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Friday, February 17, 2012

Put Your Burdens in a Basket

Sometimes our burdens—or worries—get out of control.

Today I chatted with a dear friend I don’t see very often. Since the beginning of this year, she said, life had begun to overwhelm her. She worried about many things: her bills, learning to use new technology for work, her brother’s finances, an overseas trip she would like to make, her boss’s wife, her own health, her elderly mother, updating her will. The list grew and grew.

My friend realized that she had become concerned about so many things that her worries began to multiply, as described in Psalm 94:19: “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (NASB).

Looking for a way to break the cycle of worry, she decided to put into practice the advice of Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you” (NLT).

She wrote each of her concerns on a separate slip of paper and put the papers in a basket. She kept writing until she had listed every issue that she had been fretting over. When she ran out of things to list, she figuratively and literally lifted her “burden basket” to God and let Him take care of them.

She told me the process gave her a feeling of release and relief, knowing that the Lord is faithful.

The burden basket remains on my friend's table and continues to be a tangible reminder to her of God’s willingness to take her burdens. “I know that once I’ve given it to Him, I don’t have to worry or think about that problem again,” she said.

I like the idea of using a “burden basket” to give my problems to the Lord. How about you? Do you have a symbolic way of taking your burdens to God? Share in the comments.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Failed Resolutions?

It happens every year. Many of us make a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more in the coming year and eat less. Or we resolve to watch less TV and spend more time reading the Bible.
One woman I know resolved not to make sarcastic comments about other people. She says she succeeded for about an hour and sixteen minutes.
If you made a resolution, how do you define success or failure? If I exercise twice a week instead of four times as I resolved—is that failure? What if that is two times more often than I exercised last year? Could that be considered success?
Maybe, as some people have decided to do, we should skip making resolutions altogether. Just “resolve” that we are incapable of change.
Or maybe we should redefine “success.” Diet experts warn you not to give up just because, for one day, you fail to follow the diet plan.
It’s that way anytime we determine to make a life change, whether at the beginning of a new year or sometime later in the year. Whether I want to diet, exercise more, stop gossiping, or spend more time with God, I can’t give up when I blow it.
After all, God doesn’t call us to be successful. We will never be good enough on our own. He only asks us to be faithful:
We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith.–Hebrews 12:1-2 (GWT)
So if you’ve already blown your resolutions for 2012, remember the year has just begun. And you can start over. Today. Be faithful to your goals.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Repeated Mistakes

Every year about this time, the dead flowers are removed from this flower bed at an office building near me, leaving a wide brown swath of dirt for a few days. Then some fall flowers are planted to replace the ones that don’t thrive in this spot where hey get full sun.
This year, they did add the elephant ear, which have done pretty well. But for some reason, each spring the flowers of choice are ones that really would prefer a shadier location.
Do you ever repeat the same old mistakes, year after year, month after month, even day after day? I know I do.
Sometimes I plead ignorance—I just don’t realize that what I’m doing is dumb, or wrong, or hurtful to someone I love. Other times, I know that my actions are not pleasing to God, but I choose to continue because I’m weak. Or just because, deep down, I don’t want to change.
But the good news is that God can help us avoid making the same mistakes over and over again, if we ask. King David wrote in Psalm 19: 12-13, “Who can notice every mistake? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep me from sinning. Do not let anyone gain control over me. Then I will be blameless, and I will be free from any great offense” (GWT).
Not only will He keep us from sinning, but He will forgive even those offenses that no one else knows about. And once He forgives, we become sin-free in God’s eyes.
Instead of planting the same flowers in the wrong place, I’m going to ask God to help me plant beautiful flowers in the right places—in the lives of others. I trust Him to change my heart so that I want to make the effort to control my tongue, my mind, and my heart.
What repeated mistake will you ask Him to help you with today?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What Makes a Story?

Telling a story in six words is not easy, but Ernest Hemingway did it once: "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

Proverbs 31 Ministries is sponsoring a contest. To enter, you have to write a six-word story. The winner gets a scholarship to attend the She Speaks Conference:

Since this is a fabulous conference, and I love a challenge, I had to enter. I came up with several ideas:

Lost: female cobra. May be pregnant.
Don't go in. Snake is loose.
Found my snake. Please come home.
Survived earthquake. Can I come home?
Watching for lost son. He's coming!
Survived earthquake alone. Coming home.

This got me thinking about what makes a story. We know that a story needs a plot and, of course, characters. It also needs a crisis, a climax and a conclusion. The character needs to show change and, in the Christian market, positive growth. How do you put all that into six words? Hemingway's example does.

Plot: A woman gets pregnant and prepares for the baby.
Character: The mother, presumably, though it could have been the father placing the 'for sale' ad.
Crisis: Baby is born sick or is stillborn.
Climax: Baby dies.
Conclusion: Parents find the strength to move on, to sell the items prepared for the baby that were never used.
One could draw various scenarios from this story, but the basic elements would not change. And no matter how you interpret the story, there is an emotional connection.

