Dress for Success

It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, we need to figure out what we are going to wear. If we are professionals who work outside the home, then our wardrobe reflects appropriate attire. Most jobs have a dress code of sorts, some less formal than others. Still, certain professions require specific dress because lives depend on it – both theirs and ours. If a fireman doesn’t have the appropriate gear, he can’t enter a burning building. In fact, depending on the conflagration, he might not even be able to get close enough to help douse the flames. An astronaut’s need for appropriate gear is understood.

We try to take good care of ourselves as well – eating properly, living healthy lifestyles, and exercising. We take precautions based on the weather and other elements of our environment. Drink plenty of water when it’s hot, dress warmly in cold weather, wear sunscreen – all meant to protect.

However, based on the previous entry, if the mind is a battlefield, then how do we dress or protect ourselves? We may try to do it through our own strength, but it isn’t enough.

Since we are engaged in a spiritual battle, God has provided us His spiritual armor*. If you have ever watched movies about knights in battle, you know how important it is to be protected.

God’s armor protects us against the rulers, powers, and world forces of darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Satan doesn’t fight fair, but he’s smart enough not to engage in a full-blown attack. Instead, he prefers small skirmishes that assault our emotions and our beliefs. Once those are vulnerable and weak, then we begin to doubt.

The amazing thing is that this armor protects us from head to feet. If every action begins with a thought, then the helmet of salvation is vital, protecting our mind and our thoughts.

Second to our minds, our hearts are at risk and the breastplate of righteousness protects that place where our emotions, self-worth, and trust reside.

It’s important to understand that Satan attacks with lies – oftentimes sounding like the truth. God has provided us the belt of truth, for God’s truth defeats the devil’s lies.

When we are weary and feel like giving up, we can put on the shoes of peace, which motivate, strengthen, and encourage us in spite of Satan’s assaults.

Two more items complete the armor. The shield of faith keeps us from getting stuck in our own circumstances and allows us to see our victory. Finally, the sword of the spirit, God’s Word – the only weapon of offense –will ward off temptation.

It may not be easy to understand or accept why God’s armor is so important. The biggest mistake we can make as believers is thinking Satan is a little guy in a red suit with a pitchfork. Isn’t it better to be prepared than to be caught defenseless in the battles that will come?

Blessings, Francine
*Ephesians 6:10-17

The Battlefield of Your Mind

Consider this: every action begins with a thought. While that may seem a simple statement, it really should be a warning to us about how we think and what we think about.

It’s easy to tell folks to think good thoughts as I did in the last posting here. Sounds like a line from a fairy tale, doesn’t it?

First, we need to understand that when God created us, He gave us freedom of choice. He does not force us to do anything. Too often, people like to use the excuse that someone made them do something. That’s simply not true. I may choose to do something in order to avoid the consequences. Personally, I prefer to avoid physical pain. I know that if I touch something hot, I’ll get burned – so you won’t find me holding my hand too close to a fire’s flame.

I am amazed to hear former prisoners of war talk about the military code of conduct and how they clung to those beliefs even though it meant pain and sometimes death.

However, the consequences of most actions aren’t so black and white. There are many gray areas in our lives.

Most believe that if you commit a crime, you’ll be caught and punished. The reality is that while our justice system is a good one, we all know that many who are caught aren’t punished. Further still, many are never even captured. After all, how many criminals do you think committed crimes with the idea they would actually be caught and punished? They believed they could get away with it. Their actions began with a thought.

It’s really the same with our thinking. And that is Satan’s best kept secret. His battlefield is our minds. If he can worm his way into our thinking, then he can distract us from the Truth. He can also rob us of our peace.

I know this is true because of how my mind wandered as I was seeking to know God’s will for what I was to write. Instead, my mind overflowed with other thoughts and worries.

Maybe God is using me because I’m such a good example of how imperfect and human we all are. Personally, I don’t mind if he does, because I want to convey the reality of being a believer. It’s one thing to admit you aren’t perfect. It’s another to lay out your imperfections for others to see. Yet, if just one person reads something here and is encouraged or discovers the life-changing experience of God’s forgiveness, then I’m content.

