Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Standing Strong in Hard Times

Standing strong in hard times isn’t just for other people. You can be an overcomer! You may feel like you’re living in a black and white world, but God wants to bring back the living color.
As you learn to believe God and bask in His presence, you’ll discover wild hope—hope beyond your wildest imagination. When life tries to drag you down, you make new choices and keep telling yourself the truth.
Basking in His presence
You can tell yourself the truth in many ways. When you read the Bible, God’s truth in written form, consider reading the words out loud. When you pray—which is talking with God—you might choose to speak out loud instead of praying silently to yourself.
Or, write your prayers in a journal or notebook. Remember and record the good things He’s done, and how He’s come through for you in the past.
Read the Psalms for healing words of hope in hard times and discouragement. Like Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
Remember that the Lord really just wants to spend time with you. He wants you to linger, to “hang out,” to bask.
Think of the most beautiful full moon you’ve seen. Perhaps it’s a harvest moon hanging low in the October night sky. The moon reflects the light of the sun because it has “basked” in its brightness. And in the dark of night it shines brightly.
Likewise, as we bask in the light of the Son, Jesus Christ—as we spend time abiding—His light will shine brighter through us.
Having wild hope
Wild hope means hoping anyways, even when you feel you haven’t got a chance. It is daring to believe that God will come through for you even in your toughest times.
You never know where help will come from. It just may surprise you who (or what) God will use to bring relief to your situation. It may be something tangible like a hug from a friend or an unexpected check in the mail. Liberation may come from acceptance of the situation, or from forgiving someone who’s wronged you.
Believe God, bask in His presence, and pray, expecting things to change. Then, one day you will begin to feel something unusual: joy. Darkness begins to flee as the sunshine of hope rises in your heart like the dawn of a new day.
Dare to believe that the One who can do anything is at work even now restoring you and rebuilding your life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Day: What Lincoln Said

Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love!

Here's a cool bit of history. As you may know, the first Thanksgiving was in 1621 with the pilgrims. But it wasn't until the mid-1800s that it was proclaimed a national holiday.

On October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, for the first time setting aside the last Thursday in November as a National Day for giving thanks, setting the precedent for the annual holiday we will celebrate tomorrow.

Here’s his Proclamation:

"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler. Rutgers University Press, 1953.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankfulness on Thanksgiving Day--and Always

Pumpkin pie, turkey, family and friends, and football are just a few iconic things about Thanksgiving in America. Thanksgiving Day is just one week away.

I am grateful to the first settlers, the pilgrims and the American Indians who helped us in our time of need...and for the harvest, the abundance of blessing they reaped more than 200 years ago. More so, I am grateful to God for all that He has done--and will do.

As you begin to ponder what you are thankful for, here are some good Bible verses to remember about thankfulness. God is our helper, healer, wise counselor and He is worthy of our thanks!

Give thanks always.
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

Give thanks because God is good.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)

Give thanks for God’s unfailing love.
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” (Psalm 107:13-15)

Give thanks because we have victory.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After a Breakup: Dealing With Anger

The start of a new relationship is often bliss. You’re energized, excited and happy. You think about him all the time and you can’t wait to be near him again. It feels so wonderfully good to have that air of anticipation and expectancy as you wonder what’s going to happen next.

You soon discover that you really enjoy each other, and maybe you even begin to envision a life together. I think Robert Browning must have been in love when the poet penned, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

Then Cloud 9 bursts. Instead of walking on sunshine, you can hardly slug through the day because longing and loss are weighing you down. Or you’re a bundle of nerves, you’re totally confused or you’re mad as a hornet.

Breaking up produces a multitude of emotions. What do you do with them? Or should you do anything with them?

While your relationship may be over, your life isn’t.

By identifying, expressing and releasing emotions you can find relief. It's not the emotion itself, it's what you do with it that matters. Left untreated or unexpressed, emotional pain can wreak havoc in your love life. You may sabotage a perfectly good relationship because of your own commitment fears. Or, you may withhold affection and trust because others have wounded you deeply.

The good news is you can get rid of emotional pain. In time, night will give way to day, and then a brand new day—your new beginning!

Let's take the emotion of anger, for instance.

