A Year of Smiles – Day 220

Reason to SMILE #220: ENERGY BOOSTS


What refuels your tank? What inspires you and keeps you going? What encourages you when you’ve lost your moxie? What gives you that extra oomph to get you through the home stretch?

Good friends?

Inspirational quotes?

Cute little memes?

Prayer?

God’s Word?

Great! Those are all fantastic. Keep seeking that encouragement!

Now. What brings you down? What stops you in your tracks? What makes you stumble? What snuffs out that flame within?

Negative people?

Bad days?

Disappointment?

Criticism?

Struggles?

What if, instead of allowing these things to bring us down, we converted all that negativity into fuel for our fires? What if we took everything meant to stop us and harnessed its power and energy to push us even further toward our goals?

What if? Negativity is thrown at us everyday. We have a choice to either allow it to bring us down, stifle our growth and rob us of our joy or to let it strengthen our resolve, affirm our callings and broaden our SMILES. 

Energy siphon? Or energy boost? Which one will you choose?

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A Year of Smiles – Day 171

Reason to SMILE #171: SIGNS

“It’s a sign,” I heard him say.  He had made the decision to work away from home.  His current job was making him miserable.  He needed a change but this change included more than beginning a new job.  It also included a new city and a new home away from his family – at least during the work week.

He set out to prepare for his move.  He sold a few of his large possessions to build up some funds.  He found his buyers fairly easy and he received the prices for which he asked.  “It’s a sign,” he said that his decision was the right one.

Moving day arrived.  Finding a place to stay was not as simple as finding buyers for his possessions but an apartment finally became available.  He approached the front door of his new abode and noticed the welcome mat.  “Believe in your dreams,” it read.

“That has to be a sign,” he concluded.

Have you ever looked for signs to help you make a decision in life?  Have you ever asked God to show you a sign when life’s decisions seemed too difficult?  I certainly have.  At times, when I’ve been at my most desperate, I’ve even asked God to simply tell me the choice I should make.  “Spell it out for me, God.  Write it on the wall or in the sky.  A Post-it® note will even do.”

I’m still waiting on those Post-it notes.

I do believe that God gives us signs in life – signs of His presence, signs of His love, signs of His promises, even signs that lead us along life’s journey – but I’ve learned that His signs aren’t always the flashing neon billboards that we desire.  He’s usually a bit more subtle.  You see, God is all about developing our character, growing our faith and building a relationship with us.  He’d much rather we seek His direction and will for our lives through the study of His Word, through prayer, through our fellowship with Him and through the wisdom of mature Christians He places in our lives.

God wants to guides us along life’s journey but He won’t force us to follow Him.  We have the power to choose. Unfortunately, we treat this gift of choice as if it were a second-hand trinket found at a yard sale. Instead of relying on the truth of God’s Word or the answers found in our daily communion with God, we base our decisions and choices on our desires and feelings.  Then wanting confirmation of our decisions, we pray for a sign, anything that will substantiate our choices.  We discard our faith in God and we find ourselves making major life decisions based on a message we read on a doormat.

Are you looking for a sign today?  Try spending time with your Heavenly Father.  Open up and read His Word.  Talk to Him and wait for His answer.  He will guide you if you choose to follow.

So, use that doormat for what it was meant and remember this: There’s no greater sign that you’re following God’s lead than the peace He puts in your heart.  And a peaceful heart shows all over your face! 🙂

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 161

Reason to SMILE #161: TIME

A blessing and a curse.

A giver and a thief.

A healer and an afflictor.

A reality and a belief.

 

A precious commodity

Of which we must take care.

If spent very wisely,

A bounteous fruit to bare.

 

If squandered carelessly,

Great failure to regret.

Wasted opportunities

O’er which we mourn and fret.

 

A gift that we should give

To our families and our friends.

A gift for which we hope

When life is at its end.

 

A sacrifice taken

When causes grand arise.

An alm for which we grasp

When it’s time to say goodbye.

 

Time is ours to spend or waste.

It’s ours to hoard or share.

It’s ours to fill with love or hate.

It’s ours – so beware.

 

We’re only given a set amount.