Once I realized how Satan was trying to sidetrack my thoughts, I immediately prayed. Paul tells us in the last half of 2 Corinthians 10, verse 5, that we are to stand against Satan's deception by taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ.

For me, that meant taking my focus off myself and placing it on Jesus. It also meant understanding my thoughts weren’t where Christ would want them to be and using God’s truth against Satan’s lies. In other words, we don’t have to live with the lies Satan whispers in our ears or places in our minds. We can change how we think and, in doing so, change our beliefs and our behaviors. But, we can’t do it alone.

I believe the best defense is a good offense. Next time, I’ll share how God has a place from which to begin.

One more thing – please know that I am praying for you. No, I don’t know your name but God does, and He has brought you here for a reason. My prayer is that you will find the freedom in the truth of God’s word.

Blessings, Francine

Note: If you’re a new visitor here, welcome. You might want to check out the entry for July 18 – it will give you an idea about the basis for my beliefs.

What are YOU thinking about?

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase, “you are what you eat.”

There’s another phrase that many have come to realize is true: “you are what you think.”

Even the Bible declares in Proverbs 27:7: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. KJV

The thoughts that enter our brain seem to come from everywhere – our memories, photographs, what we watch on television or see in movie theaters, conversations, what we plan to wear to work tomorrow, how that special dish is going to taste, songs on the radio, how we are going to pay our bills – in other words, the world around us.

Our brain does a wonderful job at filtering and cataloging all the incoming data and making decisions as to what is placed aside and what is consciously thought of.

However, I believe we can make deliberate choices as to what we think about. Some would argue the opposite – they have no control of their thoughts.

There are other times when we aren’t necessarily focused on anything. It seems, the more time we have on our hands translates into more time when our thoughts randomly march through our mind. In other words, we are caught up in worry.

Conversely, when we are focused on a task – cooking, working, interacting with others – we are capable of thinking about what is going on at that moment. Although our attention may occasionally wander, for most, the activity at hand usually holds our interest.

Ask anyone who has a problem going to sleep at night. Many times, they can’t seem to turn their mind off. If you’ve ever experienced that kind of insomnia, you know how devastating it can be.

I battle anxiety. It’s an insidious thing. I can literally make a mountain out of a molehill, and do so quite easily. In all honesty, I can tell you that those things I’ve worried about to the point of distraction have never happened.

There are many ways to combat anxiety, but unless you totally numb yourself out with drugs or some other substance, you cannot turn your brain off.

My solution is to choose what I think about. To some, that may sound easy but it isn’t. It takes a concentrated effort to focus our thoughts on something other than an object of worry or obsession. Of course, the question might be asked – what should a person focus on? God has given us guidance throughout His word, but there is one scripture verse that could give us a general idea of where we can begin.

Philippians 4:8 says: “ … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” New International Version

When I began this blog, my intent was to provide words of encouragement without compromising the truth. This month I began by laying a foundation of sorts, based on my own beliefs and experiences. I believed it was important for readers to know what I trust in but more importantly, the Truth of God’s word.

My heart’s desire is to provide ideas and thoughts that provoke pondering.

So, think about things that are true, noble reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious … in other words, as The Message says – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

It’s your choice.

Blessings, Francine

More than Entertainment

So many different types of music and artists have played in the background of my life. Songs seem to document the best and worst of times for me. I like listening to the melodies of happier times. They bring back sweet memories and make me smile.

Music also plays a big role in our worship. The old, standard hymns are so much a part of my church services and I love the way they seem to anchor the reverence I have for God.
Yet, contemporary Christian music is something that speaks to me in a more intimate way. It can lift me up in a spirit of praise and adoration of my Lord, or it can sing a song of healing.

I’d like to share a few special artists who have made a difference in my life. Their messages are more than entertainment … they sing of our joys and struggles in the “reality of living our faith.”

