Dr. Strange

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I saw Avengers: Infinity War this weekend with my kids. I am not a huge fan of this genre. I liked Iron Man because I liked Robert Downey Jr. Guardians of the Galaxy movies are hysterical and play 80s music. I loved Wonder Woman (However, I was informed, with eyes rolling, that she is from DC Comics not Marvel.) As I get up to speed on comic books for my daughters’ sake, I decided I wanted to watch Dr. Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch that was the appeal. I must say, it was a good show and an intelligent show. Worth the watch.

One scene stood out to me that I wanted to blog about today. When the Ancient One refuses to train him, he literally stands at her door and knocks for over five hours. I immediately thought of the persistent widow in scripture. (Yes, my mind works this way.)

Luke 18:1-8 MSG from http://www.biblegateway.com

1-3 Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’

4-5 “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’”

6-8 Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”

This woman keeps going to the judge demanding justice. Her persistence, as Dr. Strange’s, pays off. Dr. Strange does get let into the training program. This widow does get what she asked for. However, let’s look at the last few verses because those are the take-away from this passage. Verses 6-8 say that if someone who is corrupt steps in to help when we persist, God will do even more for us. When we cry out for help, God will stick up for us. He won’t drag His feet. Here is the tough part though – But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?

Are you persistent with God? Not just for needs but for learning. Do you persist to read His word? Do you persist to pray? Do you persist in praise? Do you persist in sharing Him with others?

Persist means to continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.

When you feel like prayers aren’t answered, do you persist? When you miss your time with God four days in a row, do you rejoin him on the fifth day? When you find yourself complaining and whining then see a hummingbird, do you stop and praise God? You will fail in your pursuit of God but persistence means you get back on the path as soon as you can. You keep moving forward. Don’t let failure or difficulty or anything stop you.

Persist in your pursuit of God. It won’t give you super powers like Dr. Strange but it will give you the assurance of God’s love and the power to live the life He has planned for you. Let’s develop a persistent faith.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

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Faithfulness Defined

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I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. – Psalm 89:1-2 NIV

After reading this my devotional asked me to define faithfulness.

Debbie’s definition of faithfulness: loyal and trustworthy and when a mistake is made, a correction is quickly sought.

I realized that God is faithful. His faithfulness is something I can fully rely on. He will never leave me or forsake me. He won’t lie to me or break my trust. He’s perfect so He will never disappoint me. What a comfort to have Him as a friend in my life. This is why God is my anchor and hope every day.

I have friends who are faithful too. Their faithfulness is everything to me. However, they aren’t perfect and make mistakes. I totally have room for that too. What I don’t have room for are mistakes that continue as a pattern or mistakes that are never fixed. A pattern of mistakes is when someone constantly lets me down. They cancel one too many times. They don’t follow through on a promise time and time again. That person is no longer faithful. They can be a friend but not in the faithful friend category.

A faithful friend will make mistakes. What differentiates them from others is that they seek to fix their mistakes quickly. In the past, friends have let me down. When one was confronted on the issue, she owned it, apologized for it and we were able to restore trust. Our faithful friendship is still going strong today. However, another friend in a similar situation chose to be defensive and demanded I let it go because of them being in the faithful friend category. Unfortunately, I have lived enough life to know that not all of my faithful friends will stay in that category forever. As life gets tougher, friendships are tested. It stinks.

Friendships are work. They require attention and evaluation from time to time. Take a few moments today to evaluate who your faithful friends are. What about you? Are you a faithful friend to someone? Who are you loyal to? Whose confidences do you keep safe? Who would you humble yourself in front of when you blow it? Take time to explore that today.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Stick to it

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I was enjoying a cup of tea on my patio. My dog, Cooper, however wasn’t content to let me just sit in silence. After a bit of petting, he eventually ran off to play in the yard. Last week’s windy day, left lots of branches and sticks on the patio. He loves to chew on sticks. I noticed him find the largest branch. You can see it in the picture above. He did have a problem though. The stick was on the patio next to the furniture. He wanted to get it to the grassy area to sit down and chew it up. We have all seen various YouTube videos of dogs getting their oversized bones and sticks through small spaces. To watch the actual event in person, was hysterical. He tried to go through the gazebo and lounge chair. Nope. Then he tried behind the lounge chair. Nope again. So he turned and approached me. He managed to get it between the table and the gazebo’s edge. However, he couldn’t do that on the side closest to the grass. So he backed up and went onto the step by the back door, around the gazebo and onto the grass. Victory! The stick was demolished in no time.

