Friday, September 30, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 8

Stop letting the negativity of other people have a negative affect on your own attitude. 

Years ago, I once worked with a woman who was a constant downer, and felt it necessary to express to me her every negative thought. .......... the meetings were always too long; the content was irrelevant to her; her salary increase was not sufficient;  she had to work too much; she was bored with her responsibilities; her breaks were not long enough; she was treated unfairly; her chair was uncomfortable; her family didn't appreciate her; her grocery store didn't carry her favorite brand of bread anymore; her clothes were outdated; her co-workers were out to get her; her husband was never meeting her needs; her children were selfish.

I always felt a bit grumpy after spending any time with her, and sometimes would even catch myself starting to think like her, and maybe even sound like her.

On the other hand, I have a friend who is a joy to be around. I can spend ten minutes in her presence, and my spirits are lifted. I find myself laughing about the silliest things, and we are just silly together. She always wears a smile, has a smiley face on her heart, and is just really pleasant. People love being around her, because she makes them feel good. It feels refreshingly fun to hang out with her, no matter what we are doing!

I always feel good after spending time with this friend, and that is the type of person I want to be. 

People influence our attitudes more than we realize.

I can only assume that most likely, you have also known people from both of these spectrums. But have you ever thought about how they impacted your thoughts, and possibly your behaviors, after spending time with them?

If you are allowing that positive person to rub off on you, then you go girl! But if it is a negative person who is influencing your attitude, then it may be time to make a change.

I know, I know... we don't like change. Change is hard, especially when it comes to the people we have in our life, but in some cases, it is necessary, if we want our attitudes to be like Christ.

Let's be reminded of God's suggestion, for our own good, about changing our attitudes, in
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

If we ask for a positive attitude with a motivated heart that is seeking God's will, it will be ours.  As we begin to walk closer with Him, our attitude will be transformed.

Because our walk with Christ influences our attitudes.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life - and it can be the first day that you sincerely ask for transformation of your mind, while seeking out God's will for you for a positive attitude. Today, you can choose to commit to making optimism a reality in your life - despite the people and circumstances that you have to deal with.

Yesterday I shared a story of how a stranger's positive thinking infected my own thinking. I "caught" his optimism, and it transformed my mind.  Consider the airborne attitude that you have been "spreading" , is it worth catching?

Day Eight Optimist Challenge:  Stop letting the negativity of other people have a negative affect on your own attitude.

Let your thoughts wander to consider all of the people in your life.  As names come to mind, consider whether or not any of those people have a negative influence on your attitude.  If so, think about what you can do to counteract those negative influences, by deciding to make a change that will benefit you, your quest for optimism, your walk with Christ, and ultimately your overall sense of joy.

Below are a few suggestions to help bring about positive change:

1. If there is someone that you spend time with who is negatively influencing your attitude with their consistent pessimism and complaining,  begin to approach this person differently. Instead of listening, agreeing or even being pulled into their negativity, begin counteracting their negative statements with a positive response, or optimistic outlook. Help them to see the "silver lining". 

Doing this may not only change your attitude, but change theirs as well!  But even if it doesn't , it will probably annoy them enough to stop being negative around you!   After all, it is hard to be negative around someone who is joyful and wearing a smile. So even if your optimism doesn't rub off on them, at least you have guarded your heart from negativity.

2. If your attempts to counteract a person's negativity with positive responses continues to fall on deaf ears, and continues to be a drain on your joy,  it may be time to ask yourself whether or not this is a relationship you want to continue investing in. Sometimes it is in our best interest to separate ourselves from negative influences, while asking God to help us do this in a way that exemplifies grace and mercy towards the other person. 

Keep in mind, that our desire to be positive, even at the sake of a relationship, can be a huge witness to someone whose heart is infiltrated with bitterness. Our optimism may not only help them see their need for optimism, but also see their need for the joy that comes by knowing a merciful and loving God.

3. There are situations where it may be impossible to completely separate ourselves from a negative influence in our life. In that case, the only thing we can do is pray for God's intervention, seeking the strength and courage to stay positive despite someone else's

Secondly, God calls us to pray for those who are negative and bitter, because most likely, they are that way because they have been hurt themselves. They may be lost, and do not know how to find the optimism that we have available through Christ.  They may need someone to stand in the gap for them, as God calls us to do in Ezekiel 22:30. Even if they do not know it, or will not admit it, they are desperate for someone to pray for them.

Ezekiel 22:30 I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

4. Choose to be  that someone who people enjoy being around. Ask God to convict your heart before any negative words leave your lips.  And smile, even if you don't feel like it. 

5. If after some soul searching, you realize that maybe that you are being a negative influence on others, due to some hurts in your own heart, ask God to fill you with the joy that you once had. Seek His strength to counteract your own thoughts, and infiltrate your mind with optimism.  It may take some time and effort to truly turn your attitude around, but it will be well worth it!

Ask God for the desires of your heart.  Do you desire to be a more positive person? Do you wish you could have an optimist attitude about people and circumstances in your life, instead of habitually looking at the negative side of things? Do you wish you were a little more outgoing and refreshing? Do you desire to be a good influence on others? Do you want other people to look forward to being with you because of how you make them feel?

Remember sweet friends, God promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him. And if we ask, we will receive. And that includes mastering the art of being an optimist.

Ask God to place a smiley face on your heart today.

- The final two challenges will be posted next week - so stay tuned!

Optimist Challenge Day 8SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 7

Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Two and a half  weeks ago, at 4:00am, my fifteen year old daughter woke up in excruciating pain. We found ourselves in the Emergency Room one  hour later, and ended up staying for nearly eight hours, due to what turned out to be an extremely large ovarian cyst. Then last week, I found myself at the ER again - but this time, with my seventeen year old daughter, who had seriously injured her back in a tennis match. 

I was not a happy camper. Not only was I now worried about both of my daughters, but the ER is the last place in the world I want to spend my time, especially twice in one month.

After several hours of waiting, again, my patience had worn thin, to say the least. The very least.

I began to wonder why it was called the "emergency room", when the staff did not seem to view any situation as an actual emergency. I will spare you the rest of the thoughts that were racing through my mind, so as not to incriminate myself.

