My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's what gets me through the day...

Today's memory verse:
"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." -- Romans 5:5

What gets you through each day? I mean, really, what makes you get up each morning and go to work or school or up to work from home? There has to be some kind of motivation, or it would just be too tempting to roll back over and go back to sleep. 

For many of us, it's the job thing. Some of us have the school thing. So, I know there are things that you HAVE to do, but do you JUST make it through the week and live for the weekends? Do you HOPE in better things to come? What do you live for?

Today, my Bible study was packed FULL of verses about God's gifts and our hope. Even if you have God in your life and Jesus in your heart, have you wondered if Jesus would be enough for you? What if, like Job, everything you had was taken away...would your faith and hope be enough to live for? It seems almost sacrilegious to ask that question, but I bet we have all wondered the same thing.

When we see natural disasters on tv, we think to ourselves, I'm sorry for them, I really am, but I'm glad it's not me. I don't think I could live through that.

"The Lord is all I need. He takes care of me." Psalm 16:5

I believe that in my heart. I do. But my mind still wonders if I would be able to make it if I lost everything. Heck, I felt cheated and alone when I had to spend last Saturday night alone! But, my life experience has taught me that God HAS been with me during the rough times. 

How do I now know that if a Job-like event happened in my life, I would still hold fast to my faith and hope in God? Because I BELIEVE in what it says in Titus 1:2...I have hope in eternal life, life without end with God. God promised this and God doesn't lie or break promises.

My life on earth may not turn out the way I want it to...I may lose everything I have been given, but when my time on this earth is over, I believe that I will be in heaven with God forever!

There are still so many questions I have...I was raised a Christian, so it is easy for be to believe these Christian promises. But, I have met many others of different faiths, and while I respect their right to believe what they want, I have problems answering their question as to why I believe that my way (through Christ) is the only way to that promise of heaven. They have been raised in a whole different culture and belief does God view them?

Yes, that (and many others!) is a question that I have, but it really doesn't take away from my own personal hope...the thing that gets me out of bed...the thing that makes it possible for me to endure things I don't like...the thing that doesn't disappoint hope in God's promises!

Colossians 1:27 (Message) spells it out so well- "God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing- the mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing God's glory. It is just that simple. That is the substance of our message."

If you want to feel good about God's promises, read the following verses for yourself...pull out your will make your day brighter!
* 2 Corinthians 12:9
* Matthew 7:11
* Luke 12:32
* James 1:17
* Jeremiah 17:17
* Ephesians 1:18-19 (Who couldn't use endless energy and boundless strength!!!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Look for the hope of His calling...

Today's memory verse:
"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling." -- Ephesians 1:18 must be that I am supposed to think about my calling this week. Our pastor did a wonderful sermon on Sunday where he talked about us all being called. My being called will look different from your calling, but we all are called by God to some purpose. Then today, my Bible study reading was about how we can have hope in God's calling. I don't believe these are coincidence...I believe God wants me to really think about this.

In my lifetime, I have changed directions many times. When I went to college, I changed my major three times. My dad told me that he thought I believed my major was professional some ways, he was right. It took me 10 years to get my Bachelor's degree, because I changed my mind, but also because I was working my way through school, taking classes as I could pay for them. Now, I am in a totally different field, again having changed my mind. I have always had the feeling that I just hadn't found my "calling" yet. 

However, I am beginning to think that my pastor was right...I have been confusing profession with calling. Yes, I believe God wants us to have a profession, or a job, that we enjoy doing, since we spend so much time doing it. We all don't have that luxury. Some people HAVE to work to survive, and take ANY job they can find, even if they hate it. I wouldn't say that would be a person's calling. A calling is so much more...

According to Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah was called by God in his Mother's womb. According to Galatians 1:15, Paul was also called by God before he was born.

Wait a minute, Paul, who used to be Saul the Christian hater, was called by God before he was born??? Then what about those years he spent torturing and killing Christians? He couldn't have been doing God's work then! 

Some of us don't learn of God's call to our lives until later in our lives. Some of us aren't ready to hear the whispering voice inside our head telling us what we were meant to do. 

Proverbs 8:17 Says "I love those who love me and those who seek me diligently will find me." 

God still loves all his children, even if they don't love him back. God made us all...he WIRED US to be loved, but it is up to us to seek him and desire his love. We have to WANT his love, and look for him. God says that when we seek him, we will feel his love back. 

While Bible greats like Isaiah and Paul claim to have called from their Mother's wombs...I think we have been too! God is calling all of us! He calls us to seek him and be his children!

Once we do know him, we discover that God has given each of us special talents that we can use FOR him. Figuring out what those talents are and using them for God's work is the key to living up to God's calling.

So, why have I been led to really think of my calling lately? Does all this mean I should change directions again? I have to be honest and say I don't really know. I need to seek answers from God will all my heart and live in the hope that he will answer me. I do know that I have learned some of the things I am good at...dealing with and encouraging people of all ages, teaching children,  music, and lately, writing. I can do all of those things in my job and in my church. I should serve where I am! Perhaps I am supposed to be right where I am at this given moment! If God wants me to move, I believe he will guide me that way!

Are you searching for YOUR calling? Let God be your guide. Seek him first, then follow His lead! It's never too late to receive the hope of His calling!

Monday, August 29, 2011

No one wants to be hopeless...

Today's memory verse:
"Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God." -- Romans 8:8

Whoa! Since we ALL sin...everyone of us messes up a least a little every day...NONE of us can please God! So...if I can't please God no matter how hard I try, why even try?

Leviticus 19:2 - God says "Be holy because I am holy." 

God set the standard...perfection. He can't stand less than perfection.

Paul says in Romans 3:10-12, there is no one who does good, not one. NO ONE CAN LIVE UP TO GOD'S STANDARD OF PERFECTION! Again, I say, why even try??? It seems pretty hopeless, doesn't it? I might as well live the way I want and not worry about pleasing God, because I can NEVER please God!

I look at God's laws and commands and I WANT to follow them, but I fail a little every day.

Romans 3:19-20 - "We know that the law's commands are for those who have the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God's judgement, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin."

The law makes us aware of how we mess up. 

