SUPREME HAPPINESS FOREVER!

The Serenity Prayer column is published on the first Friday of each month in 2019. We’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today.

” 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.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

Taking as Christ did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy forever in the next.   ~ AMEN “

 

Scripture makes it clear that this world is not our permanent home. God created us to dwell on this earth that we might learn and grow in His ways, teach them to others and hopefully bring glory to His name.

We may have periods of what we might consider happiness. But the happiness that we experience here on earth is nothing compared to the incredible happiness we will have in the presence of God forever in eternity.

Much of the happiness we humans are seeking is directly related to the desire for that heavenly happiness that only God can provide.

In times of struggle, challenge and sorrow The Serenity Prayer can help us. Each stanza of this beautiful prayer carries wisdom that can strengthen us on our journey.

The Serenity Prayer is a timeless classic that will continue to encourage us for many generations to come. I pray this column has been a blessing for you this calendar year of 2019 as it has been for me.

Take a few minutes to contemplate your forever happiness with God as you listen to this wonderful song by Michael W. Smith.

BOOK REVIEW :: THE RED SEA RULES by Robert J. Morgan

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times

by

Robert J.  Morgan

 

 

 

Difficulties and challenges are not strangers to most of us. And during these trying times it’s helpful to have a voice of experience that can help walk us through. This is what The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan does for us.

A dear friend recently introduced me to this simple, yet profound, little book. She’s been through trying times these last few years and told me that this book has helped her make it through. Because it was so important to her she kept her copy of The Red Sea Rules on her night stand so she could read it regularly.

After I was able to look at my friend’s book I quickly ordered my own copy. I’ve been going through it as a devotional on the weekends for the last couple of months.

Using the Exodus 14 story of the Israelites as an example, Robert Morgan shares 10 God-given strategies for walking from fear to faith during difficult times. Here is a sampling:

Red Sea Rule  #1:  Realize that God means for you to be where you are.

Red Sea Rule  #2:  Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.

Red Sea Rule  #3:  Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.

Red Sea Rule  #4:  Pray!

Red Sea Rule  #5:  Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.

Red Sea Rule  #6:  When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.

Red Sea Rule  #7:  Envision God’s enveloping presence.

Red Sea Rule  #8: Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.

Red Sea Rule  #9:  View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.

Red Sea Rule #10:  Don’t forget to praise Him.

I’ve really been enjoying these sweet inspirational readings. The chapters are short which makes The Red Sea Rules perfect for a devotional reading time. Each chapter offers a few questions for reflection at the end.

I highly recommend The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan. This book is one I’ll be reading over and over again. I hope you will consider getting copy. It’s a great gift idea for the upcoming Christmas season. Another wonderful thing… The publisher has provided a discount for bulk purchases. If you want to give them away as gifts you can buy them here in bulk for less.

Enjoy this brief video of Robert J. Morgan telling about his wonderful book: The Red Sea Rules.

SPEAK MODESTLY

In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we’re walking Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.

 

The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently, with modesty, briefly and reasonably without raising their voice.  ~ The Rule of Benedict

Speak concisely, say much in few words; be one who knows and yet holds their tongue. ~ Sirach 32:8

 

Healthy communication within a community is vital. Benedict thought it was so important that he devoted three of his 12 Steps of Humility  to communication.

In Humility Step 9 Benedict advises us to actually listen more than we speak. Step 10 cautions us against making jokes at the expense of others feelings.

Now in Humility Step 11 Benedict describes the appropriate way that we should converse with others. We are to be generous and sincere in our listening. And when it’s our time to speak we are to brief and gentle with our words, not loud or boisterous.

This is definitely unlike our modern culture where people are blasting out opinions while ignoring anything that goes against their thoughts.  Certainly not the kind of behavior that can build community. Rarely do we see actual conversation that allows both sides to gently share their views while listening kindly in return.

Participation in a community requires that we speak and also that we listen. In speech we must be candid, in listening we must be accessible. ~John McQuiston II

The one thing I find most appealing about Saint Benedict and his 12 Steps of Humility is that they are practical for use in any environment. They are timeless tools for running the home, office or a community of any size.

While speaking modestly comes naturally to some, it’s often more common among those who have gained some wisdom with years of life behind them. Elders are are usually more sparing with words than young people.

We can’t expect the youth to come by this virtue so quickly, but by walking in Benedict’s example we can help them put these lessons into practice.

