Monday, August 29, 2011

Change Your Attitude With the ABC's

A friend said, "Mary, I've just been in the dumps lately, thinking about being single, wishing I were married, feeling lonely, feeling sorry for myself. What do I do?" Maybe the answer I gave her will be helpful to you, too.

I simply said, "Linda, start praising God." She knew the principle but had just forgotten to practice it.

The next week she told me, "I went home and started praising God for all his goodness to me and in short order, my spirits were lifted, the self-pity was gone, and I was able to truly be thankful for who I am and what I have."

Praising God changes us. Maybe you know the principle, too, but you just haven't practiced it lately. This is not something we learn once and for all. Becoming a person of praise is a daily lesson.

Here's one way I’ve found to get praise started, even when I don’t feel like it: Go through the alphabet thinking of one word per letter that expresses why you should praise God. A—he's almighty, B—he's benevolent, C—He's coming again—and on and on. By the time you get to the end, your attitude will be adjusted; your perspective will be changed.

Please, let me know how it goes for you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Did You Get De-Railed?

Are you paying attention? I’m talking about keeping tuned in to what you know about God. What happens when we just coast, or when we get lazy about our faith?

For one thing, anxiety and unrest move in. Discontent seeps in when we have not been practicing what we have been taught. Look at what Isaiah said:

Isaiah 48:17-18   I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

"If you had paid attention..." Isaiah wrote. It's rarely a deliberate decision on our part to wander from God's principles. It's usually just a simple failure to pay attention. Our focus gets fractured; our center moves slightly off-center, because in some small ways we have failed to pay attention. A little side step gets us off-track, and then the next step gets us further away. Like a train, once de-railed we go into a skid. And the result is loss: loss of peace, loss of blessings, loss of fellowship.

If you're feeling anxious, or restless, or out of sorts today, check it out. Have you failed to pay attention to God's will for you? Stop and take inventory. Where have you stopped doing what you knew you should? You can get back on-track, and know peace again and have the fellowship you've been missing. ‘Fess up and let God cleanse you first, and then turn back to get on the rails again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

One Way In

Has God changed lately? It seems like it when you examine the attitudes you rub shoulders with every day. But let’s take a closer look.

Many people today shape God into a form they can manipulate and re-model as they wish. Many people want to come to God on their terms, expecting God to compromise His standards when necessary, to change His word, to make an exception. But is God like that?

Hebrews 13:8   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. This verse is pretty clear. It says God is immutable—He never changes, His principles never change.

If we want to come to God then, it needs to be on His terms, not ours. But the good news is God's door is always open if we will come in His way, and that's through Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

John 14:6   Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It’s settled then. God hasn’t changed; He is always the same. And there is only one way into fellowship with Him. I’m going to meditate on that today. How about you?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Attitude Check-UP

On June 15, 2011, I launched a challenge to all of us to take on a more positive focus in our lives. How are you doing with that? What about me? I said I would report later about how I’m doing, so here I am, 2 months later.

Well, this has certainly been a period of negative news features; there has been tough weather across the nation all summer; it’s been a time of financial pressure and stress in the economy; it’s the season for vacationing fellow workers and juggling workloads. All that can make for a very negative environment at work. But I’ve found the discipline of forming a positive attitude about work to be bringing about change. I’ve noticed that a more positive focus leads to a more cheerful attitude, even if I’m not perfect at it yet. All the negatives are still in place, but with this challenge for the positive, I see the downers less. It’s like they’re off in my peripheral vision, not front center.

I want to keep working on this. A negative spirit is always lurking in the wings, waiting to step back on center stage, so I need to stay disciplined. Let me know if you have any victories to report in this standoff. We might be able to help each other.

Friday, August 12, 2011

you’re WORTH it!

Our invited guest Florence MacKenzie wrote this article for managing your emotions, published in Just Between Us, Fall 2011.

While surfing the Internet recently, I came across a blog post that wanted to discover what issues women were most concerned about. Of the various topics mentioned, one seemed to dominate all the others. Self-worth!

It’s a fact that many women are in a constant battle with self-worth issues. These can range from thoughts of unfavorably comparing themselves with others to thinking they’re completely useless. If this describes you, you’re not alone. Many Christian women are living in defeat and not enjoying all God has for them because they place very little value on themselves. Perhaps negative events in their past have eroded any sense of self-worth they might have had. They blame themselves for any rejection they’ve experienced and believe that, if they could only perform better or please a particular person more, they could earn acceptance. My friend, Margi, was like this. She lived most of her life as if she had no right to be here. She once told me that she sometimes felt she should apologize for breathing! As the third child born to a single mom, Margi thought of herself as an inconvenient accident that wasn’t worth very much. Insensitive comments and judgmental remarks from others did nothing to alter her perception. One of the consequences of this was she frequently misappropriated responsibility to herself for any trouble that came into her life.

On the other hand, there are women who think their value or self-worth can be measured in terms of successes they’ve already achieved. In effect, they’re building their worth on their own accomplishments. I recently met a woman who used to do just that. She had struggled with self-worth issues for many years and, as a musician who headed up the worship team at women’s conferences, she linked her feelings of self-worth to how well she sang at each event. She couldn’t believe anyone could like her for who she was. Any appreciation they had for her must surely be because of her singing ability and it was on this that she based her value as a person. The trouble with this outlook was it caused her self-worth to fluctuate—when she sang well, she felt good about herself, but when she thought her performance was below par, she was filled with feelings of self-doubt. Not surprisingly, this yo-yo pattern of how she viewed herself played havoc with her peace of mind.

