Want to SURVIVE or THRIVE in the New Year?

Alone. Ten-thirty p.m. New Year’s Eve.

The ballgame was over. My sleepy husband and daughter had called it a night, but I was wired up from the exciting game. As I scrolled channels looking for anything entertaining and waiting for the ball to drop, I felt sad.

Extroverted me would’ve loved sharing the evening with family. Friends. People. Any people. I was alone and mopey, feeling sorry for myself. As I sat there in the dim glow of the Christmas tree lights and TV screen I knew I should be happy and content, but I wasn’t.

I wasn’t terminally ill. I had a warm place to live, family, and friends. I was in relatively good health for some over the hill. Why couldn’t I be grateful? I knew so many people who had so many more struggles than I currently did: cancer, Covid19, broken marriages, addicted kids… For several it was their first Christmas without that child, spouse, or parent; death is a thief.

So why did my limping knees and my husband’s sciatic pain send me into an emotionally dark place? I don’t know, maybe I’m just a selfish greedy person. I should be able to put my woes into perspective.

Sitting there, tears blurring the TV screen, I desperately said to myself “What do I need to do to fix this? I need hope. But I need to trust God, too. And I need rest – real rest. My soul is weary.” As those words came out, I thought of those three particular words: Trust, Hope, and Rest. Yes! That’s what I need more of in 2022! The first letters of each word came to my attention: T… H… R… and the word THRive came to my mind. I knew in that moment THAT was my word for 2022 – thrive.

A few minutes later when the ball dropped, I was at a place of peace and able to doze off.

The next morning I got up pessimistically wondering what catastrophes this year might hold. I don’t like myself when I think that way. I really wanted to have a good day, and that required a good attitude which I didn’t have in the moment. So I set to my normal morning routine: coffee, Bible, journal – sip, read, listen, pray.

***************

I’m so grateful that godly people and the Father Himself have taught me the importance of spiritual habits. Bible reading, praying, journaling to listen, and scripture memory all used to be hit or miss activities in my Christian walk through life. I usually did them when I was needy, depressed or emotional, kind of as a bribe to get God to do something for me, I guess.

But after 40+ years of walking with God, He had convinced me to come say Good morning! to Him each (and every) morning no matter what I was feeling or had to do that day. At first it was hard to develop that habit. Laundry, computer work, or the network news shows vied for my attention first thing in the morning. But month by month over the years, I slowly came to see that having that relationship with Him, that routine of meeting with Him, during happy or mundane times would be a lifeline to me in my sad or tragic times.

***************

So New Year’s Day 2022 I set about my morning routine.

Our pastor encourages us to find a watchword and a scripture verse each year. Every year for the past five or six years I’ve known my word going into the new year. Father God has brought it to my attention in the last few weeks of the year, and I’ve been able to start off day one with a focus word and verse. Perhaps that was part of my gloominess the year, I had yet to receive a Word from the Lord and I felt… lost, adrift, sailing into the new year.

As I sipped my peppermint mocha coffee, I thought over the word I’d had dropped in my mind last night. I believed it was my word for the year, but I always pick a word that is found in scripture, and I doubted I’d find the word THRIVE in the Bible. So opening my Bible and journal, I started off a bit skeptical.

And guess what I found! It’s there! The word “thrive” is in God’s word in several places! Who knew?! It is translated as thrive, flourish, or prosper. But the idea behind it is to blossom, break forth, grow, increase, rise, grow fat, push forward, germinate, or bear fruit! Yes! That’s what I wanted for this year, to break out of the dark soil of depression and weariness and grow into a thriving, fruitful vine! A vine pleasing my Maker and bearing fruit that nourished other believers.

Ezekiel 17:24 is the verse God gave me. “Then all the trees of the field will know that I am the LORD. I bring down the tall tree, and make the low tree tall. I cause the green tree to wither and make the withered tree thrive. I, the LORD, have spoken and I will do it.’ ”

Though we may feel like a small, withered tree – the Lord will cause us to THRIVE – to Flourish! God has spoken good for His children in His Word and He will do it! He. Not I. I can’t make myself into a tall, thriving tree, but Father God can. I cannot fix my weary soul, but He, the LORD will do it. I can take joy in that. It doesn’t depend on my trying, fixing, or controlling. Whew!

