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What’s in a Name?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Names are important. They are how we are identified. Our name makes us distinct in a crowd. The next time you are served by a person at the cash register, bank, or in a restaurant, call them by name and watch their face light up.

If you are a parent you probably didn’t name your child randomly. The name you chose had a reason. Some of us have names with special meanings. Maybe the name itself means something like faithful, or loyal or trustworthy. Perhaps it is the name of a beloved ancestor or relative. Or even an event.

Some names are special, like Daddy, Nana, Grandpa, Mom. They describe our relationship with that person.

Many people may share your name, but that doesn’t make it less yours. When your family or friends speak your name, they are thinking of only you–who you are and what you mean to them.

When we call upon the name of the Lord, and we trust in His name, what does that mean? It means we realize He is who He says He is. More than that, we believe it with all our hearts. We rely on it.

In the New Testament, His name is Jesus (God saves), Messiah, Redeemer, The Truth, The Way, the Bread of Life, the Son of Man, the Perfect Lamb who takes away sin. One day His name will be on all lips as they bow and proclaim Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

God has many names in the Old Testament, too—most of them describing His attributes. Here is a list:

Which one means the most to you right now? Do you need to know He will provide, bring peace, heal, or shepherd you? Do you need to be reminded that He is Almighty, or that He is there and He cares?

Tuck this list away in your Bible. The next time you pray, call upon the name of the Lord that relates to your situation so you can be reminded who He is and will always be.

And never forget He knows you by your name as well. Why? You matter to Him (Isaiah 43:1). You are His precious creation.

May that bring you strength and comfort.

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Daily Challenge

Almost everyday, I play a solitaire game of Tripeaks on my phone. It helps me unwind. I choose the Daily Challenge because it is guaranteed to be winable. However, that doesn’t mean that I always win. But when I do, I get a crown and my phone plays a “tah-dah” tune.

Whether I win or lose that day is a matter of choice. A two can play on an ace or a three. A king can play on a queen or an ace. The order I play the cards determines the outcome of the game.

lsn’t this true of our daily lives? Each day we are faced with a myriad of choices, some large but most are small. The option we choose can determine the outcome of our day. And how we choose to react can color our mood. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Why is it that my clothes snag on the doorknob only when I am having a bad day?”

Knowing the game can be won in my solitaire app, I have the option to start over. This time, I can change my choices. Play on the queen instead of the ace. If that doesn’t work, I go back and keep trying until I figure out how to win.

However, in life, you can’t always reset the game and try again, can you? No do-overs. No back space key. No rewinds…

Unless you are a Christian.

I am not saying that events can suddenly “unhappen” when we accept Jesus as Lord. How we react to them makes the difference, though. When life gets tough do we blame God or do we seek the option to trust He can make something good come out of it? Do we choose to rely on Him to help make the daily challenges winable or back away and try to handle it the best we can? Which card do we play–The King or another one?

Proverbs 3:5-6 states:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We cannot always stop to pray in a situation. Some need a split-second decision. But if we already have our mind focused on doing God’s will during the day, and if we tune our souls into the Holy Spirit for guidance, chances are we will choose the correct option.

And if we don’t, then we can fall to our knees, confess it, and seek forgiveness—from Him first and then from others—because we believe Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Either way, it can make life a winable journey and the prize at the end is a crown. Tah-dah!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

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I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The register rang up $19.98. I handed the cashier a $20 bill. She asked, “Do you want change?”

I smiled. “Not really, but nothing stays the same does it?”

We both laughed.

Oh, how we hate change…

Isn’t it strange that we so greatly resist, even dislike, change when life on earth is always changing?

Babies grow into toddlers, then to kids, then to teens, and hopefully into competent adults. Even then, our bodies continue to change. Our metabolism slows, our skin wrinkles, our bellies widen. Our joints ache, and our stamina lessens.

The seasons change, right? Temperatures dip, leaves turn colors, and rains pound, then maybe snow falls. Temps rise and the squiggly miraging heat on the pavement make us wilt and dream of cool streams and sandy beaches.

