Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unexpected Blessings

I’m always amazed when God gives us blessings that appear so unexpectedly. These tender mercies appear in such surprising ways. Sometimes a stranger will say just what we needed to hear. Or a friend will share some thoughts that are heaven-sent. Or an act of kindness will cheer us just when we felt over-whelmed.

Last week I went to the Goodwill Store to buy some used books for my friend’s classroom. Her husband has lost his job, and she is returning to teaching after being a stay-at-home mom for years. Because she’s struggling financially, it’s been fun to help her get supplies for her classroom. As I was searching for the perfect books for her school library, I noticed a gorgeous jacket hanging on a rack. I’d been hoping for find that exact jacket for a long time, and there it was—just my size and so affordable. I really don’t believe that was a coincidence but was a tender mercy.

Years ago I met a mentally challenged, poor woman who had no family. I befriended her, invited her to family gatherings, and remembered her on holidays. I wanted her to feel loved and cherished, but she has loved me so generously and in such a genuine, pure way. The love I gave returned to me many-fold with the love of this good woman.

I visit some elderly seniors in a retirement home. My visits are meant to cheer and bless these elderly angels, but they have enriched my life in ways that are indescribable. Although I never knew the love of a grandmother, I feel that I now have many grandmothers who love me unconditionally. What a priceless gift!

Yesterday I spent the day taking my granddaughter back-to-school shopping. It was a long, strenuous day—but so fun! While we were visiting, we mentioned she wanted to earn some money for school necessities and would love to organize my closets—and I’ve been praying for someone to do it! Oh, so many blessings!

I am amazed at the many blessings—big and small—that God gives us. Sometimes they are so unexpected and undeserved—but always, they are so welcome.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Celebrating Miracles

I don't know of a better way to experience peace of mind than to celebrate daily miracles. Think of the blessing of each breath you take, the rising sun each morning, and the wonder of new baby born. Remember the kindness of strangers and the priceless gift of friends.

Paul Cardall is fighting for his life right now. He desperately needs a heart transplant, and yet in his amazing blog he shared this inspirational poem by Walt Whitman. I recall how I felt when I first read Leaves of Grass , how Whitman's insights touched my soul. Enjoy!

Miracles by Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass (1855)

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--
mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,
and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships,
with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

© Carol Brown

Friday, July 24, 2009

Enjoying Everyday Living

When we’re worried about the future or anxious because of the past, we don’t enjoy the present. It’s so easy to remember our past mistakes or offenses we’ve experienced, but when we focus of them, we can’t enjoy everyday living.

We need to move outside of our thoughts and evaluate how peaceful they are. Sometimes we stay stuck in the past. Our thoughts reveal if this is happening. We live in the past when we're consumed with thought such as “Why didn’t I__________?” “How could they have done that?” “Why was I so stupid?” “How could I have done that?”Of course, we need to learn from our past mistakes and avoid dangerous people, but if we continually rehearse past failures, we cannot enjoy present happiness. If we use all of our energy to berate ourselves and others for bad behavior, we are too tired to live peacefully in the now.

We can turn away from bad choices and turn towards good ones without condemning ourselves as worthless human beings. When we catch ourselves remembering past problems, we can choose to focus on present blessings and defeat the enemy. Gratitude and guilt cannot dwell in the human heart at the same time.

It’s great to plan for the future, to have a rainy day fund, to set goals, and to pray for ourselves and our loved. However, when we fear the future, we cannot enjoy present happiness. Doomsday thinking is destructive. When we worry about future calamities, trials, or problems, we can’t live joyfully today.

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

""And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."

So today, celebrate the beauties of everyday living. Savor the beauty of flowers, clouds, birds, children, the elderly, and yourself. Remember, you are a priceless child of God. He loves you more than you can imagine. Experience His love so that you can more fully enjoy the journey.
© Carol Brown

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Ah-ha Moment

Yesterday I had an ah-ha moment. I discovered that when I start feeling miserable, upset, or unhappy, I’ve been thinking only about myself (ego) and not about God and His infinite love for me. It sounds so simple, but it’s so powerful!

I really like Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. In this book, he teaches the reader how to move from ego-centered thinking to peaceful thinking. Tolle describes the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation, which are wonderful skills for anyone to learn. Although I disagree with many of his concepts about Christianity, I believe that his ideas on meditation can help anyone learn to live more peacefully and authentically.

Here are a few of his quotes that I like:

• The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don't use it at all. It uses you.

• Love, joy, and peace cannot flourish until you have freed yourself from mind dominance.

• Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.

• Nobody’s life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn’t it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them?

• Knowing the oneness of yourself and the other is true love, true care, true compassion.

