Thursday, July 24, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 2: Prepare Your Heart

"If he/she would just stop doing (xxxxxx), then we would not have these problems anymore."

"If he would learn how to treat me better, then we could get along just fine."

"If I just made more money or got a different job, then I could be happy."

"If I did not have this health problem, then I could serve in my church."

"If he/she had a better attitude, then I could have one too."

"If I wasn't so depressed, I would try to have more faith".

"If only I could (xxxxx), then everything would be okay."

Have you ever found yourself saying these types of things?

Have you ever been pulled into a game of mental chatter that convinces you that your happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm for life hinges on everything going your way, material items coming into your possession, and/or major changes taking place in your life and the people in it?

Have you ever found yourself putting God to the test - if He answers your prayers just right, then you will love Him more?

Most of us have lots of "ifs, ands, and buts" for why all of our problems are someone elses fault, why our negativity and pessimism are justified, why our faith is lacking, and why we have every right to continue living in a perpetual poor-me pity party.

Unfortunately, this type of attitude only digs our hole a little deeper, and further separates us from God. So why do we keep doing it? The only logical reason I can come up with, is because people either simply do not know how to change, or do not believe that they can change.

Great news! God gave us an amazing gift - the gift of free will....not just free will in our actions, but also in our thoughts. We may not have the power to change our circumstances or the people in our lives, but we ALWAYS have the power to change our own attitudes.

My mom always reminds me of the serenity prayer when I start grumbling about something that is outside of my power to change. It says, "Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That always helps me keep things in perspective.

For the sake of today's challenge, I'd like to put a different spin on that prayer. What if it went something like this, "Lord, help me to accept the people I cannot change, to change the ones I can, and to know that one is ME."

No matter how many great things may happen in our lives, there will always be something that can steal our joy, whether it be people or circumstances. Trust me friend, the devil will make sure of it. That ol devil is the master of self-condemnation, ridicule, shame, guilt, blame, finger pointing, rudeness, bitterness, discontent, discouragement, and joylessness. He spends a great deal of time and effort trying to win us over to his way of thinking.

The devil is not after our wealth, health, family, security or homes - he is after our attitude. After all, when we have a bad attitude, we are no longer a threat. If we live in a state of bitterness, he no longer needs to worry about us sharing Gods love with others, reaching out to those in need, and building God's kingdom. Yep, he can move on to some other poor soul who is teetering on the edge of discouragement and separation from God.

Let's face it:
-It is so much easier to be mean to a person who has been mean to you, than it is to pray for them, shrug it off, and maintain a smile and joyful heart.
-It is much easier to fall into the unethical practices of the corporate world, than it is to stand up for what is right despite the costs.
-It is much easier to join in the gossip session, than make it known that you want no part of it.
-It is much easier to criticize your husband, than to forgive him.
-It is much easier to yell at your kids, than exercise patience.
-It is much easier to resent the mother who has seven kids, when you cant even have one baby, than it is to thank God for blessing her with a family.
-It is so much easier to be bitter, than it is to choose joy despite our circumstances.

Do we really want the easy way? Is it truly easier? If we constantly travel the easy road - what is setting us apart from the rest of the world? I dare say - nothing at all.

Our outward attitude is a reflection of our inward heart. Our outward actions are a reflection of our inward beliefs. Our life is a reflection of our spiritual heartbeat.

A heartbeat that beats for God, is one fueled by unbreakable, unshakable joy. The type of joy that is unaffected by circumstances. A positive state of mind. A deep joy, fueled by contentment, confidence and hope.

Spending time with Christ builds a desire in us to be more like Him. Having an attitude of joy, gratefulness, faith and hope - despite and regardless of our circumstances - prepares our hearts to really begin hearing Him speak.

Move over sister, God still needs a little more room today.

Challenge #2: Let God's light shine brightly through you today - even if someone licks the red off of your sucker. Be kind to those who are unkind. Be giving to those who dont give. Look for the positive in every situation you encounter.

