Helping the Thief

burning-question-markThe other day I was reading Psalms 50:16-18a when I stopped short, feeling as if I’d been hit right between the eyes. Before I tell you why, I should confess a shortcoming. Occasionally, because I’m reading my Bible, praying, and not committing any heinous sins, I start feeling content in my own “righteousness.” As you know, a self-righteous person can be a real pain in the neck. Usually, a Scripture checks this type of irritating attitude before it gets out of control in my life. And that’s what happened the other day when I read Psalms 50:16-18a.

But God says to evil men: Recite my laws no longer and stop claiming my promises, for you have refused my discipline, disregarding my laws. . .”

At this point of my Bible reading, my self-righteous attitude kicked in. Almost without realizing it, I smiled smugly and mentally patted myself on the back for not being evil or disregarding God’s laws. I had just pictured myself as God’s “shining, over-achieving child” when I read the first part of verse 18.

“You see a thief and help him.”

cuffs-and-messageSuddenly, I felt as if I’d been struck by a bolt of lightning. Staring at the verse, I felt a wave of conviction from the Lord. Naturally—being me—I fought against the guilty feeling. Looking up at the ceiling, I protested loudly, “What are you talking about, Lord? Why am I feeling guilty? I’ve never helped a thief steal someone’s television set! As far as I know, I’ve never even met a thief!”

Instantly, John 10:10 came to mind: “The thief [the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Immediately after I remembered the verse, I felt God speak deep down in my spirit. His voice wasn’t audible, but it was powerful. God simply said, “The devil has been stealing from you, and you have been helping him.”

thiefLeaning back in my chair, I gazed up at the ceiling. I felt stunned. Reviewing the last several weeks in my mind, I narrowed my eyes. I had been experiencing some difficulties, and when I prayed about them, I felt God’s peace assuring me that everything would be okay. But regardless of God’s assurances, I had been worrying about my circumstances. I had been running scenarios in my mind, trying to anticipate possible problems. I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I’d been spending my days feeling worried and tense.

God’s gentle voice said, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your peace.”

handcuffsFeeling ashamed, I had to admit it was true. My mind wandered to my recent diet. I felt myself blush. I had been losing weight and then gaining it back with alarming regularity. Every time I was few pounds down, I would start craving cookies. Eventually, I would cave and indulge in sweet treats. The break in my diet would signal a return to bad eating habits and lack of exercise. The pounds would creep back onto my frame—along with a feeling of guilt and defeat.

Again, God’s gentle voice came, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your health and victory.”

Biting my lip, I nodded. I knew it was true. Again my mind flashed back over the last several weeks. I realized that I’d allowed resentment toward an individual creep into my thinking. Although I knew bitterness was wrong, I’d been harboring hurt feelings.

God spoke, “You’ve been helping the thief destroy your relationship and steal your joy.”

truth-stonesHiding my face in my hands, I whispered, “I’m sorry, God. I know you’re right. I’ve been helping the thief steal from me. What do I do now?”

At this point, I expected God to give some wonderful piece of advice. I expected to be directed to another Scripture verse. I expected—well, I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect what He said next.

God simply said, “Snap out of it, and stop it.”

Sitting there with a stunned expression on my face, I had to laugh. “Snap out of it, and stop it,” may not have been exactly what I was expecting to hear, but I had to admit that it resonated.

Standing to my feet, I nodded. From that moment on, I resolved not to allow the thief to steal my peace. The next time I started worrying about things I knew God had under control, I decided that I would give myself a mental shake and sing a hymn. The next time I was tempted to break my diet and eat cookies, I decided that I would shake my head firmly and grab a bottle of mineral water. And the next time I was tempted to feel angry and resentful, I decided that I would sit down and write ten things that I appreciated about the person who had offended me.

holding-the-sunA wise person once said that the best way to fight the devil is to do the opposite of what the devil wants you to do, and to do it with gusto. I think that advice goes hand-in-hand with what I felt God telling me to do. When the devil comes in the form of a sneaky thief, rather than blindly helping him steal—snap out of it, and stop it!

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Like A Calf Let Out To Pasture

calf-1When I was growing up, I used to feed calves on my family’s dairy farm. When the calves reached a certain age, they were put out on pasture. The calves used to kick up their heels and leap for joy when they were released from their pens. I had so much fun watching them! Pasture day was a celebration!

