TGIF : Friday Fun Challenge

Challenging Thought for Today:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.   Exodus 20:11

 

TGIF.  Thank God, it’s Friday.  It’s the weekend.  Friday Fun Day.  Casual Friday.

You’ve heard them all. I know you have seen the Facebook memes comparing  work enthusiasm on Monday to Friday.  Someone peeps out from under the covers on Monday, trying to muster up enough energy to drag themselves in for the start of another workweek. Then you see the same person in their car leave work burning rubber on Friday.  I don’t say this judgmentally.  I feel you.  I have posted a couple of Facebook Friday memes myself and have eased out the door (with permission of course) a little early on Fridays.  However, as I had one of my many TGIF moments today, I started to reflect on today’s challenging thought.

Now, I know that the general work force’s fascination with Fridays does not stem from the fact that it’s a day of rest, because surely none of you would go to work on Friday and spend the whole day doing nothing but waiting for quitting time, would you?

My point is that the Lord spent a full 6 days working to create this beautiful world for us.  Then he sanctified the 7th day as the Sabbath and blessed it for us. I could go into a little bit of reflection here on the fact that while Friday is for most people the end of the workweek, it is not a workweek Sabbath or day of rest.  But, I don’t want to burst your Friday bubble, so I’ll take off my supervisor hat and put back on my Friday fun hat as I finish my lunch break.  Today’s challenge is super simple.

Reflect on those blessings that bring you to TGIF.  That could include your faith, your family, or your job. Whether you are working or unemployed, you still made it through another week.  No matter what your week looked like, someone in your circle of influence is glad you were a part of theirs.  And, even if your calendar for next week is already full, at least you have a couple of days of rest before you have to deal with it.

It’s the Weekend.  Enjoy it.

Blessings,

Shelia

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A New Year, A New Beginning

Challenging Thought for Today:  “Let us begin again.” Reverend Henry Biggs, The Preadher’s Wife

Along with this opening quote, two lines from Courtney Vance’s character in the  movie, The Preacher’s Wife have always stayed with me. “When we love someone, we are really loving God.  Look in wonder at those you love, for they are the face of God.”  The pastor in the movie did not just wake up one day and have this revelation.  He was going through a difficult time and was in danger of losing his church.   Additionally, he was questioning his faith because the compilation of ministry and family struggles made him feel like his work was in vain.

Then he prayed a very simple prayer: “I know you are extremely busy this time of the year, but I could use a little help right about now”. Although God responded immediately, the troubled pastor was not easily convinced.   An angel in human form was not how he thought relief would come.

This scenario makes me wonder how many times we continue to stress over a prayer that God has already answered simply because the answer does not come as we imagined or hoped it would.  Just like the character in the movie, we continue to search desperately for what God has already provided.  Fortunately, by the end of the movie, the pastor realized how much he was missing and the many things and people he was taking for granted.

The older I get, the more reflective I am on the beauty of God’s love compared to the bounty of the world’s drama.  Trying circumstances shift our focus from the promises of God to the problems of life. We stop cherishing what we have and start bemoaning what we lack.

It’s interesting to me that the end of the holiday season is marked by the beginning of a new year.  What an excellent opportunity to take the preacher’s quote literally.  I challenge you today to take a few minutes and look in wonder at those you love.   Begin this new year with a fresh appreciation for everything and everyone in your life.  Take a walk through the mall or sit in any public place and marvel at the beauty of human nature.  No matter what is going on in your life, or what difficult circumstances you may be facing, God’s love is all around you.  You just need to take time to see it and open your heart to receive it.

Be Blessed,

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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Friday Fun Challenge : Pass the Test

Challenging Thought for Today:  “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

It’s post finals here at the University.  Yesterday was the last scheduled exam for the semester.  As I walked to my last class last week, I overheard a student talking on the phone.  She said, “I love his tests!”  She then paused for a minute before she continued.  “Do I do well on his test?  No, but that’s my fault.”

