“ARISE, GO FORTH AND CONQUER!”

At 5 AM, the alarm jarred me from a deep sleep. My mind raced ahead into my day with rapid-fire images of the multitude of responsibilities that waited for me at the office – and when I got home at night. My first thought of the day was, “I can’t. I can’t do this…I don’t want to do this.” That scenario played out for what seemed like a never-ending cycle. That was certainly the case in the first years after my husband died, but it was also a familiar theme of the last decade of my career. I was ready for retirement ten years before it became a reality. When I look back, I wonder how I made it through. Then I remember… My work as an Addiction Counselor, Social Worker, and Hospice Grief Counselor was meaningful and rewarding. The problem was that there was just too much work to be done, and not enough time to do it. The fact that I circuit-rode a five county area, often in wintry weather with hazardous road conditions, didn’t help. Even a rigorous self-care program was no match for the level of stress I experienced.  What helped me through? I started each day by the side of my bed, on my knees, with this simple prayer: “Lord, Show me your will for me today and give me wisdom and strength – and willingness – to do it.” After a shower, I listened to Praise & Worship music as I put on my make-up. It helped turn my thoughts in the right direction. Once my morning routine was complete, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to my favorite chair to spend time with God in earnest. After reading a portion of Scripture, I chose a verse to personalize and write as a prayer in my journal. Deuteronomy 33:25, 27 might look like this: “Lord, Thank you for your promise to give me strength equal to whatever this day holds. Let me feel your everlasting arms underneath, holding me up.” After my time with God, I was ready to “Arise, go forth and conquer!”* Just as my iPhone needs recharging each day, I still need a spiritual recharge before heading out into my day. I may be retired, but I am not ready for the rocking chair! Now that I have time and energy, I am pursuing my dreams of expanding my speaking and writing ministry, Holy Ground All Around. I need God’s wisdom and strength as much as I ever did, so I still start each day with time with God. Do your spiritual batteries need recharging? Do you ever wonder how you will make it through the day? Allow for time with God – even 10-minutes in the morning will help get your eyes off your problems and onto the solution. God is with you and for you. He will give you everything you’ll need to face the day ahead. A few minutes alone with Him will enable you to “Arise, go forth and conquer!” Today’s Challenge: Set aside at least 10-minutes for time alone with God. Read his Word. Ask Him to show you His will for you; then ask Him for wisdom, strength – and willingness – to do it. * From “The Passing of Arthur” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, 1859 –...

STRESS – IT’S SPELLED C-H-A-N-G-E

Seasons come…and seasons go. In a few days we will mark the passing of summer and move into autumn. A part of me wants to cry, “No-o-o-o!” I grieve each year when it’s time to hang up my swimsuit. Although the forecast is for rain and temps in the 50’s and 60’s this week, I’m in denial, holding on to the hope of one last dip in Lake Superior. My summer company is gone. The dead stocks in my flower garden tell me it’s time to let go of the season. The geese have sealed the deal – they are slipping out of town in the early morning hours, aiming their V’s south. Their honks of good-bye are always poignant, so unlike the raucous announcement in spring that says, “We’re back!” I have a cabin reserved for the Fall Women’s Retreat at Gitche Gumee Bible Camp. There is a blush of first color on the trees – a promise of the glory to come. Soon I will remember, “That’s right, autumn is my favorite time of the year!” Give me one warm, sunny Indian summer day, and I will be wishing the calendar would stop there…but it won’t. Just when I’ve come around to reveling in autumn, a fall wind storm will strip the trees bare – an omen of the winter ahead. Winters in northern Michigan come too soon and never pass too quickly. We joke that we have four seasons: Early winter, mid-winter, late winter, and next winter! It isn’t so much the seasons themselves I struggle with. It’s change. For most of us stress is spelled c-h-a-n-g-e. Think of it: a change in our health, finances, jobs or schedules can result in stress. If it’s true that “The only thing that remains constant is change,” no wonder we feel stressed as often as we do! Change can be a positive thing, but even good a change involves loss. I retired three years ago. That was a very positive change! But I miss the camaraderie of my co-workers, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the paychecks and health benefits! Change is always a process of letting go of the old and getting on with – and even embracing – the new. The challenge is to do it gracefully. I admit I have been prone to kick and scream over many of the changes that have come my way in life. Just knowing a change was coming was often a source of stress. I am not alone. Many of us find a false security in the status quo. Perhaps we would experience less stress with change if we took heed to the ways and words of some of the saints of old: • Solomon said: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). • David declared: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘My times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31:14, 15). • Daniel proposed: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons…” (Daniel 2:20, 21) • The Apostle Paul stated: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12,13) Change is as inevitable as death and taxes. Our lives would be less stressful if we would ask God to help us trust Him with the times and seasons of our lives. Today’s Challenge: Are you in the midst of a season of change or anticipating one? Ask God to help you weather this time gracefully. Trust Him to give you the strength and wisdom you need for the transition. Express gratitude for knowing that your times are in His...