Sometimes, Christian artists never become mega-stars with numerous music awards. Yet, there are some who touch more hearts and lives because of their message and their commitment to a ministry that extends beyond music. David Meece is just such an artist. I first became familiar when David performed at our church in southeastern Arizona. His lyrics and music spoke to a broken area of my life and I realized this guy was for real. His first music was released back in 1976 and he’s been recording ever since. His distinguished career actually began at the age of 10, when he began touring as a concert pianist and distinguished child prodigy and, as such, performed all over the world. Some may be familiar with his more popular songs, “We are the Reason” and “One Small Child,” a Christmas classic. But, the song that most touched my heart is, “My Father’s Chair.” David grew up in an abusive home and this song is autobiographical. You can visit his web site and discover how talented and dedicated this Christian man is. And while I don’t have all his CDs, I can recommend Once in a Lifetime, which includes “My Father’s Chair,” and Odyssey. The thing I like most about David is that he has such variety in his music you’re bound to find something you like. David’s website is http://www.davidmeece.com.

If you’ve never listened to Kim Hill, you’re missing a wonderful opportunity to just worship. She too is another one of those real people, singing about real life.” After two years of participation in Focus on the Family’s Renewing the Heart national women’s conference, Kim, along with participants Lisa Harper and Eva Whittington Self, continue to teach and lead services through their own concert series, “Every Woman’s Hope." She’s been nominated for a Grammy and received multiple Dove Awards with her distinctive voice. If you are looking for renewal of your spirit from a realistic perspective, her two CDs, Arms of Mercy, and The Fire Again, will leave you more than satisfied. One song in particular, “I Can’t Believe,” speaks to the human side of being obedient and faithful. Visit her website and find out more about appearances and conference schedules, http://www.kimhillmusic.com.

With the hit song, “I Can Only Imagine,” which garnered several Dove Awards, the group MercyMe, was one of Christian’s fastest selling bands in 2001. This particular song illustrates what happens when we take the focus off our circumstances and place it on Jesus. Some of you may be more than familiar with their music but their CD Almost There, really touched my heart. And apparently, I’m not alone. The group appeals to both devout Christians and young teens. While their more upbeat tempo may not appeal to some, their music really has been a blessing. When Christian artists can reach outside the Christian arena, then they are making a real difference in the world.

There is one artist whom I can’t leave off this list. Rich Mullins. If you know the song, “Awesome God,” or “Step by Step,” then you know Rich Mullins because these have become popular songs in praise and worship services. He wasn’t your ordinary kind of person – certainly not when it comes to successful musicians. Instead, he took a vow of poverty and taught music to children on a Navajo reservation until his death in 1997. I still remember where I was on that evening when the news hit that he’d been killed in an automobile accident. Because he was a wonderfully prolific songwriter and performer, I’m only going to mention two CDs, The World as Best as I Remember It, – volumes one and two (released in 1991 and 1992, respectively). Within the twenty-one songs on these CDs, Rich paints pictures that stick in your mind. Pictures of the badlands and deserts, Jesus, friends, and a deep devotion to God. I think his words and music can be summed up by something he said: “Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” That’s about as real as you can get. There are various sites about Rich Mullins and his ministry on the internet.

Finally, if there’s one thing we as Christians don’t do enough, it’s taking the time to laugh. And, there’s one man who can do that with wholesome, realistic humor that will leave you rolling on the floor. Mark Lowry has been in the business for more than twenty years and has been performing since he was eleven. Not only is Mark a gifted comedienne, he’s also a talented singer and songwriter. If you are familiar with the Christmas song, “Mary Did you Know,” then you “know” just how gifted he is. And, if you watch any of the Gaither Vocal Band’s “Homecoming” videos or television programs, you’ll see how God has perfectly meshed Mark's gifts into a wonderfully mischievous package. Just visiting his web site at http://www.marklowry.com makes you laugh.

I do pray that you might find encouragement in these dedicated Christians and something more than just entertainment in their words and songs.

As always, blessings, Francine

Priming the Pump

Have you ever watched any old western movies? If you have, you’ve probably seen a classic example of a man—or woman – versus nature.

Someone is lost and wandering in the desert and just about when they can’t go any further, they stumble upon an old well. A dusty mason jar full of water leans against one of those old hand-pumps. Hot, sweaty, and on their last legs, they thankfully pick up the jar but find a folded piece of paper with the words “Warning -- Read First” printed in large, bold letters.