Well, since he created us, God knows us very well. He KNOWS we can't live up to his standard, so he came up with a plan to set us free from the hopelessness. Jesus. Jesus came to earth in the form of a baby to be more like you. After his death and resurrection, He returned to Heaven to help you be more like Him! By believing in Jesus, you are given back the hope that your sin took away. 

Do you know people who think you have to follow certain practices and rules to get to heaven? I do. That was one reason my dad didn't like churches...they're kind of like private, exclusive clubs. You're "in" if you do what we do, and you are "OUT" if you don't. Yes, God gives us his laws and standards that we are to live by, and I believe that if we follow God's leadings and guidance, we will live happier and less complicated lives. But, according to the verses I listed above, and many others like them, there is only one qualification God is looking for on our resumes of life...that we belong to Christ. That we have accepted that Christ is the most important part of God's plan. He opens that promise up to EVERY PERSON ON THIS EARTH! No one is excluded because they don't follow the law...even those who follow the law won't make it to heaven by just following the law!

How many people have been turned off or away from churches because of the "follow the law or you're going to hell" mentality? Do you think that is God's plan?

I am grateful that I believe in God's grace! That grace gives me hope and the ability to keep trying even when I fail! It also gives me the ability to show grace to others as well. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

He loves you forever...

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

When I was taking my teaching classes in college, one of my favorite classes (this will NOT surprise you!) was Children's Literature. I love Children's books, both picture books and chapter books. There are stories that we relate to and touch our hearts and helps us grow. During that class, one of my all time favorite books was introduced to me. It may seem sappy and overly sentimental, but it is by Robert Munsch and is entitled "Love You Forever."

The book begins with a new mother rocking her newborn son and singing "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." Through the story, the little boy grows up, and through those growing up stages, no matter the circumstances, the mommy replays this scene, rocking her son and singing those words...even to the point of driving across town and climbing up into her grown son's apartment. (At the time, I thought that part was a little creepy...but now that I have a nearly grown child, I can relate!) The story ends with the roles being reversed...the man rocks his mother and sings, "I love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my mommy you'll be." 

Awww...I know, right??? I'm tearing up just remembering those words! And, just last year, a friend of mine passed away and her son read that sweet book at her funeral. 

My point for sharing this with you was not to make you cry, but to remind you that God loves us THAT much and more!

Read Psalm 73:23-24

The Psalmist clings to the following truths in this life:
* I am always in God's presence.
* God holds me and takes my hand.
* God wisely and tenderly leads me.
* God blesses me.

Do those words comfort you as they comfort me? I long to be held and rocked and comforted, knowing that my God will love me forever, don't you? I don't have to long for it...I can have that comfort if I just reach out to him. Just reading those words in Psalms above was a good reminder...He is there for us! He knows what we need and when we need it. If you are open to him, he will be a presence in your life and you will feel his loving arms around you...He loves you forever, he likes you for always, long into eternity your Father he'll be!

Friday, August 26, 2011

What are YOU hungry for?

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

No, really...what do you HUNGER for? I'm not talking about your midnight hunger for chicken wings or chocolate ice cream. What do you long for...what are you starved for that you really want but just can seem to grasp on to? 

Mankind is driven by hunger. Our physical hunger is good to a point because it helps us keep our bodies fueled and fed. That physical hunger can be hurtful when it's misinterpreted. Sometimes...well, most of the time, it's our emotional hunger, what our heart and mind is starved for, that we mistake for physical hunger...which is why we are a nation or a culture of emotional eaters. Hence, a nation with an obesity problem.

Being aware of, and knowing how to successfully handle the emotional hunger, and not misinterpret it, is the key to our goal of a healthy, balanced life.

Jesus said: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6 NIV)

That is actually just one of the MANY times that hunger and thirst is mentioned in the Bible. Through his word, God is trying to get us to see that he will satisfy our hunger and thirst...we just have to rely on HIM to do it and not try to fill those needs ourselves.

If I am being honest, I think I am starved for approval...I want people to like me...I want to know that the people around me approve of who I am and what I do. (That comes as no surprise to those who know me!) While this can be an admirable can also lead to destructive behavior and poor choices. And...when I worry about displeasing people...I feel even hungrier...and misinterpret that hunger for physical hunger. THEN is when I run to the nearest chocolate cake or take a drive to Steak and Shake for a peach milkshake!

The good thing the past several years, I have learned to become more aware of this issue in my life. I can see when I start eating to fill that worried place in me. That doesn't mean that I can instantly stop myself from ordering that milkshake EVERY time I make a mistake at work or have a fight with my daughter...but I DO stop myself SOMETIMES! I am aware enough to notice it, label it for what it is, and have a conversation with myself to try to help myself make the wise choice. Doesn't always happen...which is why I have NOT met my weight goal as of yet...but it DOES happen more than it used to! Why? Because I have stayed more connected to God in the last 2 years!

I am finding that when I stop worrying about making everyone happy...and begin thinking about making God happy, I am more able to make better choices. And...I don't beat myself up as much when I make a poor decision...well...I'm still working on that!

I have been very honest with you about my hunger. Be honest with to God about what you hunger for. Maybe you don't reach for a peach milkshake, but I bet, if you really think about it, you will see what you do do reach for that is really a hunger for a relationship with your creator! Ask him to help you learn to hunger for him instead of whatever you THINK you are hungry for!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

YOU are a child of God!

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

Do you ever try to put into words just WHO you are? It's hard because in one day, I can wear so many hats...I am mother, wife, librarian, friend, sister, times I am a nurse, taxi driver, accountant, cook, storyteller, leader, follower, consumer..the list goes on and on. 

I have a friend who seems to KNOW when I am having a bad day, and she sends me a simple text that says "You are a daughter of the most high king." That reminder soothes me, comforts me and reminds me that it really doesn't matter what hat I am wearing at the time. It really doesn't matter how bad I am failing at whatever I am trying to do at that moment...I am a child of God. He loves me unconditionally!

Read Romans 8:14-18 for yourself.

People who are led by God's Spirit or people who open themselves up to be led by God's Spirit are called children of God. I say it that way because, really, we are ALL children of God. He created every living thing. But he leaves it up to us whether we accept being his children or not. 