• So be true to life by being true to your inner purpose. As you become present and thereby total in what you do, your actions become charged with spiritual power.

• In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a prediction that to this day few people have understood. He says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In modern versions of the Bible, “meek” is translated as humble. Who are the meek or the humble, and what does it mean that they shall inherit the earth? The meek are the egoless. ..They live in the surrendered state and so feel their oneness with the whole and the Source [God, the Higher Power].

Meditation is an invaluable skill. As we clear our minds of fear, anger, and other negative emotions and focus on God’s perfect love for us and for all of His children, we can experience calm amid the storms of life. We can experience peace amid sorrow.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Results of the Negative Thought Fast

Okay, I’ve completed over 24 hours of the negative thought fast. Here’s what I've learned from doing it consciously:

• I’ve prayed wherever I started to worry or engage a negative thought. It worked! I’ve been very concerned about my son, who is really ill right now. Instead of stewing about his health, I’ve prayed for him every time I was tempted to worry about him. What a better use of my energy.

• I’ve turned off music and television wherever anything negative appeared, including commercials. I feel much more peaceful.

• I’ve spent more time pondering the scriptures. Oh, it feels so good.

• I’ve called a friend whose husband has cancer. We had a wonderful visit. I feel more compassionate today.

• I have been very selective about anything I’ve read online or in print.

• I’ve thought more about God and have been more grateful for His blessings.

• I’ve listened to some uplifting talks on CD. Oh, it’s been like heaven. I need to do this more.

• I’ve listened to some beautiful music.

• I’ve felt happier and calmer.

• I had a wonderful day.

• I slept peacefully last night, and I tend to have sleep issues.

Did you try the negative thought fast? Any comments?

© Carol Brown

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Negative Thought Fast

I like to fast occasionally on Sunday. I feel closer to God as I prayer and reflect on His tender mercies while I fast. I wonder if sometimes we need a thought a fast: a fast from fearful, judgment, negative thinking.

What if for a day—or a week—we refused to think negatively about ourselves or others? What if we decided instead choose thoughts of faith, gratitude, hope, love, and mercy? What if we asked God to help us think thoughts that He would have us think?

What would a thought fast require? We would turn of the television when we see contentious or vulgar behavior. We would turn around or away from a conversation that includes gossip. We would replace destructive thoughts with positive ones.

Here are a few tips:

• Have an inspirational book to read, uplifting movie to watch, or friend to call when we are being attacked with negative thoughts.

• Spend time writing in a gratitude journal each day.

• Make your prayer life a more constant activity.

• Look for the beauty around you and celebrate it.

• Memorize some powerful scriptures that defeat the devil.

Here’s a good one:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Here’s a shorter one:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

One of the most powerful tools Satan has is negative, discouraging, self-defeating thoughts. I invite you to join me this week and go on a thought fast. Let me know how it goes for you.

© Carol Brown

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Valuing Ourselves

Years ago I attended a social where the women were introducing themselves. One said, “I’m a business owner.” Others commented, “I’m a high school principal.” “I’m a day care provider.” “I’m a counselor.” “I’m a salesperson.” Then, my turn came to speak. I stuttered, “I’m a homemaker.” “Who am I?” I thought . “I used to be a graduate student and then a teacher. Now, all I have to say is ‘I’m a homemaker.’”

When I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom, my half-sister told me I was wasting my college education. I tried to defend my decision, but she continued to criticize me. She reminded me that my half-sisters were doctors, executives, and university administrators. She said, “Why are you throwing away your master’s degree to be a full-time housewife?”

When Roseanne Barr announced that moms were domestic engineers, I stood a little taller. Still, at times I felt over-worked and under-valued. During the years I was raising my four children, caring for my mom, and volunteering in my church and community, I sometimes questioned my worth as a human being. Full-time motherhood can be a thankless, tiring, and difficult job at times, but now I realize that parenthood is one of the noblest professions on earth.

Now, I salute all moms who work and mother simultaneously. Both of grandmothers were single moms, and I salute their heroism and courage. One was widowed. The second’s husband left her. I know many other women who work and parent simultaneously and who do it well. But it would have been almost impossible to care for my children--with their multiple health challenges --and my elderly mom and then add a career to the mix.

Today I’m a business owner, published writer, and speaker, but when I’m in a group of woman, I prefer to say that I’m a mother and grandmother. Although I’ve made plenty of mistakes, motherhood is my greatest challenge and blessing. However, I no longer identify myself by my accomplishments or roles, but by who and what I really am.

I love others deeply. My trials have taught me to be more compassionate and less quick to judge. I know that I am a child of God. Learning to value myself has helped me value others as well. I know that every person I meet has infinite worth.

