ACCEPTING

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These columns will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

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.

 

Hardships are simply a part of life. We can’t avoid them but many of us have found a way to numb ourselves through them. This pretty much defeats the learning purpose they can provide for us.

Some people don’t believe that God uses hardships.  All through the Bible God allowed trials to help people grow. Whatever the end result, God uses difficult situations for our good and for His glory.

Does this mean that God causes bad things to happen? No. Satan, who rules the kingdom of earth, is allowed to bring difficult situations in our life, but only after permission is given by God, the Father. The biblical story of Job is evidence of this. At the end of his life God blessed Job with 10 times more than what he lost.

Whatever the source of our hardship, it’s up to us to accept them. Accepting a hardship isn’t an easy task. The are many emotions involved when we’re struggling through a situation. If we look to Paul and see how he handled his “thorn in the flesh” we can be encouraged.

 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations… At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG)

God cares more about our character than our comfort. He wants us to be molded into the image of Jesus Christ, no matter what it takes. The more stubborn and willful we are, the more prideful and self-pitying we are, the longer it may take. How many times must we go around the same mountain?

Submission to the circumstances can bring about peace. Just like the earlier portion of The Serenity Prayer states, we must come to a place of accepting the things we cannot change. Not accepting them doesn’t change them, but it can and will change us into a miserable person to live with.

Peace is a promise of Christ. Let’s be determined not to let life trouble our hearts and turn us into miserable people. When we look to Jesus in times of struggle and heartache He will give us the peace that passes all understanding!

Center your heart with this lovely song by Hillsong Young and Free.

SERENITY

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we are dissecting this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These posts will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

serenity:  a state or quality of being serene, calm, tranquil, peaceful; having an inner calm in the midst of the ups and downs of life; involves learning to be content with the things in our life that can’t be changed. (Serenity’s opposite is agitation.)

Human beings aren’t naturally serene creatures. We don’t have to be taught agitation. It seems to come with the inner selfishness which is built into our nature. I certainly lean more towards agitation with most things in life. That’s why we need God’s help!

Our lack of peace is directly related to our thought life, worry and ingratitude. The Apostle Paul teaches this in his letter to the Phillipians:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Now brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.              ~ Phillipians 4:6-9

It’s to us to decide what we’re going to think about. No one can control our thoughts but us. When we look for good we will usually find it. The opposite is also true.

Stressing over situations and people that we can’t change only makes more stress. If we can settle into life as it is, finding a way to be content, we can trust God will work all the good and bad for our good.

Let’s lean into God and put Paul’s teaching into practice. Then the peace of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will put a guard over our hearts and minds, and ultimately our life.

Take a few minutes to contemplate Christ’s peace with this beautiful worship song by Bethel Music.

Focus on Delight

Most people I know today are going through some sort of struggle; whether it is financial difficulties brought on by the sagging economy or disharmony with family or loved ones. My family is no different. Like many others we are pressing through yet another job transition; depending on the Lord everyday to provide our basic needs.

I recently attended a women’s retreat where the speaker quoted Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” She went on to explain that delight in the original Hebrew means “to be soft or pliable.” I was struck by that definition; not what we normally think of when we hear the word delight. This got me pondering…

I remembered in February I posted a column titled Moldable Clay where I asked the question, “How do we stay moldable in our Father’s hands?” I can honestly say now I have the answer — We stay moldable when we delight ourselves in Him. But how can we actually do that? How do we delight ourselves in the Lord?

Noah Webster’s New International Dictionary defines delight: A high degree of gratification of mind; a state of pleasurable feeling; lively pleasure; extreme satisfaction; joy; to have or take great delight or pleasure; to be greatly pleased or rejoiced.

To delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in their presence. This only happens when we know that person well and to do that we must spend time with them. To find delight in the Lord, we must spend time with Him, purposely, actively seeking Him and the pleasure that can only be found in His presence.

For me that also means even in hard times, looking past the circumstances to see God’s hand and to rest there knowing He loves me so much that He will take care of me no matter what. Like a little child who giggles as their mommy or daddy holds them. They’re just so happy to be in their arms, safe and secure, needing nothing.

What’s interesting for me is the round about circle this process has taken me… It started with a deep desire to keep my heart from getting hardened again, which caused me to ask God to help me to stay moldable… then I find the answer to staying moldable is to find delight in His presence which will in turn keep me soft and pliable in His hands. God is so good! He truly knows our hearts desire and will help us find the way to bring it about.

Let’s take our focus off all the problems and find that childlike delight in our Father’s arms today. Put on some peaceful worship music… sit back or lie on the floor… experience the joy of His presence… rest… be content to just be with Him. He will meet you there.