So what is my part? Nothing and everything. Nothing. Nothing to manipulate or fret over or manage or worry about. But everything. Every single day I must come sit at His feet, read, pray and listen to Him, coming into a closer more intimate relationship that will sustain me through everything: the discouragement, heartache and fear. A relationship based on Trust in Him, Hope in Him, and Rest in Him. A relationship where I Thrive.

That is my prayer this year, for me and for you as well. May we not just survive another year, may we Thrive, germinate, break forth from the dark, and bear fruit.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ Jesus

John 15:5

10 Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

How many of us make and fail to keep some of the same resolutions over and over?

Did you raise your hand? Diets, health and fitness, self improvement plans, education or career intentions, or spiritual growth commitments usually top the chart. Sound familiar?

As we head toward New Year’s Day, why don’t we plan some resolutions we can actually keep this year?

Sounds good to me too!

So here’s a quick list of 10 ideas that may get you thinking. Chose one and keep this resolution in 2022.

  1. Smile once a day, even if it is when you look at a child or a sunset or smiling to yourself in the mirror.
  2. Learn one new thing each day.
  3. Pray a simple prayer each day. It can be I need You, Jesus. Teach me, Father. Help me, Lord. Or even Forgive me.
  4. Laugh once a day. Find a lighthearted, humorous website that makes you laugh and visit it once a day for a few minutes.
  5. Read a verse a day. A good way to do this is to to get a scripture verse calendar and read the verse as you plan the day’s agenda.
  6. Hug someone. It will encourage them and you.
  7. Write down one thing a day for which you are thankful (maybe put it on your Bible verse calendar!)
  8. Keep a video diary this year. The “1 Second Everyday” app is an easy way to document your life.
  9. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers for yourself once a week.
  10. Put $1.00 in a container each day. Use the money at the end of the year to do something nice for someone. (Don’t dip into it during the year!)

Use your scripture calendar as your check-off place to hold yourself accountable to your commitment.

Happy New Year!

    He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

antique-classic-clock-1095601.jpg

End of Year Reflections

Closing the book on 2018

 “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

It has been said that the past is the part of our story that has already been written and set in cement. But today and the days to come are the blank pages of our story waiting to be written. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future. As this, the last day of the year is upon us, may we pause to reflect on this past year, to learn from it, come to grips with it, forgive it, and put it to rest, so that we may march forward boldly living out the story God has for us.

calendar-handwriting-notebook-636246.jpgThis past year some have had the best year of their life! Others have experienced a year of overwhelming trauma, grief, illness, or regret. But to most, it was just another year. So I must ask, are we simply ticking off the years of this one life we possess? Or are we evaluating, learning, reflecting upon, and growing from the things we have experienced?

Things I’m reflecting on? Some major and minor joys, and some major and minor disappointments. A beautiful wedding. A missions appointment. A new son-in-love. Serious illness of those I love. The rapid passage of time. Escalating pain of arthritic joints. A new puppy in the house. Another year of reading through the entire word of God. A daughter thousands of miles away during the holiday. The loss of dear Christian mentors. The year has been a mix of grief and joy, welcomes and goodbyes, hopes and fears, success and failure.

imagesMy greatest joy and sadness are one and the same this year – I have a child who has moved abroad to work and spread the love of Christ. I’m so proud of her, so thrilled with this grand adventure God is taking her on, and yet at the same time so sad that she’s not at home with us and we won’t see her for months if not years.

Our daughter is living in Peru and has shared with us some of their traditions for the New Year holiday. A few seem to correlate with our U.S. traditions. They eat their favorite foods, typically seafood, empanadas and rice dishes, which would equate with our black-eyed peas, turnip greens and ham, and at my house, tailgating food as well for watching the New Years’ Day bowl games. They throw rice around the house encouraging financial prosperity – once again the black-eye peas here in the U.S., where tradition says we’ll get a dollar for every black-eye pea we eat on New Years’ Day. They also wear yellow grapes-typical-rituals-new-yearunderwear, (?!) kind of like the way we wear goofy glasses and hats. And just like we count down to midnight watching the ball drop in Times Square, they have their own countdown. During the countdown to midnight they eat 12 grapes – representing each month of the year – for luck.

