Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Blessing of Friends

Tonight I visited with four friends who've faced some serious challenges this year. One beautiful woman has to move. She is leaving neighbors and friends that she adores because her husband has been transferred. Although she believed they were settled into their dream home permanently, yesterday they sold their home. (In this economy, that is a blessing!)

Another dear friend is caring for her bipolar mother, who cycles from deep depression one day to mania the next. Her mom's psychiatrist continues to adjust her mom's medications, but her mom is very sick right now. Meanwhile, my friend is mothering four children along with her own mother.

Another friend has overwhelming responsibilities at work. Her drug-addicted nephew has convinced her elderly mother to give him all of her savings, and she has some serious financial challenges herself.

Another friend's husband lost his job. She has returned to work, needs surgery, and has no medical insurance. Yet, all these women are joyful, caring, and compassionate. They lift me up when I am down, and hopefully my love for them lightens their loads a bit. They love the Lord, and that love is reflected in their faces, words, and actions. They care about others and serve others in community and church organizations. They are kind, forgiving, and patient. I thank God for their friendship.

We all need friends who lift us up, who love us, and who inspire us to be our best selves. And we need to be good friends to ourselves! The Lord asks us to love others as we love ourselves, not instead of loving ourselves.

Let's celebrate friendship today. If you need more friends, ask God to bring you some. He will. If you're being especially hard on yourself, ask Him to help you see yourself through His loving eyes. He will. He is the Best Friend ever! He waits to bless you. All you have to do is ask and then believe.
© Carol Brown

Becoming Your Own Best Friend

It's so easy to find fault with ourselves. We tell ourselves we're too tall, short, fat, thin, old, young, shy, talkative. The list goes on and on. We can become our own worst enemies.

Here's a solution: Find a notebook or a piece of paper and write down three things that you love about youself. If you can't think of anything, ask a friend or family member to help you or ask God to show you the things He loves about you. Because you are His child, He understands and loves you perfectly.

Do this daily for a month. Then read your list whenever you are feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. As you read it, remember that you are beautifully and wonderfully made. God gave you unique gifts and talents so that you can glorify him. Today, rejoice in the Lord and be glad that you are created in His divine image.
© Carol Brown

Counting Blessings

I've discovered a new way to find peace amid sorrow. Each morning when I'm showering, I visit with God out loud and thank Him for my blessings. I praise him for warm showers, realizing that many throughout the world do not enjoy such a luxury. I thank him for tender mercies like phone calls from friends, random acts of kindness, and the love of family. I express appreciation for conveniences like central heating and air conditioning, soap, refrigeration, laptops, and a comfortable bed. I thank him for things I easily take for granted: shoes; fingers, eyes, and ears that function well; the freedom to write and worship as I wish; a well-stocked bookstore and library. And I praise God for his love, mercy and kindness.

I've discovered that this simple routine makes me feel a lot happier and at peace with the world. Perhaps instead of singing in the shower we can praise God in the shower. It's easy to do, and it starts the day on a positive note (pun intended.)
© Carol Brown

Monday, April 27, 2009

Enfolded in the Arms of God's Love

When I was 19, my father died of leukemia. I was devastated. We had been dear friends, and because my mother had been ill most of my life, my father had played a prominent role in raising me.

After his funeral, I returned to the university. On the drive back to school, my boyfriend told me that he had a scary criminal record. I was desperately poor and became very ill and needed surgery, but had no health insurance. I didn't know what to do, so I turned to the only One who could help me: God. On the half-hour walks to campus each day, I conversed with my Father and told Him about my fears and frustrations. I explained my situation in detail to Him--knowing that He already was fully aware of it--and asked for His help.

On those walks, I literally felt enfolded in the arms of God's love. And I knew that He knew me. I knew that He loved me and cared about me and that He would help me endure my trials.

And He did!

Because of His grace (and a lot of studying on my part), I graduated from college with high honors in three years and completed my master's degree in the fourth. God led me to a man who loved God as much as I did. We married, and I had the surgery I that needed.

We worship an awesome God. He loves us and is mindful of everything we need. He longs for us to talk to Him and share our joys and sorrows. He waits to bring us peace and happiness as we face challenges and trials. Visit with Him today and let Him hold you in the arms of His love.
© Carol Brown

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Encouraging Word

Last week I went to lunch with a dear friend. Our waitress was a beautiful young woman with gorgeous blue eyes and exquisite brown hair. While she was taking our orders, I said, "You are so beautiful!" and the young woman said, "Oh, thank you! I'm having an awful day, and I needed to know someone cares." She smiled at us so sweetly as we left, and I gave her a generous tip, wanting to make her day even better. And in the process, I felt happier and more peaceful during a difficult and stressful day.

Two weeks ago I attended a surprise birthday party for a friend. I sat next to a world-class model who admitted to me that she felt shy and insecure since she didn't know anyone at the party. (Neither did I.) I asked her about her career, the movies she has made, and the commercials she starred in. (They are shown all over the world!) This woman is breathtakingly beautiful, and yet she hungered for a kind word.