But the bottom line is, I was NOT feeling like a positive person AT ALL. In fact, I had decided that I would wait about five more minutes before I said some less-than-positive words to the nurse at the registration desk.

Just before I was about to get up and probably say something I would regret,  a young man walked in, and stood patiently at the desk behind a few other people.  This young man stood out from the crowd, mainly because his neat-as-a-pin-black-suit was a far cry than the pajamas and sweat pants that most patients were adorning.

As he stood there in his elegant suit, with perfect posture, hands cupped neatly behind his back, he looked as if he were standing at attention at a military ceremony.

After a short while, he sat down in a chair in between me and an older gentleman who had been there as long as we had.

The older gentleman's curiosity was apparently peaked as well, and he asked the young man why he was wearing a black suit, of which he responded that he was a security guard. Then he asked him if he  had had a good day, and the young man responded, "Yes. Yes I did. Every day is a blessed day, you know."

His statement struck me. My daughter turned to me and asked if I had heard his reply, because it had struck her too. This man was in the ER, just like we were. Yet... he felt.... blessed.

Both my daughter and I felt our spirits lighten, and we both smiled, simply because of his comment about being blessed. His optimism and attitude of gratitude was contagious. And we caught it.

I immediately became acutely aware of the fact that I had not viewed this day as a blessing. I was tired, frustrated, worried about the well being of my daughters and fretting over the many hospital bills that would soon be arriving in my mailbox. I had been focusing on everything negative that had happened on this day and those thoughts led to more and more negativity in my mind, and my heart.

So when I heard a total stranger say that "every day is a blessed day", it was a little reminder from God that even in the midst of a negative situation, I can make the choice to be positive.  I can determine what kind of attitude I will have. My attitude can be contagious too - and I certainly want it to be something worth catching.

Life may not always be a full bowl of cherries, but there are always lots of sweet cherries in the bowl.

So today - choose to be thankful. Choose an attitude of gratitude - for everything.

For the big things. For the little things.

For the hard things. For the easy things.

For the pain. For the blessings.

For grace. For mercy.

For Him.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live

Day Seven Challenge Activity:  Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Spend the rest of the day thanking God for your blessings. Focus on the positives, instead of the negatives. And spend some time looking......

1) Looking up: thank God for who He is............. thank Him for who He is to you. For nature and all of His creations that we benefit from, for guidance, love, direction, grace..........

Looking in: thank God for who you are........all the things that make you, you. For what He has done for you and your life. For what He has done in you, through you. For all the things you have accomplished, achieved, overcome.

3) Looking around: thank God for all He has given you - food, clothes to wear, a roof over your head, family, friends, pets, jobs, community, country, service opportunities, shoes, breath, health, good medical care, insurance - the list is infinite.

Consider compiling a "blessings list" and a "hardships list". You might be surprised to see that the blessings far outweigh the hardships, but until doing this excercise, it didn't feel that way at all.

Pray without ceasing, and refrain from saying Amen, until you cannot think of one single other thing to be thankful for!

Optimist Challenge Day 7SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 6

Believe that God can redeem you, despite your past. That He loves you, despite your mistakes. And that there is a purpose for your pain.

Do you have painful things in your past, that you are ashamed of, regret, wish had not happened, or wish that someone had not inflicted upon you? We all do.  But these negative and self-condemning thoughts can become so entangled in our hearts, that we begin to believe they define us. When we let those thoughts define us, and keep us from believing who we are in Christ, the devil has a party.

Understanding that we are all sinners, all have skeletons in our closets, and that we are all in need of a Savior, is the first step towards allowing God to use our past to glorify Him in our present and future.

Until we embrace God's forgiveness and love, and let go of the negative feelings about ourselves that have evolved over time, we cannot embrace God's love for us, or fully understand how He can use all things to His glory.

For example, when God called me to speak and write and share my testimony, my immediate answer was... no way, hosea!  I refused to allow God to use me, for a lot of reasons and excuses that I felt were valid.

For one, I had no idea what being a speaker and a writer even meant. All I knew was that God told me to "go and share". Those are the words I heard ringing in my ears on that infamous day when God reached down and whispered into my soul.

Secondly, I already had a full time job, and did not want another one, and had no intention of making any changes or sacrifices.

And thirdly, I felt a panic attack coming once I clearly understood that God was calling me to be transparent for Him. To share my mistakes. To expose my sins. So I clearly and firmly said no - and I meant it!

But most importantly, above all other excuses, I felt like the most unworthy of all unworthy souls wandering this earth. I had made mistakes in my past which had shaped my mind to believe that I was too despicable in God's eyes, to serve Him.

However, after a couple years of God working on my heart and helping me to see that He loved me - despite me - I finally felt convicted enough to step out of my comfort zone and trust that God new what was best for my life. 

Once I took those first baby steps of faith, I discovered a freedom and peace that I never thought possible. I felt a new sense of self-worth because I had learned how much God loves us, and that His gift of forgiveness is real.

I had to allow God to transform my mind and my thoughts, before He could begin to transform my life. 

When the stronghold of negativity was broken, I was freed from the guilt, hurt and resentment that had been so deeply rooted in my heart.  I was finally able to embrace the joy that God offers, and learn to see myself through His eyes, instead of my own.

I realized that the devil had been having a party at my expense for far too long, and that if I didnt allow God to use my past for His purpose, then all of my pain would be nothing.

Self condemnation is a powerful tool in the enemys toolbox, and God cannot flourish in a heart that is filled with it. Will you give up those negative, self-condeming feelings and allow God to fill your heart with the compassion and grace that He promises?

The past is the past, and that will never change. However, we can allow the past to build our character, strengthen our faith and touch the hearts of others - or we can allow it to keep us feeling condemned, discouraged and negative.....shackled with invisible handcuffs, of which Satan holds the only key.

God does not call everyone to share their past experiences in public, as He did me. But He does call everyone to a divine purpose, and it is our life that equips us to fulfill the destiny He ordained us for.

Have you asked God lately how He has equipped you to bring Him glory, through your past?

