Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Faith = Trust

True faith is evidenced by the lack of worry. If I truly have faith in God, in His love, and in the perfection of His will, then my life is greatly simplified.

If I simply abide, day by day, moment by moment, in the full presence of God, then stress and worry are no longer factors.

I believe. And then act and react out of that belief.

Faith is the belief that God has got it handled. However, stress often comes from the fear that the will of God will be different than what WE want it to be. Which, while it is certainly faith, isn’t trust at all. Faith is knowing that God’s will will be done. Trust is believing that what God provides, and where he leads, will be better, fuller, and richer than whatever simple and shortsighted things we might think to hope for ourselves.

True, effective faith requires trust; and that’s what is so hard for so many. We can talk a good game about faith, but the hardest thing to truly have, sometimes, is trust.

When our “truster” has been broken so many times, by so many of the things we’ve experienced in life, the idea of true faith (and trust) in God is a scary thing indeed.

Because it means letting go of control…and that’s perhaps the scariest thing of all.

Givers and Takers

I’ve recently become rather compelled by the idea of “Givers” versus “Takers.” There are a lot of things in this world that either add something to the quality of your life, or they seem to drag you down and rob you of your joy.

I think the best way to understand this idea is to apply it in the context of the internal reserves of energy we have to face the challenges of each day.

Let’s take food as the first example. There are both Giver foods, and Taker foods.  Giver foods are healthy, complex foods with substance and nutrition. They are the things that ultimately provide us with more energy than it takes to digest them. Fruits, vegetables, complex carbs, proteins. Good stuff. Healthy stuff. They build you up and give you the strength and nutrition you need to heal your body, to move and think and act effectively.

Then there are the Taker foods; the things we consume that ultimately come with a cost. Alcohol is a big one. Beer, wine, and the harder stuff. They are depressants. They cost the body far more energy to metabolize than they provide back. It’s easy to convince ourselves that the temporary “euphoria” we get from drinking is somehow an enhancement, but in reality, all it’s doing is dulling your senses and adding toxicity to your body. Ask your body if a hangover is a net gain in energy, or do you feel worse than before you started partying? I think the answer should be pretty obvious.

Things with a lot of processed sugars, or starches. Soda and chips and just about anything on the candy aisle. Sure, they taste great, but they just give you a “buzz,” only to take it away again. Anything with more grams of sugar than protein on the list of ingredients is probably going to be a Taker food.

Caffeine is another Taker. True, it’s a stimulant, but it’s like throwing a handful of kindling on a fire versus a solid log. Sure, you get a quick, bright burn, but then it’s gone and you’re left with nothing but ash. If you don’t put something more solid in behind it, you’ll actually be worse off than when you started. Caffeine comes with a cost. If you’ve ever had the “jitters” after too much caffeine, it’s because you’ve added too much “kindling to the fire” and your body is struggling to handle it. It’s having to dig into its energy reserves to deal with the stimulant.  Aaaand then you deal with the “crash’ after you “come down” off the buzz, when you’ve used up all your fuel with the flash fire and don’t have anything left. Don’t kid yourself. Caffeine is a Taker.

More and more I’ve begun to take a hard look at what I eat and put into my body, asking myself, “Is this a Giver or a Taker when it comes to my health and energy levels?” Will I be better off after I eat it than I was before? That Krispy Kreme SOUNDS like a good idea now, but afterwards? Not so much.

I think the same thing can be said of people. There are people who are Givers, and people who are Takers. This means more than just the neighbor who borrowed your hedge trimmer and never returned it. Again, to me it all goes back to energy levels. There are certain people who seem to take up an inordinate amount of your energy whenever they are around. Whether they are pushy, negative, aloof, or even just overly “helpful” with lots of “suggestions” that sound suspiciously like criticisms, these people leave you feeling both physically and emotionally drained. They are the Takers. Energy vampires. I’m sure we all have a few names that pop to mind.

Then there are those people who seem to lighten and brighten your life just with their presence. They bring laughter, and joy, security, comfort, and genuine compassion. The people you just know would help you move your living room furniture around if you asked, or would come pick you up at two in the morning if your car broke down somewhere. These people are like taking a break from life for a while, like a glass of cool water on a hot day, or a warm blanket on a chilly night. They are the Givers. They add the energy of light and life and love and laughter to your system, leaving you feeling just that much more calm, reassured, and confident in yourself even after they have left. With any luck, I hope some names pop into mind here as well.