A few years ago I helped host a group of dignitaries from Iraq. (How this happened is another story, for I am just a common, ordinary woman.) I asked a prominent speaker, writer, and CEO of a large corporation to speak to the Iraqi guests for ten minutes. Before she spoke, this powerful, famous, popular woman was absolutely terrified. After I encouraged and consoled her for some time, she stood before the men and gave an amazing speech, talking about the importance of women's rights in a respectful and powerful way.

Everyone needs an encouraging word! What can you say today that would bless another? What can you say to yourself today that would heal your own life? The Lord asks us to love others as we love ourselves. As we speak words of affirmation to ourselves and others, we give and receive strength. One sincere complement may make someone's day. Kind words foster courage and comfort and create peace amid sorrow.
© Carol Brown

Friday, April 24, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

My friend, Ford, is battling cancer. Hard. He's had too many surgeries to count, lots of chemo and radiation, and enough complications to fill a book. And his beautiful, charming wife, Diane, battles along with him. His days are filled with more pain than I can imagine. And more peace and one would imagine. Why?
Ford and Diane have grateful hearts. No matter how grueling the day, how painful the moment, they find something to be thankful for. They have a love for God that inspires me, and that love inspires their gratitude.

Their love for each other is a beautiful thing to watch. Their love for others is something to behold. Oh, and I forgot to mention, they are my heroes.

Right now they are celebrating spring flowers and sunsets and Fiji vacation memories while Ford survives another round of chemo.

Today perhaps we can be grateful for one thing. And think of Ford and Diane.
© Carol Brown

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Peace of Forgiveness

While Jesus suffered in great agony, He said, referring to the Roman soldiers who had driven nails into his hands, wrists, and feet and lifted him on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." What mercy and what love!

Today, could we ask God to help us forgive one person whom we have not forgiven? And, after we have forgiven that person, could we ask Him to help us forgive one another? Forgiveness frees us from the prison of bitterness, anger, and hatred, and allows us to live in peace amid sorrow.

We may feel sorrow for the callous--or even cruel--actions of another, but we can find peace, giving that job of judgment to the only One who knows our hearts and minds.
© Carol Brown

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bearing Burdens

Recently, I called a friend who carries heavy burdens. She lives alone, has never married, and has no relatives. Surviving on a meager income, she has endured many painful surgeries during the past year and is growing old and weary. She said her burdens became too heavy to bear alone and that she was completely exhausted. So she sat in her bathtub one morning and gave her burdens to God. And he took them from her.

Because life is difficult, we may bear weighty burdens. We may have a difficult job, health problem, relationship, or trial. We may feel weighed down with grief, sorrow, or pain. Someone may have betrayed or abuse us. Someone may have disappointed or deceived us. We can give our burdens to God, and he will carry them for us.

Some burdens we choose to carry. These may include burdens of unnecessary guilt, worry, or fear. We may create heavy weights of malice, bitterness, or self-loathing, place them on our backs, and haul them around day after day until we are ready to collapse. We can ask God to lift these burdens from us, too, and He will carry them.

When we take up our daily cross and carry it, we can pray for strength to bear our burdens. We can ask God to send us friends to help us bear our heavy loads, and we can trust in the Lord's compassion and loving kindness. He has already suffered every pain, sorrow, and trials that we will ever bear. He understands our struggles and waits to comfort us. He will lift us up as we meet the challenges of life, for surely "He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows."
© Carol Brown

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hanging On

Somestimes we feel wiped out, burned out, worn out. We have given to our children, our employees, our friends, and our neighbors until our well of compassion is empty. We have changed so many diapers, written so many papers, worked so much overtime, or gone to so many job interviews that we are exhausted. We feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. We feel we can't hang on much longer.

To all who wonder how much longer they can endure, help is on the way! We can delight in our weaknesses, knowing that Christ waits to make our weak things strong.

Three times Paul asked God to take away his thorn in the flesh, but the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The pain God did not soothe, He sanctified.

A courageous man fought bone cancer until he was finally confined to bed. One night he collapsed beside his bed in agonizing pain, pleading with the Lord to better understand his plight. He told his son, "The Lord has revealed to me that he needs courageous sons."

So, today, while you wonder why you are enduring so many trials, remember that the Lord need brave sons and daughters.

C.S. Lewis said, "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

So let's all hang on. Even though we may want to remain a cottage, God would have us become a mansion. As we trust in Him, He will hold us up, sustained by the power of His love. He will create in us a new heart and a new spirit.
© Carol Brown

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Peace and a Smile

“Peace begins with a smile,” Mother Teresa said. Think of how a smile changes your attitude and your mood. Researchers have found that smiling reduces stress, releases endorphins, and lowers our blood pressure. It's hard to feel angry or depressed when we're smiling. Smiling can trick us into feeling happy even when we're not.

