Man Up!

As I reflect on the current collective climate of struggle people all over the world are facing today, I thought I might share a repost from a few years ago. I trust you will be encouraged by it.

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 read 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,

Shelia

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How’s Life

How’s life treating you? That’s a question I will often ask people.  Most people will respond with a generic fine or okay.  Not even giving thought to any deeper meaning behind it.  And for the most part, there are times when it is just all part of our common courtesy in greeting and responding to each other.  However, a song by Tamela Mann reminds me that we really need to take a look at how and where we are living.  In This Place, Tamala sings “There is a place in God where we can all be free.  A place where God can get the best out of me.  A secret place in God where he covers me.”  The song goes on to say, “I’m so glad I’m living my life in this place.”

It’s not a new song, but it resonated in my spirit years ago the first time I heard it and it still does to this day.  I occasionally listen to it on repeat to remind myself how important it is to stay in a good place both emotionally and spiritually.  To truly live in the presence of God.  When I first heard the song, I remember thinking that Tamala Mann had arrived a t a pretty good place in her life and she should feel good about where she was.  But I quickly realized it’s not about that at all. 

Your status in life or your physical address has nothing to do with it.  In our faith walk, the house we live in may or may not be to our liking, but if we settle our spirit in the presence of God, we can find a home.  You might be reminded of a song by Beatrice Gardner called Safe in His Arms.  She reminded us that the safest place in the whole wide world is in the arms of Jesus.  Right in the middle of the will of God. Tamala Mann takes a line from that testimony and reiterates,  “In the arms of Jesus is a great place to be, ya’ll.

I think the most important line in Tamala Mann’s song is “until I found Jesus, I never thought I’d be in this place.   Friends, you can find him no matter what your physical address is.  Whether you live in a mansion in the most desirable side of town or whether you share your street with less than desirable neighbors in a high crime area.  There is no where you can go that God can’t find you.  In Psalm 139 David asked and answered the question of where can we go to flee from the presence of God.  There is nowhere and Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God will never leave us or forsake us. 

So, take a moment and ponder these questions.  How are you living?  Is your desire to live in his presence, in his will, greater than your desire to live in the best home in the best neighborhood?  Is your desire to live peaceable with all men greater than your desire to be right or get your point across?  Are you thanking and praising God for allowing you to live in a good place?

Tamala Mann ends her song on these notes,  “My joy is right here.  My peace is right here. I am amazed that I’m living my life in this place.”   Can you say the same thing? Are you in a good place?  Do you need to move?

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The Rest of Your Life

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. That’s what the Lord woke me up with yesterday.  It was just what I needed to hear. A recent medical diagnosis has made the last few months very hard for me, physically. That naturally affected me emotionally and spiritually.  But, I woke up yesterday feeling better than I have felt in a long time.  The medical prognosis is still the same. That hasn’t changed. Although, it is good. Well, as good as it can be given the diagnosis.  And, I know there may still be challenging days ahead both emotionally and spiritually.  However, my attitude and my perspective has changed.   

I spent a great deal of time during the last few months wondering if people would treat me differently once they found out I have cancer. A serious illness can cause some serious reflection.  The truth of the matter is difficult situations do not have to change relationship. However, they can reveal the true nature of them. 

For a long time it was hard for me to be comfortable sharing this news with anyone who didn’t have to know.  Now, I’m less concerned with making everyone else comfortable than I am with holding myself accountable. Not just to others, but to God.  

What is your challenge today? Mine is to allow God to walk me through this season of cancer at his pace, not mine. Yours might be walking through unemployment, divorce, the loss of a loved one to Covid-19 or simply a bad day. Just remember, whatever you are facing, you are not facing it alone.  Find solace in the words of Joshua 1:5.  The Lord will never leave you or forsake you. 

I recently wrote an essay called The Things we Tell People. Which although it was about my cancer diagnosis, was more about how we share our lives with others. How honest or dishonest, transparent or secretive we are about what we are dealing with.  The scripture 3 John 1:3 reminds us that above all else, God’s desire for us is to prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers.  We can be in good health with a medical condition. We can prosper and not be wealthy.

Meditate on that today. God hasn’t changed. He hasn’t left you. His will can still be done in your life for the rest of your life.  Whether that’s a few months or 20 years, it starts today.  And, that same amount of time will pass whether you use it to live life abundantly or let life pass you by. Do you know what God has in store for the rest of your life? Why not ask him today?

