Evidence of God’s Love

I would like to take a moment and wish a Happy Father’s Day to dads.  Today will be bitter sweet as I remember my dad and grandfather treasuring the moments with my hubby.

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…..

Our hotel room had a small balcony that overlooked the swimming pool. Early one lazy vacation morning, I grabbed my journal, Bible, and a fresh cup of coffee then headed to the balcony for some quiet time.

As I settled in, movement by the pool caught my eye. I watched as a maintenance man approached a palm tree and briskly pulled a brown, life-less branch from underneath the green leaves. Oddly, before he pulled the dead branch off, I hadn’t even noticed it was there.

After he pulled it off, however, the palm tree looked fresh and vibrant.

Seriously.

The pruning made such a difference!

Jesus spoke to His disciples and said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  (John 15:1-8, NIV)

Whom we spend time with really matters.

And what we say and do and how we say and do it also really matters.

Stay with me here! Don’t let the familiarity of this Scripture fade the impact it has on you.

I understand to my core how horrible it feels when my walk and my talk do not line up. Withered branches in my heart constantly need to pulled off and thrown away. You too?

In order to experience the blessings and power of God’s Spirit in our lives we must root our faith deep in the soil of God’s Word and then allow His truth to produce fruits that are ripe with evidence of His love. These fruits are clearly seen (or not) at the intersection of our faith and our actions. I’ve found that when I have those I-just-want-to-scream-because-everyone-in-the-world-is-on-my-last-nerve days God meets me with His grace when I whisper His name.

God will deepen the roots and increase the fruits of your faith as you spend time talking to Him early in the morning over a hot mug of coffee. When you pray and worship on the way to work or on your powerwalk. When you feel a prick of conviction in your heart about that behavior – or about that response – that tone – that act of disobedience. When you call out to Him for patience and strength as your teenager slams his door in rebellion – or when your adult daughter “forgets the morals she was raised with” and moves in with her boyfriend – or when frustrations mount up at work.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control. To bring glory to God, this fruit of His Spirit must be seen in our lives.

Unfortunately, we have a keen ability to rationalize our less-than-fruitful behaviors.

But he… But she… But they… I just can’t…

Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to behave like this without Him. In fact, we simply can’t. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Remember? (v5) But when we remain in Him – when we seek Him, obey Him, savor His presence, live for His glory, and prioritize Him above all else – we can and will make a big impact for God and experience the joy and peace we all long for.

The maintenance man at the resort didn’t pull the branch off to hurt the palm tree.

He pruned it to increase its beauty, health, and vibrancy. God does the same for us. He prunes His children to increase our beauty, health and vibrancy for our good and for His glory – to make us more useful to Him and more fruitful.

Pause to ponder this question: Are there any dead branches hanging on your tree?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Help! My Job is Killing Me!


Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

I recently stopped at a local discount store to pick up a few things. When I went to check out, the cashier looked very familiar. He must have seen the question in my eyes because he smiled and said, “It’s good to see you, Mrs. Southerland.” When I heard his voice, I immediately recognized him as the manager of a local grocery store where I frequently shopped. Before I could say one word, he explained, “I lost my job at the grocery store. Evidently, I needed to change mission fields for a while.” Now that is what I call a heavenly perspective of an earthly job.

God uses our work as one of His tools to mold us into who He wants us to be. Stress comes when we view our job as our main life mission. It isn’t. It is the God-given opportunity to provide the tools we need to accomplish our life mission.

The apostle Paul writes, “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24, LB).

Paul worked as a tentmaker, a church planter, and an author. His purpose never changed, but his work certainly did. Many of us do not need a different job. We just need a different attitude and a new point of view about the job we have.

How do we make that happen?

Start by envisioning Jesus standing in the midst of your work place as your real boss. Then look for the life lessons God provides through your work.

God uses our work to teach us responsibility. Meeting deadlines, completing assigned tasks with excellence, showing respect for co-workers (even the abrasive ones) and working without supervision are all valuable life lessons learned on the job. When we try to cut corners, stress steps in and wreaks havoc in our attitude about work.

God uses people at work to teach us valuable lessons about relationships. Cooperation, fairness, flexibility, humility, and patience are relationship skills of a successful worker. Stress comes when we stray from the guidelines God gives us for godly relationships. Our workplace is not only one of our God-ordained mission fields, but it is also a classroom for learning to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable. You may very well be the only sermon your co-workers ever hear.

God uses our work to teach us how to serve. The way we serve God is by serving others. God wants us to grow spiritually at work by becoming a servant to those with whom we work. It is easy to serve the people who sit beside us in a worship service each Sunday, but a real servant serves on the job … every single day. God asks us to accept others unconditionally, encourage other continually, forgive others freely, and help others willingly.

Attitudes never sit still. They constantly move and change.

An attitude is a pattern of thinking and a filter through which we view life.