But my favorite of their traditions has a deeper meaning. The people of the community all go outside together and burn rag dolls, often dressed up to look like themselves in a piece of their own clothing. The burning of the effigy signifies that all of the past year is done and behind you and it is time to start anew.

What a great symbolic way to end the year! How often do we carry over the pains of last year into the clean slate of the next year – the fresh start that our Father gives us.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, offers us this wisdom on the subject of how to deal with our past:

God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.…God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all claims against our conscience.… Let the past rest… in the sweet embrace of Christ.

So I encourage you this last day of 2018, take some time to be alone with the Lord. Read in His Word – His letter to you. Reflect upon the past year. Weigh the good and the bad. Forgive. Let go. Rejoice. Mourn. Then pray to your Abba, offering these hurts and joys, pains, regrets, and hopes to Him. He will do more with the pieces of our lives that we offer Him than we can ever imagine. And this is my prayer for each of you:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

2016-concert-december-31-3867.jpg

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God. Philippians 3:13-14

Putting Together the Pieces

My grandmother has always loved to work jigsaw puzzles.  I have many fond memories of us spending hours in front of a puzzle working well into the night to finish the picture.  Even today at the age of 91 with her being almost completely blind and dealing with Alzheimer’s, she still sits for hours working puzzles.  The puzzles may have become fewer in pieces, but she still loves fitting the pieces together.  When she completes a puzzle she is always excited to show it off, to let you see what she has accomplished of taking all the pieces and fitting them together to reveal the complete picture.

51ktrzbp0il-_sx326_bo1204203200_That is what we are doing when we study God’s Word.  We are taking each piece of knowledge we receive from reading God’s Word and placing it in its proper place to see God’s story being revealed.  We are becoming more Bible literate.  Jen Wilkins in her book Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS gives her definition of Bible Literacy: “Bible literacy occurs when a person has access to a Bible in a language she understands and is steadily moving toward knowledge and understanding of the text…Bible literacy stitches patchwork knowledge into a seamless garment of understanding.”

I need to be up front and say I do not have it all together and I am not perfect!   It is not easy trying to be diligent and faithful in spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis.  Let’s be honest, it is a struggle for me and I am sure for many of you.  I get in a routine and then something comes along and messes it up.  One day becomes two and before long it has been a week.  One thing I do know is My God is faithful to forgive me and prompt me to spend time with him.

cbt-52-lessons-cover

The other thing I struggle with is how to approach the study of God’s Word.  No book, study plan, or Bible study book can replace just digging in and reading God’s Word and letting the Holy Spirit direct you.  That being said, I am always interested in seeing, hearing and reading how other people approach the study of God’s Word. Are you one that reads the Bible through once a year or do you select a book at a time?  Do you follow a daily devotion or reading plan?  Do you write verses down and meditate on them?  Or do you just let the Holy Spirit lead you in your reading.  Do you use Iva May’s approach in Chronological Bible Teaching reading the Bible Chronologically?  How about Jen Wilkin’s 5 P’s of Sound Study approach in her book: Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS?  In Angie Smith’s study Seamless she streams all of the major stories in the Bible together in one thread.  There are so many ways to approach the study of God’s Word, but what are we doing with our knowledge and understanding?  Are all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together?

51jyryn98ul-_sx366_bo1204203200_As we start 2018, do you have a plan?  Did you make a New Year’s resolution to Study God’s Word more?   So how is it going?  No matter what plan you use, make sure that you are seeing God’s complete picture.  Don’t shy away from the things you don’t understand?  I have many times written or said to God, “I don’t understand this passage.”  You know, it is usually not long before I hear someone preach on the same passage or read a book where the verse I don’t understand is revealed to me with more understanding.  As Women of the Word let’s be more intentional in becoming more Bible Literate this next year.

Lord, may we make a commitment to spend more time in your Word.  Not just to gain head knowledge, but to gain understanding so that when the end of 2018 comes around we may be able to see each piece of your Word revealed as a beautiful picture of YOUR LOVE for us from Genesis to Revelation.

stock_photo_cross_against_the_sky_puzzle