1 Peter 1:13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy." (The Message)

Prayer For Today:
Dear Jesus, this is a hard challenge! I try to be positive, but things happen in my life that steal the joy right out from under me. You know the situations I am dealing with; you know the pain in my heart; you know the battles that I am facing, and the ones to come that I am unaware of. I pray that you will be with me Lord every step of the way, today and every day, to help me break the bondage of negativity in my heart and seek out joy and hope in you. I am so desperate for the type of joy that you tell us about in your Word. I seek out that joy and ask that you pour your love into my heart so that thoughts of you and wisdom of your sovereignty will control my actions throughout each day. Prepare my heart Lord, for a mighty work.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 2: Prepare Your HeartSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


donna said...

This is tougher. Only yesterday, I found myself thinking thoughts about a woman and her three daughters that were anything but positive as we stood in line at the grocery store. I was not directly behind this woman and so I did not speak up as she beat down the spirit of each of her girls. This morning in devotion, God asked why I stayed silent and thought such thoughts. I realize now my mind should have been thinking and my mouth speaking "What lovely daughters you have - you are so blessed!" And so I start today with the challenge to go forward, think the thoughts that are righteous and good, and most definitely to extend a kind word and a smile to others.
Thank you for a great challenge.
Peace and God Bless,

Joy in The Truth (Sharon Sloan) said...

Hi, Tracie!

We are in! I am going to include our children in today's challenge and use the 1 Peter passage for their morning devotions.

Shining, kindness, giving! May others see HIM through all of this! For His glory!

momsal13 said...

I'm in!

I know I have a constant struggle with my attitude. Seeing others through Jesus' loving eyes is always hard for me...I was raised to be judgmental and breaking those chains is not an easy task, but SO worth it. Now I see those patterns in my family and realize more when I am doing it. Growing and changing is one of the hardest things I have had to do because it is one of the most honest things I have had to do. Being honest with myself...where I really am at and where I truly need to go.

Thank you so much Tracie!

Jessie said...

God is so faithful!! Last night my one year old had a rough night and I barely got any sleep, but I made myself get up and spend time with the Lord this morning. I just arrived at work and I was just thinking of the long day ahead and feeling a pitty party coming on. I was thinking about all of my problems. After reading your devotional I realized it is not about me and I need to be the light and salt to someone here at my job. Lord forgive me. I choose to serve the Lord with a great attitude!!!

cceeyore said...

I agree with Donna ... this is tougher! I am at a place in my life where I am forced to rethink my circumstances. I want to allow my heart the opportunity to be completely broken and filled with God today. I want to focus only on God's face and let every other distraction be blinded from my sight. With God's help, I know I can do it.

Kate said...

This is a challenge that's made much easier by the fact that I don't work during the summers...and my kids will be gone most of the day. Something tells me, though, that they (if no one else) will test my patience once or twice. :) And I'm going to do my best to let my attitude and thoughts be a blessing to them and others whom I encounter.

godsown said...

Thanks for the thoughts Tracie

I commit myself to this challege to change my attitude....
I experience the difference it can make already before in my Marriage esp....and in combination with prayer for myself and the other.....
I take the challenge now with my kids and practicing patience....

Thanks and GB

Karen said...

I agree - this is a tough one. I am constantly playing a "mental chatter" game. Of course, pity parties always go along! I have already been working on this one. I know I have a lot of work to do! Thank you so much for this challenge. I needed this this morning and this day. I have realized that I need to start every day with this challenge! One day at a time, right?

Deb said...

Hi Tracie,

I'm commited to this challenge today though it will be tough not to resort to old habits. I will try to be positive and see the good in everyone I come in contact with. Also I will try to be a blessing to others.

Thank you for this challenge


Lisa Ford said...

Ooh...yes. This is an area that I knew God needed to confront me on and He just did...again. You see I have this co-worker that makes it miserable up here. She's loud, forceful, vulgar...I could go on, but I'm just going to pray for her...okay, that was much easier than letting all of that negativity linger in my head just simmering.

Thanks Tracie for your beautiful reminders!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Oh, how I pray I won't be challenged along these lines today, but I will choose to pause in holy contemplation before getting my "mad" on. Thanks for the thoughts.


Mari said...

I can see I'll be praying a lot today. I'm on vaction this week getting my kids ready to return to school on Monday. They've pushed every button and gotten on every nerve, including my "reserve nerve" this whole week. I'm sure today willl be no different. I just pray that the Holy Spirit will take over and respond differently than I have the others days. Thank goodness I got up and spent my time with the Lord first thing :-)

Karan said...

