Who ARE you listening to?

girl-140571_1280I decided to go with this thought again because I think there is so much we need to consider about this subject.  In a recent conversation with a friend, I realized that our internal self-talk can be so detrimental, and perhaps even downright dangerous, to our growth in Christ.

Many years ago I came across a book by Shad Helmstetter called, “What to say when you talk to yourself.”  It was a very thought-provoking book and it helped me realize for the first time that the chatter going on in my head was having a profound effect on my life.

Currently I’m reading a book by Steve Backlund called, “You’re crazy if you DON’T talk to yourself!”  This too is a great book, not so much about defining the chatter going on in your head, but to make you think about what exactly you’re allowing that chatter to say to you.  Backlund reminds us, “that Jesus didn’t think His way out of the wilderness…  He spoke truth to invisible beings and to the mind-sets that sought to restrict and defeat Him.”

We really owe it to ourselves to get savvy to this concept.  One of the voices in our head is not  a friendly voice; it belongs to the enemy of our soul and he just loves to twist, contort, and otherwise lie to us about the condition of our lives and our relationships.  Backlund contends that we are indeed supposed to talk to ourselves and also to talk to the things in our lives, allowing our relationship with Jesus Christ to blossom and thrive as we proclaim Biblical words and truths into and over our daily circumstances.

Let me give you an example.  I used to have a big problem with speaking negatively.  It wasn’t that I saw myself as a negative person, because I didn’t.  But someone close to me bluntly stated one day, “you are one of the most negative people I’ve ever come across!”  At first I was offended and angry.  But once alone, I started praying about this and asked the Lord to show me what exactly they were referring to.  Over time, I realized they were right.  I totally had a negative viewpoint about life.  I had a hard time trusting others because I feared their motives.  I was suspicious of people instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I found I actually expected negative things to happen to me.  And do you know what?  Negative did follow me and my cozy little life around!  Shocking truth!

I’ve worked at attempting to have more positive expectations about life.  I can still get caught up in the negative (oh, so sad a fact that once caught in this lifestyle, it’s difficult to change that skew), but I try hard to allow for more positive things to happen in my life and, in my head!

One thing I know.  The Word gives us instruction about such things, most of them related to what we say with our mouths.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21.  “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19.

I invite you to take a listen to the voices in your head.  Are they life-filled?  Or are they full of negative thoughts?  Very often what is happening inside our head matches up with the words that come out of our mouths; our words have tainted our thinking so much so that our minds have now embraced what the enemy wants us to — that life is hard, and there’s not much hope.

You see, your ears hear what your mouth proclaims.  This is hard to come to grips with in the beginning.  Negative talk equates to negative thoughts and the enemy loves to chime in with his two cents, in total agreement to your conclusions.  And to make matters worse, he then adds his own commentary to the mix.  And the more you agree with those thoughts, the more they rage, the more they come out of your own mouth, no matter your intentions.  Sadly, this is the exact point at which we begin to speak things out loud we truly didn’t mean to.  And therein lies the truth of “death and life are in the power of the tongue!”

But when I practice speaking good things, I’ve noticed there’s a correlation then to what thoughts are running in my head; my thoughts begin to fall in line with what I’m speaking.  I love that the more I speak about good things, the more I come to expect those good things in my life.  And if you’re tracking with me here, you begin to see that your words become contagious to your thinking.

Paul says it best:  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Philippians 4:8 (NLT).  Paul was such a loving teacher and his words still ring true today.

Fix your thoughts.  Webster’s defines the word fix as:  to make (something) whole or able to work properly again : to repair (something); to deal with or correct (a problem).  That’s a definition worthy of repeating.  Fix your thoughts, make them whole, able to work properly again.

Do you have issues with negative thoughts in your life?  Do you seem to attract the negative?  Do you struggle with an automatic response of negative?  You’re not alone.  No, far from it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about this and invite you to leave a comment on what you’d like to change in that area of your life or, how you have conquered this problem.