I wasn’t privy to the rest of the conversation, but what I did hear intrigued me.  I wondered if she loved something that she was not putting forth an effort to be good at or if she was in one of those classes that none of the students do particular well in due to the nature of the subject.

Either way, it made me think of the test and trials that are a daily part of our lives.  I can’t think of a time when I have said aloud or even consciously thought, “Lord, I don’t do well on your tests, but I sure do love taking them.”  Have you?  Should you?

Your Friday challenge: Think about the greatest test before you right now.  Remember our challenge quote for today, consider Philippians 1:6, and remain confident that whatever work God began in you, he is able to complete.

You may have to take the test more than once to pass the class, but as the song goes, “there is no failure in God.”

Think on these things.

Blessings,

Shelia

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I’ve Got the Power

Challenging Thought for Today:    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105 KJV

“Well, we’re out of light!”  This was my oldest daughter’s proclamation one evening after the power went off.  At the time, she wasn’t old enough to understand that the light is generated from a power source rather than a particular bulb or fixture.

A brief power outage on last Friday had me thinking about light and power.  Not just how much we take it for granted but also how much we depend on it for quality of life issues every day.

One student must have walked over to the library from the cafeteria only to find the power off here also. “Are you kidding?”  he asked.  “I didn’t get any breakfast and now this.  It’s not a good way to start off my day.”  Hopefully, his day got better after power was restored.

When we told another student that the outage was campus-wide, she moaned, “I’m going to die! I have to print my paper.”  I’m pretty sure she’s still alive and they eventually cancelled  classes, anyway.

Sometimes I think people who are afraid of the dark are not so much afraid of the presence of the darkness but the absence of a source of light.  Think about the India Arie lyrics to the song, There’s Hope.  One verse tells of a young man in the “back country of Brazil” who was extremely poor, living a simple life in a home without windows or doors.  However, his story didn’t end there.  The song continues: “On top of all of that he had no eye sight, but that didn’t keep him from seein’ the light.”

What a powerful message!  No matter what dark place you find yourself in, it doesn’t have to take away your power, which lies in the source of your hope.

So, just what is your power source today? If your hope is built on anything less than Jesus, you are living a powerless life.  Since I could not post last Friday, I decided to there was no need to waste a Friday challenge question and just give it to you on Monday.  What if we were all little light switches connected to heaven.  Would your children, best friend, spouse,  co-worker or customers get Christ-like responses when they flipped your “last nerve”  switch or would a very different light shine through?  Would you make the right decision in a heated moment when the “temptation” switch is flipped or would you listen to the Spirit and walk away?

Really think about what we are plugged into.   If we truly have the power of God through his Holy Spirit, then we don’t have to walk in fear, we can walk in faith.  Reflect on the challenge verse for today and take your power back.

 

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Man Up!

Challenging Thought for Today:  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  Job 38:3 (NIV)

King James Version
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

No matter which version you read, the results are the same.  In the book of Job, after almost 40 chapters of silence during Job’s suffering, God speaks. And, the first thing he says is “brace yourself like a man.”  I have that story more than once, but this verse hit me hard last week.

When I was young I used to hear older people say all the time that you can read the same bible verses over and over and get something new every time.  I don’t know what I got from today’s challenge verse or the entire book of Job for that matter, all of the other times I read it, but I know that last week, I stopped and said, “Wait, did God just tell Job to Man Up?”   Of course, I realize that translation is from the SG (Shelia Gaines) version.  But, that’s basically what he was saying.

He didn’t say.  “Job, don’t worry about it.  One day your name will be synonymous with patience.  Books will be written about you and sermons will be preached about your contribution to the topics of suffering and sovereignty.   Besides, none of this was your fault anyway.  I allowed it to happen.  I knew you could handle it and that you would eventually see my glory.”

Nope.  God did not mention any of that, although all of it was true.  He simply reminded Job that as the sovereign God, he is still in control.  His grace is still sufficient.  Earlier on in his suffering, Job questioned the justice of God in taking him through such a trial. In the end, he repented of that error in judgement and humbly re-submitted himself to the will of God.  Occasionally as I face my most intense challenges in life, I will compare them to the suffering of Job and that of Christ.  Yep, you guessed it.  They pale in comparison.