When we are NOT open to that thought, we live in fear and we act like slaves to fear and to the world. The world and our culture wants to tell us how wrong we are, how ugly we are, how stupid we are, how we HAVE to behave like the rest of the world to be accepted. That is living in bondage...always afraid of what others will think of us. It is REALLY easy to get wrapped up in that way of thinking. 

But, if you open your mind and your heart to the idea that you are children of God, then you realize that means you are also heirs to God as well. Romans 8:17 says that heirs to God inherit two things:
1) Christ's sufferings
2) Christ's glory

Ok, that is a little deep. How am I, little human person that I am going to inherit Christ's sufferings and glory? Sounds pretty complicated doesn't it? It really isn't. It just reminds us that even if you are children of are still going to ain't easy, my friend! BUT, inheriting Christ's glory means that it all will be worth it in the end.

Romans 8:18 says that our sufferings are nothing compared to God's glory that will be revealed in you.

We need to believe that we belong to God...we are his children and he loves us. We need to believe that he loves EVERYTHING about us...our imperfect bodies, our bad attitudes, our mistakes as well as our successes and good qualities. When we remember that fact, and we KNOW there are going to be hard times and struggles in our lives, then it makes it SO MUCH EASIER to deal with those hard times and struggles. We may still cry and complain during them, but down deep, we know that our loving father is with us and we WILL inherit his glory one day and all those struggles will PALE in comparison.

A friend of mine said that my message yesterday was pretty religious. I hope never to offend anyone with my thoughts...I just try to share my feelings and my faith with others because they are what gets me through every single day. I don't think I could make it through even one day if I didn't believe I was the daughter of the most high king, and one day I will see him, and know that it was all worth it! If that makes me simple or silly to you, so be it! God loves you too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We need healing, even when we aren't sick

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

I think I am a pretty healthy person. The occasional cold or other brief malady may strike me, and I just had a week of a painful back, but on the whole, I don't have any major health issues to be worried about. So when I saw the title of today's lesson was "Healed," I instantly thought it would be about someone else, not me. But, as usual, God had a very different message for me.

My First place 4 Health group has used the phrase "Progress, not perfection" since we began over two years ago. It is a good phrase to encourage us when we feel down on ourselves for slipping. However, we backed off from using it so often because we felt like we were using it as crutch or an excuse. We thought we weren't making much progress toward our goals because we were giving ourselves excuses..."Well, I can't possibly be perfect, so I might as well have that milkshake." The only problem with that statement is the timing...if you are saying it every day, then it becomes an excuse to make poor choices. A milkshake every day is not progress.

I am as guilty of that as anyone. Perhaps I DO need healing. I think I turn to food for comfort...emotional eating. It also becomes a habit. With the schedule I keep, my meal times are different. Without good planning, there are many times I don't eat supper until after work, which could be 7 or 8:00. So, every time I walk into my house, I have the desire to has become a habit, and a bad one at that.

Ok, so it seems that I am AWARE of my problem. How come I can't seem do fix it? 

"I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalm 30:1, 2 NIV)

If I follow the steps of the Psalmist, first he exalted God and then he called to God for help. THEN, God lifted him out of the depths, didn't let his enemies gloat over him, and healed him.

Even though I read my Bible study every day and write these messages...I don't think I have made total peace with God. I am still running to that milkshake (or any sweet thing will do!) when I need comfort. Perhaps, when I think I am hungry for a milkshake, maybe that is my signal that I need to have a little talk with God. It means changing my old habits and creating new ones that contain God instead of just myself.

"Progress, not perfection" can be a very useful and motivating phrase. I know I am NEVER going to eat the good stuff all the time. I know that I can't cut sweets out of my life's not realistic. And...I know that I am going to have slips...three steps forward and two back is not's progress. As long as it doesn't become an every day's progress.

God has many names, regarding who he is and what he is doing. He is known as Jehovah Rapha - The God who heals. I know many of us need healing from our unhealthy habits. If we truly want recovery and progress toward our healthy goals, we need to exalt and praise Jehovah Rapha for what he has already done in our lives, then we must call out to him for help.

Jehovah Rapha, you are the God who heals. We are counting on that! Let us be willing participants with you in the process and may we move forward today with new strength. Amen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Doesn't anyone want to be holy these days?

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

What does it mean to be holy? When we hear that word today, we think of someone who is "holier than thou," and acts like they are better than everyone else. But I think God wants us ALL to be holy...his kind of holy. 

God has a different definition of the word. In God's eyes, holy means set apart for HIS purposes. God can make anything or anyone holy.

Read 1 Peter 1:14-16 
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Be holy in all you holy because God is holy. Most of us interpret those statements as a command...we must BE holy. But, if instead of thinking of it like something that we HAVE TO DO...think of it as PROMISE. God will make you holy in all you do because he is God. 

That promise comforts me and reassures me. If I had to rely on my own efforts to be holy, I would fail miserably and give up trying. But, if I believe that God sets me apart for his own purposes...all I have to do is be open and let him work THROUGH me!

Micah 6:8 states there are 3 holy acts that the Lord requires of us:
* Act justly
* Love mercy
* Walk humbly with your God

Now wait a minute...I thought that God MAKES us holy, and now you're saying I have to live up to some standards and rules? I will fail! I'll never make it to holy!

In my heart, I believe if you do the 3rd one, the other two will be much easier. If you spend time with God every day...studying his word...talking with him...asking him for guidance...realizing that you CAN'T live this life without that guidance...THEN he will help you to make wiser decisions and live justly and love mercy. Staying closer to God will help you keep him in the front of your mind and allow you to be holy. 

It's not popular, or easy, to be holy in the world we live in. People who try to live right and follow God every day are looked upon as "goody two shoes" or as naive and stupid. God wants ALL his people...every person on the be holy. But, since he gave us the right to CHOOSE to be holy, he knows that not everyone WANTS to be set apart for his use. 

What do you want today? Believe in his promise. If you WANT to be holy and ask God for his help...he will declare you holy.  Then look out! God will start using in you in amazing ways that you never thought possible!

Monday, August 22, 2011

New beginnings...renewed hope!