Will you let go of the negative thoughts that stem from your past, and allow God to fill you with His love and optimism instead?

Will you give God the key to your heart today?

Psalm 130:3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Day Six Challenge Activity: Believe that God can redeem you, despite your past. That He loves you, despite your mistakes. And that there is a purpose for your pain.

Believe that God loves you, no matter what. Whatever you have done, whatever you have allowed, whatever has been done to you - God forgives - God loves - God forgets the past - and He wants us to as well.  (Click here for a special post about God's love for you.)

Trust Him today, no matter what. Accept His forgiveness, once and for all, and then, forgive yourself.  Once and for all.  Don't let your pain be all for nothing.

Bonus Challenge: Consider these personal reflection questions:

Do you have painful things in your past that have been strangling the joy out of your heart? Memories that seem to haunt you, day after day, year after year?

Is it possible that pain buried in your heart from years ago, is keeping you from being able to find your optimism and happiness in life?

Do you believe that God has a purpose for your pain?

Do you desire for your pain to be for something good? To be able to make a difference in the Gods kingdom?

Will you allow Him to use your experiences for His glory?

Optimist Challenge Day 6SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 5

If you are unhappy with your life or circumstances, pray for God's intervention to make change happen, instead of merely complaining. 

"If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it." ~Anthony J. D'Angelo

"When any fit of gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints." ~Samuel Johnson

I have learned from many a personal experience, that complaining never amounts to anything - except more complaining.   Philippians 2:14 says "Do everything without grumbling or arguing,".... yet unfortunately, this is a challenge I struggle with.

It is much easier to whine and grumble, than to take action to make change happen, especially when  problems seem looming or overwhelming or out of our control. Or maybe we have just gradually developed a chronic habit of complaining, no matter what the issue is.

When I think about changing our habits and attitudes, I am reminded of Luke 11:9 which says,"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Before I really began to spend time reading scripture and trying to understand God's Word, I used to think that this verse implied that we could ask for things. "Cool!" "I'll ask for a new wardrobe, a perfect marriage, problem-free kids, and an unlimited amount of cash. " ( just kidding - although those things would be nice!)

But the true meaning of this verse, is to encourage us to pray, with the motivation coming from knowing that God hears us, and that He will answer. It informs us that there are advantages to praying, because when we pray, God moves  - but always in ways that are in agreement with His will.

I seem to have several storms in my life right now.  Some have been growing over time, and others have raged in unexpectedly.  I desperately wish some circumstances were different, and I do not yet understand how God could bring glory out of them. Yet, what I do know, is that they compel me to pray.

A couple months ago, I prayed for something that I had never prayed for before. I prayed for deliverance from a certain situation, and when God answered that prayer, I was shaken to the core and moved to tears.

It became crystal clear that God had not only heard my prayer, but acted on it. To fully grasp the understanding that the One and Only God heard my prayer, and acted upon it, shook me with such great humility that it made me feel weak in the knees. There was no other way to explain what had happened - except God.

It was a situation that had been concerning me for years, and changed dramatically, just a few weeks after finally fully surrendering that problem to God.

Although He did not answer my prayer in the way I would have chosen, I knew that God had moved in my situation, on my behalf, and I was in awe.

I asked. And I had received.  I sought out God's will, and intervention for change, and He showed up.  I had knocked, and God opened the door.

You see, I had spent a lot of time, and I mean A LOT of time, complaining about this storm, and to be honest, had begun to feel a little irritated and frustrated that God was not paying attention to all of my whining.  

I now see, that God could not take action in the midst of my whining and complaining, always trying to tell Him how I wanted Him to fix this problem. But He could take action in the midst of my honest, heartfelt prayers, when I handed the problem over to Him and trusted in His ways, no matter what they might be.

Our prayers are like knocks on the door of heaven, and when we knock with hearts desperate for Him, God opens the door, and can then begin to carry out His promises in our lives. 

The promise of hope during circumstances that seem hopeless.

The promise of the ability to hang onto our faith, when it seems impossible.

The promise of comfort, as we seek to understand why.

The promise of peace that surpasses all understanding, until we do.

The promise of answered prayers - in His time, in His ways, with His sovereign knowledge.

The promise of knowing that in His time, all things will somehow bring Him glory.

One example I think of when considering today's challenge, is found in Matthew 14. Remember, when Peter was sitting on a fragile boat in the middle of an ocean? Torrential rains beating down on his face; waves beating the boat into shreds; lightning and thunder booming from every direction?

Although he feared for his life, when Peter realized that Jesus was near, he stopped complaining and had faith. He believed that positive changes would take place within the storm, even though he had no personal power to make that happen.

Jesus summoned Peter to walk on the water, and Peter obeyed, looking straight into the eyes of Jesus.

But then - he got scared; his faith wavered; his human rationale took over; and he began staring at the black clouds above him and the deep waters below him.

He took his focus off of Jesus, and focused on the problems around him instead. He began panicking and complaining and saying "Lord, save me!", as his fears and complaints took precedence over his faith.

Jesus's heart sank because of Peters lack of faith, but yet He still rescued him, calmed the storm, and changed the situation - which changed Peter's heart as well.

First - God changed the storm, then He changed Peter. But He could have done it the other way around, if He had chosen to.

Faith is believing that God hears our prayers, and understanding that He cannot act on complaints alone. When we seek His intervention, and knock on heaven's door, we are tapping into a power that we cannot even fathom.

God may change our circumstances through our faith, or He may choose to change our faith through our circumstances.

The choice is His, yet the journey is ours. We can spend it complaining, or we can spend it praying, but knowing that supernatural change can only come about when we knock.

Day Five Challenge Activity:  Pray for God's intervention to make change happen, instead of merely complaining.

To begin this challenge, develop a mock goal setting form for the changes you want to see occur.

To create this goal setting form, take a few minutes to jot down the current problems or 'storms' that are raging in your life right now. Then, draw four columns on a piece of paper.

      In the 1st column, write down all the things that you wish were different in your life, or situations  that you wish would change.

     In the 2nd column, write why you want that certain aspect of your life to be different, or how you feel you would be happier if that situation or circumstance changed or improved.