Enjoy this sweet song sung by Casting Crowns helping us have a humble heart of praise that God will listen to.

WHAT YOU SEE IS TEMPORARY

The third Friday of each month in 2019 we’re studying my favorite life verses: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18. This section of Scripture has proven a solid source of faith for me through many challenges over the past fifteen years. As we work our way through this passage you’ll see it build on the previous phrases all the way to the end.

” All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.

For what is seen is temporary…”  

~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18b

 

We have a tendency to get attached to people, places, and things. Often we hold on too tightly. 

When our child grows up and leaves home our hearts are broken. 

When a life change comes and we have to move, maybe even across the country, we have to leave the home we’ve made so cozy. We leave a church family we’ve been part of for many years, close friends and loved ones are now left behind. 

In that process we may have had to downsize drastically; selling or giving away some of our treasured possessions. 

How can you know when you are too attached to something? 

When being without it truly hurts.

I write about this with first hand experience. In fact, due to job changes and other challenges my husband and I moved 12 times between 2006 and 2017. The last few called for drastic downsizing taking us from a 5000 square feet house down to a small condo with 600 square feet. Now that hurt! Yes our life has been simplified and our load lightened. But still the process was very painful. 

At the beginning of our life transitions in 2006 I read about a missionary when reminding himself to not get too attached and that life changes quickly would post notes around his home that read:

“THIS IS TEMPORARY”

Everything we can see and touch is temporary. This earth is not our permanent home. And because this world is not our permanent home we’re supposed to keep our hearts, minds and spirits focused on things above. 

” Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. ” Colossians 3:1-3 (Living Bible)

We must hold on to things, people and places loosely or not at all. We’re much better off putting them in The Hands of our Heavenly Father, Who knows best how to care for them and us. As we do our life will be more peaceful for ourselves, more pleasant for those around us and more pleasing to God. 

With all the beautiful, yet temporary, things of this world that we can see today, God promises us there is so much more to come… beyond what we can ever think or imagine!

Let’s take a few minutes to meditate on the joys of Heaven and things above with this beautiful song by Bethel Music.

GOODNESS AND MERCY FOLLOW ME

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we will be studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

As you look back on this journey called life… the school years, marriage, raising a family, having and changing jobs, moving around, buying houses, making various life choices… What do you see?

 

 MISTAKES

          or 

LESSONS LEARNED

 

It’s easy to look back with regret and see all the things you wish you could change. We need to remember that when we were living in that space and time we made the choices we did for a reason. We could only do what we could with what we knew at that particular moment.

Ok, maybe it was a bad decision that became a huge mistake.

But we who are followers of Christ must believe what God has promised us:

 

“…every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives…” 

~ Romans 8:28  (The Passion Translation)

 

No one is going to manage our memory time. It’s up to us to not waste time looking back in the rearview mirror at yesterday with regret and sadness.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. ~ Psalm 23:6a

Today’s portion of Psalm 23 assures us that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. That means we can expect to look back and see God’s goodness in every season… to see God’s mercy sparing us of something bad that could have happened that was much worse instead.

When we take this perspective on our past, whether it is in the distant past or just earlier today, we must trust that God is faithful to His Word.

He is going behind us, as we follow His will in our life, He is making sure there is goodness and mercy following us as He weaves every detail of our life together according to His special plan.

When we do this, we can rest much easier without hanging on to regretted mistakes. We can trust that God knows who we were when we made those decisions and He will turn that mistake into a message that we can share with others along the way.

Join me in celebrating the Goodness and Mercy of God in our lives with this new music video by Encounter Music.

BE REASONABLY HAPPY… NOW!

The Serenity Prayer column is published on the first Friday of each month in 2019. We’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today.

” 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.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

Taking as Christ did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life…”

 

Let me begin by saying this is an area where I struggle, not every day, but often enough. I don’t want to come off as someone who has this all figured out. Because I definitely don’t. I’m in a life learning process just like you.

While we can be sure that God is going to take care of us each day, Scripture never promises us an easy life. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect troubled times.

How can I be reasonably happy in a life that’s often filled with difficulties?

The key word here is “reasonably” which by definition means: moderately. So to be moderately happy, is to be in the middle, not excessively happy or excessively sad; balanced.

Most of us want to live on the mountaintop, in the exciting times of life. But life is filled with peaks and valleys. Life is balanced with happy and sad times.

