Thursday, January 24, 2013

RIGHT OR WRONG

"There is more right with you than wrong with you."
~Joyce Meyer

"What's wrong?" a friend asked me. I guess the haggard look on my face was her first clue.

Where do I begin, I thought. My mind whirled as it attempted to re-cap every circumstance that was weighing heavily upon my mind.

I tried to give a general summary of some of the events that were occurring simultaneously. Events that, in and of themselves, weren't all that earth-shattering. The ones that felt too personal to share I kept tucked away. Only God needed to know about those. Still, they were front and center in my own thought-life.

For two days I reassessed that conversation and the fact that I'd been so overcome with hard stuff, I'd allowed it to take over. Even my facial expressions were revealing the worries I was lugging around with me.

This isn't how I want to live! Circumstances may not change, but my focus, my perspective, and my response can change. I don't have to let the hard stuff mold me into an overwhelmed, burdened, haggard woman. No thank you!

This morning, a word from a teacher spoke volumes to my mind and heart. "There's more right with you than wrong with you," she stated emphatically as she taught on having peace in the midst of life's storms.

Today, I let that truth sink in. There's more right circumstances than wrong ones. There's more to rejoice over than complain about. There's more good happening than bad.

It's true with people too. Even those who have me scratching my head in frustration. There's more right in them than wrong. There's more to celebrate in their personalities and their lives than to complain about. There's more to acknowledge and embrace than criticize and get upset about.

Me too. I'm so good at nitpicking and dwelling on all I notice about myself that seems wrong and unlovable. But if I give honest reflection, there's more right in me than wrong.

I sense God smiling at this revelation. Yes, child. Now you get it! Now you see! Focus on the positives, and let Me handle the negatives.

It's too good an offer to pass up. And I find my smile has returned, right where it belongs.

"What's right?" That's my new question.

"If you can wear the hard times of your life as furrows on your brow, you can wear the good times as a twinkle in your eye."
~Robert Brault   

"Change your thoughts and you change your world."
~Norman Vincent Peale

"Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."
~Author Unknown

"A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition."
~William Arthur Ward

"Give goodness to the day and before you know it, the day will be giving goodness to you."
~Terri Guillemets

"Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable."
~Philippians 4:8

"Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time."
~Proverbs 17:22

"Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]"
~John 14:27 Amplified Bible

"Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air..."
~Romans 8:1,2 The Message    

Monday, January 21, 2013

EVERY TREE

I sit alone in peaceful admiration
immersed in God's glorious creation.
Trees in stately manner stand,
evidence of our Father's hand.
With faltering eyes, I can see
the hand of God in this old tree.
Its branches reaching for the sky
while birds are passing merrily by.
And I, in wonder, worship too
amidst the green and brown and blue.
The sun's descent is telling me
this day will end eventually.
If God is willing, I will know
another miraculous day unfold.
When wakes the day all fresh and new,
the trees will stretch amidst the blue.
Songs of birds will fill the air
reminding me that He is here.
And every problem, worry, care
if I, before Him, leave laid bare,
He'll tend to as He does each tree
because of His great love for me.
All of nature seems to sing
Hallelujah to our King.
Ears to listen, eyes to see
the hand of God in every tree.


Copyright 2013 by Julie Cowell. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

POWER AND LIGHT

I remember the darkness. As the sun descended in its timely manner, a black cloak settled over our home and our neighborhood. With no power for over a week, we had to learn how to navigate our way from room to room in the darkness.

The windstorm that knocked down trees and power lines helped me appreciate something I had taken for granted ~ power and light. Without a light source, it's difficult to find my way without running into or tripping over an unexpected obstacle. It was especially unnerving when I was home alone. If I didn't pick up a candle, flashlight, or a charged cell phone, I had to grope my way from one room to the next.

The windstorm taught me a valuable lesson. I can find myself walking in another dimension of darkness. The days I don't go to my source of Light, God's Word, I am setting myself up for a collision course. Fumbling my way through the daily maze, I forget I have the source of Light with me. It's always there, but I need to activate it so it can illuminate my path.

God's word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) ~
When I am overwhelmed ~ "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19)
When I am weak ~ "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced." (Psalm 105:4,5)
When I feel defeated and hopeless ~ "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)  
When I am upset ~ "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:11)
When I don't know which way to turn ~ "I will instruct you and teach you the way to go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8)
When I am perplexed ~ "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5,6)
When I don't know what to do ~ "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
When I am burned out and battle weary ~ "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
When I feel helpless ~ "I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10b)
When I am weary ~ "He will not grow tired and weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." (Isaiah 40: 28-29)
When I am anxious or afraid ~ "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6) "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
When I wrestle with discontent ~ "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

These are all "negatives". But His Light is just as revealing and valuable in the midst of my joys and triumphs. ~
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song." (Psalm 28:7)
"I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure. You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand." (Psalm 16:8-11)

I learned quickly during that power outage. It wasn't wise to try to find my way in complete darkness when I had a source of light available. Just one small flicker was all I needed to help me move about safely and confidently.