As you know, I was ill for many years, and in quarantine for seven. And lately, I’ve been thinking about my calf-feeding days. When the calves were released from their captivity, their joy knew no bounds. I’m emerging from years of illness, and today, I want to express my thankfulness to the Lord!

Thank you, Lord, for staying close to me while I was in pain! Thank you, Lord, for encouraging me when I was discouraged! Thank you, Lord, for giving me wisdom and strength during the dark days! Thank you, Lord, for protecting me from further harm! Thank you, Lord, for forgiving me when I had a bad attitude! And thank you, Lord, for always loving me!

Friends, if you’re facing a battle today, look out from your prison of pain and gaze at the rolling pasture beyond your gate. The day WILL come when your trial ends and you’re led out to green fields. Pain NEVER last forever. Discouragement ALWAYS comes to an end. Nothing stays bad forever. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY!

 

pastureSlowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3b

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2

 

Holiday Misery

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Dear Friends,

My family really knows how to celebrate holidays! When I was growing up, every Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day was an excuse to have a huge family gathering. On any given holiday, you could find anywhere from 20-50 people at our house. It was a zoo—a big, happy, loving zoo.

fruitEach holiday followed the same pattern. Early in the morning, my mother, my sisters, and I would start cooking. Since I was artistically inclined, I usually set the table (actually 2-4 tables placed end-to-end) and then I would put together relish and fruit trays. I loved arranging things as beautifully as possible while the smell of yummy food filled the air. My family would have a grand time together chatting and laughing as we finished meal preparations. Then, like a floodgate opening, the relatives would start to arrive. Soon the house was filled to the brim with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and anyone a family member decided to bring along. The house would ring with laughter, and I would be hugged more times than I could count. After a HUGE meal, we’d do dishes and then play all kinds of games. I really love card games and board games. Later, we’d put out the leftovers and let everyone eat supper buffet-style. Eventually, the company would leave and the house would be quiet again. My parents, siblings, and I would kick off our shoes and put our feet up and talk. For me, holidays meant family, family, and more family…then my illness struck.

scrabbleQuarantine can really mess with your mind. It can feel so discouraging. My first year of quarantine, I didn’t mind the isolation too much—I was too ill to focus on anything other than survival. But by my second year, I really began to feel the strain. Quarantine was soul-sucking and disheartening—and I felt the loneliness the most during the holidays. As my family gathered to spend time together, I was stuck all alone in a silent house. At times, the silence was so loud that it physically hurt. I tried HARD to be a good sport. I’d bake tons of cookies and send them to the gathering. When my family called as a group to wish me a happy holiday, I tried to sound chipper and upbeat. But the minute I hung up the phone, I would start to cry. I felt awful. I can remember pacing back and forth, sniffling, my lower lip trembling.

Looking back now, I have to smile. I was such a tragic picture of woe. I felt SO sorry for myself. I’d lean my forehead against the window and look out—my breath fogging up the glass—and feel too hopeless to bother brushing my tears away. Family members and neighbors tried to brighten my day by sending me plates of foods and cards–and I appreciated it–but it didn’t stop me from feeling depressed, left out, miserable, and bored. I didn’t want to cook a fancy meal for myself—cooking for one person wasn’t any fun. After a few lonely holidays, my joy shriveled up and died. For me, holidays were anything but jolly. I started to dread them. I started to ignore them. I started to hate them.

turkeyDuring my third year of quarantine, as Thanksgiving approached, something began to shift in my thinking. I realized I hated holidays not just because they didn’t contain the people I loved, but also because I didn’t feel like it was worth the effort to make a fuss over myself. A few days before Thanksgiving, I sat with my chin in my hands and made plans to stay in bed with a book during the holiday, but suddenly, I began to feel a check in my spirit. Throughout my third year of quarantine, I’d been focusing on trying to hear the Lord, and the thing I kept hearing God say was that He loved me and I was important to Him. As I sat at the table and contemplated staying in bed, I realized that if the Creator of the Universe loved me and viewed me as important—how dare I view myself as anything less? I was WORTH making a fuss over. I was WORTH cooking a fancy meal for. I was WORTH celebrating! I was alive when I could be dead, and that was something to be thankful for! My partial amnesia had mostly cleared up, and that was something to be happy about! I had a reason to throw a party—even if it was a party just for one.