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and rivers slowly carve out a new course. Flowers bloom, then wilt. Seeds push through the gorund and grow into plants. Catepillars turn into butterflies.

Political opinions change. Social standards change. Fashions change. So do relationships, friendships, and the desire to keep vows.

And still we resist…

If change bothers you, look to the One who never changes. Only things that are eternal remain the same:

God’s love

God’s grace

God’s mercy

Christ’s death that eradicates confessed sins.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance.

CAUTION: when you seek the things eternal and set your mind on the things that are above instead of earthly things, as Paul states in Colossians 3:2 , you are going to change. Sorry, but it’s true. And that’s okay.

You will be less stressed. Less anxious. Less swayed by emotional ups and downs. Calmer, more at peace, and joyful. Things will have a positive reflection instead of a negative influence. Your posture will be more upright and your step lighter. Your burden will seem less heavy. People may even react to you differently.

Do you want change?

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ARE YOU POSITIVE??

I hear it in sermons, read about it in devotionals, and have written about it myself: positivity.

There is so much negativity in today’s world. Listen to any news cast for thirty seconds–longer if you can hack it–or eavesdrop on a conversation amongst people. It is all about what is wrong, what they don’t like, or who they can’t trust. It is an epidemic in our society these days.

Negativity blocks the Holy Spirit, clogs the creative flow, and stagnates us from moving forward to view beyond the situation to the possibilities.

According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of positive thinking are:

  • Increased life span.
  • Lower rates of depression.
  • Lower levels of distress.
  • Greater resistance to the common cold.
  • Better psychological and physical well-being.
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.

So, I was totally surprised to find the word “positive” is not in the Bible. I did a search in ten translations through BibleGateway. The closest thing that pops up is one of my personal go-to verses:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

In fact, my first novel Focused was written with this verse in mind.

That made me wonder…Is there ever a time negativity can be a good thing? I think so.

Surprised?

The Bible is very clear that suffering can lead to a deeper faith. I Peter talks greatly of this. Christ suffered. So will we.

But there can be a positive result–through the negative act that brings suffering can sprout deep joy, a meaningful purpose, and God’s mercy. Often times, people seek God when they are in despair. Then they let go and let Him intervene. Their faith is strengthened.

Think of a battery. It takes both the negative and positive ends to charge. If something negative spurs you into prayer, then that can be good. It can charge your spirit to want to do something about it. See God’s glory through it. However, the move through the negative to the positive has to occur in order for the benefit to happen. Putting all your energy at the negative end won’t get you very far. In fact, it could be diasterous.

Not to end on a negative note, I am positive that is true.

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 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6 NKJV

Many of us grew up saying a set prayer. For example, the Lord’s Prayer, which is also found in Matthew 6. When asked how to pray, Jesus answered his disciples:

 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
[d]For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (vs. 8-12 NKJV- some texts eliminate 13).

And, so we have…for centuries. We teach it to our children. We say it together in church. Some of us are taught to say it daily.  It has become rote, something that rolls off our tongue the same as the alphabet song or the times table. 1×1 is 2, 2×2 is 4,etc.

A guest preacher a few weeks ago asked if we we truly believed what we prayed in the Lord’s Prayer. He spoke of the daily bread given to the Hebrews in the wilderness- the manna in Exodus 16. But his words pierced my soul.

As we turned to Matthew 6,  verse seven jumped off the page at me… And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words (emphasis mine). Is that what the Lord’s Prayer had become in my life? 

equilibrist-1831016_640Leaving my stressful job to become a freelance writer and editor, I knew in my heart that God would provide because I felt certain this was in His will for me. It was a matter of getting my brain on board. So I prayed. “God, I truly claim that you will give me my daily bread.” And that meant somehow, some way He would provide the exact amount I needed each month to get by, i.e. pay rent, have food, pay my utilties, and tithe. The basics. 