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All in Due Time

Challenging Thought for Today:
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Many years ago, the daughter of one of my good friends came into my office as I was eating. She reminded me that it was “way past lunchtime”. I told her that I had been very busy that day and did not stop for lunch at noon. By the time I got around to eating, I did not realize how late it actually was. She responded by telling me about a poster she had seen with a message at the top that read, “I was put here on earth to accomplish a certain amount of things before I leave”. The bottom of the poster read, “At the rate I’m going, I don’t think I will ever die.” She was only in the third or fourth grade and I was a little surprised that she could make such an excellent analogy, but I just laughed at her and went on with my meal. However, what she said always stayed with me and I think of it often. It’s actually a very funny way of reminding us that our time is not our own. Whether we like to think about it or not, today’s verse for thought reminds us that we were indeed put here on earth to accomplish a certain amount of things before we leave. The bad news is whether we accomplish those things are not, our allotted time here does not change. So many people leave this earth never fulfilled in life because they squander it away waiting for a better time to do what they would like to do. Sadly, this is even true for those of us who feel led of God to accomplish things in and through ministry. Instead of asking God to help us manage our time in a way that is both pleasing to him and helpful to us, we live our lives under the false impression that our time is our own.  Unfortunately, this puts us in a position to allow fear, hurt, disappointment and other challenges of life to rob us of many great accomplishments that we plan to tackle when we have more “time”.

Do you ever wonder how many missed opportunities you have had to touch the lives of others or even enhance your own life for the better? Think about that as you go through your day today and take inventory of your daily accomplishments. Are you satisfied with them? Is God?
Be Blessed,

 

Shelia

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Moving in the Right Direction

 

Disclaimer:  Today’s post is actually the first one I shared for this site all the way back in 2017.  It is still relevant today.  Maybe especially during this time when so many feel lost and confused.  Enjoy!

 

Challenging Thought for Today:    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

“Just because you don’t know where you are doesn’t mean that I don’t.”

This was my husband’s not so subtle reference to my non-existent sense of direction when I inquired about the final destination of one our weekly dinner outings after church.

The profoundness of that statement made me ponder our response to God as we travel this road often referred to as our spiritual journey.  I thought about our attempt to justify ourselves when we “get lost” along the way.

“Directionally-challenged” is a “kind” phrase for someone who does not have a good sense of direction or gets lost easily and often.   The hard thing about being directionally challenged is the fact that you don’t have to be in an unfamiliar place to get lost and you often go in the same wrong direction each time.

It’s easy for someone who has a good sense of direction to become irritated with someone who is directionally challenged. In the natural sense, we look at someone else’s struggle and say, “why are they having such difficulty with that?”  We think of simple solutions and just move on.  Yet, in our own spiritual walk, we are not able to see simple changes that need to be made.   We would rather wander around aimlessly in our own understanding than to God and asking him how to get where we are going.  I have certainly been guilty of looking at someone who seems to make the same mistake repeatedly and wonder why it’s so hard for them to see they are on the wrong path.  Yet in my own spiritual walk, I have also been guilty of wandering aimlessly along a path of my own choosing instead of turning to God and asking him which way to go.

On the Sunday afternoon in question here,  I was unfamiliar with the area my husband was driving through, so I naturally wondered if he was lost.  Likewise, when we don’t trust the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can allow this same type of fear to interfere with the journey.

If we focus on how many turns we’ve already taken, how many other “restaurants” we pass on the way to where we are going, we can miss valuable lessons that can be learned from the trip.   Especially when God takes us into areas we are unfamiliar with, challenging us to move out of our comfort zone.  We look around and see people we don’t normally associate with, rocky paths we feel  ill-equipped to travel, and roads that have previously been closed to us, it’s looks like we are lost.  But, we aren’t.

Memorize our thought for today and accept that God knows where he’s taking you.  Heaven’s GPS location is already locked in and we can start from anywhere.

My tagline for this blog is “finding my way: living my purpose”  because I know the best way to be assured that I am moving in the right direction is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate GPS, consistently listening for that guiding voice to speak to me  through his word, his people and my life and  say “this is the way, walk in it”.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.  I solicit your prayers as I move in this new direction following the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Follow me as I follow Christ.

Be Blessed,

Shelia

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Hitting Snooze by Stephanie Gaines

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the reality of our daily walk has changed in the last few weeks.  But, the literal saving grace in all that is that our God hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.  Many of our Christian leaders (and followers) have offered words of encouragement and admonished us to remain calm even during these difficult times.  I don’t have a lot to add to that conversation, but I wanted to share  this post that was written by my daughter several years ago.  It is relevant even today.  So, no matter where you find yourself in this season of pandemic, don’t panic and don’t sleep on the fact that God is still in control.  And, yes that is a shameless plug for the title of this post.  I know you will enjoy it.