As I started planning my party, I began viewing the holiday without dread. I called my family and friends and asked how to cook a turkey (I’d always been on relish tray duty). I gathered recipes like I was gathering ammunition. Then I made my menu. All of my favorite foods were on it. The more I planned, the more excited I became.

pieWhen Thanksgiving arrived, I got up early and fixed my hair and makeup. Even though no one was going to see me, I wanted to look nice for myself. Then I started to cook and cook and cook. And while I cooked, I put on Christmas music. My goodness, what a feast I had!!! It was DELICIOUS!!! And after my meal, I dumped a puzzle and had a grand time putting it together. Somewhere during the middle of the day, I realized that I wasn’t feeling lonely. The close presence of God was hoovering beside me. I began to talk to God out loud—not so much praying as much as conversing. I’d felt the presence of God before, but that day, I felt God’s FRIENDSHIP. We had a marvelous day together. And by the end of that first happy Thanksgiving, I was singing praise songs and smiling.

Although I’m out of full quarantine now, I still have to be careful about large family gatherings, and most of my holidays are spent alone. But you won’t see me sniffling anymore or leaning my forehead against the window glass to boohoo. That Thanksgiving became a changing point in my life. Although I’ve spent over 30 holidays alone, the sting is no longer there. Holidays are no longer a necessary evil—they’re a chance to celebrate and have fun. You see, I’ve learned that the secret of enjoying myself is to stop feeling angry and cheated.

Being alone will either drive you crazy or teach you that you can be pretty incredible company. And frankly, after all this time, I know how to amuse myself. And I LIKE myself. And after all these years of whipping up holiday fare alone, I can proudly say that I make one MEAN turkey, my pecan pie is fabulous, and my stuffing is to die for! I’ve come to the point where I actually look forward to holidays, and that’s an amazing thing for me to say.

leaves 12Life sometimes isn’t fair, and it sometimes hurts. But I’ve come to believe that happiness is more about perspective than circumstances. For the most part we choose whether we are miserable or joyful. I’ve spent LOTS of time being miserable, and as an expert on the subject of feeling sorry for myself, I can say with authority that choosing to be happy is a much nicer way to live. And choosing happiness has its perks. Rather than slumping around with your bottom lip quivering, you get to eat pie. Yummy pie. Delicious pie. And pie always makes things better.

So today, if you are gathering with family and friends, enjoy every second and hug them close. Truly make the most of every moment. Even if your turkey burns, or the electricity fizzles out, or you find yourself feeling harassed or upset or annoyed—remember that being around the people you love is a privilege—one that can be taken away. And if you’re celebrating all alone, realize that God loves you and that you are worth making a fuss over. Find a way to make today special for you. And as for me, the pies are made and my turkey is cooking. I’m getting ready to put on some Christmas music and start my puzzle. And since I’m getting stronger every day and my family has promised not to wear perfume–later on, I’ll walk over to my brother’s house where my family is gathering and see about playing a game. I fully intend on enjoying every second of this holiday. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friends. And always remember that despite any circumstance you’re facing, you are incredibly special, greatly loved, and never forgotten by God.

 

1 flower“Then Nehemiah…said to them all, ‘Do not mourn or weep…Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8: 9-12)

Brooke Williams–Author Interview

Brooke Williams

Dear Friends,

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the terrific woman in this photograph. Brooke Williams is lovely inside and out. She is also an ABSOLUTE HOOT!! Whenever I read her books, or talk with her, I inevitably start giggling. She is SUCH a crack up. Proverbs 17:22 says that “a merry heart doeth good like medicine,” and those words could have been written in relation to Brooke. It always does me good to talk with her. She’s a very talented writer, and she has a new book being released in THREE DAYS!!! I couldn’t be more delighted to have Brooke on my blog today!

Danele: Hello, Brooke! I’m glad that you’re able to talk with us.

Brooke: Thank you so much for having me! I’ve appreciated your one of a kind encouragement and support throughout my career.

Danele: That’s so nice of you to say–I really appreciate you too! It’s been a blast getting to know you, and your book, Accept This Dandelion, had me chuckling from the first page on.

Brooke: I’m glad! Although my books are not all overtly Christian, they have Christian themes woven into them, and they are all clean and uplifting as well as lighthearted.

Danele: Lighthearted is a good word for them. I haven’t read them all yet, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I have. I love a book that makes me giggle. Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you describe the circumstances surrounding your decision to give your heart to Christ?