We can choose to be honest about our attitude at work, and we can choose to change our attitude about work, but most importantly, we can choose to pray for God’s attitude about our work. When we can’t change our attitude, the One who lives in us can. He can give us His attitude. Exchanging our attitude for His always eliminates stress.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Last Minute RSVP

Is your mailbox or email filled with invites?  It seems like there is always something going on. Someone is having a party,  getting married, or graduating.  Summer at the shore brings lots of invites for barbecues as well. I love getting invites and catching up with old friends is so much fun.  Today is a glimpse at life with a chronic illness…..

But these days, the excitement of an invite brings on a whole new realm of questions…. what’s the weather going to be like? Is it going to be outside in the middle of summer? Do I have anything else planned around the same time where I might not have enough energy?  Will brain fog cause me to forget names and memories?

It is frustrating to always have to mark myself as “maybe”.  As much as my first thought is to say yes, I can never be sure how I will be on any given day.  The outside often fools people if they don’t understand what is happening on the inside.  I feel like I’m always marking off ‘maybe’ on Facebook invites, or doing at the very last minute RSVP’s. I don’t know about you but one of my pet peeves for years was when people didn’t RSVP to an invite or waited until the last minute. I always wanted to get a head count – the planner in me, but now I’m the indecisive person.

It’s not because I am procrastinating, I just have to be careful I don’t over commit myself, or you count me in and I end up having to cancel. I worry about what you will think.  Which one is more embarrassing –  sending a last minute RSVP or saying YES right away, only to have to cancel at the last minute.

Even though I am ALWAYS cold, it is easier for me to commit when it’s not during the warmer months (or extreme cold ones).  Now, living at the Jersey Shore makes it hard to judge and often a small window.  I may be cold BUT the heat is draining for many of us with MS.   I stopped doing outdoor events for just this reason.  It takes a lot of energy out of us.  I have been at parties where everyone is outside, and I keep going inside by myself.  People think I am hiding and in some ways they are right…. hiding from the heat or from sensory overload, or a multitude of other things which spring up unexpectedly.

I LOVE to plan but life takes on an entirely different planning process now.  I don’t want to be mean, and I don’t want to be the annoying person who waits until the last minute to RSVP.  I’m actually holding off to make sure I can actually attend and not have to duck out early or be a party pooper.

If you are reading this and you know someone with another chronic condition (you know I struggle with MS), don’t give up on them or take it personally.  I’m sure they, along with me, appreciate you’re thinking of us, and we don’t want you to stop inviting us.  It just requires we plan and plan and plan some more, and something still might happen to where we can’t make it the day before or day of.

I am learning to “Expect the unexpected”. I’m grateful for a supportive hubby who helps me to keep this in check.  I also need a lot of reminders, because I will forget thanks to the dreaded brain-fog.  Or worse, I will get confused on the dates/times, etc.  There are periods of never ending confusion, planning and forgetting… just to repeat the cycle multiple times.

The bottom line I’m getting at, is don’t take it personally when we don’t RSVP right away.  I know it’s annoying not to have a head count, and I’m trying my best to give you one. It’s stressful trying to juggle everything in the first place. It can also be very emotional for me to deal with… It can be upsetting and depressing at times.

Life with MS (or others with any chronic disease) has changed me in so many ways…. those who are with me daily see the good days and the bad days.  They get it and remind me when I tend to forget. Others struggle to understand.  Overall, I’m blessed to have an amazing support system.  So the next time it takes me forever to RSVP or I decline, don’t take it personally.  Know in my heart I would love to be there but it may be a day I’m struggling with MS.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

Is Impatience Your Problem? –

Patience can be developed with practice. 

As a recovering addict, patience has not been one of my strong points.  Sure I had patience (most of the time) with my daughter as a single mom BUT not when it came to other things it was non-existant.

What about you?  Is there a goal or desire are you rushing toward? What is the one thing in your life you just can’t wait to see happen?  I’m usually an “instant gratification” person but I’m working on changing which takes time (and patience).  Are you getting the vicious circle?  LOL.  It is usually the thing we want the most which take the longest like the struggle to reach your goal weight.

And while we’re waiting for things to happen, we are usually tempted to make things happen — we want the magic wand for things to happen NOW!  In most cases, the solution we find to the problem or desire is not a perfect fit and as a result we muck things up.  We get a SMACK to remind us it is time to practice patience!

The truth is a lack of patience is often a sign of fear and those inner gremlins called fear are waiting to squash your  goals and desires.  We want what we want now!  I know I am not alone, right?   We get anxious and worried then begin pushing for things to happen before their time (remember it is His time, not ours).  We need to learn to slow down.  We need to trust.  We need to breathe. Patience is an act of faith, even when we don’t know when or how things will work out.