Once spent, it can’t be beckoned.

So fill your time with SMILES and love

And don’t regret a second.

The Problem with Retrospection

There are many things in life that cause us to pause for retrospection. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the demise of a relationship – these are all significant changes in life that can turn our focus backward.  However, I’ve found that the catalyst for my own retrospection need not be so catastrophic.  For instance, tonight I find myself looking back after a silly fight with my husband.  At the time, of course, the fight did not seem so silly.  Careless words were spoken, feelings were hurt and all hell broke lose.  In the end, though, my husband and I said our apologies. Now he is sleeping soundly and here I am wide awake wondering how I reached this point in my life.

When times are tough, I often wonder about the choices of my past.  If I had chosen something different, if I had gone another direction, if I had said something else, if I had said nothing at all, would I be experiencing my current difficulties? Would I be struggling?  Would I be hurting? I torment myself with the “what if’s” and end up turning a temporary time of trial into a seemingly endless age of misery.  My retrospection becomes a tool that the devil eagerly uses to distract me from God’s purpose for my life.  And I willingly hand this tool over each time I utter one of my self-pitying “what if’s”.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not all retrospection is bad.  It is the intent behind the reexamination of one’s life that makes the difference.  Is the purpose for looking back to learn from one’s mistakes, to better oneself and make a difference in the future?  Or is the reviewing of one’s life choices the result of self-pity or of guilt or of self-condemnation?  In my life, the intent of most of my retrospection is the latter.  You see, I know my mistakes.  I know my sins and I am consumed with guilt because of them.  I condemn myself for making the wrong decisions and choosing the wrong paths.  And when I look back on my life, the guilt blinds me from any lessons I could glean from past mistakes. My retrospection only does me harm.

So what do I do?  I know I’ve made mistakes.  I know my current circumstances are a result of those choices.  I know I cannot change the past. How do I escape the doom of self-pitying retrospection? First, I must remind myself that I am a child of God.  I have made Jesus the Lord of my life by admitting that I have sinned and made mistakes and believing that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for those sins.  There is no room for guilt or self-condemnation in my life. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NLT)  The slate is clean!

Secondly, I must remember that self-pity does not belong in the life of a Christian.  The focus of a Christian’s life should be on God and never on self.  “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2 (NIV)  When I throw myself a pity party, I am demanding attention that belongs to God.  I am putting myself before God.  Even more, with self-pity, I am showing my lack of faith in God.  I am literally telling God that I do not believe that He can do what He has promised – that He will carry my burdens if I give them to Him (Matthew 11:28-30) or that He is able to work all things for my good (Romans 8:28).

Lastly, I must realize that although I am redeemed, my choices do have consequences.  Yes, I made the wrong decision and now I have to live under more difficult circumstances.  Yes, I chose to disobey God and now I must accept that I may not receive a blessing that could have been mine. The past cannot be changed but that does not mean that I am doomed to live a miserable life, that God cannot use me or that God will no longer bless me.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who failed, who made mistakes, who sinned yet were used by God in mighty ways.  Paul, Peter, Rehab, King David, Jacob, and the list goes on – all of these people had a past and all of these people made poor choices but God made something beautiful out of each of their broken, mistake-riddled lives.

In my healthy retrospection, I often think of the widow in the book of 2 Kings chapter 4. Her circumstances were dire.  Her husband had died and she faced her sons being taken as slaves to pay off her debts. Yet she did not sit in her house feeling sorry for herself and wondering “what if?”.  She ran to the only one she knew could solve her problem.  To her cry for help, God’s prophet asked, “What do you have?”  She offered the remaining fragments of her livelihood and God blessed it, multiplied it and saved her life and the lives of her sons.

All I have to offer is a broken, mistake-riddled life.  I can sit around wallowing in regret and feeling sorry for myself.  Or I can give all that I have left to God and allow Him to make something beautifully useful for His glory.

Desolate Sanctuary

She sat alone in the back of a quiet sanctuary. It was her spot. She would sneak in the back every Sunday just after the morning service began. She’d listen as the songs were sung and the sermon was preached and then she would slip out during the invitation – a quick “pick me up” for the week. The problem is it never worked.