For these women, and for all Christians who struggle with issues of self-worth, there is good news. Our value is not determined by what we do, but is based on what God has done for us: He has rescued, redeemed and forgiven us (Col.1:13,14)! We are immensely valuable and precious to Him! Once we begin to appreciate what He thinks of us, we’ll be less likely to buy in to the inadequate perspective others might have of us or even our own faulty view of ourselves. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. He doesn’t value us because of our successes or consider us worthless because of our failures. We are valuable because He made us and we belong to Him (Ps.100:3); He supervised our development in the womb and planned our days in advance (Ps.139:16); He tells us He cares even for the sparrow and Jesus reminds us we are worth more than many sparrows (Matt.10:31). And, to top it all, we are so valuable to Him that He thought we were worth dying for so we could know the freedom of His forgiveness and spend all eternity with Him in heaven. Can it get any better than this?

Do you ever doubt your value? Are you allowing what other people think of you, or even your own view of yourself, to eclipse God’s perspective of you? As followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to be more concerned about His view of us than anyone else’s view. He created us and, as someone once said, “God don’t make no junk!” Only when we grasp the amazing truth that our identity is found as new creations in Christ, will we be ready to hold our heads high, knowing we are daughters of the King.

Florence MacKenzie holds an honors degree in psychology and a Diploma in Expository Preaching. She is the author of several books, including Destructive Emotions: Facing Up to Guilt, Fear and Anger. She is a member of the preaching team at her home church and is married to James. Visit them at http://www.equippedforliving.org.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

She Sounds Just Like Her Mother

Recently my daughter and her family were visiting us. Her 2-year-old was playing “Mommy,” earnestly putting her baby to bed. As I eavsedropped, I heard her say the same phrases her Mommy says, use the same tone of voice, give the same care to the arrangement of the blankets, and devote the same loving attention to the bedtime procedures. I thought, “She sounds just like her mother.” In fact, my granddaughter was practicing in order to grow to be just like her Mommy.

Children learn through imitation; it’s a principle we learn in education. It’s also a principle taught in the Bible.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children (NASB).

Here we are told to imitate God, but the reason for it is found in the previous verses.

Ephesians 4:23-24 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In other words, in order to change to be like God, we should imitate him like a child would imitate his father. Imitating him helps us actually take on his attitudes and godly character. I would love to hear someone say of me, “She sounds just like her heavenly father.” But there is another reason for us to imitate God.

When I heard my granddaughter, my first thought was, “Look what that shows me about her Mommy.” Her imitations gave me a glimpse of the kind of mother my daughter was. That works the same way with those who observe us. By our imitations, the observer gets a glimpse of what God is like. That picture is one way to put God in realistic terms that are understandable to someone else.

So there is a double challenge here for me: imitate God in order to grow to be like him and in such a way that others will come to know him. That may challenge you as well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pizazz I Can Take Home

Mary is back from Africa now. The highlight stories have been recounted, the bags are unpacked and put in storage, the reports have been made, and the photos will soon be filed. The trip was exciting and rewarding and worthwhile. But now the pizazz is neutralized by the return to regular life. Does that mean that the normal work days that lie ahead for us now will be mundane and of no account?

Nope! Here’s why. We continue to reach out to encourage marketplace Christians, to apply biblical principles to work day issues, to help Christians live out their faith on the job. And in return, we hear comments like this one that just arrived in my inbox:
      This web site has been a great inspiration to my life as a "Christian Working Woman". It has been a blessing to my life.

Or like this one Mary received recently:
      Mary, thank you so much for your inspiring messages. Your messages touch me to the bones. I have always desired to make a difference in people’s lives in my daily work and walk with God. You should know you have contributed a great deal in this.

Or like this comment after a seminar:
      I am inspired to go back to work to put in practice what I learned.

As long as lives are changed and there is evidence of God’s work through our efforts, can our work ever be called mundane? No. I would say that is real pizazz to take home at the end of the workday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baggage Allowance = 2 (50-lb) Bags Per Person

In recent years, I have traveled with Mary to Africa many times. Among other things, my task was to pack for the trip. That also meant re-packing for the trip home. At the start of the packing process, my mind’s eye viewed the task something like the photo above. The challenge would be to organize it all and squeeze it down into 4 tidy 50-pound bags.

Of course, I didn’t actually have all those suitcases to contend with, but I did have a hodge-podge of materials to maneuver into the stipulated size, shape and weight for international flight baggage allowance. Today, Mary and Traci are tackling that process as they prepare to return to the USA tomorrow.

Let’s just imagine for a minute what their suitcases might contain on the return trip:
  • There will be the memories of many faces and smiles and arm clasp/shoulder pats (African equivalent to American hugs). They were part of the joyful welcome from the women anticipating blessings at each location.
  • There will be the compassionate prayers of African sisters supporting their American sisters on their long journey home.
  • We need to include some stories of interesting foods, puzzling customs and shopping ventures.
  • Photos of new friends and recently discovered ministry partners will be tucked in between layers of encouragement in finding dedicated people serving God in difficult situations.
  • I also see a heap of fulfillment in being able to teach and minister to women with responsive hearts, where God was invited in to work.
  • But there is a collection of regret too, that the problems were too great to resolve in such a short time, that the money just couldn’t spread further, and that there were some who went away to return to heart-breaking situations we didn’t even learn about until later.
When Mary and Traci arrive at the airport to check in their bags, the airline workers will have no idea what treasures their scanners are examining. They will pass through customs without notice too. But God will know what’s in them. May He use them for His glory and purpose.