The Big Challenge



“No circumstance can compete with the favor that God wants you to enjoy in Jesus. God uses all things to upgrade us in goodness and in power. So I love that fact that we’re only ever being challenged by who God is for us. That’s the big challenge on your life. You’re not being challenged by the enemy or by oppositional people. You are not even being challenged by your circumstances. You’re being challenged by the goodness of God. You’re being challenged by the love of God. You’re being challenged by the peace of God. We’re in Christ; we’re only being challenged with the person of God, who is making us like Him.”
-Graham Cooke


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When the Plot Thickens




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I couldn’t sleep last night. I was worried.

I was worried about fitting everything into our schedule in the next two weeks. I was worried about a family member’s health. I was worried that I didn’t get the best cell phone deal. I was worried about Ebola patients escaping and looters taking contaminated beds in Liberia. I was worried that I was not able to sleep with a busy day coming up. I was worried about booking a hotel that charged a cancellation fee in exchange for cheaper rates. I was worried about Christians being killed by the thousands around the world. I was worried that someone would challenge me to pour a bucket of ice water on my head.

When I went to bed I was merely worried that Don Diego would discover that Alicia was having an affair with Julio and that the Marquis might find out he was not the father of Alejandro and that Dona Alarcon had slipped Belen’s illegitimate baby into Sophia’s room while Andres tried to hide the identical twin in his tiny servant’s room even though he was the real heir, but his mother Angela was still keeping that a secret.

Ahh —-that’s where it started. I fed my mind on several back-to-back episodes of a Netflix TV show before bed. It is full of intrigue and lies and plot twists that could give you whiplash. You can’t trust any of those characters. It’s fascinating, if not unbelievably contrived, and based on the fact that everyone eavesdrops, but no one bothers to find a private place to have important conversations. I allowed my heart to be sucked in and began to think in the same distrustful way. The problem with hypothetical situations is that you can’t ask for God’s help because you must approach him in spirit and in truth -and there is no truth in a crisis of imagination. Characters are left to their own devices, and the plot thickens (and thickens, and thickens.)

I didn’t do it consciously, but somehow I took the mindset of having to rely on my own devices to bed and at 3:24 a.m. my mind woke up in a panic.

The only way I could find peace again was to read God’s promises, change my thinking, commit my plans to him, trust in him, and pray for his peace replace the anxiety. Then I needed to be still and wait. His presence showed up again and peace was restored — or rather the cacophony of other fearful raucous voices dimmed and I could hear his still, almost silent voice again, because He had never actually left. It reminded me of sitting in a canoe with my best friend on quiet lake at the end of the day.

I’m so glad you are here, Lord.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
(Psalm 37:5-8)

God is good.

Why I Appreciate Ranting Critics

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My trusted friend learned the value of living simply by growing up in a military family subject to frequent moves. She has offered to help me de-clutter my house. Then I discovered that she considers our many books and dvd’s to be clutter. Um… this might not work. We have three walls of floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with books — and perhaps a pile or two in the bedroom. And my home office. And maybe the living room… and the deck. I tried to tell her they make an excellent extra layer of insulation. She rolled her eyes.

I do cull regularly (my husband’s stuff is much easier to part with for some reason) and I do avoid second-hand bookstores, and clearance tables in the mall, so there are fewer books coming in. But now I’m having to worry about clutter on my computer since I have a Facebook friend who lets me know about free e-book promotions on Amazon -and he has great taste.

So, I am trying to be freer with what I part with, and more discerning about what I let in.  Now I’m researching authors and their works more before buying. I realized something about book reviews and reviewers today. I’m more likely to be attracted to a book with a few bad reviews than pages of gushing changed-my-lifes. Is it bad that I take some book reviewer’s negative online critiques as recommendations? Self-appointed heresy-hunters have panned some of the best books I’ve read. I’m beginning to recognize their names. Thanks, guys.

Do you remember video rental shops? One thing my husband and I discovered was that if the blurb on the box said, “HILARIOUS!!!!” we would probably hate it. It’s not that we are humour-challenged, it’s just that, after a while, humour that comes at the expense of someone’s dignity begins to lose it’s appeal. We also found certain popular critics had very different ideas of what constituted  an entertaining evening than we did. If they disliked something, we might just pick it up.

We’re weird that way. Popular not only does not know our address, it has never even wandered down our street. And we don’t mind.

The same author’s name popped up in a few places recently. I decided to check him out; he seems to say some rather radical things. Most of the reviews of his latest book on Amazon were over the top  five star best-thing-I’ve-ever-read stuff, which I immediately dismissed as friends’ or relatives’ or groupies’ kind attempts at helping sales. Four and three star reviews tend to mention possible flaws (which all the best authors have.) Then I skipped down to the one and two star stuff. There weren’t many, but one of the reviewers, who was very witty because angry people can be quite funny, hated the book, the author, and everyone on his friends list. Thankfully, the reviewer clearly delineated why he hated it, and in the process revealed his own character flaws and  the thinking that led to his disgruntled attitude.

Love it. I’m getting the book. The very things that offended him are in areas where I have also been offended, and where I realize I need to change.

I read a quote from a Christian author and teacher who listed his four favourite theologians, then stated he didn’t completely agree with any of them. Love it. Nobody has the entire picture, although some of the parts they do have are excellent.

We can learn, and grow, and change when we are willing to toss out some old books (or ideas) to make room on the shelf for ones we haven’t considered yet, knowing that  Holy Spirit will continue to teach us discernment and refine our thinking in the process of renewing our minds.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to make room on the shelf.