Let’s all adjust whose voice we’re listening to, shall we?  And let’s start proclaiming the Light and Truth of the Word and allow it to do it’s transforming power in and through us.

Who Are You Listening To? Do Not Trust Every Voice!

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Do you listen to every voice you hear?  More importantly, do you act upon that voice once you’ve heard it?  I can tell you from my own experience that you need to be very careful who you are listening to these days!

Today I’m honored to have a guest post called, “Born to Lead – Until Death Do Us Part,”  for a new friend and sister in the faith, Ashley Hale.  You can find my post at  http://www.circlingthestory.com/reader-stories/Linda.

I hope you’ll join me as I share with you a time when I listened to the wrong voice — and the resulting devastation that resulted from that decision.  Also, take a little time over at Ashley’s site; she’s got some great things to share!

1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Seeking Me – or Wherefore Art Thou?

people-163906_1280Where, oh where have I been?  A friend asked that question of me the other day.  I actually hadn’t realized I’d been missing until I came here to find that it’s been quite a number of days since I last posted.  I didn’t mean to do this.  I hope I will be forgiven.

There are those days when you find yourself so lost in circumstances that you can barely keep your head up.  Too much to do and too little time; I had succumbed to the tyranny of the schedule yet again.  We’ve been home from my parents for a week and a half and the moment we arrived we were hit with surprise after surprise.

I really thought the transition back to our regular life after my dad’s surgery was going to be an easy one.  Um, not so much!  The dog promptly conspired with an upset digestive system that caused more sleep-deprived nights.  That made the next days difficult to navigate.  The mail revealed a couple of anticipated payments to be missing; the trail to track them down was long and convoluted.  Taxes had to be paid because April 15th waits for no man.  A bill got misplaced in the myriad of paperwork from being gone for over two weeks; the recipient was not so forgiving as I’d hoped.  A few surprises resulting from renters moving out and the left behind pet aromas greeted us to mock our no pet policy.

All that left me woefully behind on cleaning my house.  A week and a half later I still haven’t gotten to cleaning and the dust layer grows.  Friends who used to live here came into town and we invited them for dinner only after demanding promises they not look at the fracas of our home.  A new Bible study I’d signed up for needed DVDs watched in order to catch up and not be left behind.  The workbook had to be answered to the tune of eight days worth.  There were staff meetings to attend at our church, texts to some folks we’ve come alongside for a time, correspondence to respond to, bills to be paid.  Ok, so in looking at all this, I realize why I’m still exhausted.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (NLT)
5 “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.”

Proverbs 16:27 (TLB)
27 Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.

Whew!  I can rest easy because there has been no pause for idle hands to even exist in this schedule!  I guess I can take solace in the Ecc. 4 verse; we won’t be led to ruin for lack of anything to do the past two weeks.  The good news is we’re home.  The better news is God is still in control.  I may think I’m in control periodically, but all this is better left in His capable hands.  In the meantime, I really am praying for my productivity levels to catch up with the myriad amounts of things to do around here still; and I pray all is well with all of you.  You have been on my mind and I’m praying that your tyranny of the schedule looks more calm than mine right now!

Good News From Yesterday’s Silence

imageYesterday was eerily quiet.  Good Friday, the day our Lord died on the cross came and went.  That day was filled with activity, pain and sorrow.  Emotions were high.  The man who had days earlier told truths unheard of and performed signs and wonders was now dying a death reserved for common criminals.  The wonder had died down and the masses went home.  Nothing much else to see here.

Saturday was a new day but it was quiet.  All the hopes of this man truly being their deliverer had died as He took His last breath.  The disciples, for the most part, had dispersed.  We aren’t told but I imagine Peter was heartsick; he had denied knowing his Lord just as Jesus had said he would.  Can you imagine the guilt?  The happenings of the past three years that had caused folks to be giddy with hope, were now over.  This man, the one they hoped would deliver them from the Romans rule, was gone.  No delivering, no freedom, nothing to look forward to.  Might as well go back to the fields, back to the merchant booths.  Life was back to usual.  There was nothing else to look forward to.  Hope died.