A GLANCE IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

Sometimes a backward glance can give us the perspective and courage we need to go forward. It isn’t healthy to dwell on the past, but sometimes a quick look in the rear-view mirror of your life can be helpful. Let’s face it. There are more than a few sharp curves and u-turns in our journey, not to mention bumps in the road and pot holes big enough to swallow us alive. There are “construction zones” and detours where God is at work in us, and our progress seems painfully slow. When you are traveling a rough patch of road in life that calls for white-knuckle driving, a glance in the rear-view mirror can be helpful. When my husband died twenty-two years ago, it felt like my life got hit by a train. I couldn’t see beyond my headlights. Each morning I woke up convinced I couldn’t go on…but I did. I prayed, “Help. Show me your will for me today. Give me the strength and wisdom I’ll need to do it.” I believed God promise to give me what I needed for each day: As thy days, so shall thy strength be…The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:25, 27 (NKJV). I trusted in God’s sovereign goodness. I trusted that His plans for me were for good and not to harm me (Author’s paraphrase, Jeremiah 29:11). For the record, there were times I hollered, “I hate this!” But each time, I eventually came to accept my new reality. I rested in God’s loving care for me and my teenage daughters. I pressed on with the help of God and the loving people He surrounded me with. They did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. As I approach my sixty-fourth birthday, I have the advantage of having covered quite a few miles in my life’s travels. When I find myself gripping the wheel too tight, worried about what might be ahead, a peek in my rear-view mirror reminds me how far I’ve come. I realize that my worst challenge today is at best a bump in the road, compared to losing my husband. More important is that I also see how God has faithfully brought me this far. He will complete the journey with me. A glance in the rear-view mirror may just give you perspective for the roadblocks you face today. Remember where you’ve been. Today’s struggles may very well pale in comparison to the worst problem you’ve already faced. Review God’s faithfulness. If God got you through then, surely He will see you through whatever lies down the road. “I trust my todays and all my tomorrows To the One who holds eternity in His hands.” B. J. Hoff Today’s Challenge: If you are going through a rough patch of road right now, glance in your rear-view mirror. Remember what God has already brought you through. Pray. Believe. Trust. Rest. Press...