His patience intrigued me. His persistence inspired me. His lack of discouragement confronted me. I am persistent in many things and have even shown patience from time to time. Discouragement, that is my downfall. He went the wrong way about four times but didn’t drop the stick. I would have, after the second wrong move. I am ashamed to say it, yet it’s true. Defeating thoughts come into my mind. Is it worth it? Why are you working so hard? You will never get there. This is a waste of time.

If I have the wisdom to pray, I may try a third time. If I call a friend, I will vent my frustration to a captive audience. She will then encourage me or join me in my desire to quit. Her response, determines my next steps. If I walk away and sleep on it, I may try again too. Discouragement is a beast that drags us away from so many good things.

If I start the day discouraged, I won’t see the beautiful roses blooming in front of the neighbor’s house. I won’t notice the friend who needs me to be a friend. I won’t be engaged in life but instead will be engaged in my thoughts. Discouragement is a feeling. It isn’t truth. It isn’t even an action. It’s a feeling that leaves us out of the game of life for as long as we allow ourselves to dwell on it.

So pray. Call the friend who will encourage you, dust you off and send you back into the game. Sleep on it and choose a fresh start in the morning.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

New every morning is our hope. We start each day new. We can even start midday new. Or at 4 p.m. or 11 a.m. or whatever time discouragement takes over your day. Start new. Stay in the game. The alternative isn’t worth it.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Break is over

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Spring break is over. My kids are back in school. I am sad. I love having them home and hanging out together. We did a beach day. Although it was cold and we bundled up most of the day, we had a blast. Another day, after two rounds of bowling and my back not going out (yippee), we enjoyed our favorite lunch spot – Urth Caffe. Now, the kids are back in class and I’m doing spring break laundry. Normalcy.

Whenever we come off of a vacation, or even just a day off, the next day is an adjustment. It’s so easy to adjust to relaxing but not as easy to adjust to a new structure. For instance, adding a new chore to one of my kid’s routine is catastrophic. They act like they don’t have time to fit it in and the chore requires new skills they don’t have time for. Of course, laziness is part of this argument. However, the bigger part is that adding a new item to your routine takes work. A lot of work sometimes.

After daily reading two different Lenten studies for forty days, I am enjoying the break from so much in my morning. You would think if I did it for forty days, it should be routine (they say 21 days of doing something makes it a habit.) When Easter came and went, so did my structure. Why didn’t the forty days of reading stick? I think because I allowed a week of uber relaxation, even in my daily Bible reading. I need to start the 21 days over again to make it a habit.

Of course I am not saying that relaxation is bad. It’s wonderful. It’s needed. Most of us need more of it. However, relaxing from important things, like daily Bible reading, may set you back 21 days. I encourage you, even on vacation or a day off, you take time to connect with God. Breaking the habit of daily connection shouldn’t be part of your relaxation. You can restructure it or make it a shorter time, but keep it scheduled. Vacation is from our list of daily chores. Our daily time with God, shouldn’t be on that list. If it is, it’s time to rethink how you spend time with Him. Vary it. Add music. Play an instrument and worship. Focus on a Bible verse while you color in a coloring book. Find a new devotional that interests you. Don’t let time with God become a chore that you need a vacation from. 21 days from now, you will thank me.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Friends with History

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Which of your friends have you known longest? I have a few friends I have known since Kindergarten and a friend I’ve known since preschool. I recently had time with two of my Kindergarten friends. The best part of these friendship is the history. They know my story from nearly the beginning. I love that. We don’t see each other often. A few times a year if we can work it out, we connect. When we do, it is as if no time has passed. My friends with history aren’t part of my daily life. I wish they were. However, when we get together, we just start talking mid-sentence. We catch up on the daily life stuff and reflect on the lifetime stuff. We know each other’s family of origin. It’s a unique bond that brings great joy in my life.

Do you know who is your best friend with history? God. He knows it all. He knows your grandma and great grandma and great great great great grandma. He knows the history of your family of origin better than you do. He knew you in your mother’s womb before there were ultrasounds.