Last month, He did so in various ways – right up to the penny. This month, the amount came as a gift in the mail from someone who has been touched by my writing. She explained she sent it in obedience to what God lay on her heart. Again, the exact amount. She needed to give it as much as I needed to receive it.  Double blessing. God works that way.

What in the Lord’s Prayer do you need to claim as affirmation.  Is it daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance, or that God is in control forever? That His will will be done, that it will be on earth?

Whatever it is, pray that in the Lord’s Prayer. Really pray it, down to your toenails. Then claim it and see how God responds. Pray it in private, then see what He does in the open as a testimony to not only you but others.

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One Way?

Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but often the same street has two different names. Several do in my section of town. You can be driving down the same street and suddenly you realize you aren’t on the same one as before. But, aren’t you? One block can make a difference.

I sat at the traffic light, waiting it to turn green, and pondered a moment. There are other streets that stop, then start up again. You have to zig or zag a bit to find them again. We have a few of these in my neighborhhod as well.

Isn’t that the way it often is on this road we call life? It is so easy to think we are heading in the right direction, on God’s path. Then something subtle changes. We look up and see signs telling us we are headed a new way, even if we did not realize anything had changed. How did we get here and how do we get on the right path again? Or, are we still on it and yet God has changed it in some way?

I have been concentrating on the car in front of me for several miles in traffic, sort of half-dazed, and missed my turn off, haven’t you? Or been deeply distracted by a song on the radio or my passenger’s conversation. Yes, easy then to see I’ve messed up and figure out how to turn around.

But life can be more subtle than that.

How can we know we are on the correct path, even if it seems to have changed names?
By letting someone else drive…

Jesus, take the wheel.

Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Pexels.com

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I sat on my sofa and stared at my room fan. It softly whirred as it oscillated back and forth. The steady white noise lulled me into a peaceful state. It didn’t complain. It kept doing it’s thing. Backadn forth, back and forth, spreading welcomed coolness.

My apartment faces west and in Texas summers the bank of off-cenered bay windows in my living room can make things a tad toasty. Thus the fan. I could train it to blow directly on me. But by letting it shift the airflow around the room in a steady pattern it ends up cooling four times as much space. Just takes a bit longer.

What type of fan am I? How about you? Do we focus on one thing and blast at it? Do a agreat job but perhaps could do better if we fanned out our efforts?

Or are we an oscillating fan which spreads our talents evenly over several areas, providing relief and service to many others?

Do we stay super focused on one point in our lives, or do we easily shift from one to another?

As I look at the life of Jesus on earth, His mission was focused on one thing, but the acting out of His mission spanned many lives from outcasts to Pharisees, from tax collectors to zealots, from women to men and small children. Each one He touched. Each one he blew the breath of love upon evenly. Each one He shed His blood for. No exceptions.

What about our evangelsitic efforts? Do we concentrate on the people we are more comfortable speaking with? Aim our efforts at someone who dresses and smells like us? Or do we span out, equally treating all with the same grace, love, and respect? Tough question.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul told his followers he tried to be everything to everyone so he would not be a stumbling block to anyone. (See 1Corinthians 9:19-23. He wasn’t being fake. Just the opposite. He was being real. He saw what the other peson needed and offered it in a way they could relate to. He found common ground. How?

One One Way – The Way- through the love of God in Christ Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What a difference we could make if we fanned out and, by living our lives day in and day out, emilating the fruit of the Spirit, we blew peace and love on all we see? We were more kind, gentle, patient, fore-bearing, loving…

A worthy goal. Sure, we will mess up if we try. Humans do. But the more we oscillate instead of standing still, the wider our reach will become. The more we use God’s eyes to see others, the better we can spread His goodness.

It’s a hot, hellacious world out there. Let’s be a fan, quietly influencing others wherever God turns us and cooling their anxiousness with His refreshing grace so freqently bestowed upon us.

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Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1

Years ago, I accepted a challenge to become a devotional editor for an international missionary society. Trouble was, I had to raise my own salary, as most missionaries do. But the fact I worked remotely at home meant my mission field was only as wide as my keyboard, though in truth it spanned worldwide. People couldn’t grasp the concept that I was not headed to Africa or Cambodia even though amore read our devotionals daily tahn most missonary with boots on the ground would come in contact with in a lifetime.