Lastly, I think you can make a compelling case that this same dynamic applies to emotions as well as food and people. There are Giver emotions and Taker emotions; certain feelings, thoughts, and experiences that come with a cost, that seem to leave us physically and emotionally drained. Energy vampires such as Frustration. Resentment. Bitterness. Jealously. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Regret. Stress. These emotions “cost” our mind and body the energy to metabolize or process them, just like with unhealthy foods, and unpleasant people. So, as part of an overall healthy lifestyle, I realize that I have to be especially vigilant and attentive as to which emotions I’m letting run wild through my heart. The more often I give myself over to the Taker emotions, the darker my outlook on life, the less energy I have, and the less resilient I am to the occasional shocks and stumbles that are a part of everyday life.

By the same token, the more I concentrate on keeping myself present with the Giver emotions, seeking out joy and warmth and laughter and love, and the more I make it a habit to practice compassion, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, kindness and love towards both myself and those around me, the more I will find that my energy “tank” stays a lot closer to full.  And with a full energy tank, I am better equipped to deal with the Takers whenever I have to.

Needless to say, a healthy lifestyle involves having a lot more Givers in your life than Takers. Seek out and chose to surround yourself as much as possible with the Givers, and avoid the Takers whenever you can. And…ask yourself, in just about every interaction with others, “Am I being a Giver or a Taker here?” This applies to our relationships as well, whether it’s with a friend, lover, business partner, spouse, or family member. It’s important to take the time and make the effort to take an honest look, and ask yourself, “Is this relationship a Giver or a Taker for me?” Am I putting in a lot more than I’m getting out? Does being around this person cost me more than it benefits me? Do they fill me up, or bring me down?

To me, this is just as much of a spiritual battle as it is a mental one. The Enemy would love for me to live my life just barely above the “E” on my gas tank. He wants me weak and frightened, lonely and confused…completely run down and thus, completely ineffective for the Kingdom work to which God has called me.

Sometimes that work is simply to show love and light and compassion to those around me, but if I’m living in a constant state of energy debt, I won’t have any left to give out to someone else.

The first and most important truth here, then, is that you have to give to yourself FIRST. If you burn yourself out, if you are constantly sitting at the bottom of the energy well, you won’t be of much use to anyone. So, though this seems counter to so much of what we hear (both in the Church and out), IT IS NOT SELFISHNESS TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE BEING TAKEN CARE OF! Keep yourself healthy! Keep yourself happy! Keep yourself in shape – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Then, and ONLY then can you realistically expect to shine the kind of the light into the world that it so desperately needs.

So, the challenge becomes one of ensuring that whatever choices I am making in my life, whether it’s what I eat, what I think, or with whom I interact, I will begin to make the choices that will bring me the most joy. I will surround myself with all the best Givers I can find, and I make it my daily mission to “top off the tank” so that whenever the need arises for ME to be the Giver, to spend some of that energy on those who God has put in my path, I will have more than enough to share.

This Is Not The Hate-Crime You Are Looking For

An abusive, mentally unstable progressive atheist who was court-martialed for beating his wife and cracking his infant child’s skull, murders a bunch of unarmed conservative Christians in cold blood, and the Democrats want to blame….Republicans. For not passing stricter gun control laws. And, oh by the way, if the EXISTING gun laws had been properly enforced, they would have prevented the shooter from purchasing the rifle.  As if obeying the law was really all that high on the list for a serial wife-beater and child abuser who had already decided in his heart to find a way to kill a whole bunch of people.

Why isn’t this shooting in a Texas church being branded a hate crime? Is it only possible to commit a “hate crime” against people who aren’t white, or Christian? If a white guy walked into a Mosque and mowed down Muslim families in job lots, oh lord the collective societal outrage! Cries for tolerance, admonitions against reprisals, calls to take a deeper look at how Muslims and Islam are perceived in our society.

It happens to a room full of Christians and the primary response is…more gun control??? Never mind the fact that the guy who stopped the shooter used one of those nasty, black “assault rifles” to do it. One which he legally owned and was trained to use. Hmmm….

Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a church, and we were awash in analysis of his racist ideology, with panel discussions and editorials and “in-depth looks” about his motivations, the roots of his hatred, and his links to white supremacist organizations.

Nobody seems to want to talk all that much about the spiritual and political ideology of this particular shooter, or what led him to target a room full of Christian families as his victims. Instead it’s the all-too-predictably shocked refrain of, “Do you know how many GUNS there are in America??!!?!”

Would this massacre have been less or more horrendous or “problematic” if it had been a Muslim suicide bomber using C4 instead of a white guy using 5.56? The media mouthpieces always want to talk about the killer’s ideology, until it doesn’t fit The Narrative, and then it’s all about the weapon used. Or what social injustice “drove” him to do it.

Blaming these deaths on a gun is a cheap, theatrical, and disingenuous cop-out. It’s an easy distraction from looking at the much more serious issue of what this psychopath believed that led him to target the people he did.

Because you just KNOW that if it had been a fringe “Christian” wacko shooting up an abortion clinic, that’s all anyone would be talking about.

The Battle For America's Soul

As the circus that was this election year draws to a close, I cannot help but remark on the strange dichotomy that has riven this country.  Donald Trump, as morally questionable character as you might ever meet, battled Hillary Clinton, arguably one of the most bought-and-paid-for politicians in recorded history. And this country became, essentially, bi-polar. A schism was rent in the fabric of our society, as the vocal and easily swayed aligned themselves behind one or the other candidate. Violent “protests” looking strangely like riots erupted as America became polarized behind ideological opposites,.

White middle-class America, tired of being branded latent racists, judged worthy of scorn because of the color of their skin (strangely enough, by other melanin-challenged individuals), and called “white supremacists” – a term once reserved for the skin-heads in a compound in North Idaho – rebelled against academia and the mass-media elites, and said, no more will we avert our gaze, no more will we quietly take your accusations of implicit racism. Or, to put it in a more colloquial verbiage, they said, essentially, “Screw You.”

This election became a referendum against the progressive agenda. The failed messiah Barack Obama, who promised so much and delivered so little (except some pretty decent turns on the back nine), became a sort of rallying cry for “flyover country.”  As he sat quiescent while Black Live Matter protests smashed and burned their way through suburbia, strangely silent as ghost-funded busloads of professional protesters clamored against a Trump presidency in supposedly “spontaneous” outrage….complete with their pre-printed, laminated protest signs, working class America decided that they’d had enough.

So, while Donald Trump may not be the paragon of  virtue most might hope for in a presidential candidate, he still became, in essence, “At least he’s not THAT!”

As middle-class moms and struggling entrepreneurs watch their insurance premiums double and triple under ObamaCare’s gentle ministrations, as they watch President Obama decry racism in the Republican’s approaches to immigration reform while he continues to quietly deport millions of brown-skinned “immigrants,” they’ve basically said enough is enough.

And so we are at a crossroads. A tilting point. Do we continue down the ultimately self-destructive road that the progressive’s messiah started us on, or do we cautiously hope that maybe, just maybe, we can stem the tide of enlightened self-immolation upon which the past administration has set us?

Donald Trump is far from a paladin of virtue, some noble knight in whom we might otherwise expect the noblest of intents. But. He is, at least, a tremulous hope to which we might cling, as we strive to halt this nations slip into irrelevant oblivion.

Time will tell if we have chosen well.

We don’t really want a God.

So, first a little background. I came to know Christ when I was six years old. Yes, I remember, and yes, it was very real to me. I grew up a Baptist, and I once sat in a chair next to my mom in a good ol’ fashioned Midwest revival tent until I watched the sun come up. I think I was maybe nine. Went to a Presbyterian church in Junior High. Back to Baptist in High School. Assembly of God in college and later on. When I wasn’t walking waaaayyy far away from the Lord in between. I’ve been to revivals and evangelical shindigs of all varieties. I even dabbled in a Vineyard church for a while. That was….interesting.

As an adult I’ve settled into a theology which isn’t neatly categorized, but falls somewhere between evangelical, fundamentalist and…libertarian.