Challenging Thought For Today: 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.    Psalms 139: 11-12

My mother, of all people, can tell you that I am not a morning person.  If I don’t have to be up for any particular reason, there’s no telling what time I’ll actually roll out of bed.  When I have to get up early, I always set my alarm at least 30 minutes before I have to get up; just so I can hit snooze.   After hitting snooze at least six times, I realize I should probably go ahead and get up.   As I hit the snooze button this morning I realized how this can relate to our walk with God.

Maybe it’s just me, but there have been times when I’ve hit snooze on my walk with God.  Life will wear me down and I get so tired that I just keep saying, “Just give me five more minutes, God.”  Snooze.   I silence the alarm and go back to my life.  The life I feel I should have when I’m being selfish. The stress of trying to do everything right will get to me and I’ll just want to give up on it all.  Snooze.  I feel like I’m trying to please others and God and, again selfishly decide, I’m tired of this.  Snooze.  I continue to go through life and an opportunity presents itself, an opportunity to wake up and get back to my relationship with God.  Of course I think to myself, I’m not ready and not at a place where I will fully put my heart into it.  Snooze.  I go to church and just go through the motions, not wanting to fully get involved.  Snooze.

This morning helped me realize that no matter how many times I hit snooze, my alarm is still there telling me to get up.  No matter how many times I tell God I’ll get back to him, that alarm will still go off and I realize it’s time to get up and continue my walk with God.  I get over my weariness and pain, I stop complaining about how hard life is, I get up and put on my “big girl” pants and get ready for the life God wants for me. It helps when I pray this prayer.  Dear God, I thank you for your love and patience.  I know that even when I have strayed, your love has still remained.  Help me to be encouraged to be a faithful servant.  Give me the strength to challenge myself to continue to strive towards a closer relationship with you. Amen.  My challenge to you today is take some time to evaluate your life and relationship with God.  Are you running away from God’s calling by hitting snooze?  If so, don’t be afraid to ask yourself, why?  Be completely honest with yourself.  Make a list of things you need to work.  Don’t just remember it, WRITE IT DOWN!  Put the list somewhere you will see it every day as a reminder.  Wake up and be blessed!

Stephanie Gaines

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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 read 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.

Shelia

 

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Not What I Expected

My grandson turned 10 years old last week, but I still remember the night that he was born.

The doctor spoke calmly to my oldest daughter, “I know you wanted to do the water birth, but I think there’s a little too much stress on the baby. We need to go ahead and get him out of there. Are you o.k. with that?” My daughter nodded her consent, but I suspect that her quick agreement came more from the pain of labor than any resignation concerning water birth.

As soon as she received my daughter’s permission, the doctor’s calm manner was immediately replaced with medical emergency protocol. She whipped a cell phone out of her pocket and spoke rapidly into it. “I need you in here now!” The nurse she spoke to was coming down the hall at a dead run even as the doctor closed her phone.  When they whisked her off to surgery, my other daughter, my son-in-law and I stood there momentarily stunned into silence.

The next few minutes were difficult ones for us. We called family members and called on our faith. Our prayers were answers and we saw a healthy baby boy minutes later.

The whole situation reminds me the scripture from John 16:21.   A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16:21 (NKJV).  At least I thought about that long after everything was over.  Initially,  I was disappointed that my daughter had to experience an emergency C-section and my son-in-law experienced one of the most joyous events of his life in the midst of great danger to the most important person in his life. However, that precious bundle of joy made it all worthwhile. What a blessing it is that even when circumstances overwhelm us, God still blesses us with small miracles.

My prayer for you today is that even in difficult situations you will always remember to thank God for being a loving God and for always doing what’s best for us, even when we don’t understand. When things don’t go as expected, turn to him and remember the promise from Romans 8:28.  He knows how to make all things work together for good even when they feel bad.

The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, read John 16 and Romans 8.  Meditate on those things and remember that while trials and tribulations will undoubtedly come, you do not have to face them alone as long as you know The Overcomer. Don’t make the mistake of allowing the cares of life to keep you from living.