Here are four key areas of your life where you may need to practice more patience…

Relationships

Are you short-tempered with people? Does waiting in line at the store irritate you?  Do you get impatient with someone who is trying to do something especially when they don’t live up to your expectations?  Are you scared your dream relationship will never happen?  If you are single, have you pushed a relationship to be “serious” when it may not have been meant to be.  Why?  Because you fear someone special won’t come along, or maybe you think you’re getting too old to get married, or your choices are limited so you are tempted to marry the wrong person.   Love happens when you least expect.  I was one of those who always rushed a relationship.  It was when I made the decision to let things happen it did.  In fact, I told hubby I didn’t want a relationship.  Here we are almost 16 years later and still together.  Don’t rush into things.  Be patient. Trust. I am a definite believer of when you relax about things, the door to love (and other things) will open. Are you willing to wait?

Work

Patience was a lot tougher when I worked in an office. I found my lack of patience sabotaged my relationships with coworkers and clients who came into the office.  Now with my own business, on days I have no patience, my relationships with my customers are in jeopardy.  I was a job-hopper for many years because I thought it was the way to advance in my career.  Then in recovery, I learned some patience and VIOLA things changed.  I worked for 9 years at the Aids Alliance before moving into a consultant position. Then I was with Bethel for about 7 years – both of these long term positions allowed me to put my skills to use.  Is your job hopping depriving you of the chance to let you sparkle?

Finances

The lack of patience and the need for instant gratification leads to consumer debt.  For those, with no patience, we also tend to have a sense of entitlement because we think we deserve things even if we can’t afford them.  The result is we rack up credit card debt instead of saving for things we really want.    Yup, I have been guilty of this which is another part of my addictive personality. We often play the comparison game too.  We want to be like everyone else but never realize we are probably comparing their end to our beginning or middle.  When you have a little patience in fulfilling material desires, you might be able rein in your spending.

Health

If there is one thing which takes patience and perseverance, it’s eating healthy and exercising. It took me 7 years to reach my goal weight and it takes LOTS of perseverance to maintain it.  I lost and gained the same weight many times because I wanted the quick fix.  It wasn’t until I joined Weight Watchers where I learned patience.  The results were slow and steady and before long the changes were noticeable!   Are you looking for shortcuts to good health? There aren’t any. Make a commitment to start making one change on at a time and you’ll build up good habits which lead to good health and better looks.

This week I challenge you to practice patience in an area of your life where you are struggling.  What are you afraid will happen if you are patient instead of racing to the goal line?  Practice patience. Good things do come to those who wait.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

How to Build Belief on an Unshakable Foundation

Thank you Encouragement for Today for today’s message….

What we believe shows in the way we act, the decisions we make, and the choices we pursue. Over a decade ago, I learned this important lesson from a winsome woman I met at a women’s retreat. Her name was Ruth.

Ruth stood out in the retreat crowd not only because of her lustrous gray hair but also because of the cluster of younger women around her. They were talking with her, doting on her, and soaking in every word she said, so I headed over to meet this woman who drew in like a magnet.After listening to this delightful woman talk for a while, I asked her, “What’s your secret? Over the years, how have you continued to grow in the Lord, stay positive and exude joy?” Her answer was simple yet profound,

“Be today who you want to be tomorrow.”

As she spoke, I remembered a conversation from a girls-night-out with some women from my church. Conversation flowed freely from one topic to the next as I got to know the women across from me. We talked about our kids, our homes and our work. Ironically, both women had done specialized nursing with geriatric patients.

I started to question them about their work and their patients. Finally I asked, “Why do you think that so many older people, particularly women, seem to struggle with negativity as they age?” Both looked at me in surprise and said that I was incorrect. They were unanimous in their theory of how aging affects personality.

“Aging only magnifies who you already are,” my friend said.

“Yes,” chimed in the other, “If you are kind when you are young, then you’ll be even kinder as you age. If you think positively when you’re young, then you will also have that habit as you age. But if you are a complainer when you are young, then you’ll get worse as you age. If you are unforgiving when you are young, then you’ll become very bitter as you age.”

They explained that occasionally diseases that affect the brain will change a person’s personality, thinking and actions. Generally, however, through stories and comments of family members about the early days of their elderly patients, they had found that their original hypothesis held true. Ruth’s answer to my question about the secret to aging well was completely consistent with my friends’ observations. “Be today who you want to be tomorrow.”

I’d like to propose a corrolary truth to Ruth’s today:

What you believe determines who you’ll be.

Aging magnifies what we believe. If we believe that Jesus commands us to use words to build up, then we’ll develop the habit of encouraging words.

If we believe that God is good despite our circumstances, then we’ll develop the pattern of praise in the midst of hardship.

If we believe that He is the provider and healer, then we’ll cultivate patient, expectant waiting (without complaint…ouch!) as we wait for His provision and healing.

If we believe that the fruits of the Spirit given to us are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then we’ll pursue portraying those traits.

Ruth’s beliefs shone brightly because of the kind of woman she had become. Who she had become reflected what she believed.

Do you desire to be a godly, older woman like Ruth? I do! Then, we’re called to pursue knowing Truth (belief is part of truly knowing!) and living the Truth. It really does change everything– including our aging.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!