The Perfect Day

“Day in and day out.”  “That will be the day.” “Tomorrow is another day.”
These are all examples of how we think of our days.  They’re nothing special.  After all, it’s just a day, just another day… Well, what if today was your last day? Would you be sorry for how you lived all your yesterdays?
Our entire Life is made up of nothing but days. A list of days… day after day after day… Yesterday is over and gone. Tomorrow has yet to arrive. What you do have is Today. That’s all you’ll ever have. It’s strange to think, but you will never see your future. Because when you get to your future, you will rename it today. The cliche Today is the first day of the rest of your life, is actually true. In fact, today is your life! What are you doing with it? What if you could have a perfect day? What would it consist of? The key to a happy, productive life is in finding the recipe for “the perfect day.”
First, we must become aware of how we spend our day. It helps to break the day down into its smaller parts – hours. It’s kind of like spending money. If I use my debit card, it’s easier to spend the money, because I don’t see it. But if I carry cash, I am less likely to spend. I think it’s the same with time. If we look at the whole day, we’re more likely to waste it. But if we look at each hour in each day they somehow have more value.
God, being the equal opportunity God that He is, has given us all the same number of hours in a day – 24. How is it that one person can spend a certain amount of time and accomplish some great thing like a college degree, build a skyscraper, or write a book? But yet others, spend that same amount of time and have absolutely nothing to show for it. In fact, they may be worse off than they were before that time had passed.
Isn’t it interesting how we phrase the usage of time as spending, just like in money?  Sure they say, Time is money. Even though it isn’t really money, it is very valuable. Actually, it’s more valuable that we realize. How are we spending our 24 hours? Are we wasting them away watching endless hours of television…Watching people, long dead, trying to make us laugh or cry again for the 100th time… Watching other people live their lives, having the adventures we’re to lazy or scared to try – living an armchair participant’s life… Are we working overtime making someone else rich with no reward but a weekly paycheck… Or worse yet, completely zoning out every night on Internet porn sites and chat rooms; wasting weekend after weekend high on drugs and alcohol having mind numbing sex with nameless, faceless partners???
Unfortunately, I wasted most of my life doing all of the above. I have much regret for years spent running the rat race some call life. But my worst regrets are for the time truly wasted hiding from myself, my family, my life, and my God; living or should I say dying in a life of sin and addiction. It’s sickening and maddening to think of how much time I’ve lost; because I only have one life to live and it will be gone before I know it. But Praise God, today I have assurance, because I repented of my sins and received Jesus Christ as my Savior, God the Father will take all that wasted time the enemy tried to steal from me and turn it around to bring glory to the name of the Lord!  
Now to continue our search for the perfect day. Rather than counting hours, lets count weekends. Let’s assume the average person dies at 70 years of age.  If you are 20 years old, you have 2,500 weekends left to live. If you have turned 30 you have 2,000 weekends left until the day you die. If you are 40 years old, you have only 1, 500 weekends left. If you are 50, then you have just 1,000 weekends and if you are 60 you have a mere 500 weekends left until the day death comes to you. Somehow it is easier to relate to weekends, while years put death in the distance. This is quite a sobering way to look at the time we have left on this earth! 
When my husband, Bill, and I first saw our lifetime put in this perspective, we decided to find a way to mark the time we have left. He went to a hobby store and purchased a beautiful glass vase and some decorative colored marbles, the count equal to the amount of weekends we have left to live – at 50 years old, that’s 1000 marbles. He filled the vase with the marbles and placed it on the fireplace hearth. Each Friday, we remove one marble and place it in a prominent place where we will notice it as the weekend progresses. Then on Monday, the marble goes in the trash; one more weekend used up. We’ve been doing this now for almost 6 months or 24 weekends. It’s a great way to stay mindful of the time passing. To look at the vase and see the marbles and to know that represents the time left in your life… we are much more careful how we spend our weekends now! 
Remember, today is a mini-lifeIt’s the prototype or model of your entire lifetime. You can look at how you spend a day and know that is how your life will be spent. Don’t let time pass you by. Stop right now. The Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 6:2 – I tell you now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Come to awareness of how you are spending your time bank.
Start your perfect day with a few simple ingredients:
  • Make a daily plan. 
  • Be conscious of daily spiritual growth.
  • Always make each day productive.
  • Walk in love with those around you.
  • Find a way to mark your life-time passing.
          Consider adding the following:

Turn off the TV, put away the computer and the video games, read a book, start a new hobby, befriend someone who needs help, visit your grandmother, ask her about her life… Have a family dinner around the table, look each other in the eye. Do you even know who they are? Really? Talk to the ones you love, have stimulating conversation instead of searching for stimulating events. 
You may choose to be radical like we have and disconnect the cable all together! It’s actually quite liberating. Instead, we use NetFlix and rent television programs and movies we like. We have a dedicated time to watch together and the monthly bill is far less! I don’t even miss the television. I sure don’t miss the negative influences of the liberal media. I don’t know how I ever got anything done watching up to six hours per day! The reality is I didn’t get anything of value done, all I did was draw one day closer to the truly numbed brain brought on by Alzheimer’s. Now my brain is more active, I can memorize scripture easier, I have more time to read and write, to learn and focus on the ministry to hurting women God has called me to.
In our search for the recipe for the perfect day, sometimes those of us who tend to be perfectionists or people pleasers; may get bogged down in “What if I fail today?” Don’t get discouraged. There’s no pressure. Analyze the day in the evening, start over with your list of ingredients that will make your day perfect and try again tomorrow. Give your day to the Lord, each and every morning. Psalm 118:24 says: This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ask for His guidance where and how you should spend your time. There’s no condemnation with the Lord. Remember, at 12:01am every day, God has a new batch of mercy waiting for you
Lastly, the most important benefit, to fostering an environment of peace and quiet in your home, is the ability to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Take a walk and talk with the Lord. He wants to walk and talk with you. Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. You will hear His voice and He will direct you as to how to spend your time. When you are walking in the will of the Father you can know your days will be Perfect!
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.— Psalm 90:12

Finding True Peace

I was at Celebrate Recovery the other night and met a woman who reminded me of who I used to be. She seemed so lost, like a piece of driftwood floating in the ocean of life. I began to reflect on how far God has brought me from the days when I had no idea who I was or why I was alive on this earth.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling completely inadequate and incompetent… unable to meet what I thought were the standards of others. I saw myself as less than and certainly not as smart as everyone around me. I desperately wanted others to approve of me, to give me a sense of value, to show me and tell me I mattered. I became a total people pleaser. Starting at a very young age, I was willing to do pretty much anything to make others like me. A peer pressure set up if there ever was one.

In Jr. High, I made friends with some girls at church. Why they liked me I still don’t really know. But before long they were all smoking cigarettes/marijuana and having sex with their boyfriends. I wanted so much to be like them. They were smart, intellectual and hip. So, of course, I started doing everything they were doing, not because I really wanted to, but, because they were. My friends all seemed to have strong convictions about politics and the world. They were reading J. R. R. Tolkien and listening to Woodstock. I didn’t really understand what life was all about, but I pretended like I did. I was immature and gullible.

Through high school and early adulthood, I continued to search for my significance through the eyes, words and actions of others. I was so desperate for love and acceptance, I would have sex with anyone who even showed a little interest in me. One night stands abounded, numbed by drugs and alcohol followed by a continual feeling of disappointment. I couldn’t stand to be alone. I was afraid to be alone. Not because I was afraid of something or someone harming me, but because, I couldn’t stand to be with myself. So I stayed busy with multiple jobs, and/or endless entertainment.

I married my husband, Bill, in 1979. He was much like my teen friends, very confident, smart and assertive. No fear. One of these too smart for his own good, kind of people. Breezed through college on an Academic scholarship and up the corporate ladder with a resume that reads like an interesting novel. I lived in his shadow for years. Not because he lorded anything over me, but because I resented how smart he was. He could do anything he put his mind to, and not just do it, but be successful, and not just successful, but so qualified that two Fortune 500 companies would spend a 4th of July holiday weekend negotiating a deal, competing to get him to work for them! Incredible!

Yet, here I was, just a housewife, with a beautiful home, three precious children and a husband who would do anything for me. But I never really appreciated my life… my kids, my home, my husband. What was missing? We were going to church, doing all the “right” things… But deep inside, I was a miserable person and the funny thing is, I didn’t even know I was miserable. I just thought this was the way life was supposed to be.

Mid-life crept in with it’s different crises…my father died, children began to leave the nest, sexual identity issues, marriage problems. I found myself again using sex to find love, but this time outside my marriage. I was falling deep into a pit of despair. Using drugs and alcohol to numb the increasing internal pain. Who was I? Why was I here? I wanted to die, but I was too vain to commit suicide.

But God in His infinite grace, reached down from heaven and picked me up, out of the garbage that I deserved to be thrown in, and showered me with forgiveness and mercy. Some days, I wonder why me? I get overwhelmed with gratitude to the point that some see my happiness as delusional.

It’s been 4 years since I was born again. God has graciously restored my marriage of 29 years. He has put me on the path of ministry, to reach other women who struggle with the same issues I fought with for 47 years. Now I can honestly say, I have true confidence; not in myself, but in Jesus Christ. I can’t take credit for the person I’ve become. I am who God has allowed me to become through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. I see life through the filter of God’s Word. I no longer have to prove myself to others. I no longer search for the constant approval of others. Finally, I have peace with myself.

Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. -Romans 8:6 The Amplified Bible

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