What Requires Strength and Courage?

I love the repetition in Joshua 1 as God commissions Joshua to take over the Promised Land. I imagine the Lord’s words stand for anyone moving into unknown, new territory as they follow Him with obedience.

What does God repeat in verses 6, 7, and 9?

This:

Be strong and courageous.

Be strong and very courageous.

Be strong and courageous. 

When we look at our own lives, I think about us doing marvelous things that require fresh strength and courage. Of course, God gives the true reasons why we’re able to find this strength and courage: Him.

Joshua can find strength and courage because God already sees what He’s going to accomplish through him. Why worry?

Joshua can find strength and courage as he obeys God because God  promises good success. 

Finally, we know Joshua can find strength and courage for the ultimate reason: because God is with Him wherever he goes. 

What marvelous thing is on the horizon in your life that requires strength and courage?

 

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The More Complicated, The More Simple

I’ve lately felt more overwhelmed with fresh work assignments, new problems to solve, and future writing plans. I stay awake at night trying to solve certain problems related to curriculum or books I’m thinking about writing. Am I making the right decisions? Am I missing anything? Is there something else I should be doing?

Ah!

This morning, I felt so relieved to read this verse in Psalm 138:8: The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. 

It’s so simple and beautiful. What a joy to embrace this truth and choose to believe it. God is working now to make come about what He intends for our lives. Yes!

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A Tribute to That One Teacher

Last night I learned that my high school typing teacher passed away. Pat Renner taught a business class at West Potomac High School where I attended in the 90’s.

I’ve hardly thought of Mrs. Renner since I took her typing class, but not a day goes by that her class doesn’t impact my life. I type every single day. I didn’t know at 15 years old that I’d become a writer. I didn’t know that this class would serve as the foundation and the scaffolding for everything I do professionally.

There I sat, positioning my teenage fingers on the typewriter: asdfjkl; asdfjkl; asdfjkl;. Nobody talked. We just typed. I remember. I see her short blond hair and smart wardrobe. The room erupted each day with the sounds of clicking and carriage returns. The first day, I felt the keys respond to my fingers. Day after day, my fingers found the keys. Day after day, I learned and began typing so quickly I felt like a master musician playing Rachmaninoff. I remember I sat next to Casey who always typed faster than I could.

How could anyone know that Mrs. Renner’s lessons would become the foundation of that essay I typed on my first word processor for the University of Virginia–probably the first official document I ever typed? Every essay, every book, every blog–it all stemmed from that one class I never think about but use every single day of my life.

I wish I would have taken the time to reach out to her and thank her for sitting in that classroom 30 years ago and enduring the sounds of kids learning to type. I’m typing this now without looking at the keys–all because of Pat Renner. I think she’d be proud of how quickly I typed this for her.

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Slow Transformation

Things take time. I’m not a patient person, so I’m fascinated by what it takes emotionally to invest in something without immediate returns. It’s good to grow into this kind of patient person who takes the long view of things–physically, socially, financially, and even spiritually.

Take weight training, for example. I’ve heard this quote: It takes 2 weeks to feel it, 4 weeks to see it, and 6 weeks to hear it. In other words, you’ll feel different (stronger, better) in 2 weeks; you’ll begin to see results in 4 weeks (weight loss, toning, etc); and in 6 weeks, other people will notice. I’ve also heard this: 6 weeks to be it; 12 weeks to see it (meaning you establish a habit in 6 weeks and then you see results in 12 weeks).

Things take time when you’re trying to transform something, especially in the category of personal fitness. It’s the same for any area of improvement if you think about it. But I’m learning how important a mindset shift is here: consider a 12 week waiting period till you see results. In the meantime, plug along, day by day.

One day, the transformation will happen. Whether you’re building financial health or working towards maturity in any area, you won’t see the new you overnight.

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And One Day

I remember the day an older mother with teen girls told me that, one day, I’d sit with my girls and we could all watch a movie together and eat popcorn. I couldn’t believe it. As I wrangled my toddlers and felt completely exhausted, I couldn’t imagine a day when I’d enjoy a movie that we all loved together. I know this is a strange memory, but I keep in tucked away because it felt so hopeful. One day, the exhaustion would ease. One day, I’d enjoy this a little more. One day, I’d take a seat and enjoy popcorn. 