Brooke: Sure, I remember the moment vividly. I went to church camp at the age of 14, and while I went to church my whole life, I never really understood what it all meant. The first night of camp, something clicked and I finally “got it.” I turned my life over and haven’t regretted the decision since.

Danele: Church camp is such a wonderful place! When I went, there were times when God’s presence came so powerfully that I felt like I was being wrapped in a warm blanket. The revelation that God wasn’t just a “nice idea,” but that He was a LIVING force was so amazing. I’m so glad that God reveals Himself to us and draws us into a relationship with Him! One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 31:3, “I have drawn you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Brooke: I sure do! In Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew talks about storing up your treasures in heaven and not on earth because the earthly things can be destroyed but heavenly things cannot. I take this in a number of ways. I try to invest in people and not things…spend my time wisely, that sort of thing. I think if we all strived toward heavenly rewards instead of earthly ones, we’d have a lot less messes to clean up!

Danele: I can agree with that! And I love the idea of investing in people rather than things. Having been in quarantine for seven years, I’ve learned that it’s people–not possessions–that matter. Have you learned any other important lessons lately?

Brooke: I feel like I have learned a lot about God through my children. They’ve taught me so many lessons. Take unconditional love, for example. I never really understood it before I had children. I get it now. There’s absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for them, and I know that’s how God feels about me–only on a much larger scale. I’ve also learned what true patience is and that I don’t have nearly as much as I should or thought I did. My children also teach me how to slow down and enjoy little things like blowing dandelion fluff and chasing bubbles.

Danele: It’s the little things that make life worth living. Joy is so important. I know that God loves laughter.

Brooke: I think so too. And my children have made everything more funny.  I think sleep deprivation does strange things to a person, and my kids have provided plenty of that for me. In fact, I didn’t start writing romantic comedy until after my kids were born. I was a more serious writer until then. God has taught me to laugh again through my children. They’re a true delight in the things they say and do, and they reflect the joyful spirit God wants us all to have. The other day, driving to school, my oldest said seriously, “I don’t think I could do a nose stand.” I agreed with her that she probably couldn’t and then giggled to myself the rest of the day. They come up with something new every day, and I can’t wait to hear what they say each morning. I see God in their innocence and through the wonderment in their eyes.

Danele: That’s so beautiful! And you’re right, laughter is important–especially when you’ve been through something that zaps all of the joy right out of you. Through battling a chronic illness, I’ve learned that lesson well. It can be hard to keep your spirits up when you are in pain.

Brooke: Depression is such a huge struggle, and so many people deal with it. It’s disheartening to think of those who walk the path alone.

Danele: Isn’t that the truth? I don’t know how I could have gone through my ordeal without the support of my family.

Brooke: Me too. I’ve had several times of great darkness in my life, and I feel like God used people and circumstances to pull me back from the brink. I feel privileged to have the family I have and the faith I hold. I pray that if I ever fall back in that direction again, God will be there once again to bring me back.

Danele: That’s my prayer too. When I was going through my struggle, it felt like I was in a slippery black pit with no way out. I think the one good thing about battling depression is that it teaches you to enjoy every bit of laughter and love in your life. When you’re going through the battle, it can feel like you will never win out–that the world will always be gray. But just as the seasons always change, depression will always give way to joy. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it DOES happen. Psalms 30:5 says weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  When we are down in the slippery pit, we just have to hang on and trust God that our morning is on the way.

Brooke: That’s so true.

Danele: Now, Brooke, I know you have some exciting news. Would you like to share it with everyone?

Brooke: In February, I released Accept this Dandelion, a romantic comedy revolving around a local dating TV show. I enjoyed the characters and plot SO much that I decided to continue the story with a series. Dandelions on the Road is set to release on November 5th.

Danele: Did you hear that everyone??? That’s in THREE DAYS!!!! Can you give us some hints about the story?

Brooke: Dandelions on the Road has many of the same themes as Accept this Dandelion, and it involves the same dating TV show with a woman in charge this time instead of a man. It has plenty of humorous moments, and I can’t wait for people to enjoy it…hopefully as much as I enjoyed writing it, if possible! Here’s the link to it: http://www.amazon.com/Dandelions-Road-Dandelion-Book-2-ebook/dp/B0143HSRYG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1444700156&sr=1-1&keywords=Dandelions+on+the+road

Danele: I’m sure your new book is going to be a scream!!! Can you give us a list of the books you’ve written?