I tried every way I knew to glean financial support. I never became fully funded and couldn’t make even a decent poverty-level living. It tied my guts in knots. I’d cry in my sleep. I whimpered on my knees. I so wanted to serve in this way. My heart ached to keep doing this.

Finally, after five years of stressful existence and waning joy, I caved. I accepted a job offer from a Christian boss who appreciates my efforts and now I am able to support myself comfortably enough to help support other missionaries and my church. My faith-based novels are taking off as well, and I am under contract for 6 more of them.

But I felt as if I had let God down. I had failed…

But did I?

“No,” God whispered into my soul. While readership didn’t skyrocket, it increased and remained steady. I mentored over 35 writers, many who went on to write books. Even more have graciously volunteered their works each month for years, God bless them. And though I lived in low income housing, I never starved.

He used me where He needed me at the time. He is still using me, just differently.

I felt my Lord smiling and saying as He did to Isaiah, “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called her. I will bring her, and she will succeed in her mission” (Isaiah 48:17- gender changed.) I learned a great lesson. Never compare myself to others using human standards of measurement. Success to God is simply obedience and persistance.

Wherever you are in life, God can use you. Stay obedient, even if that is picking up trash in your elderly neighbor’s yard or singing in the choir and never being asked to solo. Be it speaking to thousands at a religious rally or changing the diapers on two babies in the church nursery every week.

We all have a mission field but we need to let God define it and then rejoice that we are doing His will His way.

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The saying, Carpe Diem, or seize the day, became popular again a few decades ago in the movie Goodwill Hunting. Originally found in Horace’s writing in the century before Christ, it suggests that we should make the most of the present and not worry so much about the future or fret over the past.

Jesus seemed to echo this sentiment in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34 when He told His listeners not to worry about tomorrow or be anxious about today because, like the lillies and the birds, God will care for us.

But today, carpe diem epitomizes the “me society” attitude that what I do when I feel like doing it is all right and you have no right to judge me or stop me. Live for the moment. Do it what it takes to satisfy my own needs.

I doubt this is what Our Lord meant. Underlying His advice was the unerstanding that God is sovereign and in control, not us. He alone can see into the future so He shapes destiny. We obey.

So I propose we all get T-shirts or bumper stickers wth a new saying – Karpos Diem. The Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is karpos — “that which originates or comes from something.” And the karpe of the Spirit originates from obedience to God’s will: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we strive to live each day following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and produce the fruit that stems from these qualities, wouldn’t we then not worry so much? Our lives would be less stressful than chasing after fleeting dreams of fulfillment, worth, and happiness. When we know it all comes from God, who has our best interests at heart, then life makes sense. It has purpose, and a future.

I think it purposeful that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride led to the fall after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to live life their way. Carpe diem.

But through Christ’s sacrifce and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, we can now digest the attributes that restores us into the right relationship with our Heavenly Father, and then produce its fruit in our lives!

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily practice on digesting the fruit of the Spirit into our attitudes will help us to not only grow into the potential God created us to have, but spur others to seek this peace that a passes all understanding as well.

So, Karpos Diem my friends. Be frutiful and multiply!

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As I have unpacked and hung pictures on the wall of my new apartment, I smile. Many are sayings that booster my faith, even when I just glance at them. I find God’s love adnpeace in them.

So, I thought I’d share some with you. Perhaps they’ll make you smile as well. We all need something to smile about.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

The Bible is the only book whose author is always present when one reads it.

We cannot change the wind but we can direct our sails.

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.

From ghouiles and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us. (From an ancient Scottish Litany.)

And the Scriptural ones – perhaps you have these as well:

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. James 1:17

The Lord will watch over your going out and your coming in forever more. Psalm 121:8

The Lord is our refuge and our strength, our very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray….I will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And above all else may we never forget that….

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