Craving A Word

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Every night, we’d wait for them. My fellow campers enjoying the coolness of a northern Michigan evening would quiet ourselves and wait for the deer to relinquish their hiding places and come to the river for water. It was a highlight of our deer-waterday. The river shimmering in the setting sun seemed to welcome the hush of the forest night. There would be slight movement, a quiet rustling and then timidly, the deer would free themselves from the lush foliage and approach the water’s edge. Once there, they would lower their heads down to the cold water and drink to their hearts content.

Their actions brought Psalm 42:1 alive for me. The deer fought back every fear of exposure to come to the river and drink their fill. How I long to crave God the same way they craved those unhurried sips of water!

God wants us to crave His presence. He won’t tell you about His dreams for your life until He knows you yearn to His voice, to follow His footsteps for the rest of your days. He doesn’t want a debate. He didn’t put you on Earth just so you could say, “Let me think about it.”

No, hearing from God has got to be a necessity just like water is to the deer. You have to say, “God, let me know what You want me to do. I want to hear Your voice. I got to hear it. I yearn to understand what Your vision is for me.”

King David wrote in the book of Psalms, “My God I want to do what you want” and “What I want most of all and at all times is to honor your laws” (Psalm 40:8, Psalm 199:20).

David was passionate in his declaration that what he wanted most was to honor God. It was the only thing he wanted to do. He used words for seeking God like, “I long for it, “ “I crave it,” “I hunger for it.” And my favorite, as you already know, “I’m like a deer panting for water.”

When you still yourself much like my fellow campers did to watch the deer in the glooming, you are going to hear from God.

That’s because a lot of people talk to God, but they never hear from God. They make prayer a monologue. You can’t have a relationship with God when all you deliver is a monologue with him. Relationship only happens through conversation. You talk, then you listen. Just as important as talking to God in prayer is listening to God. You have to still yourself to let Him talk to you. And in order to do, that you’ve got to want it so badly your heart pants for a word from Him.

Peace is a Matter of Perspective

When a mind is stayed on the Lord, peace is ours. That’s what the topic of the panel discussion was at Leadership Training that morning. Let me be perfectly frank: I’m not a big fan of panel discussions. I’ve been to many conventions and conferences. It is extremely rare I come away with great insight from a panel discussion. Whenever one is on the agenda, I tend to hit the snooze button. This one was different.

It wasn’t so much of a discussion as it was 5-minute talks by 5 different women explaining on how they found peace in their lives. They each had a unique story to tell and that’s what caught my attention. Good stories have the ability to transform hearts, stimulate imagination and inspire people. Stories ask questions and inspire conversations. Stories entertain us and make us laugh. More importantly stories open our minds to ideas that might be unfamiliar to us.

But there was one woman whose story grabbed me so much I want to share her wisdom.

Each of us has over 50,000 automatic thoughts each day. If we let negativity creep into those automatic thoughts, we’ll never have peace. So, we must be careful our thoughts uplift and encourage us. She had a simple, daily 5-step process to accomplish this. The steps are hers, the verbiage is mine.

  1. Each morning say a quick surrender prayer to God. Do this before sunriseyou even get out of bed or kneel beside your bed as soon as you get out of it. Lift up the day to God, surrendering all you will do to Him. Remind yourself of God’s promises to protect you, to use you for His glory and to always be with you as you move throughout your day. Every great victory begins with prayer.
  2. Write down gratitudes every day. Researchers have found if you scan for positive things in your life, your brain trains itself to see even more.  Sometimes we get entangled in bad habits, destructive behaviors and fear. But if we turn into God with an attitude of gratitude, He can wash away our wounds.
  3. Journal right. Many of my friends are not into journaling. I love it because it helps me experience the freedom and healing that only comes from being reconciled to God. Make it easy: just expand on your gratitudes. When I quiet myself to write down what makes me thankful, I turn to God, who is reaching out to heal me. Jesus is the One who give us strength. Don’t ever get caught in the trap of turning away from God. If you aren’t the type to put pen to paper, spend time every day thinking and meditating on all the wonderful ways God showed you His love.
  4. Do a daily act of kindness. We can assure a brighter future by practicing profound kindness. There are times, often in the face of no easy solutions, when we restore each other with the strength of our kindness. This act need not be large or daunting; it can be just a simple as sending out a short text complimenting a friend. Start practicing: say ‘thank you’ to as many people as you can today, hand out as many compliments as you can, maybe even wave at as many truck drivers you see today.
  5. Movement – Each day, get your body into motion. It will enliven your spirit and replenish your heart. It could be taking a walk to soak in the beauty of nature or something even smaller like hugging someone who wouldn’t expect it.