Brooke: Sure! Someone Always Loved You; Wrong Place, Right Time; Accept this Dandelion; Mamarazzi; Shower in the Rain (A children’s book); and Dandelions on the Road (Releasing on Thursday, November 5th)

Danele: Brooke, it’s been so fun having you on my blog! Thank you so much for talking with us today!

Brooke: It’s been a pleasure knowing you this past year, and I greatly appreciate your efforts with this blog and in the reading area as a whole!

 

Friends, Brooke Williams is such a delightful person. With the help of the Lord, she has conquered sadness and found joy, and now joy and laughter seem to flow whenever she is around. She is a wonderful example and an inspiration. If you would like to learn more about her, please follow the links below. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

www.Authorbrookewilliams.com

https://www.facebook.com/authorbrookewilliams

Avoiding Eggs

egg

Dear Friends,

Today I’m going to share a VERY important verse with a CRUCIAL message.

“How tasteless is the uncooked white of an egg–my appetite is gone when I look at it; I gag at the thought of eating it!” Job 6:6-7 (Living Bible).

According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for instruction. In light of this, I think we should pay heed to Job 6:6-7 and avoid eating eggs that are laid by a bird. Luckily, supermarkets have an alternative to chicken eggs. These wonderful creations are called Cadbury Cream Eggs. They are delicious little bits of chocolate that melt in your mouth. My friends, let us pay heed to the clear message contained in Job, and turn to a yummy chocolate alternative. I feel it is our Christian duty.

HA! Made you laugh!!! (Or else you think I’ve seriously flipped my lid and need measured for a rubber room). Either way, now it’s time for me to post my REAL verse for the day:

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” Proverbs 17:22 (Living Bible).

If God laughs–I think we should too. One thing I learned during quarantine was that no matter how bleak the day, I could do three things. I could force myself to smile. I could force myself to sing. And I could force myself to laugh. They were little things, but they each added up to joy. I hope you have a great day today, and that it’s full of laughter!

PS–Be careful not to take scripture out of context–it’s a very dangerous practice that can make people worry about your salvation and sanity. (((grin))).

Like Calves Let Out to Pasture

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Dear Friends,

Today, I want to share a verse that just plain makes me happy!

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2 (Living Bible).

I’ve had several jobs down through the years, but the one I loved the most was feeding calves on my family’s farm with my parents and brother. I’ve posted a picture from those days, and before my fashionista friends can laugh too loudly about my clothes and hairstyle, I’ll let you know that in the mid-1990’s, coveralls and buns held in place by ink pens were all the rage. ((grin)).

Working with animals is a treat–and working with baby animals is a small slice of heaven. My favorite part of feeding calves was “rodeo day.” It was the day when we’d move the calves from their individual pens where they were being bottle fed and put them into a communal pen with other calves. The ideal scenario was a sedate walk with a perfectly well-behaved calf across the yard–but it never worked out that way. Once the calf’s pen was opened, the little guy would go wild with joy. He’d kick up his heels and jump all around. He’d twist and scamper and hop and buck. The calf wanted the whole world to know one thing–he was absolutely beside himself with joy. Needless to say, the poor human escorting the calf would have to hold onto the little scamp with all their might. My memories of rodeo day are ones of joy and laughter. I can still hear my dad chuckling and saying as he escorted a calf, “This is sure a lively one!”

I think that sometimes we (and by we, I mainly mean me) get the wrong idea of God and heaven. We picture a sedate Lord sitting on a lofty throne while people in white robes shuffle around strumming harps. Maybe that’s part of it, but while I’ve been in quarantine, I’ve done lots of scripture reading and I’ve discovered that God sings, God laughs, God even shouts with joy. Heaven isn’t going to be a boring place. It’s going to be a place of OVERWHELMING JOY. Anyone who has ever moved a calf knows that’s true.

When I get to heaven, I plan on living out Malachi 4:2 to the fullest extent. I’m going to leap and kick up my heels and dance with joy. And since I fully intend on seeing you there, I’m gonna look over at you–wink–and say, “Hey, I’ll race you to that pearly gate over there!” I can just picture our joyous, singing God nudging Jesus’ elbow and saying with a chuckle, “Look at those two, will you? They’re a couple of lively ones.”