There is a time for everything,
and everything on earth has its special season.
There is a time to be born
and a time to die.
There is a time to plant
and a time to pull up plants.
There is a time to kill
and a time to heal.
There is a time to destroy
and a time to build.
There is a time to cry
and a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad
and a time to dance.
There is a time to throw away stones
and a time to gather them.
There is a time to hug
and a time not to hug.
There is a time to look for something
and a time to stop looking for it.
There is a time to keep things
and a time to throw things away.
There is a time to tear apart
and a time to sew together.
There is a time to be silent
and a time to speak.
There is a time to love
and a time to hate.
There is a time for war
and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

We must also consider that happiness is related to happenings. Where as joy is a deeper emotion that is available to us even when outward circumstances may warrant different reactions. True joy is not about situations but rather a spiritual component. The Bible tell us that joy is a fruit, a by product, of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

The secret to being REASONABLY HAPPY lies in The Serenity Prayer itself…
    1. SERENITY comes when we accept the things we cannot change.
    2. COURAGE comes when we step out to change the things we can.
    3. WISDOM comes as we seek God’s guidance.
    4. LIVING each day as it comes, pressing forward step by step.
    5. ENJOYING each moment as if it were our last.
    6. ACCEPTING that hardships will lead me to the Prince of Peace.
    7. TAKING the world as it is because I can’t change it or other people.
    8. IT’S NOT MY WORLD to change but God’s in His perfect timing.
    9. TRUSTING GOD will make everything turn out for good in His plan.
    10. SURRENDERING my will to God’s perfect will and purpose.

As we purposely walk out these steps of The Serenity Prayer we will begin to experience the reasonable happiness that God has for us.

Let’s enjoy some everyday Happiness NOW with this great Ayesha Woods video.

AVOID IDLE LAUGHTER

In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we’re walking Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.

 

The tenth step of humility is that a monk is not quick to laughter.  ~ The Rule of Benedict

A fool raises their voice when they laugh. ~ Sirach 21:20

 

As Christian believers and Christ followers we should be cultivating an atmosphere where all people can feel safe. Much of today’s culture, media and entertainment is harsh and brutal, even bullying, when it comes to humor. Television and movies use sarcasm and vulgarity dressed up as humor that bring harm to various groups of people.

Words that harm others are not humorous.

Humor is about seeing the lighter side of life. It should be used to lift us up out of troubles and weaknesses, not beat us down into them.

Hiding behind hurtful words, the prideful will use negative words to lash out at others while trying to avoid their own internal pain. These arrogant vulgar jokes somehow make them feel better about themselves when they tear others down.

Saint Benedict taught his community of monks not to be quick or loud in their laughter. Step 10 of Humility invites us to take our humor seriously. We must guard our laughter, taking care not to use it in hurtful ways. When someone falls down or has taken a turn for the worse in their life, we mustn’t make light of or laugh at their troubles.

We mustn’t delight in or find humor in the pain of others.

Just like it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, so too our kindness toward others can lead them to God. Let’s cultivate an atmosphere around us that invites others to Christ with our words and behavior.

Contemplate the kindness and love of God in your life with this beautiful song by Chris Tomlin.

SEE THE UNSEEN

The third Friday of each month in 2019 we’re studying my favorite life verses: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18. This section of Scripture has proven a solid source of faith for me through many challenges over the past fifteen years. As we work our way through this passage you’ll see it build on the previous phrases all the way to the end.

” All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen…”

~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18a

Although we don’t like to hear it, the life of a Believer will always be one filled with difficulties. Jesus even told us to expect them. Life is a series of problems beginning and ending over and over again. And we’re supposed to walk seemingly blind through them all with our faith guiding us.

What is this unseen leading factor called faith?

The author of Hebrews defines faith for us:

” Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.”  ~ Hebrews 11:1

What does this kind of faith look like in reality? All we have to do is read the stories in the book of Hebrews “Hall of Faith” chapter 11 to see this faith:

      • Noah built the ark for a flood when he had never seen rain.
      • Abraham obeyed God’s calling to leave his home for an unseen land.
      • Moses kept the Passover before seeing the deliverance it would bring.

Like these Patriarchs, we’re to have the kind of faith that believes God will bring us to the other side of each struggle in His perfect way. This challenges our natural minds because we can’t see spiritual things. We want proof that it’s going to work out…. not later but now!

