Here is a list of books I have read, reread and given away. These books have had a distinct impact in helping me get better during mentally-tough times. Frankly, I don’t buy them “new.” I use Amazon.com, and buy “used.” One, it’s cheaper; and two, I’ve been encouraged by the previous owners’ notes. I hope these help you too:
“Choosing Forgiveness,” Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“Praying God’s Word,” Beth Moore
“Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud
“Thinking for a Change,” John Maxwell
“Unashamed,” Christine Caine
“Exquisite Agony,” Gene Edwards
“Search for Significance,” Robert McGee
“Battlefield of the Mind,” Joyce Meyer
“Practicing the Presence of God,” Brother Lawrence
“Angry Conversations with God,” Susan Isaacs
“Oh the Places You Will Go,” Dr. Seuss
“The Shack,” Wm. Paul Young
“Jesus Calling,” Sarah Young
“Everybody’s Normal Til You Get to Know Them,” John Ortberg
Before another weekend rolls around, I’d like to offer a delineation: resting is not the same as quitting. Resting is temporary, quitting is permanent. Resting is biblical, quitting (if not God’s will) is not. Resting keeps you from rusting. Quitting is rusting. Resting helps you not quit! But quitting doesn’t help you not rest. Resting is not regretful, quitting is regretful. I think we can get deceived that resting will mean “I am quitting,” or “I am weak.” But this is a lie the devil is trying to sell from the corner-store in hell. GOD rested on the seventh day. JESUS got away in the mornings and rested in the Father. I get a lot of things wrong. But one thing I can stand behind is I find time to rest. Years ago, I was found in a bloody, psychotic, suicidal mess in a parking lot, and consequently locked up for it. That day, I told God I will do whatever HE needs to have that NEVER happen again. A LARGE part of my refusal to return to “crazy,” is my emphatic conviction to rest. You CAN tell people no. You CAN build margin into your life. There is NO WAY God wants us to run so hard we go crazy. What good would His team be if rendered useless to the bench? God needs us! But we need to rest so He can use us! As the weekend approaches, I hope you enjoy it…and find time to rest in it.
Before God got involved in creation, it was three things: formless, empty, dark. Before God got involved in my life, it was formless, empty, and dark. But in creation, and with us…
…what was formless, God formed: Earth, “God said, ‘Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth…Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.’” (Genesis 1:6-9) You, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) You weren’t bought at Wal-Mart. You weren’t made in a lab. You weren’t a bid on EBay. The hands of the Almighty God, in your mom’s belly, formed you together. And NO life is created accidentally, and EVERY life is created intentionally.
…what was empty, God filled: Earth, “I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—” (Genesis 1) You, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) People have emptied you because every time they assaulted you, manipulated you, used you, cheated on you, rejected you, hurt you…they emptied you. People empty; God fills. God is the author, the finisher and the filler of life. If he can fill a planet with life, He can fill lives with life. If you’ve confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you are not empty despite what people have done to you. You are solid, and filled to overflowing with the glory of God!
…what was darkness, God lit: Earth, “God said,’“Let there be light,’ and there was light…he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1) You, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) On the third day, God said let there be light, and it was lit! And on the day you accepted Jesus into your heart, you were lit! You no longer need to run in the dark. You light up every room, house, church, office, prison, hospital, rehab, store, and ‘hood you walk into. The light of Jesus in you, OUTlives, OUTlasts, OUTpowers the dark around you. And I would rather walk in God’s light than run in my dark!
So in closing, just like the Earth around you that you see, and the life-transformed that you are, the case is made that what was formless is formed; empty, filled; and dark, lit. I hope this encourages someone today!
Resolutions. I don’t make them anymore, because I don’t keep them! But the New Year is a good reset button, and keeping in step with that, I am praying for restitution. By definition, restitution is, “the act of giving back something that has been lost or stolen.’ No sooner did I look up that definition than I recalled a bible verse where GOD declares the same. In Joel 2:25, God says, “I will give you back what you lost.” That’s restitution! Instead of resolving to gain something on my own in the New Year, I am praying for God to restitute something I lost last year. As I reflect on last year, there was some connectivity and bonding lost with some family members. As I head into 2017, I am praying for God to restore that. If God said this in the bible 4000 years ago, and I believe in the bible and I believe in God, then if it is His will, I believe God can bring restitution. So that’s what I’m praying for! What did you lose in 2016? A comeback? A battle? Joy? Health? Dependability? Commitment? Church? A relationship? Perhaps there are things we lost in 2016; but with God, restitution can be found in 2017. Furthermore, the bible says in James 4, “You don’t have ’cause you don’t ask.” So in 2017, I’m asking for restitution!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This is one of my favorite verses for a new year. Actually, it’s a verse, a life-goal, a mental-health axiom, and a prayer, all in one enchilada! Lemme break it down…
*For I KNOW*
God knows. God knows already what 2017 has for you and me. The bible teaches that he’s recorded our days before our very first day. So if God KNOWS what 2017 holds, I release myself from being a predictor of it. I don’t need a horoscope, an appointment, a dream-weaver, or a fortuneteller. I have everything I need in God KNOWING and I don’t have to pay him. Rather, HE paid his life for me. He made me, He knows me, I trust Him.