This week's memory verse:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Psalm 27:13

Have you ever watched a child try something over and over until they do riding a bike? Take those training wheels off and his balance is unsteady and he falls. It hurts, but he sees his big brother and his friends riding every day, so it can't be THAT hard! He tries again...and again until he finds himself peddling downs the sidewalk. 

That little boy had hope (as well as will and determination) that he could ride that bike, even though he failed many times.

Author Carol Lewis writes, "You and I have DNA that is hard-wired for hope.  No other living, breathing creature, except humans, was created to have hope...None of us can survive long without hope."

God MADE us to have hope. Read Psalm 33:20-22.

God, our Lord, is described as our help and our shield. He shields us, or protects us, even from ourselves. And when we ask him to, he helps us. Those verses go on to use four action words for us...they aren't always easy words, but they give us something to reach for.
Wait (in hope)
Rejoice (in our hearts)
Trust (in his holy name)
Put (our hope in God)

How can we do those four things? How can we have hope when our world seems dark and scary and we can't seem to do anything right? 

Verse 22 says that God's love is unfailing...he never fails to love us. We fail every day...several times a day. But God NEVER stops loving us! 

Knowing that...believing that...holding on to that...THAT is what gives me hope and allows me to pick myself up every time I fail and try again. When the world knocks me down or something scary happens...THAT HOPE allows me to keep going. 

If keeping that hope makes me sound foolish amid that dark world...I don't care! One day I WILL see the blessed results of that hope! We NEED hope to keep trying. We NEED to hang on to that unfailing love, even though we don't deserve it. 

This is a week of new beginnings for many students and teachers and school employees. Keep hope in your hearts this week. WAIT in hope for God to do great things...Let your hearts REJOICE in God and this new beginning...TRUST in the Lord and PUT your hope in him! Things won't be easy, but you can keep trying every day! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Learning from those detours...

This week's memory verse:
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me." -- Psalm 138:7

If you are driving along a road and come to a detour, it takes you off your planned route, but eventually will lead you back to where you want to be. It's just an alternate route. If you have God in your heart, you will most likely still take a detour every now and then that throws you off course, but if you are willing, God will lead you back on the right course.

Take Jonah for example. (Read the book of Jonah for yourself) He was asked by God to take his message into the sinful town of Nineveh. Jonah did not want to go...he did not want to obey God's command. So, he ran away. God never left him...he was still with Jonah, but Jonah tried to run away from God.

We all know what happened in this famous story...he was thrown off the boat he was on in a terrible storm. He sank to the bottom of the ocean. He could have just given up...he could have accepted his fate and drowned. But he cried out to God. Even though he felt banished by God, he still looked to him and pledged his love and praised the God he loved.

God sent the fish to save him. It may not have felt like he was being saved...being swallowed by a huge fish...but that fish gave him shelter from the bottom of the sea. While in this strange shelter, he cried out to God, reliving his harrowing ordeal and again praised God for saving him. God heard his praises and his prayers and saved him again as the fish spit him out on dry land.

WHEW! But, God wasn't done with Jonah. He again gave him the command to go to Nineveh to preach God's message to them. This time Jonah obeyed.

It is this point in the story where we find out WHY Jonah chose to disobey God in the first place. Nineveh was a very sinful place...the people were all corrupt and didn't have God in their hearts at all....or so it seemed. When Jonah finally got there and began preaching for them to repent...they did! They turned from their sins and God did not destroy them. This is the part that upset Jonah. He KNEW God was merciful and would save this sinful city. This made him angry because he didn't feel they deserved to be saved. He himself was saved from his own disobedience, but didn't feel these people deserved the same grace.

Don't we do that all the time? We judge others when we have done the exact same thing ourselves! How quickly we forget what God has done for us! 

This is one detour that can take us very far off our charted course if we are not careful. Being judgmental is very easy for us...we get more concerned about our own comfort than the needs of others around us. It is only through embracing God's word...God's truths...God's messages to us that He can and will heal and use us.

I know that I take that detour more often than I would like to admit. But, because I am open to the lessons that God tries to teach me every day, that detour is not very long. I ask God to forgive me and help me to forgive others. I get back on track and back to the business of building God's kingdom here on earth. 

Don't let the detour of forgetfulness and judgment keep you off your charted course. Learn from Jonah...learn from your own mistakes. Sometimes the valuable lessons you learn while on that alternate route make taking the detour well worth the trip.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This week's memory verse:
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me." Psalm 138:7

It's funny that this week's theme is "detours" since I've had one of my own. Back pain is not fun at hip was out of place causing me a great deal of pain and that pain has been a distraction the last several days. So much so that I haven't felt like writing or even reading my Bible study. It's hard to concentrate on the joy of God's word when you are in pain...but isn't THAT just the time when we SHOULD be concentrating on it?

Last week we talked about our pilgrimage to God...that journey we are on every day that is sometimes filled with potholes. This morning I read the words of author Jeanne Zornes,  "Rocky road is not just a flavor of nutty IceCream. It's the nitty gritty of life. It's learning that getting where we want isn't always easy. Sometimes life's journey is rutted and rocky and rough. We're not where we want to be, and yet we don't see how things can get any better. God knows all about our despair."

We are not the only ones to have trouble. Psalm 107 talks about four different kinds of people in trouble.
* wanderers (verses 4-9)
* prisoners (verses 10-16)
* the sick (verses 17-20)
* the storm tossed (verses 23-30)

Do you find yourself in any of those categories? Well...right now, I guess I could be in the sick category since I have been dealing with pain this week. But, most of the time, I find myself in the wandering category. I wander around trying to find my place in this world and most of the time that wandering just leads me to hunger, thirst and exhaustion. I don't mean physical hunger and thirst...but the spiritual kind that can leave you feeling empty inside. THAT can cause real exhaustion.

God recognizes our wandering tendencies and provides for us when we find ourselves in that situation. He provides, but we have to accept and believe in what he gives.