For some time now, her heart has been hurting. She has been walking through life as if in a fog that would never lift. She has been searching for answers, for an escape from the shadows that smothered her hopes and dreams. She has been longing for an end to her desolation but has not been able to find it.

As far as she was concerned, there was only one way out – only one way to end her burdens and suffering. She knew the darkness, the sadness, the dreariness of her life was a result of her own choices. She had thrown away her dreams. She had caused her own misery. Only she could end the pain.

She made her way to the back pew of the church one last time. Tears were streaming down her face as the pastor invited the congregation to pray. She had not prayed in years but she wanted to pray one last time. The weight of her burdens was so heavy she almost couldn’t stand. She struggled to her feet and made her way to the altar. She didn’t know what to say but as her tears drenched the altar, her heart began to plead with the Father.

“Lord, bring your favor to this desolate sanctuary.

Lord, shine your light into this darkened tomb.

Lord, pour your spirit on this tattered and broken temple.

Lord, may your presence fill this life anew.”

She thought this would be her last prayer so she held nothing back. She poured out her soul and laid the broken pieces of her life before the Lord. She cried out in anger, in desperation, in brokenness. She expected nothing but in the midst of her tears, she found everything. The Father that she had walked away from so many years before was waiting for her with arms open wide. He picked up her broken pieces and opened her eyes to the hope that only He can give. He wiped away her tears, picked her up and filled her with the light of His Love.

One last prayer changed her life forever.

Are you living in darkness as if you are walking in a fog? Do you feel like your life is a desolate wasteland? Are you haunted by the choices of your past? Are you pursuing things of this world, things that are leading you away from the Giver of abundant life? Are you ready to give up?

It’s time. Give it up today. Take it to our Heavenly Father and give it all to Him. You may have walked away. You may have made all the wrong choices but you do not have to remain in this desolation. He is waiting for you with open arms. He wants to restore you. He wants to take the broken pieces of your life and make them into something beyond your wildest dreams. He wants to heal your soul and love on you today. Don’t wait any longer! Pray!

Just for Him

Inspired by Dr. Glenn Eernisse, former Chair of the Division of Music at Brewton-Parker College

Surrounded by a sea of crayons, a little girl sits with all of her attention focused on the blank paper that lies before her.  Carefully, she chooses one color and then another to create the perfect picture for her father.  As the final line is drawn, she jumps from her seat and runs to deliver her gift.

“Daddy! Daddy!” she sings.  “Look what I made for you!”

With a curious smile, her father examines the brightly colored picture.  Though he isn’t quite sure what his daughter has drawn, his heart swells with pride.  His little girl has drawn this picture just for him.

Squirming with anticipation, the little girl asks, “Do you like it, Daddy?”

Her father reaches down and scoops up his little girl into his strong arms and lovingly replies, “It is beautiful!  Thank you for coloring this picture for me.”

Amidst a sea of colors, another child sits dreaming of all the pictures she might create.  There are so many choices and she has so many ideas.  “But what will my Father like?” she says to herself.

Prayerfully, she chooses a color and draws the first line.  Unsure of how the whole picture will appear, she chooses again and draws a second line.  Line by line, a beautiful picture filled with new and lively colors begins to form.  From the page leaps the child’s imaginative expression of her longing to please her Father.

Finally, the last color is chosen and the final mark is made.  Overwhelmed with peace, the child presents her work to her Father as she explains, “I know it’s not perfect but…”

A loving smile interrupts the child’s apology and offers the child a new sense of perspective.  The artistry now held by the Father’s mighty hands is no longer blurred and inadequate.  The colors of choices made and talents used come together to create a vivid portrait of a life complete and full.  Errors of doubt and uncertainty are erased as the outline of the Father’s will encircles the life drawn by His child.  A Father’s heart swells with pride for His child has lived a life just for Him.

The Father reaches down and scoops up His child into His strong arms as He says, “Well done, my child.  Well done.”

Mirrors, Bags and Dancing Shoes: A Lesson on Desires

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6

In a little village, there lived a man who had three girls.