However, I don’t mean to imply that our struggles aren’t serious or that our pain isn’t real, just that we are not alone in the struggle.  Notice I didn’t say “every time” I face a challenge, I compare it to the suffering of Job, just occasionally.  Besides, if I got it right every time, there would be no room for growth, right?

Seriously speaking, however, we have probably all been guilty of making permanent mountains out of the temporary molehills in our lives.  As my pastor often alludes to, there is a big difference between having a bad day and having a season of struggle.

The story of Job’s struggle is much too long and complex for one blog post, but suffice it to say that he didn’t just have a bad day.  Without warning, he lost everything, his wealth, his children, his health, and his good standing within the community. Everything.  He had a bad season.  But, God!

Job held to integrity and he didn’t lose his faith.

Did you ever wonder why we weren’t told how long Job had to suffer?  Maybe because the fortitude of Job during the suffering is more important than the length of time he had to endure it.

Are you in a season of struggle?  Perhaps you just came out of one.  Maybe you see one looming ahead of you.  Why not broaden your perspective and read the book of Job again or for the first time?  And when you feel like giving up, reflect on Job’s struggle and maybe, just maybe, instead of giving up, you’ll have the strength to Man up!

Be Blessed.

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Friday Fun : So Much Stuff

Challenging Thought for Today:

Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours. (Gen. 45:20).

     The only thing I remember from move in day my first year of college, circa 1980 is

my father asking if I was supposed to bring all that stuff. Initially, I was fortunate

enough to be in a dorm that did not have an elevator, so my father may have

actually used a more colorful word for stuff as he lugged the heavy, blue

trunk up three flights of stairs to my room. He and I were able to take everything

up to my room in one or two trips.              storage trunk

    This memory came to me unbidden a couple of

Fridays ago as I watched

staff members prepare for Warm Welcome, which is

move in day here at the

university. . A new crop of students arrived on

campus in cars, truck, and trailers

laden with clothes, books, blankets, laptops, throw rugs, refrigerators, and

microwaves. I wondered what my father would have thought of all the “stuff”

students bring to school today.

     Stuff is one of many words I was amazed to find used in the bible. I don’t know

why it surprised me so much. It just did. Stuff is not a word that sounds scriptural or

sacred. But, apparently, it is. Jacob’s father-in-law searched his stuff when

Rachel stole from him in Genesis 31. When some of David’s men were too tired

to continue on in one of the battles, they were allowed to stay behind with the

stuff (1 Samuel 30).  One source cites the word stuff mentioned 13 times.

     Maybe the word sounds non-biblical  because we often think of “stuff” in the

negative. Bringing too much stuff with you on a weekend trip or to college.

Having so much stuff when you get ready to move, that you give some away and sell

even more at  yard sales. Or, having a junk drawer full of stuff that will eventually

just be thrown away.

    Of course, these are valid observations.However, each year when we help students

move in to the dorms, stuff ends up being serious business. We tell incoming

students that we would watch their stuff while they handle the necessary

paperwork, picked up their keys,etc.

     Not surprisingly, we get more than one skeptical look. We have to reassure them

that we would guard their stuff.

      Just for fun, I thought I would challenge you today to look at your spiritual stuff.

Do you have bibles, books and journals that you never open? Do you revisit all those

copious notes you take in church and bible study and at conferences to make  sure

you are applying those principles to your daily life? Is there so much stuff going on

in your life that your faith walk suffers as a result?

     Remember, this is Friday fun. It’s not a reprimand. It’s just a challenge. Take stock

of everything God has equipped you with. Don’t let it go to waste.

That’s good stuff,  y’all.

TGIF

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Good Bones

Challenging Thought for Today:    By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.  Proverbs 24: 3-4.

