Today, I Choose

Is life just plain hard for you right now? Do you have trouble dragging your weary self from bed? Are troubled thoughts bullying your peace? Me too. I think we all have days like that, but sometimes, those days turn into dark seasons that threaten to steal our hope and our perspective.
Here’s the thing. When we let ourselves get all bent-out-of-shape, it doesn’t affect only us. The people we love suffer. They may even wonder if it was something they did that messed us up. Our influence suffers. People watching us may think, “Jesus doesn’t seem to make much difference in her life. I’m in better shape than her. I don't need Jesus.” Christ Himself suffers. Like the prodigal son’s father grieved his son’s rebellious absence, Christ longs to have us near and well.
It’s so much easier to wallow in our shame and self-pity than to bathe in His grace. It’s so much easier to focus on what’s wrong than on what’s right. It’s so much easier to stay down than to stand up.
Sometimes, we just have to make a decision that today, things will be different.
Today, I choose joy.
Today, I choose to trust God.
Today, I choose to behave like the free, blessed Child of God I am.
Will you join me in giving this “today” to God? Even if you’re in the middle of a bunch of ugly uncertainty? Even if you're rejected or misunderstood?  Even if you just don’t feel like it?
I can’t get over how easily I get off-track. Forgive me for allowing less-than-stellar circumstances, other people’s behavior and my own fickle feelings have so much power over my life. Enough! Today, I will choose differently.
Today, I choose joy.
These trials I’m facing will show me Your face like nothing else can. Test me however You need to, Lord. Make me strong through struggle. Keep me reaching my empty hand into Your bottomless bag of wisdom. Keep me practicing my faith until it’s doubtless, single-minded and solid (James 1:2-8).
I resolve, right now, not to let another human being steal my joy. Why? Because the joy is not mine. It is Yours on loan to me. How dare I allow other people play keep-away with something so precious? I will cling to Your joy like priceless treasure. I will not let it out of my sight. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Though I feel like retreating, I choose to charge forth in joy, knowing You are my shield and my defense against anything I’ll face. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12 NIV).
Today, I choose to trust You.
Lord, You see the decisions I need to make and the things I need to say and the changes I need to make and the challenges I need to face. I choose to trust in You with my whole heart, so there’s no space for doubts to creep in. With my gaze fixed on You, I can’t go wrong (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Though You’ve lavished my life with supportive people, none of them are as trustworthy as You. We hurt each other with careless words and cold shoulders. We fail to show up when it matters most. We get so caught up in ourselves we can’t see the needs right in front of our faces. But, You, Lord, see us. You understand us. You meet us in our muck and lift us out. Forgive me for demanding God-like devotion from people made of clay. I will trust in You, and You alone.
When I trust in You, fear has no room to roam. When I trust in You, anxiety has no leg to stand on. When I trust in You, my feelings are tools not taskmasters.
Today, I choose to behave like the free, blessed Child of God I am.
Forgive me, Lord, for slamming closed prison bars You died to fling open. I am free, and I will live free.
Forgive me, Lord, for letting sin weeds overrun my soul’s garden. Let’s get our hands dirty, Lord. Help me pull every last weed, Lord, and plant the fruit of Your Spirit in their place. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).
With those qualities growing lush in me, I’ll represent You well, no matter my circumstances. No matter how other people behave. No matter if I’m in the mood or not.
My circumstances are the same today as they were yesterday. But, today, I choose to be different. Today, I choose You.
In the joyful, trustworthy name of Jesus, who gives me hope, I say, AMEN and AMEN

When God Says Move

She was the first face I saw when my family pulled into the church parking lot for the first time. With a toddler on a hip and a preschooler by the hand, Cliff and I asked Alice where the nursery was.
“I’m the nursery worker tonight,” she fibbed.
And the rest is history. For more than 17 years, Alice has been a listening ear, a quiet cheerleader, a prayer partner, a faith builder, a selfless friend. My sons think of her as a second mom, and, boy, has her love for them been a comfort to this momma who needs all the help she can get.
Dave and Alice have been quietly serving Christ at the Heart of Mesa for more than two decades. They’re the type who will do pretty much anything that needs doing just because they love Jesus and His people.
God’s been doing some “shuffly nudgy” stuff in my friends’ hearts. He told them it’s time to move on.
Some folks change churches like they change clothes.
  • The pastor preaches one too many sermons on tithing. Time to change churches.
  • Sister Sue got the solo in the Christmas cantata even though she can’t carry a tune. Time to change churches.
  • The new pastor doesn’t do things just like the old pastor. Time to change churches.
  • The church opens its doors to people not quite like them. Time to change churches.
Well, Dave and Alice love the Heart of Mesa family. It pains them to leave. But when God said move, they said, “Yes.”
The heart is fickle sometimes. Right now, my heart both sinks and soars. Oh, how I will miss this extraordinary couple. I’ll miss our Sunday lunches and their steady, sweet presence. I’ll miss Alice’s passion for teenage hearts made whole. I’ll miss the way Dave calls Jesus his “Abba Daddy.” I’ll just miss them.
But, when I see the new-adventure sparkle in their eyes, I can’t help but rejoice with them. God’s up to something big! While I won’t get to watch it up-close-and-personal, I’ll get to hear about it. And better yet, I get to pray about it.
Part of the pray-without-ceasing life is listening to Him and doing what He says. Will you join me in praying for Dave and Alice as they trust and obey? Perhaps you are in a similar spot? If so, this prayer’s for you, too.
Thank you for the beauty of obedience. My friends purely glow with anticipation as they step away from the comfortable and into the adventure. Even though I grieve the goodbye, I can’t wait to see what You’re up to, Lord! Please, Lord, keep Your gentle, guiding hand on my friends as they make this move. May they sense Your prompting and Your pleasure as they trust and obey.

Make their path clear.

May Your Word be a lamp for their feet and a light for their path (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

Open hearts to receive them warmly.

May they be greeted with holy kisses and welcomed in peace (1 Peter 5:14).

Verify their calling at every turn.

Empower them to “to add to [their] faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if [they] possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep [them] from being ineffective and unproductive in [their] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9 NIV).
May “my [brother and sister] make every effort to confirm [their] calling and election. For if [they] do these things, [they] will never stumble, and [they] will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11 NIV).

Expand their reach beyond their wildest imaginings.

Oh, Lord, bless them, indeed! Expand their reach! Keep Your hand upon them, so they will bring about nothing but blessings (1 Chronicles 4:10).
Lord, thank you for the many years I’ve been able to serve alongside these extraordinary people. As hard as it is to let them go, I rejoice over Your trustworthy plans. Bless them, Lord. Bless them big.
In the faithful name of Jesus I pray, AMEN and AMEN