Peace grows in our hearts when we share our love with others with our eyes locked on Jesus. The world may be divisive and seek to destroy our peace, but what changes our world is sharing and giving away His amazing grace. We get more peace when we spread it through our love.

The world can wear you down, even on good days. Yet, peace is not only possible, it is available in abundance through Christ. Learn to be so intimate with Christ, people will want to imitate you.  Peace only comes when a mind stays focused on God.

The Land of the Free

“Only in America,” my cousin lamented, “would an unqualified man be given a job over a qualified woman.” Her voice is one of millions dissatisfied with the Presidential elections in my country. Throughout the campaign, the rhetoric was filled with anger, hatred and fear, which has continued now that the election is over. Clearly we have a long way to go to heal our country. There are great enemies around us, but there is also a far greater enemy within us.

Lately I’ve been praying for unity and not just in the United States, but throughout the world. I’ve especially centered on the 23rd Psalm – yes, the beloved one most often read at funerals. The words comparing our God to a watchful, caring Shepherd give me great hope when I become overly anxious over the instability of the world. There is an even more poignant reason I’m turning to it after this election.

King David, the author, had his own difficult transition into office. As a young shepherd, the prophet Samuel called David out of the sheep pasture and anointed him king without the permission of the current king, Saul. After David was appointed king and defeated Goliath, David had to flee from Saul, who sought to perpetuate his reign by killing his replacement. Certainly, not the smoothest of transitions.

pastureI imagine David’s heart racing wondering when Saul would murder him, yet being calmed as the future ruler wrote of still waters and the peace of green pastures. David reminds himself and us of God’s character and the promise He has for our lives. The words bring comfort when we are in the very thick of life, in the moments of our crisis that seems never ending. David writes boldly and without question about his overwhelming experience of God’s faithfulness.

God’s faithfulness has not diminished. The same God David wrote about centuries ago is still walking beside us today. If we abide in Him, He will take care of our needs. If David could find security in God as others plot his demise, we can anchor our security in Jesus despite the outcome of an election.

There is great truth in David’s writing since he truly was walking through the shadow of death. I’m sure he felt death was closing in on him, surrounding him until his fear and frustration would literally suffocate him. Yet God met him right in the middle of David’s darkest moments with blessing, comfort and anointing.

It is unrealistic to think there are no real consequences of the outcome of this election. I live in an area of the country where an estimated 10% of the population is undocumented. When they lie down to sleep, their thoughts are populated with being rounded up and shipped back to a homeland they sought to escape for the privileges and freedom America offers. There are others who worry about global terrorism, imminent war or economic collapse. No matter what country you live in, this election has ramifications on our well-being, that of our neighbors and the world.

Given recent headlines, it is safe to say we are all afraid. We all feel more insecure than confident, more weak than strong. Despite our anxiousness, let us never forget we have a Good Shepherd.

Right now, there are deeply divided lines in my country – about the election, about race, about sexuality, about our future.  There is real fear and pain on both sides, but no matter where in the world you live, this is not the time to dismiss each other, but to seek security at all times in our Shepherd.

Because God is with us, we can be with each other. Because our Shepherd is on the throne, we can pray for each other and our future. Because our compassionate God is all powerful, we can be compassionate towards others because that is the example our formidable God gave us. And because of God’s great love, we can reach across any man-made divide for the sake of unity and healing.

Our God is not limited to a term of four years. He will be on the throne forever and His goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives.

Like David, we will fear no evil because God is always with us.