The warm, muggy air outside my window did little to ease the heat inside my car. Oh well, I could stand the heat for the twenty-five minute drive. I turned up the CD a little louder and headed out of the parking lot towards home.
Ten minutes later I mechanically got into the lane that would turn into a ramp to the next road. My eyes automatically fixed on the truck in front of me. Suddenly, the brake lights on the truck came on and the truck came to almost a dead stop just 50 feet in front of me! I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the truck. It was as if I saw the vehicle approaching in slow motion. Fifty feet. Twenty feet. Finally my car came to a stop about 5 feet from the truck’s bumper. The cars behind me had managed to stop in time too.
As I made my way around the traffic jam and saw that the cause of the sudden stop was a vacant car sitting in the turn lane, the verse that I had been studying that morning came to mind, “The Lord lives, and blessed by my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (Psalm 18:46). I spoke the words aloud to express my thanks and praise to God who had just delivered me from a damaging car-crash.
This is the first post in a series about how to keep our thoughts trained on God. It’s a hard thing to do when so many other things are vying for attention in our lives! But this event taught me a valuable lesson on how to do it: memorize God’s word. The first thing that my mind jumped to in this situation was the reality of God’s deliverance because I had just been reading about that deliverance and purposefully memorizing Psalm 18:46. Just imagine what changes could take place in our lives if we took the time to implant key verses into our hearts!
So, Key #1: Memorizing scripture. What good ways have you found to do this?
All eyes were fixed on the man at the front of the room. Nobel Laureate John Mather, a respected scientist and NASA employee, was giving a lecture to the large crowd that had gathered to hear him speak. The room barely had enough space for the eager assemblage; several sets of people chose to sit on the floor because there was not enough space in the chairs. No one dared to make additional noise for fear that it would cause them to lose one of the precious words that came from the scientists’ mouth. Everyone knew: hearing this lecture was the most important thing they could be doing at the moment.
Enter: the skink. It started as a flicker at the corner of my eye. I turned, but didn’t notice anything strange near the group of people sitting by the glass doors. Soon I was lost in the speakers’ words.
Flash. I saw something again, and this time the girl next to me had also turned to look. A second later a little lizard had crawled into the room by coming under the threshold of the glass doors. Several people on the outer row of the audience were watching, amused, as the intruder scuttled along the base of the wall in search of a cool, damp place to settle down. The girls sitting against the wall were not quite as amused.
Then a second skink popped its head out from the doorframe to join its friend in looking for a break from the sun. People in the crowd continued to point and chuckle quietly as they noticed, one by one, the drama unfolding on the side of the room. The lizards had stolen the show.
Do you have lizards ruling in your life right now – things that seem so important that they distract you from hearing the Person whose words are the most vital part of your life? Ultimately God should be the star of the show in our lives. Psalm 104:34 says it this way, “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.”
What do you spend your time thinking about? Maybe you are tempted to spend every waking moment analyzing and re-analyzing a problem if you have had a divorce or other tragedy happen recently. But no matter how many times you go over your problems, you won’t be able to solve them alone! Remember the One who should be on center stage.
Tell me, what do you do to keep your thoughts centered on God? I’d like to highlight some of your ideas in an upcoming blog series!
“We’re getting closer,” I replied to my tiny great-grandma who was seated in the wheelchair I was pushing. “We’ll walk outside now because I think I can find the building easier that way.” At 92 years old, Grammie Lee’s frail body seemed to add no weight to the wheelchair as I pushed her on the sidewalk towards the apartment where we would meet my grandmother.
“Would you look at those flowers!” Grammie Lee exclaimed in her small voice. “The yellows are so pretty!” I glanced across the street and spotted the patch of yellow pansies she was talking about. “Yeah, they’re nice!” I tried to muster up some enthusiasm to match my great-grandma’s. Where was that building? The retirement community had such a large campus that I sometimes stopped to get my bearings.
A few minutes later I heard a sound come from the chair. “What, Grammie Lee?” I leaned forward to listen. “Look at those little flowers in the ivy! Who would have known they were there? Aren’t they beautiful?” I looked at the greenery that lined the sidewalk. Sure enough, there were small green flowers hidden among the leaves. I marveled at how Grammie Lee seemed to notice all these things that I would pass by otherwise. What would it be like to see things through her eyes? I decided to try it.
“Grammie Lee, look at that!” I pointed to a pair of geese with two goslings following close behind. “Oh, yes.” She spent a few moments admiring the animals.
By the time we found the apartment building, my heart felt a lot lighter.
Grammie Lee is able to have a joyful attitude even though she can’t participate in many of the activities that go on around her. Her secret lies in Psalm 9:1: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Giving thanks to God means looking for those tiny blessings that we might pass by every day. Our whole heart should be occupied in telling of His miracles, even if they are as common as a yellow flower.
