Are You Ready for a Change?

Change is difficult even for the most self-disciplined of us.

“We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen”—2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV).

courage2

 Pickthebrain.com

January is almost over. If you vowed to make changes in 2017, have you made any progress? Change is difficult even for the most self-disciplined of us.

It’s easier to get stuck in a rut than it is to get out. I believe most of us have been there. We get comfortable in our routines—our comfort zones—and we’d rather remain where we feel safe. Getting out of the boat means we’re vulnerable.

Remember Peter. As Jesus walked on the water toward the boat full of disciples, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus replied.

Peter stepped out of the boat. Even though he could see Jesus walking toward him on the water, his fear of the strong winds led him to take his eyes off of Jesus. What happened? His faith deserted him and he began to sink.

In Matthew 14:31, we’re told, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Doubt can hold us back from making changes in our lives. We focus instead on the “What ifs.”

  • What if I fail?

  • What if I make the wrong choice?

  • What if others think I’m crazy?

Have You Been Surprised by God Lately?

“The whole earth is full of his glory”—Isaiah 6:3(KJV).

7110956_orig

http://birdsintheyard.com

Listening as our associate pastor read the familiar words, I marveled anew at God’s love for us. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God didn’t have to create anything. He didn’t have to create the birds of the air or the flowers we love to pick or the other multitude of creatures and plants for our enjoyment. Just as He created us for His pleasure, He wanted us to enjoy and take care of His creation. Oh how we have failed—all of us. I take comfort, however, in the fact that He never fails us.

As I glanced out my kitchen window this morning, I was surprised by God. A large red-headed woodpecker was enjoying the suet at the feeders hanging on the edge of my deck. This beautiful creature, along with the various other birds that visit each day, are stunning. The variety in their size, shape and color leaves me breathless. How easy it would have been for God to make them all alike. How boring would that be? But, He didn’t.

Clear distractions, focus on each moment.

God loved us so much that He went out of His way to create, to spend five days deliberately preparing a Creation He called “good.” In today’s world, it’s sometime difficult to find the good in the midst of all the chaos.

A recent quote by an unknown author gave me pause. The author said, “The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God.”

To do this, I’ve realized I have to let go of some things to make way for His work in my life. Here are some suggestions to help all of us unclutter our lives:

Do You Need a Spiritual Check-up?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life”–Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB).

stethoscope-66885_640

http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com

From the posts I’ve read on social media and remarks from friends, I’m certain most of us are glad 2016 is behind us.

Although 2016 was a challenge, I held out hope for a promising ending. However, I was confronted with disappointing news several days before the end of the year. It wasn’t just one piece of news—it came in a bundle of three—all on the same day.

I turned to trusted friends, asking for prayer. The next morning while writing in my prayer journal, God’s Holy Spirit revealed an answer to my “Why?” The reply came, “We each have free will.”

Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?

We can choose to follow God’s leading or we can select our own path. I trust the path others have chosen is the path God has prepared for them. I must walk forward, faithfully, on the path God has prepared for me.

While each day offers an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives, a new year is especially conducive to searching our hearts and our lives to see if they line up with God’s plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

Cling to Jesus and let go of the Past

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14(NIV).

woman_packing_boxe_2808277b

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Since 2001, I’ve packed my belongings and moved five times. That averages moving every three years. However, I did remain in one house for almost 11 years. If you’ve ever moved, you know the challenge it involves. While looking forward to a new adventure, there is still the logistics of dealing with possessions one has accumulated over the years.

When I prepared to move this last time in April 2016, I realized, once again, how much I had amassed. During the 11 years I’d lived in that residence, I lost my only surviving parent. My mother had passed in 2004, followed by my father in 2007. When my sister and I met to assess their belongings, we each chose things we wanted to keep. Then, we allowed family members to make their selections. Everything that remained was given away.

As the apostle Paul said, we must forget what is behind.

We must cling to Jesus.

As I cleaned out cabinets last April and started packing, I came across some of my mother’s crystal, as well as other decorative and delicate items stored on the top kitchen shelves since September 2007.  Almost nine years later, the keepsakes had remained untouched, except for one beautiful cut-glass vase I’d used many times. Why was I hanging onto things that were not useful to me? Why had I toted them home in the first place? Gathering dust, they had remained hidden from sight.

How Are You Spending Your Days?