OUTCOMES: IN GOD’S HANDS

Got expectations? How’s your serenity? According to the Big Book* of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), our serenity (sense of wellness, peace of mind) is “inversely proportional” to our expectations. Therefore, when we anticipate a particular outcome with a person or situation, our serenity is low – especially when they are not cooperating with our plans! When we leave outcomes in God’s hands, our serenity level is high. AA made the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr famous: God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Ah, yes – the wisdom to know the difference… It is not wrong to have expectations. It is a problem, however, to expect or demand that life go our way. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had expectations. They were bemoaning the death of Jesus, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Hindsight is 20/20. We know that the outcome God planned through the death and resurrection of Jesus was far beyond their expectations. There is a lesson for us in that. I believe that God’s plan for me is always the best plan, but sometimes I am like my friend who said, “I never let go of anything I didn’t leave my claw marks in!” That is why I am grateful for that famous author, “Unknown,” who wrote this prayer: Lord, I am willing to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer what You inflict, to be what You require. I like peace of mind, so when I am asking God for direction regarding my hopes and dreams, I pray with my hands open and palms up, as a gesture of surrender of that thing or person to God. In April I signed on with an agent. He is currently representing my book proposal to a number of publishing houses. My hard work and dream of being published is out of my hands. I had the courage to change what I could: I gained new skills at writers’ and speakers’ conferences. I have honed my craft. I have followed the suggestions of mentors. And then, I did the work.  Whatever the outcome, I gave my best effort. I can live with that. How about you? Are you willing to hold loosely to expectations? Join me in  praying with open hands, palms up: Lord, I am willing to receive what you give… Today’s Challenge: Got expectations? Want serenity? Consider this: Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The LORD works out everything for his own ends….In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:3, 4 & 9). * Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, New & Revised 1976 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, p....

WEATHERING THE STORMS OF LIFE

All eyes are riveted on images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation as news feed comes in this morning. It will take weeks and months to realize the full scope of this super-storm and its impact on the East coast and our nation. There will be many stories of amazing survival, heroic rescues, as well as tragic loss of life and property. As a nation, we have been caught up in a political storm that has raged for months. With the presidential election just days away, that storm was reaching its full fury when Sandy blew into town.  As epic disasters do, it will remind us for a little while that no matter what our political bent, we are all Americans first. I believe we will rise to the occasion, put our differences aside, and do what we can to help those in need. The National Guard is on the scene. The Coast Guard pulled off a daring rescue at sea. Convoys of ambulances arrived from other states. In days ahead, volunteer teams will join the efforts of organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Samaritan’s Purse to lend a helping hand. Many will step up to the plate with financial donations and prayers to back up the boots on the ground. Our efforts will communicate to traumatized people, “You are not alone. We’ve got your back. Everything will be all right.” We may not all go through a monster storm like Hurricane Sandy, but we will all face the storms of life, sooner or later. When that happens, friends, family, and sometimes, even strangers, will come along side us, and with their words and other expressions of compassion, assure us, “We’re in this with you. Everything will be all right.” I desperately needed that assurance in 1991, when my husband, Jon was hospitalized with a second round of acute lymphocytic leukemia. When I called our pastor, Steve, with the news, he said, “We’re going to stand with you through this.” I heard, “It’s going to be all right.” Jon died four months later. I was left to single-parent our two young teenage daughters. The Body of Christ – other believers – became “God-with-skin-on” to me: The first Christmas after Jon died, Steve took my girls to find a tree, something their dad traditionally did. Friends included us in their holiday celebrations. There was always a listening ear available when I needed it. Men from church showed up at my house with tool boxes whenever repairs were needed. I received enough cards of encouragement to fill a Hallmark store. With the help of God, friends, and family, I weathered my personal “Perfect Storm.”  Just as the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and Joplin, MO took time after their storms, it took time to heal the wounds of my broken heart. There have been other lesser storms in my life, but through each one, God faithfully provided the people and means needed to make it through. I have come out on the other side, stronger in many ways. Though life is not fair in many ways, I can say, “God is good – all the time.” Life can be hard. We need to stick together. Let’s be God-with-skin-on for each other. Certainly, we can do that for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, but let’s also ask God to open our eyes and hearts to those struggling around us. We are the hands and feet of Christ. Whether it is by a simple phone call, card, kind word or thoughtful deed, let us share the hope that is ours: God loves us; He will give us what we need, when we need it. Everything is going to be all right. NOTE: I am available for speaking at your next women’s ministry event. I would love to share my presentation, “Staying Firmly Anchored In The Storms Of Life.” Learn how to prepare for the storms of life, how to know peace in the midst of them, and how to pick up the pieces and press on after the storm has passed. Contact me at...