Read the following verses for yourself about God's provisions for us:

* When we're lost and can't find our way - John 14:6
* When we're hungry - John 6:33,35
* When we're thirsty - John 4:10-14
* When we're exhausted - Matthew 11:28-30

Did you see the common thread between all those verses? JESUS! God provided Jesus to help us when we are lost and wandering. Even when we have found Jesus and believe and learn to get our nourishment from him...we still find ourselves wandering from time to time. That is is a reminder that we CAN'T go through this life alone! We CAN'T carry the weight of our burdens alone. We need our heavenly Father and Jesus by our side daily to get through.

Detours don't have to mean getting lost. Sometimes detours, which are caused by those rocky roads, can lead you through beautiful countryside you might never have seen had you not been forced to go that way. 

Dear God, I have wandered from the path you set me on so long ago. At times I have been hungry, thirsty and exhausted. Thank you for always being the one who satisfies me and gets me back on track! Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with others so that maybe they can find you and get back on track too! Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Have courage to go beyond...and change the world!

Everyday we complain about the injustices of the world....we hate seeing people in pain, and these days there is SO much pain. When people are afraid of what the future holds for them and their families...they sometimes act in hateful ways that damage people's lives. We know this...we see it every day in the news and on our own streets. But...we too are afraid and we think there is nothing we can do to change the way things are.

That thinking is WRONG! There are MANY things we can do to change the injustices we see in the world...we just have to have the COURAGE to do something about it!

I just spent the most amazing evening that in some ways changed my life. 

I had the awesome opportunity to be part of an evening that was the idea of one recent high school graduate who had a vision to go BEYOND just sitting back and moving on to college...she wanted to make a difference in the lives of other young girls. So, she gathered a room full of teen girls together with some of us "more experienced" women and we had an open and frank discussion about valuing yourself enough to love God more than the desire to have a boyfriend in high school. It was a chance for them to focus on what God has to say about relationships...about sex...about love...about marriage... it was a chance for us that have already gone through the drama of high school to share lessons we learned and knowledge we have gained. It was a precious opportunity to touch the lives of young women just beginning their lives. 

We then went on to see the movie "The Help," about another group of ladies who also wanted to make a difference. They had the courage to tell their stories...hard, challenging and painful stories that took a tremendous amount of courage to tell. But they wanted to CHANGE the injustice in their lives and make things better for the next generation.

Changing the world is not easy...and many times it is dangerous. But WE can be God's change agents here on earth. It is natural to be afraid. But...God WANTS us to move past that fear and go BEYOND where our fear holds us. Read Isaiah 41:10-13.

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."

If we know that and believe that, how can we NOT do something to help change the world??? 

But you say, "What can I do? I am just little me!" There is MUCH you can do! While here on earth, Jesus taught us about what God wants "just little me" to do. 

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)

If we love God and love those around us...that means treating people with love who don't deserve it, don't want it, claim not to need it...then we CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TOWARD CHANGING THE WORLD! 

If you are a singer, sing with love. If you are an athlete, play with love, if you are a student, study with love. If you are a brick layer, lay those bricks with love. Love just doesn't make the world go can CHANGE the world too! 

Have courage...loving others and treating people with respect is not always easy...You are on that pilgrimage to God...he wants you to DO SOMETHING while on that journey, but he won't leave you to do it alone! Go beyond what you think you are capable of and change the world!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God will provide...

This week's memory verse:
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." -- Psalm 84:5

My grandmother used to say, "The Lord will provide." I have heard others say this too. And, looking back in my life, I can see many times when my needs were met, and I believe the Lord was the one who knew what I needed at that moment.

We THINK we know what we need. We work and plan and pray and work some more to make those things happen. When they don't happen, we feel cheated and feel like God isn't listening to our prayers. But...God really knows what we NEED, and he finds ways to make THOSE things happen for us.

Yesterday, I talked about Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. The story continues in Ruth Chapter 2. Ruth stayed with Naomi and they went back to Naomi's home town. Because they had no husbands to care for them, they were poor and hungry. Ruth went to the wheat fields to glean. 

It was one of God's laws that farmers were not to harvest their fields on the very edges and they were to leave some grain behind as they harvested so the poor and the foreigners could glean, or pick up those leavings and survive. 

Ruth went to a field owned by a relative of Naomi's dead husband, Boaz. He had heard of the good thing that Ruth did for Naomi by not leaving her alone, and he wanted to reward her. So he not only allowed her to glean from his fields, but he protected her and gave her food as well. This was the beginnings of even better things for Ruth, for in later chapters, we find that Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a son who became part of the lineage of Jesus.

God provided Naomi with a friend who stayed with her...he provided them with food and other physical needs. God also provided another husband for Ruth so her physical and emotional needs would be met as well. I am sure there were times along that journey that both Naomi and Ruth felt desperate and afraid. But ultimately, God's love took care of them. 

"God will provide."  "He will make a way when there seems to be no way."  These are not just sayings of wise grandmothers...they are true. God has charted YOUR journey with just as much care as he did for Naomi and Ruth. When you are desperate and afraid about your situation...have faith that God will provide...he will take care of you. Things may not turn out the way YOU planned...but know that God has amazing things planned for you that are even better than what you planned. After all...he's God! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This week's memory verse:
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." -- Psalm 84:5

Potholes...they are a nuisance and an annoyance and can cause major damage to your vehicle. But...they ARE inevitable. Weather and heavy use of our roads make potholes and there's nothing we can do about them, except be on the lookout for them. If we are alert drivers and use common sense and caution as we drive, we can avoid most potholes, or if we can't avoid them, we can hit them without causing a lot of damage to our cars. 

This pilgrimage we are on...heading toward our daily lives the best we can until we reach our final destination...there are bound to be potholes that we have to deal with along the way. 

Sometimes, those potholes are avoidable and we can drive around them. Planning your day's meals ahead of time helps you be prepared for the hunger that strikes you mid-day and you don't just go out and grab an artery clogging burger and fries, but grab your packed sandwich and apple instead.

Sometimes, if we know a certain road is covered with potholes (from a bad winter or a road that trucks travel daily) we can change our path. For example...the friends you have been hanging around with have been doing a lot of drinking and partying lately, and you don't want to get mixed up in the consequences, both to your body and the possibility of drinking and driving. So...even as difficult as it can stop hanging out with those friends and find other friends who won't take you down the wrong change the path that you are going and you can change the destination.