It's equally true in my daily walk. When I begin the day turning to my source of Light, I find what I need to navigate successfully. The worries, the uncertainties, and the things that can be a stumbling block don't go away. But they lose their power to trip me.

"Sink the Bible to the bottom of the ocean, and still man's obligations to God would be unchanged. He would have the same path to tread, only his lamp and guide would be gone; the same voyage to make, but his chart and compass would be overboard!"
~Henry Ward Beecher

 
    

   

Friday, January 11, 2013

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

"Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow."
~Philip Gulley

I hear the wind howling outside, bullying the trees and all that stands in its path. And I worry. It's something I'm good at. I've had a lot of practice. Worrying about loved ones. Worrying about finances. And health issues. And the future.

Worry is one more confirmation I'm not yet trusting God completely... unconditionally. My waves of worry are just manifestations of my doubts that He is in control and will take care of all that concerns us.

It's hard not to worry right now...tonight. As I think of watching my husband, tired and achy from too much physical labor, heading out the door in the early morning frosted hours to deal with yet another windstorm. The winds that shake our hundred year old bungalow this evening didn't seem to faze him. That scared me, because I knew he was too tired to even react to that dreaded sound.

I worry because I often see him sitting at his desk, trying to make the numbers add up. All of his hard work, and still, they don't equal enough. He sighs in discouragement, and I want so badly to fix it for him. And I worry all the more, because I know I can't.

I think back on all the unexpected expenses over the years that have led us to this place. Health issues we couldn't foresee. A host of other incidentals that have drained our resources. I see all of them etched into his brow, and I worry. And I think, he's too good a man to have done it any differently.

I know all the cliches about worrying. Glenn Turner said it best, "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere." I know this to be true. But still, my heart and my mind team up and do what they do best ~ worry.

Another late night has me sleepless and burdened. The howling winds outside, the chill air in our old home, and a list of worries are my companion. I hear my husband stirring in the other room and realize, he's restless too. And burdened. And worried.

Perhaps it's cyclical. The ebb and flow of life bringing days that are packed full of joy, and nights that are harsh and unnerving. The winds pick up in intensity and so does my inner struggle with these beasts of burden ~ worry, doubt, fear.

Holy Spirit, breathe your presence into this home, into this heart. Help me to trust that, with you, all will be okay. Empower me to release my every care into your all powerful hands. I give you my husband, Lord. And every area where we are lacking, coming up short. And though I can't sleep, I choose to rest in you.

Calm the winds, Lord. Calm our spirits.

"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."
~Leo Buscaglia

"Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway."
~Mary C. Crowley

"I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn't need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about."
~Henry Ford

"Don't fight with the pillow,
but lay down your head
And kick every worriment
out of the bed."
~Edmund Vance Cooke

""When I am afraid, O LORD Almighty, I put my trust in you."
~Psalm 56:3

"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"~Luke 12:25

"Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid."
~John 14:27         

    

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

FEATHERED FRIENDS

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
~William Blake

I gaze out the window at the scene unfolding before my eyes. Tiny birds flutter about, moving from tree to tree, then perching on our bird bath. Their holy communion tugs on my heartstrings. How happy and utterly content they appear. Chirping merrily amongst themselves, they move in a rhythm that takes my breath away.

I look around my living room. I can almost see the silence. A house that once rattled with noise is now quiet. The season of raising our voices in the midst of raising our children is behind us. Evidence of those days is tangible. Photos and keepsakes sprinkled here and there remind me. So does a young child's handprint pressed into a clay plate...and a patched window where a tennis ball landed in our kitchen unexpectedly. I love it all. Even the piece of board where a glass pane should be. They are memories I cling to, and they take me back in time to those precious, exhausting days. Of messy rooms. And bedtime stories. And the endless list of homework assignments posted on our refrigerator door.

As I focus my attention on the birds outside, I wonder if they are all part of a family. Or if their holy communion in my front yard is a mass of  feathered friends enjoying the early morning together.

Gardeners up the street with their power tools cut into my silence. Still, it's way too quiet in this empty house for me today. I usually cherish the peaceful hours when I am home alone. Not today. Even the loud, laborous hums pouring into my home can't distract me from the fact that this new season in life is quieter... slower... less demanding.