Has your heart felt especially burdened lately? Try taking a walk and making a point of giving thanks to God for making the beautiful things around you.
Music is such a powerful tool in influencing our thoughts. An environment of faith-filled songs will help us to stand strong in our relationship with God, while songs with degrading lyrics can influence us to think sinful thoughts. When fighting against discouragement, it is very important that the songs you listen to are uplifting. This week I wanted to share with you some of the songs that I have been enjoying lately. Click on the link to hear the song on Grooveshark!
Day by Day by Point of Grace
Blue Skies by Point of Grace
He’s Always Been Faithful sung by Sarah Groves
Absolutely by Starfield
Top of Our Lungs by Starfield
Have you heard any of these songs before? Which is your favorite? What other music do you like?
The enormous trees of the Redwood forest rose far into the air above our heads, blocking out the sky and creating the illusion of being deep inside a jungle forest. My family and I spent several hours walking the trails that wove through the forest, pointing out ancient trees that were especially impressive. Some of the largest trees were big enough to hold two or three laughing children for a picture within their hollowed trunks. This was one of the largest Redwood forests in the country: Muir Woods.
As we passed by the visitor center on our way out, I noticed a cross-section from a tree that had fallen several years ago. The cross-section, which was at least 4 feet in diameter, was marked at different rings with dates and events that evidenced how old it probably was. Next to the cross-section was a tiny seed. It was hard to believe that this enormous Redwood tree had grown from a tiny seed.
The other day I was continuing to read through the Psalms when I came across Psalm 126. If you have a few minutes, take some time to read the whole Psalm (it’s not long!), but verse 5 particularly struck me: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”
You might be going through some very painful things right now – things that you never imagined could happen to you or your family. Maybe you have spent many nights sowing your own tears and crying out to God. Let Psalm 126:5 speak to you.
You have been promised that you will reap joy from the tears that you have sowed. Picture that joy as one of the enormous Redwoods in comparison with it’s small starting point: the seed.
How have you reaped joy from your hardships? I know that I personally have reaped closeness in my relationship with God that is a direct result of suffering in my life. I turned to God in a way that I might not have if I hadn’t experienced sorrow from an early age. Those seeds grew into the joy of a beautiful relationship.
I’d love to hear how you have experienced the truth of Psalm 126:5! Leave a comment below and tell me about it.
The glowing bride floated slowly down the aisle with one arm hooked inside her father’s. From my seat I glimpsed the proud smile that the father wore as he escorted his daughter to meet her groom. It was a beautiful picture of the close relationship the two held – the father protectively guiding his daughter as his prized possession.
If your parents have been divorced for a little while, you have probably considered the touchy question of who will walk you down the aisle on your wedding day. The tradition is supposed to symbolize the handing off of the mantle of protection from father to husband. But what if that role of protector has been totally missing? Where other girls have the subconscious knowledge that daddy is looking out for them, maybe you have always felt that you are your own first and last line of defense.
In Deuteronomy 10:18, God steps into the picture. He “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” The “fatherless” have the best Father of all! When our earthly fathers have abandoned us, God takes things into his own hands. The God that led the Israelites by a pillar of fire is your protector. In Psalm 121:7-8, the author says that “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” I love the phrase, “the Lord will keep you.” It reminds me that my protection, both emotional and physical, is in his hands.
Today think deeply about God’s intimate protection over you. Ask him to make you fully aware of his defending presence. Then let the peace of God wash over you as you submit yourself to his defense. You are no longer alone in watching out for yourself. Rest in the joyful peace that God gives.
The counselor’s office was neat and businesslike; the only identifying feature being a gold, engraved nameplate. My slightly plump interviewer flipped distractedly through the papers on his clipboard before clearing his throat and settling in for his umpteenth college interview that day.
He began with the questions I had expected from an interview at a Christian college, and he nodded politely as I responded, but I could tell that he had probably heard the same thing many times over. The next question was a little different: “What is the biggest spiritual lesson that you’ve learned?”
I thought for a minute before answering. “Well, I’d have to say it was through my parents’ divorce. My dad left when I was very young, and I didn’t grow up with a constant father in my life. But through the years God has been so faithful to take the place of a father and to show me his love in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.”
The counselor’s eyes grew more intent as I spoke, and I saw a change in his demeanor. He asked a few more questions about the subject and seemed genuinely interested this time. When I was done, he nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, thank you, that’s excellent.”
There have been several instances like this where I have been able to share specifically about God’s love because of my parents’ divorce. Guess what? You have this same opportunity if you have gone through a challenging time in your life! People – believers and nonbelievers – are usually more willing to listen to you if you have learned something through personal experience.
Psalm 66:16 says: “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” You have a responsibility to share the things you have learned about God – whether that is in the context of personal conversations or even to an audience! He has given you your particular circumstances and lessons for a reason. What is something you’ve learned through a hard time in your life? Leave a comment and tell me about it. I’d love to hear!