Sunday dawned.  The women went to the tomb to beg for His body so they might take care of Him properly.  As they walked, sorrow was deep.  But suddenly, this new day took on a look quite unexpected.  An angel of the Lord appeared and everything changed.  Instead of it being two days after the death of all their hopes, they suddenly found a new assurance had risen in their hearts.  He was not there in the tomb!  The angel told them so, that He had risen.  All the pain, all the grief changed in one brief second with an encounter from heaven.

We need to remember this encounter.  How many times have you faced grief, sorrow, and pain and then despair in the intervening quiet?  We so often fall right into the enemy’s plan to discourage us by believing that the silence after the storm is where we will remain.  Not so, according to the wonderful story of our Lord.  Saturday followed the horrible scene from the day before and, for most, it seemed a day of disappointment and despair.  But we know from history that Sunday brought a new deal, a promise of hope, a turn in circumstances so radical that everything changed.

The Word tells us that Jesus left this world on Friday and all was quiet the next day.  From the surface it seemed nothing was happening.  But the glorious truth is that much was happening in God’s economy.  Jesus descended into hell to take back the authority of heaven and earth.  No one could witness that act and so it seemed that all was lost, all hope gone.  Not so.  Sunday came and with it, the promise of a new deal.  The Messiah truly was the Deliverer!

My hope today is all in Him, my Savior and Redeemer.  When circumstances arise that appears to be never-ending, I have but to remember that in the quiet day of despair, my Savior is working, unseen, to change my situation.  My Sunday is coming and He will redeem the day.  As before.  As always.  Of this I am sure.

Keeping my eyes on Him, my Savior and my hope.

Thank God I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Through!

image  I just saw this title on someone’s facebook post and thought it quite appropriate – so I used it.  I wish I could give credit to whoever wrote it.  To the author, thank you for the perfect words to describe this day!

Once again I find myself sitting in the emergency room, this time with my dad.  What started as a day with a scheduled surgery turned into a night of angst.  Let me start at the beginning.

Surgery for Dad was scheduled for noon.  We arrived at 10 a.m. as instructed.  He went into the pre op and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  At 1:30 we were finally informed that the first patient took way more time than anticipated and there would be about an hour and a half further delay while patient number two was in surgery.  Dad was patient number three.  Finally at 3:30 p.m. he was wheeled away.

Mom and I waited.  We went to the cafeteria and had a surprisingly good lunch.  We returned to the waiting area and waited some more.  Finally at 6 p.m. The doctor came and told us he was out and things had gone well.  He’d be ready to leave in about an hour we were told.  Shortly after 7 p.m. we were on our way home despite the fact that dad was still talking a bit of loopiness from the anesthesia.

My husband met us at the house to help maneuver Dad out of the car and into his bed. Mind you the distance from car to bed is approximately 25 feet.  With husband on one arm and me on the other, we slowly got to within 6 feet of Dad’s bed when he suddenly stopped taking steps.  Both my husband and I were questioning why he stopped.  No answer.  “Dad?  Dad?” I asked.  No response.  And then his legs buckled and down he went.

I am so grateful for my husband’s 25 years in the fire service.  He methodically helped get Dad off his knees and lying flat on the floor of the hallway.  My Mom and I stood dumbfounded as Dad was laid out flat by my husband, and immediately we noticed the ashen look of Dad’s face.  My husband reported that Dad wasn’t breathing.  I immediately jumped to the phone stand in the hall and dialed 911.  As hubby took Dad’s pulse, he initially reported no pulse to be found.  As you can well imagine, for a few tense moments, my heart seemed to stop.  My Mom cried out.  My husband was about ready to begin CPR when Dad took a breath.

Now I was answering questions by the dispatcher, and interpreting between dispatch and my husband.  Those two or three minutes seemed like an hour.  Dad aroused enough to answer our prompts of “where are you?” and “can you hear us?”.  Paramedics arrived in probably three minutes.  Assessments were made.  They attempted to have Dad sit up and he passed out again.  Now he was rolled onto a cloth carrier and removed to the gurney outside, loaded into the ambulance and returned to the hospital we’d left only a short time before.