But my winged visitors outside my window bring me comfort. They reassure me I'm not alone. I still have purpose, passion for my work, and people I love. A husband I wouldn't trade for the world. And good friends I have plenty of time for. Time to meet for coffee, a lingering meal, or a stroll through the shops. Ample time for some old fashioned fellowship over the phone or a chance meeting in a parking lot (that happened this week, and what a gift it was).

Whatever season I am in, I want to savor the good stuff, and soar above that which can drag me down. I want to bathe in the blessings of loved ones, and refresh those around me. It may be quieter than I like, but those sweet birds encourage me.

My husband will be nestled in his favorite chair in no time, and we will break bread together. Face to face time with a good friend is on my calendar for this afternoon. Two of our adult children will flutter in and out of the house today. And I realize, this life is a blessed gift.

"When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us."
~Alexander Graham Bell

"When you're really happy, the birds chirp and the sun shines even on cold dark winter nights ~ and flowers will bloom on a barren land."
~Terri Guillemets

"To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy...is to set our conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them."
~Ralph Waldo Trine

"I believe that life is given us so we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun in the color and fragrance of a flower ~ the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence."
~Helen Keller

"Each day is a new beginning~
to care more about others,
to laugh more than we did,
to accomplish more than we thought we could,
and be more than we were before."
~Author Unknown

"This is the day the LORD has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it."
~Psalm 118:24

"Do not cling to the events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already ~ you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there."
~Isaiah 43:18-19

Copyright 2013 by Julie Cowell. All rights reserved.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

ARE YOU HURTING?

"Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future."
~Robert Schuller

If you are hurting, this is for you ~

I wish I could make it all better. I wish I could take every ounce of pain you've endured and cast it away. I wish I could free you from unpleasant memories that haunt you. I wish I could break those chains that have you bound to unhealthy coping mechanisms and addictions. I wish I could pour light into the dark corners of your life.

If I could, I'd breathe new hope into you. I'd illuminate all the good qualities you possess, and help you see what a treasure you are. I would bring you a renewed passion and deep purpose in your life. I'd open your eyes to how radically loved you are ~ by God, family, and friends. I would lead you to the path of inner peace, radiant joy, and wholeness. I'd fill you with an unwaivering and unconditional love for God, for yourself, and for others. I would bless you beyond your wildest imagination, and make you an even bigger blessing to everyone around you than you already are.

But I'm human. The things I long to do, I can't. But I know the One who can. Nothing is impossible for Him. What's more, He has the same desires for you that I have. In fact, the good plans He has for you outshine anything I could ever dream or imagine. And the biggest miracle of all, He has plans to use for good all the painful stuff I wish I could delete.

So I entrust you into His care. And I wait for Him to work it all out on your behalf. Because I know Him to be FAITHFUL, and LOVING, and GOOD. While He does the work only He can do, there will be people and heavenly hosts on the sidelines, cheering you on. Because I believe that prayer moves mountains (I've seen it with my own eyes), I will cry out on your behalf. Until I see all I desire for you come pass.

"Leave the broken, irreversible past in God's hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him."
~Oswald Chambers

"Our God is at home with the rolling spheres, and at home with broken hearts."
~M. P. Ferguson

"Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days ~ when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you're out of options, when the pain is great ~ and you turn to God alone."
~Rick Warren

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
~Psalm 147:3

"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath."
~Psalm 34:18, The Message

"Trust in the Lord. 
Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord."
~Psalm 27:14

"The Lord Himself will lead you and be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you, so do not lose courage or be afraid."
~Deuteronomy 31:8

Copyright 2013 by Julie Cowell. All rights reserved.



    

Friday, January 4, 2013

UNOPENED PACKAGES

She sat contentedly in the middle of the living room, surrounded by boxes of various sizes. All were wrapped in cheerful holiday paper and tied in colorful ribbons. Her small hands gently traced the edges of each box. As her attention drifted from one package to the next, her eyes lit up in renewed excitement.

The couple looked at each other and shrugged. The little girl had entered into their family nest only weeks before Christmas. Ecstatic over the long awaited adoption, they had overindulged their new four year old daughter. Though the details were lacking, it was clear she'd been through a lot in her short life.

"Why doesn't she want to open them?" the new father asked his wife for the upteenth time. "Doesn't she realize there are toys inside? She could be having so much fun with the stuff we bought her." Frustrated by the lack of progress, he turned his attention back to the task of diassembling their Christmas tree.

"I don't know. She seems to enjoy her presents just as they are. I don't think we should push it. For all we know, this may be her first time receiving Christmas gifts," his wife responded in a hushed tone.

The mother sat herself next to the little girl and stroked the bangs that tickled her new daughter's forehead. "Sweetheart, there's a pretty doll inside. Want to take a look?" she coaxed gently.