And can be traveling down a safe, semi-pothole-free road and you don't see the big whopper ahead of you. WHAM! You hit it before you can swerve to avoid it. It takes out your car, and possibly causes you major injury. These life-changing potholes can cause your life to turn on a dime. How you handle you allow God to help you handle it...determines how the rest of your pilgrimage will go.

As always, God gives us examples in the Bible of other people who have gone through hard times, as we do, and how their faith has gotten them through those times. Read Ruth Chapter 1.

Naomi and her husband and two sons moved from their hometown to a nearby town. While there, Naomi's husband died. This must have been very difficult for lose her love and help-mate. Her sons both married and their family grew with the addition of the new wives. I can imagine that the sons and their wives were a comfort to Naomi as she grieved for her husband. But then, both of her sons died too. Heartbroken, she decided to go back to her hometown. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to stay in their hometown and find new husbands. They were young and had much life ahead of them. One of the women, Ruth, couldn't bear to be separated from her mother-in-law and she vowed to go where Naomi went and her people would be her people and Naomi's God would be her God. They traveled together back to Naomi's home. While Naomi was grateful to Ruth for coming with her...she was beginning to feel bitter for the way her life was turning out. She felt that God had afflicted her by taking her husband and sons.

Naomi hit some pretty big potholes in her life. It has changed the path that she was headed...her grief and pain had allowed bitterness to creep into her life. We experience that as well. When we hit bad potholes in our lives, we too feel afflicted and allow bitterness to creep in.

But...Naomi's story is not over! Tomorrow we'll hear how God helps her deal with the affects of those potholes. 

In the mean time...if you have hit potholes in your life that have caused major damage...have faith! God can use those potholes and changes for the good! Remember that no matter where your path may never have to travel it alone!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pilgrims aren't meant to travel alone...

This week's memory verse:
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." -- Psalm 84:5

Yesterday we learned that the word pilgrim means "people who spend their lives going someplace." But WHERE are we going? And in what is our mood as we travel? Are we complaining and whining the whole trip like kids in the back seat? "Are we there yet?"

For me, my pilgrimage is to grow closer to God and move through this life to get to him in the next. I heard someone once say we shouldn't spend so much of this life worrying about getting to the next that we don't enjoy the life we have right now. To some degree, I agree.

 God gave us this life on earth and we have the opportunity to get to know him better THROUGH his creation and the people and places that are right in front of us...we ARE to enjoy it! But...we are to be concerned enough with his promises of eternal life to listen to his guidance and obey his commands so we can get there. No, we can't earn our way to heaven, but Jesus taught us lessons about heaven by telling us how we should live and behave while we are here in this life.

God also promises to guide and protect us. Through King David, God gives us messages of hope and promises of protection. Read Psalm 18:32-36.

David speaks about counting on God to:
* arm him with strength
* make him swift and sure
* point him in the right direction
* train him for battle
* shield him
* provide a broad path for him
* hold him up with a firm hand
* and caress him with His gentle ways

We too can rely on God for all of those things. But, in order to believe in those promises, you have to stay in contact and communication with God. By reading his word and talking privately with God, you can be reminded that he IS there to do those things for you...preparing you to make it through this life and be rewarded in the next.

Setting your heart on this kind of a pilgrimage means keeping your heart set on moving forward. You can't be satisfied with the status is a long hard journey. must know you are not alone! Not only is God there with you, but there are other pilgrims out there traveling the same path. Together, we can keep going, no matter what, shoulder to shoulder.

In my First Place 4 Health group, we are all TRYING to find the balance in our lives that we believe God wants for us. It is hard and many times we want to give up. But...we support and encourage each other in many ways and we keep each other moving forward toward the goal. We may never reach our ideal weight or reach the point where we want to be spiritually, or reach our exercise goals...but we keep each other moving forward TOWARD those goals. That makes the journey a bit easier...knowing we are not in it alone!

If you don't have a group of supportive people around you...try to find some. Open yourself up to a small group of people who are heading for the same goals...pray about finding that right group of people...God knows we were not made to go through this journey alone...he made us to live in community. There is a community of people out there for you...pray that God will bring you to that community or that they would find you. God will keep his promises and lead you right where you need to be! Be an adventurous pilgrim, knowing that your journey is long and hard, but easier with loving supportive people around you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Change...a pilgrimage away from ourselves and toward God

This week's memory verse:
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." -- Psalm 84:5

A friend of mine spoke yesterday of all the many changes our grandparents have experienced in their lifetimes...from traveling by horse to cars and planes...from party lines to rotary phones to cell phones...from tv with 3 channels to satellites and computers that bring hundreds of channels from all over the world into your living room. Dealing with all this change had to be very challenging sometimes. All of these changes must have seemed to be happening TO them instead of changes that they were creating. Yes, most of them made life easier, but changing habits and the way you do things is a scary thing. How do you deal with all of those things in one lifetime? 

Our lives are changing too...I find that it IS scary sometimes. We get comfortable...predictable...and that seems fine to us. We know what to expect. BUT...sometimes, you have to CREATE change on your life to make it better. Thinking of those changes as an adventure, or, as our memory verse says, as a pilgrimage...that takes courage that only comes from God.

The word pilgrimage comes from a Greek word that means "people who spend their lives going somewhere." That's what we are...Christ followers who spend their lives going to God. I would rather be going someplace than sitting still....or at least I do in my mind. My lazy body sometimes is more comfortable sitting still...but that leads to unhealthy habits and stagnation. I don't believe that's what God wants for his people.

I am wanting to start out on another adventure...or...I should say, I am wanting to do a better job on the adventure that I have started many times...a healthier lifestyle. What "new" thing do I hope God will do in my life? I ask that he help me tap into HIS strength to be able to do what I haven't been able to do before...stick to and follow a plan to get healthier. This means change that I create. I KNOW the changes I need to make...but I have been too weak or too scared to follow through with them. While I hope for God to help me with this...I need to pray about each step and stop relying on my self and my own strength to get me there. I believe God wants me to live healthier...although I don't really know God's thoughts and plans for me, I believe his Spirit is in me, showing me what God wants for me. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

God's spirit is in me, wanting me to see beyond what is right now.  He wants me to see what COULD be. We get so mired down in the here and our frustrations and problems...that we don't look at what COULD be...That's why we just need to trust God to get us through right now...rely on him for EVERYTHING...rely on him for every ounce of strength we need to move forward...rely on his strength to help us make the change in our lives that we need. WE CAN'T MAKE THAT CHANGE ON OUR OWN!