Be Blessed,

Shelia

 

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True Commitment

One of our pastor friends once had an opportunity to ride in the cockpit of a plane during the flight. He said that once they were airborne and had reached a certain altitude, the pilot radioed back and said “We are committed!”  That story resonated in my spirit and I have never forgotten it because of that simple phrase.  “We are committed!”   In other words, there is no turning back now.  The plane was already in the air. The time to make sure everything needed for the flight was on board and the plane was flight ready had passed. He couldn’t turn around in the middle of the flight to go back and gas up the plane or stop and let someone off.  If something goes wrong, the pilot can’t go all the way back to the airport, he has to know what the emergency procedures are and be confident in his ability to execute them.  The people who boarded the plane put their faith in his flying ability. The pilot made the commitment to learn how to fly the plane before he ever flew with passengers.  Choosing any profession in which you are responsible for human lives takes great courage as well as commitment.  I often meditate on Joshua 1:9 when I reflect on my commitment to God and ministry.  “Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be you dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”   

Lately, I have been reflecting on how reliable my commitment is to those things God has entrusted me with?   Sometimes I have to remind myself that when you choose to follow God, you are accountable to him as well as to your fellow man.  However, you do not have to be afraid.  Just as flight school and other training prepares a pilot before the passenger board the plane, Jesus has already prepared the way for us before we were even born.  Furthermore, he has made it clear that we do not have to walk alone.

I know the time for New Year’s resolutions has passed and so many people have already fallen short of this year’s goal, but why not take this opportunity to re-commit yourself to what God has called you to do?  Make a list of thing that you are committed to.  Then take the next step.  Ask yourself when was the last time you made a selfless sacrifice for anything or anyone on the list.  Ask God to show you ways to recommit to those things in a way that will be pleasing to him.  And, if you are doing a good job, keep it up.  If not, don’t be afraid of the re-commitment or fear what the future holds.  You can trust God with your future.  Make the commitment…

You will be Blessed,

Shelia

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Seasons of Life

Today’s unseasonable cold weather prompted me to re-post this from last May when we experienced unseasonably “warm” weather.  The wind chill in Memphis today is in the single digits, but maybe reading this will give you some warm thoughts.

Enjoy,

 

 

Did you know that Punxsutawney Phil recently spent some time in the hospital? Well, he did.  It happened in April when we were a full month past his Groundhog Day prediction of six more weeks of cold weather and Spring was starting to feel a lot like winter.   So, naturally a Facebook meme appeared showing him bedridden after being beaten by an angry, cold person somewhere digging out of an unseasonable Spring nor’easter storm.

Now, you and I both know that the fate of our climate does not rest on a groundhog’s shadow.  But, when I heard a local weatherman share the Facebook story, I still laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing.

It was just interesting to me because even though all the cold, snow and ice made it feel like winter, it is still Spring. (To update that for 11-12-19, even though the windchill makes it feel something like 5 degrees outside, it’s still Fall).  I wondered if sometimes human nature feeds an innate need in us to find a place or person to lay blame on for a bad season in our lives.  Even if a lot of stormy seasons are of our own making.

One factor that determines whether or not you will experience colder or warmer weather is your geographic location.  Here in the deep south, it can feel summer warm all the way through October or longer. Likewise, winter cold can linger through April or May in the Northeast.

Ironically, the weather these past couple of weeks has everyone saying that we skipped right over the warm breezy climate of Spring temperatures and went straight to full blown summer heat.

Of course, in keeping with our theme here, that made me ponder this “seasons of life” thing even more. How many times have we thought we were nearing the end of a bad season and looking forward to a little bit of a reprieve only to have life throw us another “hotter than July” situation?

I thought of the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1.  To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  Seasons are just that.  Seasons.  Three short months on the calendar of your life.   Granted, there will be uncomfortable seasons that will last much longer than three months.  Some bad seasons can last for years. But, rest assured that God will orchestrate those days accordingly.  It’s okay to trust him even when life throws you a winter curveball in the middle of your “happy dance” Spring.  No matter how hot it gets, it won’t replace the forthcoming Summer season.   For that matter, even if we get a blizzard in April, winter will not return until December.  Why not reflect on that some today?

Whether you are facing a tsunami of emotional life changes or a tornado of teenage drama, he will never leave you nor forsake you.  The damages can be minor or they might be catastrophic, but remember this.  You are not alone in the storm.  Even the winds and rain obey him.  Matt. 8:27.

Douglas Miller wrote it like this in his song, My soul’s Been Anchored:

But if the storms don’t cease
And if the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)
My soul has been anchored in the Lord.

 

So, whatever season you find yourself in. Don’t live your life in fear of the coming storms (be they snow, wind, rain or heat).  Be prepared like the man who built his house on a rock instead of sand (Matthew 7:24 -27).

Be Blessed,

Shelia

 

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