     In the 3rd column, write down how you would like to see the situation change, or what your best case scenario for change would be.

    And in the 4th column, write down what you can begin doing, if anything, to start making some positive changes about the problem(s) or situation(s) that you wrote down in column one.

If you are able to brainstorm some solutions to implement or induce change about a situation in your life, then stop complaining about them, and start working towards making change happen!

But if you recognize that some of your problems are completely out of your control, then pray with all your heart for God to begin working in those situations. Turn those situations completely over to God, and let it go. Surrender it to the cross, and entrust its' outcome to God, in whatever way He deems best.

Then keep your spiritual eyes open, so that when He does work, you know it is Him.  It may take time to see answers to your prayers, but it will be in His time, which we know will be perfect.

Sometimes putting things in writing helps me to be able to see things clearer, which enables me to think more rationally about what actions I can take to meet my goals.

This simple process also helps me to recognize when I have been stressing, worrying and complaining about things of which I ultimately have no power to change, thus reminding me to lay those burdens at Gods feet - and open the door for Him to work.

Some changes require a little work on our part, but other changes require a lot of prayer from our heart. Seek God's wisdom to know the difference.

Now - most importantly - take time to pray over your list. Not just today, but every day, trusting that God hears your prayers, and believing in the promise we have been given in Luke 11:9.

Optimist Challenge Day 5SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 26, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 4

Special announcement: Since the winner of last week's drawing has not contacted me yet, I have randomly drawn a new winner! The new winner of Renee Swope's book A Confident Heart, and a free writing journal, is karend3, who posted her comment on September 16, 2011 12:55 PM. If this is you, please send me an email with your physical mailing address.

Now for today's challenge:

Choose to live as a victor, not a victim. 

1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency
2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency
3. a victim of misplaced confidence

There is no denying it, life can be hard. In fact, maybe today, the above definitions seem to define exactly how you are secretly feeling -- suffering because of another person's hurtful words or actions; deceived; cheated; missing your confidence.

But if someone were to describe you to a friend, would you want them to describe you in the above way? I know I wouldn't!

No matter what has happened in our life, we can be a victor.  We can achieve victory over our circumstances, and victory over the lies and negativity that Satan loves to fill our hearts and minds with, IF we choose to be victorious through Christ.

We are always walking towards our destiny - and we have more influence over our destiny than we might think.

I heard a quote last week from a preacher on the radio who was talking about attitude. He said,  "We cannot control if a bird flies over our head. But we can control whether or not we let that bird build a nest in our hair."

What that means is that the devil will constantly try to fill our heads with the wrong kind of thoughts. That is his job as the destroyer, and we cannot control the devil's tactics.

However, we can control whether or not we allow those tactics to infiltrate our minds and build a permanent nest. We can rebuke his ways of thinking, and adopt God's ways instead.

When bad things happen, we often allow negativity and pessimism to take control over our thoughts and actions - in essence, building a nest in our hearts. We may even embrace that negativity, even if inadvertently, and subconsciously convince ourselves that our rudeness, cynicism, anger, and/or lack of consideration or love for others is completely justified.

After all,  when life has dealt us a bowl of lemons, who in their right mind feels like making lemonade?

But making lemonade is exactly what God challenges us to do. He encourages us to take the bad, and turn it into good, by allowing Him to rule in our hearts. Ungodly thoughts, or behaviors, are not justified anywhere in Gods Word, despite how we have been wronged. In fact, as much as we may not like it, God's Word says just the opposite.

The only way to live a victorious Christian life, is to focus on the mercy, grace, love, hope and faith that is available in Jesus.

Mercy lets us know that we are forgiven, and that we have the power to forgive. Grace lets us know that our own slates are wiped clean. Love gives us the motivation to love.  Hope helps us latch onto the promises of God. And faith infuses us with the power to overcome the hardships we encounter, and learn to live as a victor.

When we neglect to acknowledge these heavenly gifts, and instead focus on the all the things dished out to us that we did not want or deserve, life can become meaningless and empty, and eventually, feel void of happiness and optimism altogether.

Christ set an amazing example for us, of maintaining an attitude of love and compassion, despite how He was treated or the circumstances that He found himself in. It is a role model that we can never live up to, but one that we can look to for encouragement of how we want to be.

1. a person who has overcome or defeated an adversary; conqueror.
2. a winner in any struggle or contest.

Which V-word do you want someone to use when describing you?

Day 4 Challenge Activity:   Choose to live as a victor, not a victim.

Stop right where you are, and pray. Make a choice today to embrace the mindset of a victor, and make a promise to God that if you have been feeling like a victim, you will be seeking His strength to work towards changing your mindset about yourself and your life.

Ask God to help you forgive those who have hurt you. And then ask Him to help you forget their transgressions, so that your heart can be free to be happy. You see, when we spend each day feeling bitter and hurt - like a victim - we are allowing the people who have hurt us to hurt us again and again, every day - and most likely, they have moved on and are enjoying life. So although we can never fully forget, we can let go of what they did to hurt us, and not give them permission to have dominion over our thoughts.

Choose joy today, and rebuke the devil out loud (yes, I said out loud!) - let him know you are serious about your commitment about changing your attitude. Make it clear to him that you will no longer continue to live as a victim, because you have a victorious identity in Jesus Christ.

Optimist Challenge Day 4SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, September 23, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 3

Get to the roots of your negativity - and start doing some weed pulling.  

Negativity can take root as a result of many "seeds" planted in our hearts during trying circumstances, such as a betrayal, illness, difficulty in a marriage, parenting challenges, a damaged friendship, a termination at work, family problems, a demeaning boss, or as a result of painful childhood experiences. The list of experiences that could cause negativity could be endless.

These "seeds" of hurt can sometimes root so deeply into the walls of our hearts, that we may not even realize they are there. Yet, all the while our thoughts are fertilizing them more and more, and they are growing stronger and stronger by the day.

If you find yourself with a negative attitude lately, have you considered when it all started, and why you might be continuing with that mindset?