“you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13b NIV

He understands you more than you understand yourself. He knows your next move.

“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalm 139:4 NIV

Wow. That blows me away. Think of a time when you were tongue-tied. He knew what word you would eventually find to say. When you open your mouth to say “I love you” or scream “be quiet,” he knows it. It’s beyond my comprehension.

Just like my friends with history, I can start in the middle of a conversation with God. In fact, I talk to Him all day long. I don’t speak verbally but in my head. When I don’t have words for a situation, I just ramble. He listens. He gets it.

Don’t you need that today? A friend with history who gets it. Call that friend from Kindergarten. Reconnect. Have a cup of tea or take a walk. A nice thing to look forward to. Also, why not daily lean on God? Let Him be that mid-sentence friend with history. He is our all around friend who gets it.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

 

NOTE: This is a stock photo. I wish I had one of us from childhood handy.

Holy Week

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This is Holy Week for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Many years ago yesterday,  Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to cheers on what we now call Palm Sunday. Thursday night is when He had his last supper with the disciples. Friday is when He was nailed to a cross and died. Sunday, Easter Sunday, is when His followers discovered the empty tomb signifying that He is alive. Powerful week that defines our hope and our salvation. If you don’t yet know Jesus, take some time this week to explore who He is (I say is because He is still alive today). Visit church this week. There are services almost daily. It’s a safe time to try it because many visitors will be in attendance. You won’t be singled out.

As a believer, I’d like to say my week is scheduled to be reflective and filled with times to connect with God. It’s a normal week. We have a sports banquet to attend, kids have youth group, my eldest it taking a school trip abroad, and all the normal stuff of the week is still being done. I don’t feel bummed or even ashamed by how our week looks. The reason being, I celebrate Jesus and my love for Him whether it’s Holy Week or not.

I may pop into a few extra services this week at church since they are offered. However, I plan to spend my daily time with God like I do on normal weeks. I will pray before our dinner. I’ll spend time praying for others. I’ll meet with friends to encourage one another and just to laugh. I’ll do laundry and make dinner and wash dishes. It’s part of normal life on earth and part of my role and ministry to my family.

I’m grateful for Holy Week. It does make it easier to bring up my faith with acquaintances. It’s part of the conversation in line at the store while buying my Easter Peeps. As a believer, though, every week is Holy Week. Every week we celebrate our risen Savior. Every week we get to draw near to God and receive His love. Every week is Easter for those who love the Lord.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Blackjack

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My dad taught me to play Blackjack at a young age. I loved numbers and it helped me with counting. He also taught me the table of rules you are to follow when you play the game. If the dealer is showing an 8 and you have 12, assume he has 18 so you have to hit. I love playing games, especially card games. Blackjack is so fast paced and you can win big and lose big quickly. I’m not promoting gambling (although I used to play when I went to Vegas in my 20s). This is a fun game to play at home with M&Ms or Skittles for your chips.

As I grew up though, I stopped playing by the table of Blackjack rules my dad taught me. I decided to play by the heart, by instinct. My dad thinks I’m crazy. Sometimes I do it just to watch him freak out. I love it when it pays off. When it doesn’t, he proudly proclaims the table of rules wins again.

So how do you live life – by the rules or by the heart? I heard a sermon the other day where the pastor said, “you need to follow what God tells you not what man tells you.” (Caveat – if you are pursuing things in your life that are in direct contradiction to God’s word, that is not OK. We are to follow God’s rules and laws as He has laid out in the Bible.) There are times when you feel God calling you to something new. Something that to the outside world seems a bit of a risk or crazy. If it isn’t against God’s word and you aren’t harming anyone, move forward. People will nay-say you and tell you to stick to the rules. But if God is leading, go for it.

People say all the time “follow your heart.” I am saying “follow God’s heart for you.” He has great plans. When we play it safe and don’t listen to His prompting, we are missing out of His best for us. We need to step out in His will, His way.  Do you have a heart prompting from God in your life that you have been ignoring? Start listening. Seek wise counsel but rely on God’s will ultimately. Pray. Sit in it. Listen some more. Then act! Let God open a new door in your life.

Dream Big! Pray Big!