I don't have the near amount of trouble seeing others through Jesus' eyes as I do seeing myself through His eyes. But it is all about choices. I choose to see myself as a child of the King or I can live as a spiritual pauper. Its always my decision. Likewise, I choose to think about others through His compassion, or my flesh. Lord, help us all to see everyone through Your eyes only - and to not give heed to the enemies lies. Wonder what area I will be tested in today?!!
In His Love and Hope

Cindy said...

Great post, great challenge.
In my quiet time this morning the Lord spoke to me from
Psalm 68:19 'Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens'.
I had already made the commitment that today - no matter what I faced - I would turn it over to God and remain in joy!!!!
What a perfect challenge you gave us today. It is a second reminder that I need to keep a great attitude and trust that GOD will take care of EVERYTHING else!!!
Blessings to you, Cindy

sharron said...

Thank you for this challenge. I needed to read this today. I've had a bad attitude and my family is the target of "tude" when things go bad at work. I come home with a chip on my shoulder and as soon as I walk in I want to blow up, let the steam out. I need to stay positve at work and not sweat the small things. The people that I hurt the most, that love me the most are inside my home. I've been praying since Monday to give me a better attitude toward my job and to help me when I come home to have a better attitude at home instead of blowing up or sulking.
So thank you for this challenge, I know, I know without a doubt, that finding your blog with this challenge was no accident. I need to spend more time in God's word to give me the words in my heart to overcome the moments in my day that are negative.
Thank you again, you're a blessing to me.

Alichia said...

I was disappointed in myself this a.m. Unable to get up as early as I wanted. Thankfully, it's summer and was still able to have that quiet time(just not in my usual spot). I'm challenged today.
I want that joy! :)
Rolling up my sleeves...

Laurie Ann said...

As I work outside the home, I have lots of opportunities to face many of the challenges you mentioned. I will take this challenge, too, realizing that it begins with me and my attitude. I got up earlier for quiet time and did it this morning! I can't tell you how much better it has made my day this far.

Runner Mom said...

I loved what you said about our outward attitude is a reflection of our inward heart--so true, my friend!

I had to make the weekly trip to the store that has "rolled back the prices.." Yes, their prices are cheaper, but the attitudes that greet you at the registers are..well...not always very nice. I know never to get in the line of the man who simply grunts at his customers.

I had prayed about my attitude while I was walking across the parking lot into the store. I got my shopping done, and then to the checkout area--which sometimes takes as long as the shopping does! I was prepared to make the best out of the waiting game. I would smile and offer friendly converstion.I would be very postive! I was ready for the challenge.

To my amazement, I had a friendly cashier who was standing there at her register just waiting for little 'ol me! She was kind,and we did have a lovely conversation. She wanted to go back to school and get her degree so she could teach special needs children. I am a teacher--now a substitute--so I was able to encourage her and ask the questions that she seriously needed to think about. I was in her line for a Divine reason--it was not a coincidence. God blessed me more than I realized.


Christy said...

Joy crushers... yeah, there are lots of them in my life. I hate to say that because I know that as a believer we are to be filled with joy... and yet most of us are not filled to capacity, like the Lord wants to fill us. I have struggled the last couple days because I am so incredibly exhausted. I catch myself easilly letting my children get on my nerves... and my grandmother who is overly critical and hardheaded. She is in town from FLA... and we don't always see eye to eye. these things have been joy crushers (mostly due to my lack of sleep) and I am praying that the Lord makes these couple things my Joy Givers. Please pray with me for the next week as I give my struggles over to the Lord to turn them into JOY GIVERS! Please also pray for SLEEP!
Thanks for the challenge...
Pressing on toward the goal,

Anonymous said...

I've missed my first hurdle - and didn't get to spend my quiet time with the Lord this morning... but only because I received word yesterday that my life was being threatened by my ex-husband, and I had to scoop up my two children and run to a "safe house". Today's challenge poses a serious "challenge" for me - praying for those that are not "friendly", shall we say? And keeping an upbeat attitude despite unchangeable surroundings and circumstances. I think I've done a pretty good job: I've enfused a bit of humor to keep the situation "light", but mainly spend my "down time" in prayer - for my children, and even for my ex-husband.... Next, I have to really work on that 30 minutes of quiet time!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this today...definally needed it! I do need a attitude change!
I accept the challenge! I loved how when I was reading the bible in the quietness felt good!


gallerhea said...