The popcorn and movie image felt like a great milestone when it actually happened when both girls were in late elementary school.

I thought of that mother yesterday–now five years after my movie and popcorn milestone– when my daughter shoved me out of the kitchen because she wanted to make the entire dinner for the family. “Go take a bath. Go read. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”

Can you believe it? As you hustle around today with your own children, think of the day of movies and popcorn. Think that one day, you’ll be served dinner by this very child that you’ve been cleaning up after and feeding for years. Of course, those days seem precious and like treasured memories now. But I must admit: I enjoyed a quiet afternoon of listening to my daughter make dinner.

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All the Steadfast Love

I keep noting the number of times the phrase “steadfast love” appears in the psalms. Over and over and over again. If I’m to know anything about the Lord after reading the psalms, I believe it’s this singular characteristic: He is a God of steadfast love. In fact, the phrase appears 127 times.

But what does it mean?

It’s better than you’re imagining. Steadfast love translates in Hebrew to include God’s love, mercy, kindness and favor. But there’s an urgency to it; it includes God’s zeal, passion, and constant desire to demonstrate goodness to us. 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. –Psalm 136:1 

God stands ready, willing, and eager in His steadfast love for us.

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If You Like Journaling: A Fresh Daily Practice

As you know, I keep a detailed prayer journal. But it’s really more than a prayer journal; it’s a rich devotional practice based on a lifetime of connecting with the Lord through simple and joyful practices in that journal. I thought I’d share my journaling secrets with you. Grab a pen and your journal and start recording these:

10 things you’re thankful for–or more. (1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”)

5 specific prayer requests for the day. (Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice. In the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”)

5 people you’re praying for who don’t yet know Jesus. (Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.”)

The rest of my journaling time involves reading 5 Psalms (to record insights or promises from the Lord), the Proverb that matches the day (to record wisdom and admonition), and then wherever I’m reading in my Bible reading plan (Deuteronomy). The whole time, I’m asking the Holy Spirit to show me something new and teach me to help me become the person I’m supposed to be.

I also enjoy reading books to help me grow in my faith. I underline key passages and record these in my journal as well. You can drink coffee or eat your breakfast while you read to fill your mind with good things to help you keep in step with God’s spirit.

What a great start to each morning!

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Some Joy in Finishing Last

I always chuckle after I finish my bike ride on my Echelon bike because I’m usually in close to last place against all the other thousands of virtual riders. Your place shows up on the screen, on your phone, and in an email summary of your ride. It’s like a billboard in lights to my failure. My performance is so terrible that I just have to laugh. I often swipe away the leaderboard so I can’t see all the other riders who stand as a mockery to my riding strength. Who needs the leaderboard?

I sip my water and recover from my ride as I remember some good wisdom. I mean, people who don’t finish first become experts at reframing a situation. So I say this: I already won first place in the race against myself. I came in first because I did it. I already won the race the minute I decided to clip in to my cycling shoes. Everything else is just interesting feedback. And it doesn’t really matter when you’re just trying to beat your own best record. It doesn’t matter if you love to ride.

Sometimes I think about this problem of finishing last and laugh about it for the other areas of my life. I finish last in terms of professional rank at Penn State, and yet teaching is one of the greatest joys of my life. I’m great at it. I love it so much. I finish last in terms of social media followers compared to other women in my same area of publishing and speaking, and yet I continue to love the work I do. I’m great at writing. I love it!

I finish last in lots of areas according to the standards around me, but in my heart, I don’t feel last. I don’t even feel part of the race anymore. I just feel happy to hop on the bike and ride however long and fast I’m supposed to go.

Maybe one day, I will finish first. But I think it might feel a little lonely in that spot. When you bring up the rear, you find a lot of community there.

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Keep Looking

I consider a quote by Charles Spurgeon on the secret to Christian happiness:

“We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus’.” 

As someone prone to near-constant self-evaluation of feelings, moods, behaviors, and lists of goals, I take great comfort is turning away from myself and back to Jesus. When I look to Jesus and His work on our behalf, His divine life within us, and His magnificence, I can absorb myself in worship and cease to measure the day by my changing emotions or flurry of activity. Then, we find a great peace and happiness in continuing to look to Jesus.

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