How we spend our days is important in God’s kingdom.

“Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should” – Psalm 90:12 (TLB).

friends-and-family-quotes

quoteaddicts.com

With each passing year, I become more aware of the brevity of life. Recently, I celebrated my 63rd birthday. When a friend phoned to wish me a happy birthday, we discussed how long we’d known each other. We were surprised when we realized it had been more than a decade. Our friendship has grown during that time, making me realize the necessity of having and nurturing those relationships that are important to making life worthwhile.

A recent post on Facebook made me think about the importance of relationships vs. things. Things don’t bring happiness. Both are fleeting. However, we were made for a relationship with each other. The post follows: “I believe as we grow older our Christmas list gets smaller and the things we really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”

Only then will our days really count.

What is more important than to be surrounded by family and friends who love us in spite of our faults and failures? Nothing in my book! No gift can replace the shared laughter, the tears, the disagreements, the heartache, the pain or the victories. Nothing! Money cannot buy the experiences we share.

Money also can’t purchase the kind of friend who won’t agree with you to make you happy. Instead, the best of friends will say what needs to be said, whether you want to hear it or not. I have several friends like that. Whether I complain or am feeling sorry for myself, none of these three let me stew in my pity very long. They love me enough to encourage me with kind but honest words.

How we spend our days is important in God’s kingdom. We can spend our days in pursuit of money to purchase material things for our own gratification, or we can spend our days pursuing what really matters.

Living a Life of Giving Thanks

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect”—Ephesians 5:4 (MSG).

i-am-thankful-for

As I write this, election day is still four days away. I, for one, will be glad when it’s over. I pray that those who have spewed hatred across the airwaves, on social media and through other means of communication will be able to step back and give thanks, whether their candidate won or lost.

True followers of Christ know that we’ve won, no matter who is in the Oval Office. While our country isn’t perfect, I’d rather live here than anywhere else. I’ve visited foreign countries. I’ve seen the oppressed and the poor that make our poorest appear rich in comparison.

Give thanks to the Lord!

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s reminder is as relevant today as it was when he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians.

What does it mean to live a life of giving thanks? It’s a life permeated by a grateful heart that overflows to others. It’s a life marked by contentment. Although we seem to have more, we enjoy life less. We work harder to accumulate more, but on the whole we’re not happier. We entertain the notion that we’re entitled to more, which leads to a life of discontent.

Are you wrestling with the past?

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”—Philippians 3:13 (TLB).

10-ways-to-let-go-of-past-relationships

lifehack.com

Brown leaves crackled underneath my neighbor’s feet as he shuffled across the lawn to deliver my morning paper. Confined to my house after surgery, I was blessed to have Stan and his wife taking turns retrieving my daily paper as well as my mail.

My lawn, carpeted with oak leaves, still revealed a green coat underneath. Even though November was just around the corner, summer hadn’t completely let go. One hot pink flower still bloomed on the Hydrangea bush near my front door while others exhibited their skeletal remains.

While I’m enjoying the remaining hints of summer, they remind me of our tendency to cling to the past—not just the wonderful memories of days gone by, but also the hurts that can leave us brittle and a skeleton of the whole person Jesus longs to heal. For He is the only one who can bring complete healing from the pain of our past.

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help.

 

We’ve all had our fair share of emotional and mental hurt. We’ve suffered at the hands of friends as well as family members. The pain of betrayal can leave us with invisible scars, but scars nevertheless.

However, we have a choice. If we choose to hold on to the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness, these will surely hinder our walk with Christ.

Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us to keep no record of wrongs. “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!”

In “Every Day with Jesus,” author Selwyn Hughes writes, “This passage provides a vivid description of a life damaged by past hurts—a life that has become a wasteland, a desert. Dwelling upon a record of wrongs weighs us down and heavily burdens us. But the Lord’s instructions to forget these former things and not dwell on them, comes with a beautiful promise. Letting them go releases streams of living water into our life and enables God to do a new work in us.”

The greatest new work that Christ does in our lives is to bring us to a place where we can forgive those who have hurt us. It is such an important aspect of our daily Christian walk that Jesus even included it as part of the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke 11:4, we read the following: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help. And, when we refocus our energies on the present, we can look forward to what Jesus has in store for our future. Letting go is the answer to healing and a peace-filled life.

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.