Mom, my husband and I came back to the hospital.  The stress of the day was taking its toll on Mom; while she wanted to be with Dad, I could tell by the tell-tale flush in her cheeks that she was running on empty.  An hour later we convinced her that she needed to go home and rest and I would stay with Dad at emergency.  Reluctantly she allowed me to drive her home with the promise that if anything were to come up I would call her.

Now it is 1 a.m.  Dad’s color is back to his normal ruddy complexion.  He’s talking more normal conversation, so much so I just encouraged him to relax and try to sleep because I’m getting a little punchy.  Once again I’ve watched many folks performing their jobs: firemen, paramedics, and emergency personnel all doing what they’ve been trained to do, quickly and efficiently.  Everyone has been kind and as attentive as they could be given a packed emergency room tonight.

All is quiet.  The nurse has pulled the door shut and turned the lights off so Dad and I might get some rest.  I don’t really know how much rest I’ll get sitting in a chair tonight.  I feel a bit like the proverbial camel trying to be fed through an eye of a needle.  But I’m grateful for my loving Father in heaven who is comforting me through a very tough and emotional day and, for allowing me to have some more time with my Dad here on earth.

Thank you God that we don’t look like what we’ve been through today!  In reality it’s but a glitch in our human journey.  Later today, after a nap I’m pretty sure, the day will look a lot brighter.  Tonight however, I’m just happy to be here with my Dad.

A Walk With a Gnarly Twist

Family and friends are here for spring break.  The house is in disarray.  There are two dogs instead of just one.  There have been some very surprising conversations to this point, but God has been right in the middle of them. The grandchildren and a friend have been delightful, offering help (well, maybe willing to act on our suggestions at least but that works for there have been no arguments!), adding their whit and whimsey to the wonderful mix of generations here this week.

family-outing-421653_1280All nine of us started out for a walk this morning, only to find that they had made a plan to hike about four miles away, onto a neighbor’s property.  I’ve been trying hard lately to get back into my walking habit, but this one I wasn’t quite ready for.  So, I marched part way with them and then took a turn to come back toward home alone.

March mountains

As I walked, I listened.  No noise, just a very slight whisper of the wind through the trees as I rounded corners in the trail.  The sky was pure azure this morning and not a single cloud in the sky, quite the contrast from the past few days.  I closed my eyes and thought of lazy, summer days at my favorite mountain lake and for a few seconds I was taken to that spot by the lake, looking into deep blue waters.

God is amazing.  He can take an otherwise regular day and turn it into something very special.  I didn’t think about the possibility of Him speaking to me in the ways He did this morning.  He spoke to me, not loudly, but as gentle as the rolling winds through the trees.  “I like what has taken place these past few days Linda.”

“Oh my, thank you Lord.  You have inspired me and you’ve helped me not react to a couple of potentially challenging situations.  Communication has just rolled lightly off my lips this week, as I realized I needed You to be in the center of these talks.”

I continued walking, feeling the warmth of the spring day flush my entire body.  This walk was definitely going to get my pulse up.  I came around a turn and noticed an old stump to my right.  It reminded me about life and how fragile it can be at times.  We can easily be uprooted in life by the unexpected trauma that sometimes awaits just around the corners of our lives.  We don’t see them, but they are there, awaiting the proper time to unfold.  Does God cause them?  I don’t think so.  I do believe, however, that He sometimes allows them to come, just like the story of Job. At other times, I think they come as the result of our own decisions tree stumpor unfortunately, as part of living in a fallen world.

The gnarly twists and turns of the stump reminded me that we can’t control how our lives will form.  The unexpected accident or injury might leave a scar or new alignment in our fragile body.  The hurts and emotional pains of our past may form some dark spots deep inside.  We often have a tendency to try to cover up those dark spots or perhaps even ignore them in the hopes that if we don’t acknowledge them to ourselves or others, perhaps they’ll go away.  The truth is, they don’t go away at all, but can become physical or emotional wounds that scab over eventually, but the reality of their presence remains with us.