When struggling with our finances we need to put on our “Jesus glasses” and see that God will provide for all our needs but maybe not all our wants.

When struggling with health issues we need to put on our “Jesus glasses” and see ourselves healed healthy and whole no matter how we feel today.

Whatever the problem is we can put on our “Jesus glasses” and see by faith that God is solving it in His perfect time!

” You’re always moving in the unseen

   The breath You exhale sustaining me

   Before I call, You know my need

   You’re always going before me.”

ANOINTED FOR LIFE!

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we will be studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

” The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over…”

 

In this section of Psalm 23 we see God represented as our Heavenly Host instead of our Shepherd. He has prepared a feast for us even though we are surrounded by enemies. During Biblical days a proper host would anoint their guests as a sign of honor and hospitality, as well as refreshment.

When priests, kings and various people were anointed in the Old Testament the sacred oil that was poured over their head signified that they were being set apart for divine use, they are now established to represent God to the people and that they were now empowered by the Holy Spirit for tasks at hand.

Today, we aren’t anointed in this traditional way, rather we’ve been anointed by the Holy Spirit when we are born again. The symbolism of the oil anointing can be applied to the Holy Spirit anointing as well.

When we are anointed by the Holy Spirit: 

        • We have been honored by God.
        • We have been set apart for God’s service.
        • We have been designated as God’s representative.
        • We have been empowered to perform the tasks set for us.

Looking at the anointing by the Holy Sprit in this light gives it such a stronger meaning. Another thing to consider when God anoints us it isn’t a one time thing. The anointing is always flowing. It’s overflowing God’s power, healing and blessings in our lives!

If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior today is the best day to do that. Simply call out Jesus’ name, ask Him to come into your heart and to set you free. Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint you with His blessings, power and healing today!

Allow the Holy Spirit to anoint you like a flood with this powerful spontaneous worship song by Molly Skaggs and Bethel Music.

SURRENDERING MY WILL

The Serenity Prayer column is published on the first Friday of each month in 2019. We’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today.

” 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.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

Taking as Christ did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will…”

 

The typical image of surrender is a criminal with hands raised above their head signaling that their hands are free of any weapons. While we may not be a common criminal who has been caught breaking the law, scripture tells us that stubborn willfulness, which is nothing less than pride, is one of the worst sins against God.

The LORD detests all the proud of heart.

Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

~ Proverbs 16:5

Lucifer, before his fall, was one of the angelic hosts in heaven. But because of his beauty his heart became pridefully and he saw himself greater than God. He coveted God’s power and rebelled against God’s authority. God then cast Satan out of heaven along with one-third of the angels who were in league with him.

Pride brings a person low,

but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

~ Proverbs 29:23

When we hold on to what we will for our lives instead of surrendering to God’s will for our life this is the sin of pride. By humbling ourselves, trusting in God’s will and plan for our lives we put ourselves in a position to be honored.

So then, surrender to God.

Stand up to the devil, resist him

and he will turn and run away from you.

~ James 4:7

Surrender can be a scary thing. Letting go of our plans and trusting the unknown can be uncomfortable. The faith-walk is definitely not for the faint of heart! Even getting to a place where we’re able to surrender is difficult at times.

A process of steps is helpful here:

    1. Silence and Solitude: Beginning the process of surrender I must first find some silence and solitude. Actual silence and solitude may be impossible depending on the particular situation or circumstance. I may need to inwardly find the silence and solitude when in a crowded environment.
    2. Settle in Peace: Having found some silence and solitude I must then settle my anxious mind from worry. Maybe I’ve been reliving yesterday’s regret or fretting tomorrow’s uncertainty. Either way, I must find some mental peace. To help settle my mind I imagining a boat floating across a lake or river.
    3. Surrender Mind Body and Soul: To get to the place of surrender that I’m seeking I close my eyes and visualize myself floating on my back in a swimming pool. The peaceful stillness of the water holds my anxiety at bay and allows me to rest in God’s loving hands. I am then able to be fully surrendered in the moment, mind body and soul and to what God has for me here.

As we listen to this wonderful song by Matt Redman let’s contemplate surrendering to Christ’s power working in, through and for us. With our arms held high and our hands open grasping nothing, we can give ourselves over to God’s loving grace that brings us what’s best in His perfect timing.