So I analyzed my six-word story ideas and found that most of them were missing one or more of these elements. After further brainstorming, I came up with two more:

1. Home alone. Cold. Started fire. Homeless.
The unknown character, possibly a young person, is home, unsupervised. Wanting heat, he (or she) attempts to start a fire, which gets out of control and destroys the house. Now the person is homeless. Not a bad plot, certainly dramatic and emotional, but it doesn't show a character arc. The conclusion, that the person has no place to go, does not tell us that he learned anything (other than not to build a fire unless you know what you're doing!). This story ends with no satisfying conclusion. It leaves us wondering where he will go and what he will do.

2. Regret leaving. Survived earthquake. Coming home.
In this case, the person left home, perhaps out of anger or perhaps, like the biblical prodigal son, searching for something better. A crisis occurred--an earthquake, which he barely escaped with his life. Going through that situation changed him and caused him to realize his mistake. The resolution: he is coming home in hopes of reconciling with his family. Since I'm the author, I know these things. Did you read it the same way?

This is the "story" I submitted. Do you agree that it was the best choice of the nine ideas I've listed here? Or do you think I should have chosen a different one?

P.S. You can read other entries here:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cutting Down the Weeds

Spring has finally arrived in the South, which means it's time to start mowing the lawn.

Most of the time my hubby mows, but occasionally when he is really busy, like this week, he asks me to.

Sitting on a riding mower while cutting more than a half-acre gives you about an hour to think about weeds and life.

To start with, note that I said I mowed the lawn, not the grass, since weeds grow faster than the grass.

I observed that some weeds, such as wild onions, give off a strong odor when you cut them. The ones that are more difficult to get rid of, such as Creeping Charlie, actually have pretty flowers. Unless you know how damaging they can be to your lawn, you might be tempted to leave them alone and enjoy the color.

In the same way, some sins are obviously harmful and give off strong "odors" when you get near them. Other behaviors can appear attractive, and even if you know that God has warned us to avoid them, they seem harmless enough. Often we are tempted to continue in that sin, letting it take over our lives. Pride, gossip and unforgiveness are examples that keep "creeping" back into my own life.

We mow one large section of our yard--what we refer to as the "back forty"--but we don't spend money on fertilizer or weed killer, so it is mostly weeds. Often I can't tell where I've cut, since some of the weeds seem to be so resistant to the blade. I wind up going over the same patch of ground two or even three times. That's the way it is for me with critical speech and attitude. No matter how many times I confess to Jesus that I have not followed His example in these areas, and that I will do better, I find myself going back time and again with the same failures. Fortunately, He forgives me each time.

Our yard contains several pecan trees with low-hanging branches. If I become too intent on watching what I am trying to cut, instead of where I am going, I get hit in the head. That reminds me of how often I focus on my own efforts to change my behavior, which always results in failure. I know that, instead, I need to focus on where Jesus wants to lead me.

One other thing I've noticed--no matter how square a yard appears to be, you always wind up with a triangular section at the end of mowing. I haven't figured out the spiritual application for that.

"Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time"
(Hebrews 12:14, The Message).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Do You Have a Team?

It’s football playoff time. Whether you watch the NFL or not, you are probably aware that the Super Bowl is approaching.

It occurs to me that no quarterback—even Brett Favre—goes to the Super Bowl without his whole team. He needs the offensive line to protect him, the running backs to hand the ball to, and the receivers to catch the long bombs. Of course, the coaches provide the overall strategy and training, “encourage” the conditioning and practice between games, and celebrate the successes along with the players. Then there are the trainers, the water boys, the people who get the uniforms ready, and on and on.

If you’re not into football, consider the challenge of climbing Mount Everest. Do you realize that, to climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain, you need a team of sherpas, guides, and other support people at least double the number of climbers? Many adventure trek companies will provide one Sherpa per climber just to carry your extra oxygen for the ascent to the summit.

So maybe you don’t care about football and have no intention of climbing Mount Everest. But whether you're a writer, a speaker, a stay-at-home mom, or working toward any other goal, some days those efforts can seem as daunting as climbing a 20,000-foot mountain.

That’s why you need a team. Surround yourself with friends who share your goal and your faith. They will cheer you on, encourage you in your “conditioning” and persistence, and celebrate your successes with you. And, in turn, you can do the same for them.

He encouraged them with these words: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged" (2 Chronicles 32:6-7, NIV).

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I read a true story recently about a "ghostly" image on a wall of a house that was being remodeled.

Seems the homeowner was using "mud" (joint compound) to smooth the old plaster walls so they could be painted or papered. When he got down from the ladder, he noticed a hand print in the wet compound, but was sure he had not placed his hand on the wall. He wondered if the house was haunted.

Over the next couple of hours, the image gradually faded. His ultimate theory: the original builder had put his hand in the wet plaster, leaving a very shallow indentation. It did not show up until the new owner covered over it. Because it was slightly deeper than the rest of the wall, the print showed up as a different color, eventually disappearing when the entire coating was dry.

That made me wonder: does my Builder's hand print reveal itself in my life? I pray that my Creator's image remains strong, no matter how old I get. As long as I rely on Him, maybe I won't cover up His mark.

"Relying on the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:8-9, HCSB).