I’ve read the Internet. Okay, not all of it. But, well, a LOT of it. I’ve been on chat boards and newsgroups since they were white text on a black screen. I built websites when you had to write the code by hand. I blogged before there were blogs. I’ve worked for a Christian web ministry and been a lay pastor in a Foursquare church. I’ve waded through a good deal of the emergent church movement and “progressive” Christianity. I’ve looked at Satanist sites, been steeped in apologetics, and run the gamut of cults, one-offs and also-rans in the religious world.

And through it all, I’ve come to the fairly decisive conclusion that as a group, humanity…well…we don’t really want a God.  Not really.

Sure, we talk a good game, but the fact of the matter is that our human pride is just too much in the way.

When I read the Bible, I read about a God that expects to be taken seriously.  I think it’s hard for us in the modern western world to really put God into the proper context because we’ve never lived under a true king. We’ve never lived in a time when one man, sitting on a throne, literally has the power of life and death in his hands. His word is law, and with a mere wave of his hand, he could pass a sentence of death or commute a sentence of torture or banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

And so we have built up this image of a squishy, malleable, approachable, gentle Sunday-school Jesus god who loves puppies and small children and pats us on the head and sends us on our way as his merry giggling children.

We don’t want a God.  We want a camp counselor, a bartender, a friend, who will listen to our problems and our woes. A confidant and confessor; a beer drinking, cigar smoking buddy who slap us on the back and tell us everything is going to be okay. And sure, God in the person of Jesus Christ can be all that and more. And yet. And yet…

In our pursuit of these Kumbaya moments, we quietly and conveniently set aside the aspects of God we find uncomfortable, challenging, even perhaps daunting and scary. We can’t square that with the ideal of the enabling cheerleader we’ve come to expect, and so we decide that that CAN’T be God! Not the god WE want!

Because what we really want is a god….not a God. A god who is just too much like us, who thinks and acts and reacts just a little too much like the way we think he or she or it should.

Instead of a God who called the very universe into being. Who spun together the elements to form galaxies and planets and stars; who brought life to this planet out of nothingness. A God who commands the very atoms of existence to obey His will. A God with the power of life and death in His hands, who can, with a mere wave of his hand, pass a sentence of eternal death or commute a sentence of torture and banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

We think to bargain, and negotiate, and to craft a theology that conforms to our will, crafting a god (or gods) with whom we are comfortable. A god who obeys us, who acts and behaves as WE want it to….and not the other way around.

That’s not a God. That’s an idol, formed by man in his own image.

The Bible shows us a God, not a god. Absolute power and authority, tempered by eternal love and amazing compassion. But…we cannot deny the one and hope to secure the other.

Jesus Christ is God, in every aspect. We have experienced his love, his mercy, his grace and compassion. Let us not forget, however, the very important question asked of Job – “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the earth?!”

The problem we have with a real God is that thorny and troublesome word, “obedience.” We balk and chafe at the idea that we must suborn our will, our desires, our plans, to an all-powerful King. In our American ideal of independence and individual autonomy, we have progressively (!) lost our ability…or at least or desire…to “bow” before a “king.” I just seems so antithetical to everything we’ve been taught to value and believe. And so we reimagine and reinvent a god more compatible with this concept of, well, basically….“You’re not the boss of ME!

Problem is…He is. He holds my life in His hands. He brought me into being, and shaped my life around me. I am his child, a son of God. Sadly…that doesn’t mean what it used to either. A child, a son, should obey his father. Trusting in him, believing that he knows and understands things that my childlike mind simply can’t comprehend. Trust. Obedience. Submission. Reverence. Even…unto…death. THAT is what our God calls us to do. And to be. And far too many of us in this modern world have decided that, if that’s what it takes, well then….

…we don’t want a God. Not really.

Omar Mateen Wasn't Crazy

Here are my thoughts on the Orlando shooting, in which 50 people were killed, and at least 53 others wounded in a horrific attack on a night club catering to gays. (I’ll warn you right up front, what follows is not “politically correct.“)

First, this was not a hate crime. It wasn’t a “crime of passion” in the traditional sense. It is said that the catalyst for the attack occurred after the shooter “got very angry” when he saw two men kissing while he was out with his family. But he didn’t flip his wig right then and there, lose his cool and in a moment of blind rage attack the two men he saw. He waited. He planned. He chose a lucrative target, and then he struck at a time and a place where he could do the most damage. This was completely premeditated.

So, if it wasn’t a “hate crime,” what was it?

Ethnic cleansing.

