I Choose Happy


That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed……” Matt. 13: 1-3

There is a little kitchen towel I have. It used to be very bright orange and sunny yellow. Because of my old bug yellow will always be a happy color for me. On it are printed the words, “Choose Happy.” Lately there have been things pressing in on me. School starting again, the future, the transitory nature of where we are living, Mom’s illness.

And currently we are facing a homeless/drug element in our town. Transients are camping by the river and there are pictures of feces and you name it on the shore. They clean it up periodically and then they all come back. That has made me extremely upset and restricted my activities on the river this summer. I’ve been wondering why the environmentalists so prevalent in our state are not coming out of the woodwork on this issue. I feel robbed. Cheated.

The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they (we) may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Everything in this world was set in motion and created by God. Perfectly in balance. The effects of sin have tarnished it. The evidence is all around us. Jesus came to counteract the eternal result of that destruction.  He also makes it possible to supersede all the negativity around us and still embrace life, and beauty, and hope and joy. We don’t have to let the world steal it. It is a choice we have.

It was with that attitude I awoke yesterday morning with a defiant stubbornness to  “Choose Happy.” I shook out the towel from the cabinet, hung it up and claimed Jesus promise. I took it into my heart and prayed it as a mantra all day. And you know what? My attitude changed.

This morning I walked down to the river and saw the magnificent beauty that was there all along. A gift of joy returned. I choose life. I choose gratitude for where we are now. I choose thankfulness for the beautiful message my Mom left me on the phone. That she loves me and glad that I am her daughter.

You see, when I read the parable of the sower and the soil today I realized that while the seed started out good, it was the conditions of the ground it fell into that varied. Each day we are given a choice and each day we live for Christ the choice can only be life. Because He died and rose again to give it to us.

It’s an old old story, but one I never get tired of telling.

Be at peace with your life my friends. He’s got this. He’s got you.

Chicken Wars

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:8

Chick-fil-a boss Dan Kathy has been taking a lot of flack these days for coming out and saying that he supports the traditional view of marriage. And those who exercised their own free right to support someone who was exercising their free right to free speech by going to buy a chicken sandwich yesterday are taking the flack too.

Yesterday, we didn’t see anything at all uncommon. We saw Americans doing something that has been part of our culture ever since a group of rabble rousers threw some tea overboard in the Boston harbor. They were putting action behind their beliefs. Taking a stand….backing up someone they wanted to support.

Independence and individuality is something that flows through the veins of our country’s DNA. It is built into our constitution and framework of our entire belief system. But it is not always easy to know when to step up and when to back down. At what point do we act on our beliefs?

Do we act on them even if by doing so we further widen the gulf between differing views by making it about “us” versus “them?” Someone has to be the enemy. Someone has to be wrong.

Many of the comments I read  opposing the support of Chick-fil-a were very troubling. It seems many people have very definite, and in my view, warped ideas about Christianity and Christians in general, most of them not favorable, some of them outright disturbing.

We were labeled, fundamentalist, racist, gluttonous, stupid, ignorant, hateful, uneducated and uninformed. And the Westboro Baptist Church kept popping up in comments, as though all Christians should be branded with that particular (and I use the term very loosely) church.

You could argue the point that if the church and Christians in general had done a better job historically of loving and reconciling people of differing viewpoints maybe this all wouldn’t be an issue. But then again, no one ever loved and forgave and tried to reconcile more than Jesus, and they crucified Him for it.

Because they didn’t want to hear the truth. They didn’t want to be told what they were doing was wrong. Lets face it, none of us does.

And the very same spirit that existed then, continues to wreak havoc in the world today. He is our true enemy, and he has only one goal. To Kill, To Steal, To Destroy……Lives. That’s been his goal from the beginning.

Hurting people sometimes strike out against something they may not even fully understand themselves. The enemy is the spirit behind the hate, and it is he who we must fight, always. Never the individuals.

There is a war we are in. But it’s not us against them. It is God against all sin whatever the flavor.