“Oh Lord, this stump is working on me today.”

“It’s good Linda.  You need to look sometimes, because while the scars and twists represent pain in your past, they remind me how much I love it that you are willing to look at them now and, with my help, you are ready to move past them.  I won’t remove the scars, but I will heal their effects in your life and you will realize the true freedom I have for you on the other side of pain.”

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming!  I have often looked into the mirror and wasn’t sure I liked what I saw in the reflection these days.  Lines where there used to be none.  Spots of discoloration, a bump here, a flaw there, all representations of a life lived.  I didn’t want those marks and changes yet they came on their own, some marked by the passing of time, others as unexpected things happened in my life.  I realize I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin than ever before, lines, bumps and all.  I guess they, like the twists and turns of the stump, represent in their own ways the paths of my story.

woman-361541_1280A walk in the high desert on a beautiful spring morning.  Didn’t see Him coming toward me and yet He met me on the path today, bringing insight, love and understanding.  I so often forget that my Lord loves everything about our journeys with Him.  Whether I’m in the middle of baking raspberry crisp for dessert tonight or taking a walk with Him in nature, He is always there, willing to show me yet another slice of wisdom about my trek called life.  Thank you for a glorious walk through your garden Lord, walking with you in the bliss of this beautiful day!

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11 (MSG)

What Do You Expect to Leave When You Enter In?

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Years ago a friend made the comment, “Before I walk into church every Sunday I ask God, ‘who do you want me to spend time with today Lord?’.”  That really caused me to think.  Did I ever offer myself to the Lord on my way into church?  To that point, no!  But that one question changed up the rules for me.

I have to admit that prior to this important question, I went to church for me.  I wanted to worship, I wanted to get fed, and I wanted a bit of time away from my child so I could think.  I was so self-focused and church was my time.  But that day, God chose to speak to me through a friend’s comment.

I next found myself in a wrestling match of sorts.  I had to face the fact that I’m not very good in crowds.  Put me one-on-one with someone and I can banter and carry on for hours.  But, a crowded room presents some issues.  What if the person I choose to talk to doesn’t want to talk to me?  How do I begin a conversation with someone I don’t really know?  What on earth should I say?  On and on my thoughts went, pushing up against my own self-imposed limits having to do with self-worth.  Thankfully the Lord has helped me over the years to basically get over myself and realize that I can be used, in big ways and in small ways, to speak into others’ lives.

So I want to challenge you today.  When you go to church, or into your office, perhaps into the grocery store or the coffee shop, would you please consider that God might want to use you in someone’s life?  When you enter in, what exactly do you plan on leaving behind?  I believe God wants us to realize that we are His hands and feet to this dying world, and if someone needs a touch from God, it’s going to have to come from us Christians roaming around town!  Could He do it another way?  Well, He’s God, of course and He doesn’t need us, but I believe He really wants to use us for such purposes.

The procedure is really quite simple.  As my friend did, simply ask God before entering the workplace, store, church service, etc., “who do you want me to touch base with today Lord?”  Give Him a few moments and I believe He’ll tell you.  If you’re not impressed immediately, go ahead and go in but be alert to His still, small voice that may direct you as you encounter various people.  Also, realize that this encounter may not be profound; but then again, it may not only change someone else’s life, it could actually change yours as well!

This simple little exercise is going to stretch you, but stretching never hurt anyone and it is actually quite good for us.  After I heard my friend, I began to allow myself to be stretched.  When I enter in, I look around the room.  I don’t always hear from God; sometimes I just observe until I see someone I haven’t met yet, someone wearing a look that tells me they aren’t happy, or perhaps feeling a little intimidated at being there.  Watch for the signals and be aware that God might be speaking to you.  And then step out.

I never used to think about what I left behind.  I’m praying these days that I’m leaving a good taste in someone’s life when I walk away from them.  It may only be a “hello” but it just might be the most important hello you’ve ever spoken.  God wants to use you.  As you enter in this week, what are you going to leave behind?