Is it possible you have been seeing the glass as half empty for so long, that you cannot even remember a time when you saw it as half full?

If so, could that negativity be a result of "seeds" planted in your heart long ago, or during recent seasons of hardship? Could those seeds be sprouting weeds and choking out your optimistic outlook on life and your spiritual walk with God?

Those seeds of negativity could also be commonly known as frustration, anger, stress, temptations and bitterness.  These seeds can get so deeply planted into our hearts that we forget they are there, until we realize the toll and the consequences they are having on our hearts.

Consider this analogy - if you planted a garden, and only watered and fertilized one section of it, which section do you think would grow? The one that was given the most attention, and water, of course!

Our hearts are like a garden. A garden full of all types of emotions and feelings, and through the daily actions and thoughts that we act on each day, we are in essence watering and fertilizing one particular section of our heart.

If I asked you which part of your heart garden you were spending the most time on, would it be the side that grows all of your positive thoughts, or the side that grows mainly negative thoughts?

Whichever section you focus on the most, is the section that is growing, and those roots are getting more deeply rooted each and every day.

So if you have been fertilizing those negative seeds, it may be time to do some gardening, girlfriend!

Go get out your gardening tools - your spiritual gardening tools that is (your bible, your journal if you have one, your phone if you want to enlist friends to pray for you, and last but not least, your knee pads). 

Let's not give the devil a foothold in our hearts, by allowing him to use the pain of the past, or the challenges of the present, to fertilize the seeds of negativity that have been planted. God can make even the ugliest weeds begin to sprout flowers, we simply have to give Him permission to shower us with Living Water, and ask for His help with our gardening.

Ephesians 4:26-27 In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Day 3 Challenge Activity: Get to the roots of your negativity and start doing some weed pulling.

Ask God to reveal what the root causes are for your negativity or pessimism. Do some brainstorming about what 'seeds' may be causing ugly 'weeds' to grow in your heart. Consider keeping a list over the next day or so, as God brings things or memories to mind that you have not thought about lately.

Pray for the strength, courage, desire and perseverance to dig up all those old feelings. Deal with your emotions about them, get real with God, and ask God to help you toss out all those ugly weeds that have no place being in the beautiful garden of your heart that God created.

Ask Him to allow you to see His presence in the midst of what is going on in your circumstances. Pray for His guidance on how to make the situation better, or to open doors for you to walk through to make positive changes. If things cannot change right away, remember that if God brought you to it, He can get you through it.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 2

Welcome back friends! I hope you experienced a more positive day yesterday as a result of starting this heart and attitude adjustment challenge. Lets go ahead and jump right into today's challenge!

Trust God's Ways, Even When You Don't Like Them

"I once complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

Do you ever feel like God is picking on you? As if He might be working overtime to try to tests your faith through the many trials that seem to keep coming? 

In fact, you may even feel like a modern day Job at times, certain that God has given the enemy permission to attack you from every direction. But how sad it would be to have to get up every morning feeling that way! Waking up to an attitude of woe-is-me every day, is a sure recipe for a big 'ol heaping portion of pessimism pie!

We all know that life is hard. But sometimes it seems we have more than our fair share of hard stuff to deal with - and sometimes, that may actually be true.  Yet even harder than dealing with problems, is mastering the art of not letting those problems destroy our attitudes, steal our joy, or weaken our faith.

When we are struggling, we can become so focused on the problems, that we can easily become consumed by them. Drowning in a sea of despair and worry, unable to see anything good,  because our eyes are blinded by frustration and worry.

If we step back and get an eagle's eye view, we can be reminded that although disappointment, failure and difficulties are part of our lives, they do not signify the entirety of our existence. We can either choose to drown, or choose to fight. Fight for optimism. Fight for an attitude of gratitude. Fight for faith, despite our feelings. Fight for a life filled with joy, instead of negativity.

The old Indian Proverb which I stated above holds the moral that we should take our eyes off of the things that are not going right in our lives, and focus on all the things that are. How often do we focus on the bad, instead of remembering the good? How often do we complain about God's seemingly lack of intervention in some situations,  while failing to thank Him for all the ways He is moving in our life in other areas?

If you think about it, life is like a puzzle. Some pieces of the puzzle are fun, rewarding, and exciting. Other puzzle pieces are hard, sad, and difficult. Some pieces are easy to understand and we know right where to place them, while others are confusing and we feel frustrated in not being able to understand how they fit into the big puzzle picture. 

But nonetheless, all the pieces fit together to make up this unique life that God has given us. One life. Our life.

A life that is not perfect, but is filled with God's love.  Psalm 36:5 says "Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds."

I know how easy it is to forget that God loves us, when it seems He is allowing hardship and pain to fill our days. But I have to realize that before we can sincerely trust in God's ways, we have to first embrace the truth of how much He loves us.

So even though God may allow or even cause difficulties in our lives, according to His will,  He always has a purpose for everything, as we are told in Romans 8:28. His goal is not to make us miserable, but to draw us closer to Him during the triumphs and defeats; during the mountaintop experiences and the times in the valley; through the good and the bad.

God could change our circumstances at any time, but He is always more interested in changing us through our circumstances, rather than simply changing our circumstances.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Day 2 Challenge Activity:   Trust God's Ways, Even When You Don't Like Them

If you have been blaming God for your problems, or have been angry at God for allowing trials to happen in your life, ask God today to forgive you for doubting His sovereignty.

Pray earnestly and ask God to show you how He is at work in the midst of your circumstances and relationships. Pray for open eyes and an open heart to be able to see His activity in your life, and for the strength and willpower to trust that something good can come out of even the worst situations.  Ask for the ability to be thankful for what you do have, instead of what you do not.

Jot down a few of your biggest hardships, and try to think of at least one positive thing that could come out of it.  Most importantly, practice being optimistic - despite what is going on around you.

** Instead of replying to me directly in email, please post comments on the blog post to participate in the Starbucks giveaway. Click here if you are receiving this message in email and need to hop over to comment. Thanks!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 1

Are you ready?

Are you nervous?

Are you worried that with everything going on in your life, trying to become an optimist might be an unrealistic, impossible goal to strive for?

