (see Romans 8:28).

God shines His light in even the darkest places, and His power is always greater than the terrors that threaten us. He regularly sends us reminders of this hope we are assured of, even in something as simple as a dandelion reminding us winter is thawing and spring will follow.

Will you join me as we look for ways to share our dandelions and see what sparks of hope we can set ablaze today?

Question: Are you placing your hope where you should? What steps do you need to take to stop the “hope robbers” in your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.