*They ARE Plans For GOOD*
Does this mean that in 2017 bad things can happen? Yep. And if I were a betting man, I’d say bad things probably will. But with God, and this promise, bad can happen but GOOD can come from it. How? By sticking with God. When we stick with God, God can bring good from bad. How can He do that? He’s God, and He is love and that is what love does. God already wrote my story. Until my story ends, it doesn’t mean I won’t have bad chapters, it just means bad chapters will eventually end in good results. God is good, and if we are with God, we are held in His goodness.
I hope this encourage you as you head into your new year – God has good plans in store!
“Love suffers long,” 1 Corinthians 13:4
SUFFERS: This “suffering” I have for you, is willing to join you where you are, no matter where it is. In my suffering, I become blind, deaf, mute to what you’ve done or are doing, and my HEART is my guide for you. My mind and body may struggle, but my heart is still in this.
LONG: This “long” I have for you means I can’t put a timer on it. I have to take off my watch, and surrender it to God’s WILL. If I have to love you for a considerable amount of space, it means I won’t be too far away. If I have to love you for a considerable amount of time, it means I will be patient for you.
God inspired Paul to write “love suffers long” because it’s what God does for us everyday. He always loves us, He suffered for us, and He will do it for all time and space from Genesis 1 to never-ending. God inspired Paul to write this because it is what love does when one doesn’t deserve love back, and God knows, that WITH HIM this kind of love IS POSSIBLE. You can’t love that person back who doesn’t deserve it…and you don’t need to. If you make yourself available to him, God will through you. How do I know? I did it that whole day in the hospital room for someone who couldn’t return it. Listen, I’m not that great. I’m not that nice of a person, I can be moody, hypocritical and insecure. So I avail myself to God who is 100% pure, possible love. I get out of the way, and let His love suffer long, through me.
Three years ago, we were expecting to see the bathroom tile-layer around 9am. Instead, we got a phone call. He wasn’t coming. He had suddenly died. The last thing I had said to him the day before was, “Thanks for everything you’re doing.” He would die that night. Several times that day, I glanced at the unfinished bathroom and thought of him. I also thought of its unfinished business and the bigger picture it represented. A picture that includes all the business we’d leave unfinished, if we died unexpectedly. I don’t know if you have unfinished business with a relationship? A promise? A commitment to Jesus? An apology? Today is the day to do everything. Yesterday can’t be repeated, tomorrow can’t be predicted. Today is the day. Today is the day to forgive. Today is the day to love. Today is the day to bless. Today is the day to know where you’re going if you don’t get tomorrow. Of course we’ll all have unfinished business when we die. But hopefully it’ll just be something like unfinished bathroom tile. Today is the day to finish…
I remembered the last place I had my wedding bands and diamond engagement ring. It was Wednesday, December 4, 2013, early afternoon, in this pictured parking lot. So the next morning, before the stores opened, I retraced my steps to the lot. Sure enough, scattered on the ground, were two of the wedding bands. However the solitaire diamond engagement ring of fourteen years and the other wedding band were nowhere to be found. I called the managers of the shops in the plaza. They were kind and understanding. I called the police to file a missing-property report, and the empathizing operator said she’d say a prayer. I knew as I prayed for my rings’ return, a blog post would ensue–but had hoped it would be an answered-prayer post. It’s not. What do you do when you lose something special? I learned there are two things to pray and one thing not to do. The one thing I wouldn’t do is let this mess become everybody’s drama. It’s my carelessness, my ring, my loss. And though I shared it with a few people, I kept boundaries on my emotions and perspective on my circumstances. Two things I prayed were, “God, please help me find these rings,” and “God, if it’s not meant to be found, please let it be in the hands of someone who needs it.” I wish I had a happy ending. But if you’ve lost something recently (I emphasis “someTHING” not “someONE”) I pray this encourages you today.
In the Christmas narrative, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, I am willing to accept whatever he wants” Mary said this after an angel told her she would become pregnant and that Jesus the Christ, would be her son. Mary’s response is very profound. She was young, single, poor and a virgin. The odds were against her, she could have said, “I can’t.” But Mary had faith: she believed God’s message, though she could not see God; she accepted the impossible, though it did not make sense. The faith in Mary’s heart was greater than the logic in her mind. And by faith, Mary would witness the birth of her son; and by faith, she would witness the death of her Savior. Here’s the consideration: what am I faithful to? The gifts: my family, my husband, my life? Or the giver of my gifts: our God. Several years ago, my “mom #2,” Betty, lost a gift…her daughter. Lisa was a Navy Academy cadet, on her way to the Army-Navy football game, when she was killed in a tragic car accident. I’ve been one of many inspired-spectators to Betty’s faith. Betty walks through pain but lives by faith. To this day, Betty continues to walk by faith with God. Never afraid to ask Him “why,” but never to give up on her faith and leave Him. This Christmas, I pray we declare in our hearts what Mary (and Betty) have declared in theirs, “Lord, I am your servant and I am willing to accept what you want.” That whatever God’s calling you to do by faith, that your faith will triumph!