Are you possibly thinking that you are much too busy to commit to a 10 day challenge, and wonder if it will even be worth your time? 

Friends, I know the feeling.  But with God, all things are possible.  And when we make God a priority, the door is opened for Him to work mightily in our hearts and our lives - even when it comes to learning to be an optimist. So now might be a great time to say a quick prayer, and ask God to help you toss out all excuses!

Anything worth achieving, is worth working towards. Plus, I've heard that a positive attitude may not solve all our problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. Smiles. So regardless of your motivation, I pray you will join us in this quest for a transformed mind.

Day 1: Remember that you are in control of your own behavior.
There are many things that cause us to feel stressed, but one of the most common factors is other people. 

People can be wonderful - but people can also be mean, self centered, and hurtful.

Truth is, that since we are all sinners, and all flawed,  we are all capable of not only being hurt, but hurting others as well. Maybe inadvertently. Maybe on purpose. But it hurts, nonetheless.

There have been times in my life when I have felt victimized by someone else.  Times when I felt confused and  even sad, about why someone appeared to not like me, or care about my feelings.  Times when I knew I was being treated unfairly, but had no power to stand up for myself or change the situation.

Times when I really wanted to give someone a piece of my mind - and hurt them, the way they hurt me or someone that I loved.

But those are the times when we need to rely on God the most, to help us control our reactions to the actions of others. My sweet friend Lysa has said many times, "Feelings are indicators, not dictators. Our reactions determine our reach."

When we remember that our feelings do not have to dictate our actions, then God will be able to use our reactions to reach others with His love. On the flip side, if we react in our power, relying on feelings to dictate our response, we will most likely react in ways that do not show love, much less bring glory to God - and ways that we will probably later regret.

Today - you may be struggling with feelings of hurt, pain, betrayal, or rejection. You may be wondering why someone feels they have the right to treat you unkindly.  You may even be asking God what you ever did to deserve such unfair treatment.

You may be completely justified for being in a bad mood all the time - feeling hurt, angry, wronged or upset.

Maybe you are just tired of being hurt, and have allowed bitterness to become commonplace in your life as a means of protecting your own heart.

Sweet friend, today's challenge can help you achieve freedom from your negative feelings, and begin pouring your energy into positive things instead.

We all have the opportunity to be free from the emotions that stir in our hearts. We can embrace that opportunity by asking God to peel away all the layers of hurt in our hearts, and begin filling those empty spaces with thoughts of His goodness, and all the reasons that we have to be joyful.

trying to be positive does not mean that all of our problems will vanish, but it does mean we can have joy in the midst of them. Happiness is an emotion based on circumstances, but joy is a gift of faith that can be ours. It all begins with the renewing of our mind.

The verse below from The Message Bible sums up today's topic perfectly:

1 Peter 3:16 ....Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (The Message Bible)

We cannot control how other people feel, act or behave - although we would all like to at times. However, we always have total power over our own feelings and reactions. We can strive for righteousness and the spiritual maturity to respond in love, instead of lashing and allowing our emotions to have power over our reactions.

Day One Challenge Activity: Remember that you are in control of your own behavior.  
Consider your reactions and behavior towards someone who has hurt you or betrayed you. Have you allowed their negative behavior to result in your negative reactions?

Are you allowing a certain person to steal away the joy that God is offering you? If so, consider praying this verse daily, asking God to mend your heart and restore your joy. Psalm 51:12, Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me

Also, try to think of a few ways you can change your behavior to allow them to see Christ through you - even if they don't deserve it. Nobody can steal our God given joy away, unless we give them permission to.

Lastly, ask God to give you the strength to love the unlovable, and be more like Him in your dealings with them. 

**Lysa TerKeurst shared some great thoughts about controlling our reactions in her March 2nd blog post. For more encouragement on today's challenge, read her blog post here. 

** Remember to leave a comment on each daily challenge to be entered for the Starbucks gift card! 

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are You Up For The Optimist Challenge?! (& New Prize Offer!)

Thanks to so many of you who commented on Friday about which of the 5 tips you would implement in your life to help better direct your thoughts. They were all inspiring, and I loved reading your stories!  I so wish there could be more than one winner, but only one could be drawn. The lucky lady who wins a free copy of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, and a writing journal, is:

Cathy Fleming, who posted September 17 at 12:42am
Please email me with your home address so I can get your special prize in the mail.

(For the rest of you, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for another  free prize giveaway!)

The grouchy man went into the restaurant and said,
“Do you serve crabs here?”

And the waiter said, “Why, yes sir, we serve anybody here.”

Last Friday's P31 devotion  was about directing our thoughts in a positive direction, which ultimately boils down to being more optimistic. You have probably known some "crabs" in your life, and maybe sometimes you have even found yourself being one! Yet, none of us want to be known as crabby, now do we?

But why is it so much easier to have a negative attitude than a positive one?

What is it about how we are made that causes us to naturally look at the negative side of things?

Even when we are focused on trying to be positive, it can take just one little thing - like someone cutting us off in traffic, hearing about a rumor, receiving some unexpected constructive criticism from a friend or co-worker, or not getting something we feel we deserved - to throw us into a tailspin of being in a bad mood and negativity.

I once read a quote that said "Negative attitudes come from negative thoughts that come from reactions to negative behavior."  This quote simply means that our thoughts and behaviors are a direct by-product of the status of our heart. So if we are not careful with our thoughts, then we will end up somewhere we do not want to be, just like that mishap on the school bus that I mentioned in the devotion.

So, how do we achieve a change of heart, which changes our thoughts, and ultimately changes our life?

How can we stay positive when facing difficult situations?

How can we keep our heart happy so that we continuously think and act in a way that glorifies our God?

I wish I could say that I knew a concrete answer for those questions, and I also wish I could say that I am always an optimist, but both would be untrue.

Yet what I do know for sure, is that negativity does not come from God. There is nothing negative about the way God thinks or acts, and nothing in the Bible tells us that negative behavior is condoned or accepted - despite our circumstances.

In fact, Gods Word says just the opposite. Philippians 2:5 says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus".