Instead of a heat-of-the-moment over-reaction, this falls much more clearly into the category of, “Something Must Be Done!” It’s the same mindset you see behind every pogrom, every massacre, every brutal culling throughout history. The Nazis and the Third Reich culling “undesirables” from their society in what they came to call The Final Solution. It’s the Hutus vs. the Tutsis in Ruwanda, the Serbs vs. the Croats in Bosnia, the genocide in Darfur and so many other examples throughout modern history.

Right now so many are, once again, focusing on the tool used to perform the act, suggesting that if Omar Mateen hadn’t had access to an “assault rifle” with all those bullets, the attack wouldn’t have happened, or wouldn’t have been so deadly.

And yet there’s another thing Omar Mateen had access to that was far more responsible for the attack than the weapons he used, and that was his IDEOLOGY. But a lot fewer people want to talk about that uncomfortable truth.

[mantra-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]Because that’s the reality of the thing: It’s not the object that is dangerous, it’s the human being that is dangerous.[/mantra-pullquote]Here’s the thing: Mateen obeyed all the gun laws. He passed all the background checks. He was employed to provide private security. He bought his weapons legally, waiting periods an all. Though he had been interviewed by the FBI and been on a watch list off and on, nothing was every done because he didn’t rise to the level of a credible threat (unfortunately).  Which strongly suggest one very important thing:

Omar Mateen wasn’t crazy.

This wasn’t an Adam Lanza, with known and identified mental health issues.  So if he wasn’t crazy, what was he?

I would instead use the word…”Devout.”

Omar Mateen was a fundamentalist Muslim who adhered to the deadly, imperialist, fascist ideology espoused by Al Qaeda, ISIS and all their associated fanboys. This kind of ideology teaches that murdering homosexuals the way he did is not only permissible but an obligation. That it is essentially a mercy killing?!

The simple fact of the matter is you can have a basement arsenal full of the deadliest, high-capacity engines of infernal death and destruction, but they are still just things. Inanimate objects. Completely inert chunks of metal and plastic.  It isn’t until someone picks them up and puts them in the warm, soft hands of a human being that they become “dangerous.” Because that’s the reality of the thing: It’s not the object that is dangerous, it’s the human being that is dangerous.

It’s what happens in your heart that tells you it’s okay to become a mass murderer for your cause that is the real threat. And when you have a whole subculture and religious ideology dedicated to telling people exactly this sort of thing, that’s when things get ugly.

This is another example of why Islamic Sharia is completely incompatible with western values and society. We should not respond with violence towards innocent Muslims, we should not engage in an “eye for an eye,” or we are no better than Mateen and those like him. But we also need to stop pretending that fundamentalist Islam is not a threat to our western way of life.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Hush now. Be Still.

Sometimes when we come before God  in a moment of crisis or confusion or uncertainty, when we lift our face to him in supplication seeking his guidance, some sort of answer or direction, instead we get something unexpected. Sometimes there are no great insights, no grand visions or prophecies, no “word from the Lord.” Sometimes, it’s just….”Shhhh. Hush now. Be still.

How many times as a parent have you had a child rush up to you full of hurt or anger or confusion, and they climb up in your lap and pour out their thoughts or fears with such intensity, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and you realize that the first and best thing they need is simply…comfort.  “Shhhhh.., “you whisper. “Hush.” You rock them a little, you wipe away some tears, you smooth their hair, and sometimes all you do is just hold them against your chest, let them cry, and you whisper softly, over and over, “Shhhh, now. It’s okay. I’ve got you. Shhhhh...”

Sometimes people need comfort more than they need answers. And sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that there’s a place we can go, a lap we can crawl up into, a comforting hand for our forehead and gentle fingers to wipe away our tears. Sometimes it’s just enough to be loved.

God is a good one for giving us what we need, more than what we think we want. And sometimes all we really need…is to know that He is there.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Reclaiming Lost Ground

In my last post, I talked about surrendering to God. Surrendering can mean many things; sometimes it means letting go of something, but sometimes it can mean NOT letting go!

In surrendering ourselves to God, we agree, we resolve, we commit to opposing everything in our life that is un-Godly. Or at least to try. To work at it. To make it a priority. BUT! If I stop resisting something, if I allow myself to become complacent, to just give up and accept it as part of my daily definition of “normal,” then I will have surrendered to it and not to God.