Their lips are parched, their throat probably feels like burnt toast, and they are hot – hotter than they’ve ever been in their life. They hold the jar out in front of them, tempted to uncap it and drink. However, they can’t ignore that word – warning. Reluctantly, they gently place the jar on hard-packed earth and pick up the paper. It crackles as they unfold it.

The instructions are simple. “Empty jar to prime pump. Drink your fill.” The directions conclude with the admonition to refill the jar and leave everything as they found it.

The temptation is obvious – ignore the instructions. After all, they are holding life-giving water in their hand. Never mind how bad it might taste. What’s that old saying – a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? What if the well is dry? What if the pump is broken? They may even try working the handle up and down … listening to see if maybe they can hear the swoosh of water being sucked up by the pump. And of course, they can’t.

They can chance it and drink what’s in the jar. True, it isn’t much. There’s no telling how long the water’s been there. Chances are it isn’t fresh and guaranteed it is anything but cool. They know it’s wet, but then again, they wonder if it’s enough. Will they be lucky enough to stumble across another source of water nearby?

But it’s tangible … they can see it. On the other hand, they know in their heart that it won’t be enough. Yet, they realize they are trusting that the water will prime the pump so that it works properly and that there is still water in the well. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not they believe in the one who wrote the note and either accept it as truth or reject it.

Faith is a lot like priming the pump. God has left us instructions in his Word. And He’s provided us with a source of living water. Certainly we can choose to discard both and instead choose something that looks like it will provide all we need.

The question is, are you willing to take the risk. Regardless of what living water can provide, are you willing to risk not even knowing?

There’s one thing I promised myself that I would try to do in this blog and that was to be relevant. To me, being relevant in what I write means being real. After all, we don’t live in a vacuum. It’s easy to pull up a scripture verse and point to it as Truth. It is Truth. However, if people can’t relate to it, then it’s usually harder to accept.

Of course, there are times when we not only get to the end of our rope, we actually are hanging by a thread. Suddenly, the Truth seems to be the only thing we have. Sometimes God works that way. Yet, I believe our loving Father would much rather see us learning the Truth in a less desperate way.

If you live in the desert, you gain a new appreciation of water. You understand the importance of this life-giving element.

You learn that even when you don’t feel the need, you must replenish your body with water. In the dry heat, moisture evaporates quickly and invisibly. You hardly notice … that is until it’s almost too late.

Dehydration kills. Recent heat waves have taken lives. Our body needs water. In fact, our body is seventy to eighty-five percent water. So, to operate efficiently, we need to drink our fill – and then some.

God’s left us directions as well. The Bible truly is an awesome book. It isn’t just filled with rules and regulations, as so many believe. While there are instructions on how to live, there is also common-sense advice. Most importantly, the Bible is God’s love letter to us. Consider the kind of letter a parent might write to a child knowing they would be separated from them. In a way, that’s what the Bible is.

And like the scene from an old western, we too have a choice. We can trust what we can see, feel, and touch – the tangible things of this world. Or we can trust the words of Truth. The question is, will the water in that jar give life or just an illusion? When it’s gone, it’s gone. Not only have God’s words survived for thousands of years, they’ve been proven over and over again.

Here’s another story that tells about living water:

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” The Message, John 4:9-15

Instead of stale water that satisfies for only a short period of time, I like the idea of living water that lasts for eternity.

Blessing, Francine

How do we surrender ourselves?

I spent the first thirty years of my life seeking something, looking for love in all the wrong places, and wanting to be accepted.

What I did know for certain, was that I was looking for something but, like so many others, I really didn’t know what it was I was searching for. I tried to find it in a lot of ways and a lot of places, but I never discovered that sense of peace I desperately desired.

Wanting to surrender ourselves to God’s control is a lot easier said than done. We may want to follow God’s will for our lives more than anything else in the world, but if we don’t understand how that’s done, it doesn’t happen.

I wasn’t raised in a church-going family. I don’t even remember if there was a Bible in our home. Moreover, I certainly never knew much more about Jesus than the fact that he was born on Christmas and he died on Easter.

The awesome thing about God is that He truly does pursue us. And even though I didn’t know what I was looking for, I found it when I was thirty-one years old. I heard a loving voice inviting me to make a choice.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. New American Standard Version, Matthew 11:28-30.