1. You can write an anger letter expressing to God about what happened during your breakup and/or since then, and how you feel about it. It can even include things that happened during the time you dated, if needed. Pour out your heart—what you’re mad about and why.

2. Or, you could write a different kind of anger letter. This exercise helps you to get the release you need, but you never ever mail the letter. Picture the person who broke up with you sitting across the table from you as you write. If you could say anything you wanted to him or her right now, what would you say?  If you could say anything to them in a Christ-like way, what would you say? It’s up to you how much to include.

Basically, the purpose of the letter it to get the emotion out of you and release it. No one else will ever see what you write and you can feel safe to express yourself, vent, and be free of the tangled emotions inside of you. When you’re done, you can choose to burn or shred it if you’d like, but never (never!) mail it.

3. Write an anger action plan. In the midst of a heated conversation, sometimes you may need to leave so you (or the other person) can cool off and address your issues later. When you need to think through why you’re irritated, this can be helpful. Make a list of what happened, if you need to respond (you may not), how it makes you feel, and some potential ways you can respond. Then, after you’ve reviewed your options you can choose what to do. It will be helpful to pray before you begin.

For example:

What happened? Tony constantly cuts me off before I can finish a sentence.

Do I need to respond? Yes, I feel like I need to stand up for myself.

How does this make me feel? I feel angry when Tony doesn’t let me finish what I’m saying. I feel like what he has to say is more important than what I want to say. I feel diminished and unimportant.  

Options to responding: When Tony cuts in when I’m talking, I could say, “Could I please finish my sentence?” or “I wasn’t done yet.” Or, I could spend less time with Tony.  Or. . .?

4. Other ways. There are other ways to manage your anger too. Some people find it helpful to get punch pillows, talk to a trusted friend, pull out the Bible and read, journal their thoughts, go workout, or get outside for a long walk or bike ride. A good hearty laugh or getting some humor into your life can advance your heart toward joy again. In other words, find activities that relieve stress for you.

For more help getting through a relationship breakup, see When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty by Jackie M. Johnson.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tired, Sad or Feeling Hopeless? Here's Help...

Are you sad, worried or feeling hopeless? How do you press on when you’re emotionally or physically drained? When times are tough, here are some vital things to help you persevere with God’s strength:

Cast your cares. Don’t take on burdens you were never meant to bear—like worry, fear and doubt. They’ll weigh you down and hinder you from being effective. Instead, give God your fears; surrender trying to do it all on your own to Him.  

In other words, like a fishing line, cast your cares, and don’t reel them back in again. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”  

Press on in prayer. Prayer is the foundation upon which everything else is built in your life. It the most important thing you can do. You may think, “I’ve already prayed, what other solutions are there?”  

Keep on praying. Talk to God about your situation, because He is the one who has the power to change it. Maybe you need a course correction in your life, or you need to stay the course. Ask God for discernment.  

Speak freely and openly about how you feel and what you need. Thank Him for what He’s done already in your life and expect Him to answer. As you pray, believe God is working and stand in the strength you receive. 
Send in reinforcements. Sometimes you need backup. It’s amazing what happens when you receive support in prayer from friends and family members who are willing to pray for you and with you.

When you don’t know what to pray, when you’re spent emotionally or physically, or, like Moses, when you need someone to “hold up your arms” (to support you), the prayers of others on your behalf can give you a boost to keep going.

Praise anyways. One of the most powerful things you can do is worship. Despair cannot journey where praise and worship reside. Put on a music CD or worship music and just listen. Relax into it. Let God comfort you.

Life may be challenging for you right now; you wonder how things will ever change. Take heart. Even in your darkest times, the hope of Christ shines brighter. When you are weak, He is your strong comfort. When you are exhausted, He is your strength—firm and secure. The Light of the World shines as your beacon—a lighthouse in the midst of the storm to guide you to safe harbor.

Light always overcomes the darkness.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And Justice for All

Righteousness and justice are
the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
(Psalm 89:14)
Prayer for today:
Lord, so many people seem to have misplaced their sense of right and wrong. They can be dishonest or downright mean at times.
But the very basis of who You are is integrity--You make promises and KEEP THEM. You value acceptance and kindness. Your heart is filled with compassion toward all. Where would I be without Your justice?
Thank you, my faithful God, for restoration and making things right. In Your way and timing. In Jesus' name. Amen.