It can be as something as simple as a hardness of the heart that I’ve learned to accept, an area of unforgiveness, resentment, or anger – however justified in my mind – that I have ceased to oppose or worked to resolve. I just accept it as “the way things are.”

In doing so, I accept defeat. In effect, saying, in THIS area, God is not sovereign. In this, I “cannot win”…or don’t want to. In holding on to that anger, in nursing that grudge, in accepting that addictive behavior, I show where have I given ground over to the Enemy.

But the more you give him, the more he will try to take. Each step backward is a foothold for the enemy to advance further into your life.

Victory in Christ means not accepting defeat in your life. Find every piece of ground where the enemy has gained a foothold, and renew the offensive to reclaim it! Turn to God, acknowledge it to Him, then seek and accept his equipping to oppose and defeat it.

Challenge: Lord, show me daily, minute by minute, which battles I’m not fighting that I should be.  What footholds has the Enemy gained, what areas of my life do I need to reclaim? Teach me to live daily in the victory you have secured for me on the Cross.


Thoughts From My Quiet Time: The Power of Letting Go

I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender aaaaalllll.”

So the song goes. But…am I really doing it? Am I really giving everything over to Him? Or, am I still holding on to a few things I plan to handle for myself?

Why do we sometimes cling sooo tightly to a favorite fear, or chose to continually re-live the same past trauma, or dwell forever on that one special mistake we made way back when? It’s like some ragged stuffed animal that’s been with us for so long that we just can’t quite seem to let it go.

MINE!” we yell.

So, inevitably, that’s precisely where God is going to focus his attention; because it’s the very things that we hold on to the most tightly that are the most important for us to let go of.

It’s those learned responses, those conditioned reflexes, those programmed behaviors, those things where we stubbornly insist, “It’s just the way things are!” Even if they aren’t pleasant, they are comfortable, they are familiar; they are what we know.  And they may even be true…for now.

But…just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean that’s really how they have to stay, is it? God is all about taking what is…and changing it into what can be.  HOWEVER…

…we have to let go of it first.

It’s those very things that we “know” with such certainty that too often get in the way of discovering the real truth of things.  It’s only when we stop trying to tell God how things are, that we become open to the possibilities of what they can be!

Problem is, that means letting go of our illusions of control, of our carefully nurtured victim-hood, or of any of 101 other things that we tend to put in place of a complete reliance on God and an unwavering trust in His sovereignty over our life. And that’s hard. Real hard. Because we really like our little teddy bear.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  1st Cor. 13:11-12

If I hold on too tightly to those artifacts of the past, if I cling too tightly to that ragged old teddy bear, I can never really grow up the way I am supposed to, the way God wants me to. I stagnate, I get stuck, and I don’t grow. So, before I can move forward, I have to stop looking back. Instead of focusing on what was, I can start seeing what new things God is ready to lead me into instead!

Challenge:  Lord, what are those things in my life that I haven’t let go of yet? What are things I need to put into your hands? What are the fears I most need to trust you with, and the places in which I most need to be the most open to change?

Thoughts from my Quiet Time: Sometimes, It's Really Not About You.

Going through my Oswald Chambers for today and he takes on the concept of “suffering” in terms of God and the Bible, referring to 1st Peter Chapt. 4 &5. Reading through all that really got me to thinking.

God repeatedly speaks of suffering as though it is a good thing!? That is not only inevitable but desirable?!  Why it this?

Because if we understand that it is inevitable, we will have a different attitude about it. We will be better equipped to face it rather than surprised by it.  And more importantly perhaps, we will have the awareness and foresight to look beyond our immediate circumstance and our own condition, and begin to look for the purposes of God in what we are enduring.  Why has he led me here? What purposes are being served?

This trial, this suffering may not even be about me. I may have been placed here to minister to someone else, or accomplish a mission, purpose or goal far beyond my own narrow vision.  And if I am only looking at myself, focused so completely on the depths of my own personal inconvenience, I may miss that opportunity entirely!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

Challenge: Am I so focused on my own condition that I may be missing the work God is doing around and through me? Lord, help me to daily remember that even in times of sorrow, suffering or persecution, you are there. Help me be open to your will, no matter the circumstance.