If I am totally honest, I didn't get up as early this morning as I wanted to for quiet time...but I REFUSE to beat myself up over least I DID spend SOME quiet time this morning, before the kids were up, and before the rush of getting off to work! Tomorrow, I will try to increase that morning quiet time.

I am working on something else that I'm not very good grace to myself...LOL! I tend to beat myself up for what I don't do, OR what I don't do as well as I feel I "should." Between beating myself up, and listening to the devil's lies, I can work myself into a hole of despair and alienation from God. Being in that hole is all too familiar, and the further I dig, the harder it is to get back out.

That is why I like today's challenge. Another way to dig my way into the pit is to let negativity have a toe-hold...or worse, a stranglehold!

Jesus says that he came so that we could have life--and life more ABUNDANTLY! Not a life that's abundantly negative--but a life that is abundant in joy! It is that joy that will give the strength to go on, even when things are tough.

Please pray for me, (and for all the others that have committed to your challenge)! Life often feels like an impossibleobstacle course--but with God, ALL things are possible!


Mari said...

I was able to do my quiet time. I actually wound up doing an hour and it was marvelous.

As far as today's challenge -- not as good. As I suspected, my children did everything in their power to push my buttons and get on my nerves. At one point today we were in the car and they were bickering back and forth like they were mortal enemies. I yelled STOP IT! Then I remembered the challenge.

I calmed my voice and then started to tell them how ungodly that was and how what they were doing was not a good representation of what is expected of a Christian. We rode the rest of the way home in silence. By the time we got home they were both more congenial and neither appeared to be mad at me.

I wish I could have done this without yelling but after 3 days of bickering, that was all that was going to get their attention. I'm just glad that God enabled me to turn it around and make it a teachable moment, instead of a yell fest.

I'm a little nervous about tomorrow's challenge. I'm headed off to bed so t hat I can make my morning quiet time.

Heather Conrad said...

What a joy to read all the responses, you ladies are an encouragement to me! Funny how it's so easy to believe that you're alone in your struggles. I sense a "child pushing my buttons" theme, just recently feeling that I'm a failure in the mother department, one doesn't need to look too far to see evidence of that, right? Well, maybe it's the mid-summer time of year blues? I too enjoy the teachable moments, especially those that involve some apology of my own. Just goes to show how much Mommy needs the Lord each day too. Lord, may we ask each morning for more of you, for help and strength that we lack, and for your Holy Spirit to speak words of love, when our insides are screaming in anger at the injustice of it all! Lord, I want to be more like Mary today, and sit and learn at your feet. Thanks you for your patience with me.

Leebird said...

I had to deal with some disgruntled parents today as my students came to pick up their schedules...the Lord truly held my tongue in check and kept me calm. But...then I got home and the living room and kitchen were destroyed by my two younger sons...I had a momma melt-down. But...I felt the Lord guarding my the past, I have been bad about really shaming my kids..but this time, I showed I was frustrated, but the things I said really made my boys think. I challenged them to give our home the same level of respect they would give their classroom at school, the church building, their grandma's house, and even a parking lot! I think they got the point....they both vowed to show me a good change tomorrow.

Charlene Kidd said...

You are right on with this one. Thanks for challenging us.

Joyful said...

Tracie, it is not coincidence I'm reading this today! God is so good. Do you know the theme of my time with Him earlier this morning in His Word? BITTERNESS! Does God want me working on think?

Actually, today's timing is perfect, because I'm going to visit a friend who wallows in bitterness - she seems to get some kind of pleasure in being bitter - living as a victim can get sympathy and I think she finds bitterness attractive. She seems to decide that it would be fun to have others join her and become bitter. She encourages me to be resentful, angry, seeking revenge. Bitterness isn't self-contained. I read that it is an infectious disease that harms everyone who comes in contact with it.

We cannot be bitter and move forward with God. More than anything I want to be a mature follower of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, I know already, that reasons are going to appear that would trigger a bitter response, but I'm going to believe God and trust Him to lead me out and pray for His strength to resist the temptation of falling into a pit of bitterness. Praying God will use me to encourage my friends heart as well.

Looking forward to reading your post tomorrow and growing in Him.
From bitter to better,