The Next Room of Prayer

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Let us firmly resolve not to lost the battle we fight. For if the devil sees that we are willing to lose our life and our peace, and that nothing can entice us back to the first room (first stage of prayer), he will soon cease from troubling us. But we must be resolute, for we fight with devils, and thus, there is no better weapon than the cross. Theresa of Avila

I tend to blame a lot of the way I feel on external things, people, life…….circumstances around me. But at the heart of it all, is my own response to all those things. My own internal struggle, the one that wages on in my soul, that old spiritual battle we have fought since the beginning. That is what keeps me in prayer. If Satan can convince us that the battle is lost, like we are failures at our faith. He has won.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we are getting any closer to our goal…..but the truth may be that we are closer than we think. It may be that we have moved up a level, into the next room of our prayer life. Lately I have felt much like a hollowed out gourd. Writing about anything has been hard. I have a person living in my home who has exposed me to myself…….made me see the reality of just how weak my faith is. Can it be that is what God has wanted me to see all along?

How can I ever fully understand His strength unless I am met face to face with the stark reality of my weakness? My inability to do anything on my own?

It is no wonder I am exhausted. I have been wielding my own sword and not His.

It is this act of laying down my very ineffective sword again and again………that is where the real battle comes in. Like Peter, I want to take matters into my own hands and slice off the ear of the guard. I so identify with Peter. He sees chaos coming and wants to defend, to fight, to fix, to right the wrong on his own.

But Jesus says no.

Jesus walks right through the middle of it, knowing that in order to win the war you have to pick your battles.

And for the joy set before Him endured the cross…………..”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Showdown in the Desert

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

I struggle with this post today. How to get into words what I feel this year? This particular advent? Each year I ask myself the same questions. What did it mean then, and what does it mean today? How can anyone truly understand the wonder of the Living God coming down to earth as a baby? This is why we are celebrating, after all.
Yesterday I saw a sign at a Scottsdale shopping mall describing Santa as “The man of the Season.” Really? I guess for some he is the man of the season, but not for me.
Sometimes…..many times, in our walk of faith we come to a place of decision. That is where I was yesterday. It was difficult to pray. I sat in silence, my heart feeling like a stone. I was struggling. It was a battle I was facing and I had to ask myself a serious question. It was a showdown in the desert. I
Jesus had one too. And He won.
After prayer I came back inside, pacing. Lately I have noticed anger…..resentment bubbling underneath my surface, ready to flare at little meaningless things. I know where it comes from. And I also know that it was a Spiritual battle not a physical one I had to fight.
I know Satan’s tactics. It was between him and me now. I was determined that he would not win. Can I just say to anyone who thinks that Satan isn’t real, that he isn’t absolutely bent on our destruction, just look at our world today. That my friends, is not the work of God.
What He created was and is perfect. Take the human element out of this world and you would be left with the same perfection as in the day of creation. Still and always, good. But thankfully, there is a good human element in play as well. All around us there are those who hold back the tide. And let’s just call it what it is…..evil.
I realized yesterday morning, that if I can’t handle one old, stinky bad tempered woman, yes I did say stinky. We are going on week six of no shower. She gets absolutely hostile and angry when Elaine suggests she take one. So we just keep spraying air freshener and lighting candles throughout the house.
If I can’t handle this situation, then my faith means nothing. I am a fraud as a Christian. I may as not sing one Christmas carol. You see, that was and is the battle. Yours might be different, but we are all in one once we claim the name of Christ. It is not about flesh and blood at all. 
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 
It is an old battle and nothing new. Yesterday I determined that God and I together would win it. Peace will reign in this home, in my heart. I will lay my struggle down at the feet of Jesus. I will let the Spirit take over instead of trying to fight it on my own.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12

Once I made up my mind……peace flooded into my heart. That is what advent means to me this year. It means peace, it means victory, it means we may have battles, but Jesus has won the war for us!
I continue my count today with renewed gratitude……..Decorating with joy for the season…….A best friend who understands and shares my burdens in prayer and conversation…..Christmas lights that work…..Snowman doormat….new heater in prayer room…….talks by the firelight……Morning chill……a call from my Aunt last night…..laughter when all else fails……Sleigh with stuffed Christmas babies that always make me smile…..#743-#753

Say what???

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

It has never been hard for me to accept the Genesis account of the fall of man. I guess because I can easily see that as good and beautiful this world is, what we had before was much, much better. Why would God make something as wonderful as bearing children so very painful, if not for the fall. I have tried to grow things and I can attest to the fact that it is toil. The Bible teaches creation itself to be under a curse. This is very easy for me to believe as well. All I have to do is look around.

I can imagine that it was so much better than this, yes. Even as good as it is. I can imagine being unhindered by time and space, by death. I can imagine colors we have never dreamed of, walking through walls, and time travel.