To you and me they’d look the same – same smile, same eyes, same curls.

But each of these three daughters were as different as could be

And if you took a closer look, the differences were plain to see.

 

Sophia was the drama queen; she loved the finer things

And preferred to have an audience so she could dance and sing.

Sasha loved her mirror and the reflection that she saw.

She primped and brushed and painted – she did not tolerate any flaw.

 

Then there was sweet Sara whom her sisters thought quite odd.

She did not primp; she did not dance; she spent her time with God.

Though these girls were different, their father loved them all the same.

And in return, they shared his love each in their own special way.

 

Sophia entertained her dad – she loved to make him smile.

Sasha decked their entire house with her great sense of style.

Sara hung on every word and learned all her father taught.

These girls loved their father so – a greater love there was not.

 

One sad day, the news was brought that their father had passed on.

An accident out in the field – Oh how the girls did mourn!

But their father had a plan for the lives of these three girls.

He left behind instructions for them to go out in the world.

 

“Take your share of my estate,” his instructions did direct.

“Choose a path to follow – a new life you must erect.

To take along your journey, a bag for each I’ve left.

How you choose to fill it will be the measure of your success.”

 

“Success,” thought Sophia, “I like the sound of this great plan.

I’ll take my scores of music and I’ll take my shoes for dance.

My dream is to be famous and the richest of them all.”

So she packed her bag and set her course to answer glory’s call.

 

Sasha opened up her bag and sighed, “What am I to do?

This bag does not reflect my taste.  I’m not happy with its hue.

Beauty is my talent and I’ll use it to find true love.”

So brushes, make up, mirrors and more in her bag she did stuff.

 

Sara quietly packed her bag though she did not want to leave.

“I do not know your plan, Lord, but I’ll follow where you lead.”

She took along her Bible, some money, some food, some clothes.

She began her journey praying, “Lord, be with me as I go.”

 

Fame and fortune soon became Sophia’s dream come true.

Her shelves were lined with trophies and her name filled the news.

Each night the wealthy and society’s great were found within her home.

But each morning when Sophia woke, she was always all alone.

 

Sasha’s dream to find true love came easy or so she thought.

She used her dazzling beauty to ensnare a young man’s heart.

He doted and he showered his new bride with lots of stuff.

But each gift that he presented, he found was never good enough.

 

The path on which Sara trod was not ordinary by far,

Yet in the eyes of her sisters, Sara was no shining star.

While earning her degree, Sara worked in a little store

Where she never met a stranger – the needy had an open door.

 

Years went by and there came a day when Sophia was forgotten.

No more applause, no more awards, no hype to be caught up in.

Surrounded by great treasures, she found her life empty and cold.

She’d filled her bag to the brim and left no room for what meant the most.

 

Sasha, too, found life and love to be a disappointment.

Her husband left; her beauty waned – hers only for a moment.

Her time was spent reflecting on herself and her desires.

Her bag might not be empty if she had looked a little higher.

 

Now, Sara, she was happy; she found joy with each new day.

She saw no need to hoard and store; she loved to give away.

She helped all who crossed her path without thought of her own life.

As for her bag, she would always find the contents did suffice.

 

Late one night as Sara slept, she saw her father in a dream.

She was sitting at his feet; to him tightly she did cling.

“Oh, I’ve missed you,” Sara said, his hand tightly in her grasp.

“I’ve much to tell but first, I have a question I need to ask.”

 

“At the outset of the journey of my sisters and me,

You gave a bag to each of us to fill as we did please.

Sophia’s riches and Sasha’s matchless beauty I did not gain.

So why was my bag plenteous when theirs did not sustain?”

 

Sara’s father looked down at her face and wiped her tears.

Then he spoke these words that to this day Sara still holds dear:

“My child, the objects in the bag matter not in this life.

It’s the longings of your heart and the goals for which you strive.

 

“Your sisters sought to please themselves; they did not seek the Lord.

While you, my dear, gave all to Him, in you good things He poured.

Fortune, beauty, even love, can leave one empty and chilled

But the one who longs for righteousness, that life will surely be filled. “