Augustine made the following prayer that I think we should all join together in praying:

"I commit and commend myself unto you, in whom I am and live, and know. Be the God of my pilgrimage, and my REST of the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of your wings; let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in You O God. Amen."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thank God I'm free at last!

This week's memory verse:
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

I love when I learn something new that happened in our history. This morning I read about the history behind "Juneteenth." If I knew this before, I had forgotten it. It is amazing how applicable this story is today...even in this lightning fast information age.

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas learned that they were free. This is close to 2 years since President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and the war was over. There are many explanations as to why the news took so long to reach the slaves of Texas, but whatever the reason...that day became a holiday to celebrate...and has been celebrated for years. They were free!

We can't even imagine today how news that big would not be heard...we have CNN, Facebook, Twitter, etc. that can spread news like that in seconds. But...the truth is...there are still people out there who don't know that they can be free. You might be reading this right now, and not realize that you can be from the guilt and anguish caused by your own from the chains of an unhealthy habit, a toxic relationship, or of cultural worldviews that dictate how we should look, act, speak and spend our time and money.

Read Romans 6:15-23

We become slaves to whatever we obey...verse 18 says to experience true freedom, we need to become slaves to righteousness. God is the great emancipator! When you believe in God and believe that Jesus is God's plan for your salvation, and follow his commands (God's guidelines for living a better life) God frees you and makes you holy and gives you an eternal life.

God also knows that we can't do this alone...we were never meant to go on this freedom journey alone...we need friends...a community of people supporting each other. Hebrews 3:12-14 says we are to encourage one another, making sure none of us turns away from God to become hardened by sin. We are NOT to be judgmental, but supportive and loving to each other, holding each other accountable.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 reminds us that "a cord of three strands is not quickly broken." In order to be truly free...we NEED each other!

So, know that freedom is yours for the asking! Hold firmly to one another, and you will hold firmly to God. Be a faithful friend...send a note...give a hug...send a Facebook message...give a smile. We are free at last and that's news to share with others because there are MANY out there who still don't know they can be free too!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Throw the bags from the train!

This week's memory verse:
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

You are going on a trip on a train. It is supposed to be a relaxing, therapeutical journey...the only vacation you've taken in years. overpacked and are hulking around a HUGE suitcase and several other smaller bags, making it difficult to move through the narrow hallways of the train. When you find your compartment, you find there is not enough room for you and you bags to sit comfortably together, so you spend your whole "relaxing" train ride squished between your bags and the window. NOT the way to enjoy your restful vacation, is it?

But...unfortunately, this is the way we spend most our days, and it's one of the reasons there are so many unhappy people in the world...BAGGAGE! Many times those bags are packed with guilt, anger and shame...both for our own sins and mistakes and for the mistakes and sins of others that we can't let go of.

King David really messed up...this "man after God's own heart" committed adultery, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed. In Psalm 51, we learn why David is so close to God...he turns to him for forgiveness and for salvation.

In verses 1-2, he asks God to:
* Have mercy on me
* Blot out my transgressions (sins)
* Wash away my iniquity  (sins)
* Cleanse me from my sin

David recognized that what he did was wrong and he asked God to forgive him and make him clean again. Why? Because he knew God is THAT powerful and good and loving!

In verses 7-15, David says some very beautiful words...create in me a clean heart and create a right spirit within me.

David knew God's desire to forgive and make us knew. God knew and still knows that we do and will mess up. We have to realize that too and go to him and do as David did.

David also knew that he needed to forgive himself in order to begin again. He told God in verses 13-17 that he planned to tell others what God had done for him, so others may know to turn to God as well. He knew that he needed to let the past go in order to move on. That is one step I think we forget too often.

When we confess to God...he forgets our sins. "And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean." (Micah 7:19 MSG)

If God can forgive us and forget...shouldn't we forgive ourselves and forget? Shouldn't we be able to forgive others and forget as well? If we did that...we wouldn't have such heavy bags to carry around!

So, my advice to you today...have a talk with God...ask him to forgive you...forgive yourself and forgive others for things you have been holding on to for years. THROW THE BAGS OFF THE TRAIN and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Put the heavy bags down...

This week's memory verse:
"Praises be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

I've been using the image of baggage a lot this week...I read something this morning that really got to me and I want to share it with you. (My inspiration comes from Max Lucado's book "Traveling Light.")

Picture a little boy getting off a plane and heading to the baggage claim with his family. He recognizes the family's luggage...maybe their suitcases have duct tape on the sides, making them very easy to spot. He wants to help SO BAD, so be spots the biggest, heaviest suitcase and tries to drag it off the carousel and then tries to carry it over to the family. His idea is he will carry it all the way out to the car....

When I thought of this helpful little boy, I thought of myself. I also want to help SO BAD that I think I have to carry the heaviest load. I don't know where this need to help everyone I meet comes from...if I were to analyze my motives, I may find that it comes from guilt I carry around from my own sins and shortcomings...but I know that God doesn't want me to carry such a heavy load all the time. That was NOT in his plan...that's why he gave us Jesus!

By reading the Bible, you can see how God's plan was taking shape through the stories in the old testament. This week we have been talking about David and his mistakes with Bathsheba and Uriah. In 2 Samuel 12, the next part of David's story is revealed.

God sent Nathan, the prophet, to talk to David. He first told him a story about how a rich man, who had many sheep, took the one prized sheep of a poor man. David immediately saw the injustice of the story. Nathan then told David that HE was that rich man. He had many wives and many blessings given to him by God and he took the wife and the life of one who had less than him. David saw the truth in what Nathan was saying and confessed that he had sinned against the Lord. He had to face the music...face and name his sin. The Lord forgave David, but told him there would be consequences for his actions...his son would die.