Jesus had a lot of bad things to happen to Him, to say the least! Life was hard for Him. People hurt Him. People did not appreciate Him. He had to suffer unjustly. People rejected Him. People betrayed Him. People crucified Him.

But despite all that, was Jesus crabby, grumpy, resentful, bitter, unforgiving, rude or ungrateful? Did He develop a stern character of pessimism and negativity as a result of His hardships? Of course not, so we actually have no justification for being that way either, since our suffering, daily frustrations, or unjust treatment from others cannot hold a candle to what He suffered - for us.

We should long to be more positive for a lot of reasons, such as our own happiness and fulfillment, and so that we can be a witness to others of God's love. But most importantly, we should strive to be an optimist because our sweet Jesus, who gave it all for us, deserves nothing less.

As we kick off this ten day challenge, trust me when I say that I will be challenged right along with you! Let's embark on this journey together - to improve our attitudes, change our perspective, and pray for a heart of optimism and gratitude. A journey that will train our minds to leave the crabbiness to the crabs, and embrace the happiness that is within our reach through the reshaping of our thoughts.

If you are ready to become a true optimist, and willing to commit to the Optimist Challenge, leave a quick comment stating that you are in! Your commitment to allowing God to transform your heart and mind will create a special bond between you and all the prayerful men and women whose desire is to always see the glass half full, instead of half empty.

You will be amazed how a changed perspective, can lead to a change of peace and purpose.

Check back for the next 10 days (weekdays only) to get your daily Optimism challenge, or sign up to receive my blog posts in email. If you already a subscriber, then you are all set.

Just think, by October 4th, you could be a new and improved, more optimistic version of you!

As a special encouragement to participate in this challenge, I will be giving away a $10 Starbucks card at the end of the challenge.  To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on each of the 10 daily challenges! Winner announced October 5th.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

5 Ways To Direct Your Thoughts (& Special Giveaway!)

Suppose I asked five of your closest friends whether or not you were a positive thinker. What do you think they would say?

Some people might be extremely confident in the answers that would be given, while others may feel a twinge of nervousness.

In my Proverbs 31 Devotion today, Your Thoughts Have Wheels, I referenced the verse from Proverbs 23:7 which says,  "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."  (KJV) 

This verse serves as a great reminder, that our thoughts not only determine our actions, but actually determine the type of person we become - which is why it is so important to make sure that the thoughts that drive our actions are positive ones.

I recently came across a story from an unknown author about a nurse who was helping an older gentleman. It seemed to fit in perfectly with today's focus on positive thinking:

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

His wife of 70 years had recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. "I love it",  he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait. "That doesn't have anything to do with it," he replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it."

"It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

"Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away."

This sweet man had invested his entire life in learning how to be an optimist. Now that he was going through a difficult time, he made a conscious choice to focus on the good memories and positive thoughts, instead of the difficulties of his present circumstances.

He had obviously spent years making the life impacting decision to transport himself into a life of happiness, by committing to an attitude of optimism. 

Although we would all like to say we are like this, reality is that we live in a world full of problem, brokenness, negativity and self-centeredness, which means that positive thinking has to be a daily choice.

Making that choice is easy - but carrying out the daily actions that support that choice is easier said than done. So let's keep it simple!  Below are five easy steps that can help jump start your journey to leaving the life of a pessimist, and embracing the life of an optimist instead:

1. Commit to being grateful.
  - Have you really counted your blessings lately, or have you been so focused on all the things that are wrong in your life, that you have overlooked all the things that are right?  Take a few moments to thank God for all of your blessings, and even hardships, because heartfelt gratitude leads to a positive attitude.

  * Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.

2. Free your mind from worries.
  - If your mind is full of worry, then there is no room for anything else - much less positive thoughts.  Lay those burdens at foot of the cross today, and ask God to replace your worry, with hope and peace.

  * Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

3. Keep things in perspective.
  - The more we focus on our problems, the bigger our problems seem to be. With enough negative thinking, our problems can become bigger than we are, and may even feel bigger than God. But God is bigger than all our problems, and He always has a plan and a purpose for what we go through. Ask Him to help you see people and problems in a new perspective, and give you a fresh glimpse of His point of view.

  * Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

4. Help someone else.
  - Anytime we are focusing on someone else, we automatically take the focus off of ourselves. Be alert for opportunities that will allow you to help others. Seek out to do at least one random act of kindness each day.

  * Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

5.  Love the Lord with all your heart.
  - Joy comes from God. Today may not be the best day, but each day we are given breath, is a day to rejoice.

  * Psalm 118:24 The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

So, friends, have a fabulous and wonderful day today! (unless you already have other plans. Smiles.)

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Friday, September 9, 2011

No Matter What

We all have memories of where we were and what we doing on the morning of September 11, 2001.

As for me, I was sitting on the 23rd floor of a high rise building in Charlotte, NC, going about my daily routine of stress, work loads, and deadlines.  Since watching television during the work day was not listed in anyone's job description, our office did not have the luxury of cable. But when the news broke about a plane crashing into the first twin tower, someone managed to find one clear channel that we could at least see what was going on.

As a large group of us stood there, in our pressed business suits, putting our to-do's aside which until that moment had seemed so important - all one could hear, was silence.

That silence was broken when a co-worker came running down the hall, shouting that the Pentagon had been hit - and her brother worked at the Pentagon. She began a desperate attempt to hear his voice, but as her phone calls continued to go unanswered, her concerns spilled out into sobs.

The myriad of emotions that were resonating in every heart across the nation, seemed to be sucking the air right out of the room that we stood paralyzed in. Shock. Disbelief. Horror. Uncertainty. Fear.

As we continued to watch the horrific events unfold right before our eyes, I felt another feeling penetrating deep into my soul....... panic.

What if ..... we were next?  What if..... the very floor that I was standing on in this skyscraper,  was suddenly hit by another plane?    Charlotte, NC, is the 2nd largest financial city in the US. Surely that would make us a viable target for terrorists whose goal is to tear down a nation, one person and one city at a time. So even though we were hours away from New York, sheer panic resonated to the core of my being.