Mother Teresa said, "Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." Imagine a day when you smiled at yourself in the mirror in the morning. Imagine that you smiled at everyone you met--the clerk, your co-workers, your family members. Imagine smiling at yourself before you went to bed each night.

Why not try it today. Just for today greet everyone you see with a smile--and a kind word, if possible. Notice the love you can share with such a simple act. Feel the peace it brings. "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love," said Mother Teresa.
© Carol Brown

Seek after Peace

I have misplaced some of my treasured Easter decorations. Although I have searched through closets, storage rooms, and cupboards, I can't find them anywhere. I'll keep hunting for them until I find them. I am a determined woman!

All of us want to enjoy peace, but are we willing to seek after it? David wrote, "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.." So how do we seek peace? Do we search for it like we would hunt for a misplaced treasure?

David says we should depart from evil. The media that we select, the places we frequent, and the good choices we make help us depart from evil. Joshua proclaimed that he and his house would serve the Lord. That is a decision each of us must make if we are to seek after peace.

David challenged us to do good. My life is more peaceful when I do good and serve others. Some of my happiest times have been serving my family, friends, and neighbors. Jesus said, "Love ye your enemies, and do good, and your reward shall be great." What greater reward can we receive right now than peace?

Isaiah testified that God will keep us in perfect peace, when we stay our minds on God and trust in Him. Now, that is a promise! When we read the Scriptures, reflect on the life of our Savior, and trust in His loving kindness, we seek peace. When we center our thoughts on Christ, remember His teachings, and try to become like Him, we experience peace.
© Carol Brown

Today, let us seek peace.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Amazing Grace

We remember the time when Christ asked the accusers of the adulterous woman to cast stones at her if they were without sin. The accusers departed in shame, and Jesus gently encouraged the woman to go and sin no more. I believe she was transformed by His love.

Christ befriended the Samaritan woman at a time when Samaritans were despised and hated by the Jews. She became one of His greatest advocates, spreading the word of the Messiah to her friends and neighbors and converting many with her testimony.

Even while suffering in agony on the cross, the great Jehovah plead with His Father to forgive the soldiers who crucified Him, saying that they knew not what they did. Now that is love!

Jesus taught that the merciful will receive mercy. Even though He promises us forgiveness of our sins if we repent and forgive others, it is so easy to judge others unrighteously. It is so easy to be unmerciful.

Think of the ways we judge others. Do we assume someone who is elegantly dressed is rich or a snob? Do we think that someone dressed in old, worn clothes is poor or lazy? Do we assume that a smart person is a nerd or that a mentally challenged person is a fool? Do we judge people by their religious, political, or cultural preferences? Do we diss others because of their race, appearance, or background? Do we assume that we are better or worse than another?

God says He is no respector of persons and that He doesn't play favorites. He asks us to love others as He loves us. He asks us to forgive.

Paul asked us to get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. He told us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as God forgives us.

We can ask God to reveal those that you have not forgiven and then ask for His help in forgiving them. God does not expect us to forgive alone. He waits to help us.

When we hold on to bitterness, we live in fear. We feel anxious or angry, or both. When we forgive, we experience peace and serenity. We experience the perfect love of our Father and know true happiness.

Today let us choose mercy. Let us choose to share His amazing grace.
© Carol Brown

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Be of Good Comfort

For a couple of years, I have suffered with my knee, which is grinding bone on bone. It has made walking, climbing stairs, and kneeling difficult. It has slowed me down a lot.

My husband, ever the optimist, believed that I would walk again without pain, but I was losing hope and was resigning myself to accept a more sedentary life. I decided to seek peace amid a situation that brought me great sorrow.

Then my back started hurting. A lot. I decided to go to a chiropractor for an adjustment, and surprise! Not only did my back stop hurting, but my knee did as well. I could walk without limping, and the next day I whizzed around the mall for a couple of miles without any pain. I am still in shock! I can WALK!

Now, I don't know how long this tender mercy will continue, but I am really enjoying the ride (or walk) while it lasts. It feels so good to run errands, do housework, and go on a walk pain-free. I feel twenty years younger.

Sometimes I wonder if we limp along on wounded spiritual knees when the Lord waits to heal us. We hang onto grievances and refuse to forgive. We hang on to our sins and refuse to repent. We hang onto our fears and refuse to have faith.

Years ago a woman had suffered terribly for twelve years. Every doctor she visited was unable to help her, so she turned to the the only One who could. She decided to approach the Master and touched His garment, believing He could heal her. And He did. Immediately.

When He realized what she had done, He turned to her and said, "Daughter, be of good comfort. Thy faith hath made thee whole."

Today we cannot touch Jesus' garment, but we can touch His heart. We may not experience immediate physical healing, but He will heal our broken hearts. He will give us peace amid sorrow as we trust in Him, and He will make us whole.