I’d tried living my way and I knew it never completely satisfied and it never lasted. I was weary and so tired of hurting.

The Message puts it a little differently:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

That was what I wanted.

In the last days of his ministry, Jesus said, “… the Father is in me, and I in the Father,” Then during the night before Jesus was crucified, he told Peter, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” John 10:38, 14:6, New American Standard Version.

That was the beginning. Giving up control and surrendering to God isn’t easy. And, for me, it wasn’t a one-time thing. Like I said earlier, wanting something and actually doing it are two different things.

But, God had my heart.

Then, I spent another ten years desperately seeking to know God through other people’s words and experiences. That doesn’t work either.

During those years, I lost a career I loved, health, material possessions, income, independence, loved ones, and even my memory at times. I lost the security of everything most people place their security in. I was so tired of losing things.

That’s when I learned about control. Losing things taught me I wasn’t in control at all. The wondrous thing is that it also taught me that if the most precious thing in my life is my intimate relationship with God, I‘d never lose that. Regardless of what happens, He is with me, helping me to live above the circumstances of my life.

Because of God’s love and grace, I found the things money can’t buy – peace of mind, a hope for the future, the knowledge that I am deeply loved by my Creator, and eternal life.

I’m no stronger or more faithful than anyone else is. In fact, I’m probably weaker.

The difference is that I chose to seek the Truth. And, that is what I hope the words from my heart convey.

You see, surrendering is the beginning of a journey to discovering God’s love and purpose for our lives.

The idea of trying to know God may seem insurmountable. It did for me until I realized that by focusing on Jesus, I would come to know the Father. By inviting Christ into my heart and asking Him to work in me and change me, I opened the door.

In all honesty, there have been times when I’ve closed that door. I did that when I decided that I knew what was best for me. Things usually were fine – for a while. But eventually, whatever I had chased after, fought for, or believed in ultimately disappointed. It’s extremely hard to try and orchestrate perfection. In fact, I don’t know anyone who can. There is always something that comes along to change things.

By seeking God’s will and acknowledging His control, I’ve discovered the freedom of knowing that He is the one true thing. And so I began with one simple prayer – to focus on Jesus. You see, like everyone else, there were so many things going on in my life, so many heartaches, disappointments, and so much sadness that I knew the only way to survive was to begin with that simple prayer. God, help me focus on Jesus – nothing else.

The only way to focus on Jesus is by reading the Word of God and spending time in prayer. Neither was elaborate. I opened the Bible and began reading and I simply talked to God, pouring out all my heartaches and my desire to know Him.

That was when I began to understand God’s will in my life. It’s an ongoing process and it requires sacrifice. Unfortunately, too many people shy away from sacrifice, thinking it’s going to be painful. Sometimes it is. Yet, sacrifice borne out of love becomes almost cleansing, healing, and energizing. After all, what we are called to sacrifice are those things that prevent us from being all God has designed for us.

And, it brings a peace that is almost impossible to describe. I want to give up the things that keep me weighed down and hurting.

Knowing and believing that nothing happens in this world without God’s knowledge can give us an unshakeable comfort in relinquishing control to the Creator of the universe.

If you would like to know just how much the Father loves you, please visit this site called Father’s Love Letter at http://www.fathersloveletter.com

My prayer is that you will come to know His love for you.

Blessings, Francine

A Word of Caution

The reality of Paul’s words in both Timothy and Romans in the previous entry can create different emotions in different folks.

Many respond with a feeling of self-righteousness. It’s so easy to judge and criticize others who are caught up in chaotic living. As if we are perfect.

Interestingly, Paul apparently feared the same thing, because in the verses following his almost prophetic description of today’s world, he turns around in the next chapter in Romans and warns us:

“Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.
But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” The Message, Romans 2:1-4.

Others might feel frightened because the apostle’s words ring true and it isn’t a pretty picture of our society today. It would be easy to get caught up in fearful living. While the world sometimes seems to be falling apart all around us, we can find hope in God’s love for His children. It’s easy to focus on circumstances rather than the one who gives us hope.

Hope. If our world needs one thing in the midst of the chaos that swirls around us, it is hope. And people hunger for it. The preponderance and popularity of self-help books is proof that we are looking for something. However, which book is the right one? There are thousands and, unfortunately, many contradict each other.