“Do you have the guts to take on a fixer-upper?” Joanna Gaines (no relation) asks this question in the introduction to the hit HGTV show co-hosted with her husband Chip.  After their introduction in each episode, Chip Gaines says they take the worst house in the best neighborhood and make it into their client’s dream home.

One thing I have learned from my HGTV fetish is that no matter how bad a house looks on the outside or even on the inside, it is rarely un-salvageable. If the foundation is still good and it’s structurally sound, it’s considered to have “good bones.”  In that case, the value of the home does not lie in the appraisal of its present condition but in its potential for restoration.

I often think of this “fixer-upper” concept in light of 1 Samuel 16:7b  …for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   Just as a contractor sees past broken windows, damaged walls and cracked foundations to the real potential of a home, I am so glad that Jesus sees past our crushed spirits, dashed hopes and deteriorated dreams to the wonderful temple that we were created to be.

The Full Life Study Bible commentary on the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 states that the vision was given to assure the exiled Israelites that they would be “restored by God’s power and again become a living community, in spite of their seemingly hopeless circumstances.”   Israel would not only be restored physically, but spiritually.  After the physical restoration, they would be infused with breadth of life through the Holy Spirit.  (p.1230)

This is a wonderful example because the actual bones referred to here had no flesh, marrow, or sinew.  They were just dry, brittle bones.  However, at God’s command, they were restored, given new flesh, new breath of life and were as powerful as a mighty army.

During an episode of Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna referred to one dwelling as the “Three Little Pigs” house. It was in such bad shape that it looked like a strong wind would just blow it over.  Have you ever been there?  Teetering on the verge of collapse?  Afraid that one more demanding phone call, one more hurtful, thoughtless word from a friend or coworker, or one more rejection from a loved one, just might send you toppling over.   I know I have.  I imagine most other people have also.  You may even be there now.

Know this.  You are not alone.  Many of us know what it feels like to live in fear of what will happen if we are forced to start over from scratch… again.   Maybe the thing to remember is that you don’t really have to start from scratch.  Even when a fixer upper is stripped down to the studs, the foundation is left intact.  Damages and cracks are repaired.   A solid foundation is key and it’s the strongest, most important part of the house.  Remember, Matthew 25:24 – 27 admonishes us to build our homes upon the solid rock of Jesus.  So that when (not if) the storms come and life’s winds and rains leave you damaged or dilapidated, you will be able to stand.

I am reminded of a particular moment when I felt pulled in many directions, disappointed at the path my life “seemed” to be taking, and just emotionally exhausted from carrying the weight of it all.   I literally collapsed on the bed and said, “Lord, give me strength.”  My spirit immediately received Nehemiah 8:10 b…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  At that moment, I knew God was showing me that I would always have the strength I needed as long as I didn’t lose my joy.

Granted, there are still times I feel emotionally drained and pulled in many directions, but I always go back to what I call the “bones” of my spiritual foundation : complete faith, hope and trust in the word of God.

One hymn writer took it a step further, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a word of caution here. Dream homes don’t magically appear out of the rubble of the old one.  It takes months of hard work of the contractor, carpenters, structural engineers, decorators, and owners.  There is a high price to pay to restore a home to its former grandeur and add new life and character.   Likewise, scripture reminds us that faith without works is dead.

Here’s the good news.  Our savior has already paid the price and the only work required of you in this restoration is to trust and believe in his ability to save and keep you.   It is not too late.

What shape is the natural and/or spiritual foundation of your “house” in today?  What is it leaning on?  What are you holding onto that is damaging your relationship with the God?   Are you digging through the ashes of an empty burned out shell, holding onto broken promises from untrustworthy people when God is prompting you to give him those fragments and allow him to make something beautiful.

Do you have the guts to let today be the first day of residence in your “new house”?   Why not tear down the walls of protection you have built around your heart and open it up to Jesus.  Let him create a clean heart.  Strip away old doubts and fears and replace them with faith and hope.  Trust God with the foundation of your soul and it won’t matter if the physical location of your natural home is in the worst neighborhood or the most desirable area of town, because you will be standing on solid spiritual ground.

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