Immediately...... my thoughts raced to my three small children who were at school and daycare, unaware of anything besides playgrounds and text books.  Were they safe? Would they be safe until I could get to them? Would I be able to leave the uptown area before something happened to me?  What if......   ? 

Over 400 co-employees were given permission to leave the building, along with thousands of employees from other companies. Elevators were packed, requiring long waits and lots of anxiety.  I obviously could not walk down 23 floors, so as I impatiently waited my turn, each moment brought on a heightened sense of panic.

I finally made it to my car, but the parking garage was grid locked. It took an hour or more to get out, and when I did see daylight, traffic was clogged, and the scent of fear permeated the air. When the road finally opened, I sped to the schools as fast I could, all the while feeling an empty, throbbing, aching feeling in my arms, which would not cease until my three little ones were held tightly within them.

When I eventually arrived home, sitting on the couch in front of the television, surrounded by my husband and the three precious, little people that made my life complete, the tears began to flow.

It was then that I recognized that for the past several hours, I had been functioning on adrenaline alone.  Not thinking about anything, except saving the ones I loved. Until my goal was complete, nothing else mattered. But the time had come, that my adrenaline was empty, and my heart, hurt.

Our human hearts cannot understand tragedies such as 9/11. We cannot fathom how fellow humans, also created by God, can be so filled with hatred, that they could carry out such evil. We find ourselves not only confused about life, but grappling with our faith, unable to form the right words to pray, and struggling with feelings of anger and resentment about why God allows such tragedy.

Romans 8:26-28 in The Message Bible says this, "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."

It is impossible to wrap our minds around why God allows bad things to happen. So our only choice in the midst of hurt, pain, shock, fear, disillusionment and confusion,  is to trust that God has a purpose, and that He is everywhere. Even in the worst of situations.

If we allow the events of 9/11, or any other tragedies or disappointments that we experience in life, to shake our faith, causing us to doubt if Jesus is real, if there is a purpose for all things, or if He really cares about us,  then the enemy has won a much bigger battle than he did on 9/11 - the battle for our hearts.

This past week has been one of remembrance. Not just a week to remember the bad, but a week to remember the Good, and that there are sprinklings of good things that have come out of the tragedy.

It is a week to focus on the fact that God Was, and Is, and always will Be, even when we see evil taking place right before us. 

God knows we cannot live on adrenaline alone, and only He can provide the strength we need to live in this broken world. His goal is to get each one of His children safely into His arms, and He will be with us, until His goal is complete.

This weekend, as we remember the past and honor those who lost their lives,  let's also make a commitment to honor our Lord, by promising to always trust Him, and love Him..... no matter what.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting Honest With God

Nobody likes disappointment.

It makes us feel, well, disappointed.

In my Proverbs 31 devotion, Faith Over Feelings, that is running today, I talked about a recent experience I had with being disappointed. I had worked long and hard on a project, expecting a certain outcome, only to have those expectations crumble before my very eyes.

I honestly believed that God had called me to work on that particular project and nurture that dream, so I could not understand why He was not blessing it.  I not only felt disappointed in myself, and disappointed in the situation ---- but in all honesty, I felt a little disappointed in God.

I thought I had heard God's instruction clearly, and followed His lead. I had worked hard, put in a lot of time and effort, and trusted God. I felt I deserved for God to bless my efforts. So when things did not turn out the way I had hoped,  I felt unfairly treated. 

In fact, I felt a bit like one of those kids you see in a toy store who were just told they could not have the most awesomely awesome toy ever to take home with them.

You know the ones I am talking about. You can hear them clear across the entire store, screaming loudly for all to hear, while flailing and flopping around on the floor as their embarrassed parent unsuccessfully tries to pull them up by one arm.
Have you ever felt somewhat like that little kid?  Immensely disappointed? So disappointed that your emotions were out of control?

Have you ever wanted something so badly, that you could almost taste it? Do you see other people enjoying the blessing that you so desperately want, and maybe not even appreciating it, and feel disappointed that God is not blessing you too?

Does it seem that other people have fewer problems than you, and feel disappointed that God is not removing some of your hardships? Have you recognized answered prayers for friends, and feel discouraged because God does not appear to be answering your prayers?

Do you sometimes feel like thrashing on the floor and yelling "it's not fair!!!"

Have you ever felt a bit disappointed...... in God?

It's okay to admit if you do, because God wants us to be real with Him. Psalm 139:1-3 reminds us that God already knows how we feel - so why not be honest? This verse says, "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do." (NLT)

God already knows our every thought, and so He knows the emotions we struggle with  -  including disappointment. He understands and has compassion when we are hurting.

Yet, we need to remember that God is God, and that our emotions must come second to our faith, even when we do not understand His ways.

When I was thinking about this subject of faith over feelings, I couldn't help but consider the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.   In Matthew 26:39, we see Jesus telling His Father how He really felt - vs 39, "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus was so sorrowful about the torture that awaited Him in Crucifixion, that He pleaded for God to change His mind - He wanted to be spared from dying on the cross. However, in the same breath, He also conceded to trust whatever God's will was.  Jesus told God how He really felt. In fact, He told Him three times.

Yet, despite His disappointment in the coming events, Jesus did not allow His emotions, to undermine His purpose or His faith in His Father, who always knows best.

If you are feeling disappointed today, be honest with God. If you are feeling weak, tell Him so. If you are feeling discouraged, tell Him so. If you are feeling hopeless, tell Him so.  If you are feeling ashamed, tell Him so. If you are feeling mad or upset because God does not seem to be answering your prayers, just tell Him so.

If you are coveting someone else's blessing, wondering why God is not blessing you - tell Him so.

We may be able to put on an good mask for everyone around us, hiding our pain and our disappointment, our anger and frustration. But God sees, and His desire to love us through those hard times.

Disappointments happen to everyone, but not everyone will trust God in the  midst of their disappointments, and learn to trust His plans over their own.

Not everyone will allow their faith to take precedence in their hearts.  But choosing faith over feelings is a choice we have the power to make.

Not everyone will make the right choice, but those who do, will be blessed.

God sees our hearts, and when we are real with Him,  He can become real in our life.

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