There is one who gives hope that truly is eternal – it never changes, it is constant, consistent, and available for anyone who chooses to accept it.

One of the best places in the Bible to find encouraging words of hope is in the Psalms, especially many of those written by David. You know – David the shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath and David the King. However, he was also David the adulterer, the murderer, the liar. Yet, David was identified by God as “a man after his own heart.”

Why was he so special to God? Even though his life was full of conflict, sin, guilt, and shame, he lived a life surrendered to God. God knew David’s heart. He knew David’s love was genuine even if the man was flawed. And therein lies a truth so few people seem to understand. We are all flawed and imperfect, but like a doting parent, God loves us, only He loves us more and He loves us best.

In Psalm 18, David wrote a song after God delivered him from all his enemies and from the hand of King Saul. It’s full of amazing praise and gives evidence to all God did for this adulterer, liar, and murderer. Regardless of his weaknesses and sin, David chose to follow God and serve Him. God does the same for those of us who chose to accept Jesus as our savior.

David wrote:

“But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate,
that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.

“They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.

“He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start.” The Message, Psalm 18:16-20

Here’s the truth – the Creator of the universe reached down from heaven and rescued David from his enemies. Can you picture that? Moreover, while David’s enemies were flesh and blood, our’s can be anything that harms us – fear, hate, addictions, depression, panic. They can even be those worldly things we desire – money, power, prestige, self-sufficiency – the things that lull us into a false security.

Why did God save David? In the New International Version, verse 19 answers that question quite eloquently: “… He rescued me because he delighted in me.”

However, I believe David continues that answer in verse 20. In other words, God made David’s life complete when he placed all the pieces (of his life) before God. In other words, David surrendered his life.

Regardless of the bad things happening around us, we can have a supernatural peace that goes beyond human understanding.

Until next time, I pray your weekend is full of peace and contentment, and that you are refreshed and lifted up above the world’s chaos. If you need a little help, check out the Psalms. Or, email me. I promise to answer.

Blessings, Francine

Special Note: As you may have noticed, I use different versions of the Bible. I encourage you to do the same. You may find one that speaks to you, but to really get an in-depth understanding of God’s word (based on personal experience), use several different ones. Along with the Bible, there are a variety of reference books that will further help you hear the message God wants to give you in His word. If you aren’t sure where to start, please contact me.

Giving up Control

My last entry asked who is in control of your life. The desire of my heart was to show that we truly aren’t in control of anything. The rest of that thought is, who or what is controlling your life?

Maybe it would be good to explore what happens when we surrender to something other than God’s love and guidance.

Take a look around you. Read the headlines of any newspaper, turn on any news cast (you can always find news), or watch some of the more popular television programs. What do you read, hear, and see?

Recently, we’ve learned about a serial killer who was a church member and now calmly describes the murders he's committed. We’ve also been witness to a sexual predator who allegedly killed three adults in order to kidnap two children for his own twisted pleasure. Hundreds of thousands watched planes fly into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania killing hundreds of people and forever changing the landscape of our hearts. London is now dealing with the same thing. CEOs of large corporations allegedly diverted funds for their own personal use, robbing employees of their future retirement. Highly rated television programs promote promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, lying, cheating, and just about anything other than Godly principals and beliefs. The entertainment industry even recognizes they can target more people with cartoon-like programs promoting the same things.

Movies, video games, and popular music sometimes go even further.

And we wonder, what’s the world coming to?

Several books in the Bible are prophetic but Timothy is eerily so. Consider Paul’s guidance to the one whom he considered his “son.”

"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power …"

Paul uses nineteen appalling characteristics in the first five verses. He then goes on to say in verses 6-8: "For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth, … men who oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. And then, in verse 13: But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse; deceiving and being deceived." The New American Standard Bible, 2 Timothy 3:1-8

Those verses are chillingly close to describing our world. Moreover, if we look even further into words written almost two thousand years ago, we find something even more frightening.

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul writes of the sinfulness of humankind and in the last half, he specifically addresses unbelief and its consequences. The Message, Romans 1:21-32, puts it in the cold, harsh reality of today:

"What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

"So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.
And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

"Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men,—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

"Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!"