There are consequences for our actions and sins...sometimes these are the burdens we carry around with us that weigh us down and make traveling each day so very hard. But...God's plan went another direction with the appearance of Jesus on earth...he came to die for our sins. We may still have to deal with the physical consequences...and they may be difficult...but when we put our trust in Jesus...our sins are forgiven and he WILL HELP US CARRY OUR LOAD!

Remember the little boy with the heavy suitcase? His father will not let him carry it, because he knows he is not able to. The father might say, "Set it down, son. I'll carry that one."

When I worry about the mess I have made of my finances, and get weighted down with guilt and worry...I can't help anyone else because I am so weighted down with my own baggage. I can't serve the ones I love they way they need when I am trying to carry the heaviest bags myself. How do I get God to carry my bags?  ASK!

When you give your burdens to God and put your trust in Jesus...he will help you carry the load. He may give you a smaller bag to carry that you can handle...but you feel relieved and less burdened and able to help someone else. This sounds so simple and it's hard to believe that it's that easy...but it is! You just have to face the music, trust in God to forgive you, and trust that he will say, "Set that one down child. I'll carry this one."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Epic Fail!

This week's memory verse:
"Praises be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." -- Psalm 68:19

Lately, I have heard teens say "That was an epic fail!" when something doesn't go as planned. I wasn't sure where the phrase originated. Apparently, it came from a video game and now the words "fail" and "epic fail" are used all over the Internet, on Facebook status, and now has become an accepted replacement word to use instead of the other 4 letter words you could use when you break something or drop something on your toe.

I have to admit, being the positive person I am...never liking to focus on my failures...I don't really like the term. Will failure become acceptable? Do we not try anything any more because we're probably going to fail any way? I'm sure that I am all wrong in my thinking and the word failure will not have a negative, long-lasting effect on our culture.

After all, failure HAS been around a long time...we ALL have failed from time to time. I guess it's what we learn from those failures that makes a difference in our lives and in our futures.

Yesterday, I mentioned King David and how he gave into his desires and slept with a married woman while her husband was off fighting the war HE was supposed to be fighting. His poor behavior continues. Read it for yourself in 2 Samuel 11:6-27.

David, learning that Bathsheba was pregnant, wanted to cover up his crime. When the soldiers came back, he tried to get Uriah to go home, presumably so he would sleep with his wife and everyone would think the child she was carrying belonged to her husband. But, loyal to his king and soldiers, Uriah would not go home. So, David had him sent into battle at the head of the army, knowing that he would be killed. Then, since her husband was dead, David took Bathsheba as his wife and had their son. Sounds like a good ending for David right? WRONG! God was NOT happy with David! Talk about your epic fails!

When we fail, and we WILL...we need to seek God. We need to confess to him what we have done wrong...he already knows, but he needs us to own up to what we did, and ask for forgiveness. 

I know in my life, there have been many fails, some worse than others. But, when I own up to them, ask God to forgive me, and then truly try not to repeat the same mistake, I feel better and am more capable of moving on. There have been times when I was so ashamed of what I had done, that I had a hard time going to God...I would hang on to that mistake for a LONG time and it would end up eating me alive...not until I went to God about it was I able to let it go. I knew I was forgiven...I let go of that particular baggage and was able to move on a little lighter.

Fails and epic fails are going to happen in our lives...we are human and we mess up...we might as well get used to that! But don't let a failure...failure to lose weight, failure to balance your checkbook, failure to help a friend in need, failure to...whatever...don't let that become your focus! Don't let it weigh you down with grief, guilt and shame. If you know you have displeased the Lord, ask for forgiveness, be thankful for his Grace, and move on! Failure is just success in reverse...learn from your mistakes and turn it around!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Expensive extra baggage...

This week's memory verse:
"Praises be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." -- Psalm 68:19

Burdens...baggage... Have you traveled on a plane lately? If you have, you know that they charge for baggage now. You might get away with one small carry on bag and a purse or briefcase, but anything you check costs you big time! Isn't this a great incentive to learn to pack light?

Well...we each have baggage that we carry around every day, and even if we don't fly...that baggage can be costly. Sometimes our baggage causes us to eat too much, or treat others badly, or make poor choices. What has happened to us in the past many times weighs us down and makes our lives harder than they have to be. It DOESN'T have to be that hard! You have a God who wants to help carry your baggage and make your life journey lighter, and he doesn't charge us an extra fee!

But...the privilege of having our God carry our burdens does take some effort on our just doesn't magically go away. We have some work to do.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 says that we should be free from sexual promiscuity and immorality...we should not have a disorderly, unkempt life, but holy and beautiful - as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. We can do this by learning to control our bodies in a way that is honorable...learning to appreciate and give honor to our bodies.

For some of us, some of our baggage makes honoring our bodies a hard task. Some things might have happened in our past that makes it hard for us to appreciate the body that God gave us...but we don't have to do it alone...God is ready to help us! But we have to ask him for his help.

David, in 2 Samuel 11, didn't worry about God in the beginning...he did not go into war as he was supposed to, but stayed in Jerusalem and sent others to fight. Being at home...he let his lustful mind get the better of him, and he used his power to bring a married woman that he desired to himself. He knew this was wrong, but did it anyway.

When reading David's story, I get frustrated with him, because he KNEW it was wrong...but I see myself in David all the same. I give in to some of my desires every day! I have trouble sticking to a healthy eating plan because my body cries out for a milkshake...and I give in. My body tells me is too hot to walk...I am too tired to exercise...and I give in almost every time! This kind of behavior has consequences...weight gain instead of weight loss and an unhealthy lifestyle that carries its own consequences.

For whatever reason, baggage from my past seems to hold me back and I give in to selfish desires...I don't really understand why, but I realize that I need help! I pray each day for the strength and wisdom to make wise choices and to be able to deny the desires of my body. I ask God to help me plan my day in a healthy way and to be able to follow that plan. It doesn't just happen because I ask...I have to try!

This is the beginning of me trying to get rid of some my expensive baggage. Do you have extra bags of guilt and "stuff" from your past that you carry around with you, having expensive consequences? If so, you can also pray and ask God to help carry some of it, and help you get rid of some too. He promises that he will!