I have always assumed that Eve was tempted by Satan but the Bible says that it was a serpent. Well, Satan working throught the serpent. It also says that he only slithered on the ground after the fall. I think he was probably a very captivating and stunning creature, and of course extremely crafty and intelligent.

What amazes me though was that Eve didn’t seem surprised that this creature talked. Can someone correct my theology here? Even if it was Satan talking through the beast, don’t you think Eve would have been just a little surprised? What if your dog or cat started talking all of a sudden? Whoa……

No, if I had been Eve, I think the conversation would have been different.

The Serpent: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Eve: Dumbfounded that the serpent was actually talking, she ran to get Adam. “Come quick, you gotta hear this.”

So was the serpent talking all along? Did all the animals talk? Was C.S. Lewis onto something?

When I think of how it must have been in Eden, my head spins. If Hollywood can create wonderful, magical worlds like Oz, Narnia, Middle-earth, and Pandora, just think what God could do. And by the way, the Bible never said it was an apple either. I think it was probably one of the most beautiful sparkling luscious things we could ever see. I think it caught the light and danced on the limbs like prisms….

photo credit: google images

The best reason to praise

Image by flickr
It happens to me at least once a day, especially this time of year with our Arizona monsoons……I am driving or walking and I see something in nature that makes me stop everything for just a moment and breathe a prayer of praise.

It’s a natural and spontaneous reaction that happens when you know that there is a God who is behind it all, and that even nature itself cannot help praising God. When I lift my hands or say, “Thank you God,” for a beautiful sunrise I am simply echoing what all of creation is already doing; praising our Creator for continuing to extend His mercy for one more day. Another day to hope, to believe in Him, to thank Him for His marvelous works and for our redemption.

One of the best reasons I can think of to praise God is because Satan absolutely hates it when we do. It’s like throwing cold water on the wicked witch of the west. He simply can’t succeed in anything he does when we are praising God.

The Bible has much to say about praise and not once does it say to praise Him only when things are going well. It just says to praise Him because He is worthy!
“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

When Satan came before God’s throne in order to stir up trouble for Job, I believe he thought his victory was a shoe-in and that Job would surely cave in to despair and give up on God. But Job knew that whatever he was going through, it didn’t change who God was. He knew that in spite of everything, that God still loved Him; that for God to allow such grief there had to be a very good reason for it.

Absolute trust.

If you are despairing today, God has not left you. He has promised to be with you and see you through…

Another reason to praise is that we will be doing it throughout eternity, so we might as well practise now!

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

Can you picture even the animals bowing their heads or lifting their paws in praise to their Creator? It could happen! How cool would that be?

Can you think of a time when it was very difficult to praise God and you did it anyway?

Knowing our enemy

art Spiritual warfare by Laurie Cooper

I remember when you couldn’t even say “butt” on prime time. The “B” word is commonplace now and I am still surprised and cringe when I hear it. I never want to get to the point that I no longer even hear it. Satan has been using a new tactic lately. I have noticed it more in the past couple of years or so. This is the prime-time “bleep.” TV execs know they can’t use the real word so they fill it in. C’mon, we know the word they’re bleeping! (And so do our kids) The mind, clever thing that it is, will actually jump in and replace the word silently, so it’s really the same thing as hearing it.

Last night I noticed that the usual words in a “certain program” were beeped out (a lot!) but “Jesus Christ” (not used in a praise-worthy manner) was not. I have noticed this disturbing trend in movies rated PG13 as well.

Satan is a very clever and subtle strategist. None of us should be surprised by his tactics…..”in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Cor. 2:11 He knows that if he can get us to compromise in the seemingly harmless stuff, then the rest will be easier. His aim is to get the church to look more like the rest of the world. How is he doing? When I see people slurping sippy cups of Starbucks in church, I have a problem. One time I was standing in the aisle waiting to take communion and two women behind me were talking the whole time, like they were in a movie line. Do we not know we are standing on Holy ground?

The Apostle Paul never lost sight of his enemy and neither should we. He was keenly aware of who he was fighting, but He also knew he already had the victory in Christ. But satan is real, he is here, and he has only one purpose. Jesus warns us: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)

Satan isn’t talked about much in too many churches today, and that may prove to be a fatal error. We need to know who our enemy is and we need to know what to do to send him back where he belongs like Jesus did when he was tempted.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Thank you God, for giving us the final victory through Your Son!