The little girl shook her head no and continued to admire her collection of boxes. Whatever she had been through in previous foster homes had silenced her speech. Clutching the smallest box, she looked into the face of her new mom and smiled. The  little girl insisted on having the presents nearby since receiving them days ago on Christmas morning. Even at bedtime, she patiently carted her loot to her new princess bedroom and lined the gifts next to her twin bed. They were the last thing she saw before falling asleep, and the first thing that greeted her in the morning.

"It's been eight days. How long are we going to let her keep this up?" The dad joined his wife and daughter on the carpet. "This one has a soft puppy inside. Don't you want to see what he looks like?" He handed her a box wrapped in snowmen and sparkly blue ribbon.

Again, she shook her head side to side and clutched the box in her arms. Little did he know, it would be days, weeks, even months before the little girl would give up her pretty packages to discover the real gifts inside.

Are we sometimes like this little girl? Does our Father feel the frustration and concern these parents wrestled with? He lavishes us with gifts too numerous to count. And what do we do with them? Do we even acknowledge them? Do we admire them from a safe distance? Or do we pause and take the time to look inside, appreciate, and put to good use the gifts He's given to us?

This four year old has much to teach us. It may have taken her months, but she finally got to the place where she trusted her parents enought to take them at their word. She began to listen...and believe...and do what they encouraged her to do. She opened her gifts. And she welcomed each one with open arms so she could experience them fully.

I have my own share of unopened gifts. Forgiveness for something I did years ago that still haunts me. A healing balm for a deep emotional wound that continues to fester at times. New purpose for a painful trial that left me wallowing in regrets. Unopened gifts. All around me. Attractive to the eye, but do I dare trust enough to open them? What if I don't like what I find inside?

But my Father is persistent in His generosity. Come on, child. Open My gifts. I wrapped them just for you. Because you are Mine. And I love you. Come on. What are you waiting for? Open them, and see all that I've given you.

"Many people neglect 'unwrapping' God's gift...they receive His forgiveness but fail to discover the marvelous treasures made available to them as children of God."
~Charles Stanley

"The gift is wrapped and ready, waiting for you to open and enjoy all God has given."
~Charles Stanley

"We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift."
~John 1:16 The Message    

Copyright 2013 by Julie Cowell. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

FAITHFUL IN ALL THINGS

"I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness."
~Mother Teresa

It just isn't New Year's without reflection and resolutions. My list of "usuals" seems to fall short. If there is anything I'd like to resolve to do this year, it is to be more faithful. Across the board. In every aspect of my life.

The truth is, I cannot accomplish this lofty goal in my own strength. If I want faithfulness to be a thread in me that weaves itself in all I say and do ~ in my relationships, my work, and my day to day living ~ I have to begin by running to the throne. To the One who is always faithful. If I cling to His faithful presence and nature, the impossible becomes possible. And the characteristic of faithfulness will become more and more evident in my life.

This is my prayer as I begin this new year. Lord, I want to be more faithful ~ in my time with You, and as Your representative. I want to be more faithful in my relationships, beginning at home. I pray I can bring more of this precious quality to my marriage ~ faithful to always take my husband's best interest to heart, and to act accordingly.

It's not just my marriage, Lord. Every role I fill ~ wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, neighbor ~ I ask for more of Your faithfulness to flow through me. I fall so short. How glad I am to know I don't have to rely on my own strength.

My work and my ministries are really just an expression of what You've equipped me to do. Help me to remember this, Lord. It's not about me. It's about You and the people You place in my life.

I know each day is a gift. And lately, this head knowledge has found its way into my heart. However I spend it, I pray that each day will be lived mindful of Your presence, for Your glory, with a deep appreciation and keen awareness of how You want me to spend it.

There's one more thing, Lord. I pray for a more faithful spirit towards myself. Help me be faithful to take care of myself ~ physically, eating healthier and exercising regularly. Emotionally, putting old wounds and bad memories to rest. Mentally, keeping my mind sharp by learning, reading, and writing. And spiritually, putting the enemy in his place and exalting You to Your rightful place in my life.

This year will bring an abundance of change to my life. But you, Lord, never change. You are faithful and true. Please breathe more of Your faithfulness into me. Together we can make this the best year yet.

"Everyone talks about how loyal and faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is!"
~Proverbs 20:6

"The word if the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does."
~Psalm 33;4

"Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones."
~Luke 16:10

"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies."
~Psalm 36:5

"He who calls you will do it, because He is faithful."
~1 Thessalonians 5:24

Copyright 2013 by Julie Cowell. All rights reserved.