These are perfect examples of people who are trying to control their lives. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Sounds like it could come from today's headlines or top news alerts the media likes to use. More importantly, it should illustrate the disturbing examples of people living without God.

But, life doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that God can take a surrendered life and create something of beauty. More about that next time.

I pray you will come back and discover how the Creator of the universe wants a personal relationship with you. God changes hearts, spirits, and lives.

Blessings, Francine

Who is in control?

One of the hallmarks of a true believer is that we give up control of our lives and trust in God’s control.

Lots of folks say they believe that, but how many live their lives in the total confidence that this is true?

If we were to honestly believe God has control of our lives, knows exactly what’s going on, and has guidance for each of us (if we choose to seek it), then it would seem there would be a lot more joyful believers.

Think about those things that cause stress in your life. Are you satisfied with who you are, how you look, how smart you are, the talents you possess, or any number of characteristics that describe your life or lifestyle?

If you aren’t, chances are you are probably feeling a little stress. Think about the millions of dollars spent on self-help books. While we all can, and should, try to be the best, we have to recognize that none of us has complete control over those things.

Many of us want to have control over our families, our jobs, and our situations. Certainly, we can influence others, work to improve our careers, and try to change our circumstances. But, at the end of the day when we look into the mirror, can we honestly say that we do have that kind of power?

If we acknowledge that the Creator of the universe has control of our lives yet continuously strive to orchestrate things ourselves, then we are, in essence, trying to be God.

There was one in the Bible who wanted to be like God. He was, in fact, the Creator’s most beautiful creation – Lucifer. Most know what happened to him.

Giving up control isn’t easy. It means surrendering every part of ourselves to God. What does that kind of surrender look like? It starts with obedience regardless of whether we understand God’s plans or not. It means living without knowing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our lives. But then again, can anyone know those things for certain?

There are times when surrendering full control means doing things that don’t make sense. However, the real question is, makes sense to whom? The world? That is no barometer as to what does and doesn’t make sense.

Knowing and believing that nothing happens in this world without God’s knowledge can give us an unshakeable comfort in relinquishing control to the Creator of the universe.

Blessings, Francine

Getting it Right

Sometimes, those of us who are perfectionists, tend to place a higher value on getting things right rather than on getting things done. In other words, we are guided more by our concern of what others might think than what God might think. I

I must confess that I’ve been one of those people.

To be used by God is my heart’s desire. Yet, I’ve procrastinated adding to this blog because I wanted to get it right. In other words, if I didn’t believe what I wrote was absolutely perfect, then I wasn’t going to post it.

Silly me. Of course it isn’t going to be perfect. Nothing in this world is. Nevertheless, I let my need for approval keep me from one of the avenues God has opened for me to follow His will.

It’s made me wonder how many others diligently strive to do whatever it is they feel led by God to do but never complete it because, like me, they want it to be perfect.

I don’t want to imply everyone is like this. Yet, I believe there are those who desperately seek validation in the eyes of others. I believe it’s human nature to do so. But I also know that in the Spiritual Realm, our worth and value come from being a child of God.

Getting it right has nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with following God’s leading. I was reminded in one of my devotions how Noah responded to God’s leading. If he had been concerned about getting it right … well, I suppose it’s possible none of us would be here. I mean, it’s easy for us to visualize it raining for forty days and forty nights. Here’s a man building an ark on dry land – and, in a world that didn’t even know what rain was.

I know there are hundreds of examples in the Bible that illustrate that getting it right usually meant doing something others would not agree with. But then, I guess that’s how it is when we choose to follow God’s will and not the world’s way.

My prayer is that I continue to realize my purpose isn’t about fulfilling my plans but rather, it’s all about fulfilling God’s plans.

It’s my desire to share those things I believe God is teaching me. And, do it on a regular basis. For those returning readers, please forgive the lapse of entries. For those new to my blog, come back again. I promise not to wait till I get things perfect but will act on getting it right.

Blessings, Francine

P.S. God's perfection surrounds us. This photo, taken during a recent trip to Ireland, that shows just how perfect our Creator is.
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