If I’d never married or had the opportunity to be a mother, I hope I would still value myself as a woman who has a servant’s heart and who is doing her best to face some difficult challenges. I believe God is no respecter of persons, that He loves men and women, the elderly and children, the poor and the rich with a perfect, all-powerful love. I believe he loves us when we’re doing good and when we’re messing up. Each of us is a prodigal child at times, and our Father stands waiting with open arms for us to return to Him.

So today let’s stand a little taller and remember that each of us is a person of divine worth. God loves us just the way we are. He knows the struggles we face. He knows our sorrows, our joys, and our dreams. As we turn to Him, He will give us peace amid the trials and tribulations of life.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Joy of Giving

My mother, who died ten years ago, had a giving heart and is one of the most joyful persons I’ve known. Although she lived on $480 a month at the time she died, she was continually giving of her resources, time and talents. And she was so happy doing it.

Self-sufficient, she gave ten percent of her income to her church, paid all of her bills, and then thought of loving ways to give to others. When she was 84, she took food to an elderly widow who had buried both of her single children. Mother walked to the grocery store, bought the food, carried it across icy sidewalks and streets in a small, two-wheeled cart, and then placed in on her neighbors shelves. And she did this for months.

When a young mother, Marilyn, who lived down the street from my mother, became severely depressed after several long-term miscarriages and after losing a baby at birth, mother took her neighbor in, cooked for her, and cared for her until we were able to persuade Marilyn to get the in-house mental health treatment she needed.

Now totally well, this woman is the mother of eight beautiful children and a member of her city council. She became one of my mom’s dearest friends. My mom was in her eighties, had serious health problems, including congestive heart failure and a seriously injured back when she helped Marilyn, but when I saw Mom caring for Marilyn with such gentleness and love, I knew God was working through Mom to serve one of his precious children.

I just returned home after running some errands with my older daughter. She has five children and a busy life, but she stopped at a bank to deposit some money into her friend’s checking account. Her friend’s husband is unable to work and she has six children, including a disabled son, so my daughter wanted to help anonymously. What joy!

When my husband was a leader in our church congregation, he played Santa every year. He dressed up in a Santa suit and took food and supplies to families to needed help at Christmas. Oh, that was so fun! Some of the people asked over and over, “Now, who are you really?”

Our family likes to find a family or two with great need and help them out at Christmas. I find it's more gratifying to give something to the poor than to receive a gift at Christmas. Giving to me is the essence of the holiday. (I’ve begged my children to use the money they would spent on their dad and I to help the poor during the holidays; some are more obedient than others.)
One year my younger daughter asked our family--her three siblings and my husband and I--to help three pre-screened immigrant families for Christmas. Oh, that was so fun! One of the families had no money for a Christmas tree (or furniture), and to watch those little children when we put up the tree and placed the wrapped presents under it—oh, there just aren’t words to describe the joy!

I love helping out struggling souls in third-world countries through Kiva. For a $25 microloan, you can transform a life, and when the loan is repaid, then you can reloan it to another person you choose. It is so easy to do and so much fun!!

There are so many people needing a helping hand right now. Sometimes a phone call, a visit, a casserole, or an invitation to lunch can brighten their entire month. No matter how poor or rich we may be, it truly is more blessed—and joyful—to give than to receive. And, no matter how much we share, we always seem to receive so much more than we give.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Power of Prayer

My friend Beth once told me, “Be careful about what you ask for when you pray.” She described how she asked God to fill her heart with love. After her sincere prayer, she faced many challenging situations which required great patience and tolerance. Family members were irritable, associates were unkind, and neighbors were critical. God seemed to give her lots of opportunities to forgive and show compassion, to love in ways she had not anticipated.

A few years ago I went to a mountains retreat with a friend of mine. Leila and I enjoyed a few days of mediation, scripture study, enjoying nature, and prayer. During that vacation, I read the prayer of Jabez for the first time and plead that the Lord would “bless me indeed, and enlarge my borders, and that [his] hand might be with me, and would keep me from evil, and that it might not cause me pain."

Shortly after I returned home, a friend called and asked if I would take all of her speaking assignments. A world-renowned speaker, she was very ill with post-polio syndrome. I knew little about the subject matter of her talks, but she mentored me extensively. Over the past years, I’ve spoken to a number of church, school, and community groups in her behalf. The subject: Protecting Children and Families from Pornography.

Now, when I asked the Lord to enlarge my borders, I pictured something warm and fuzzy like helping refugees (that happened, too), reaching out to the poor (that blessing also came my way,), but not speaking to hundreds of people about a sensitive and difficult topic.

After I began speaking, I received a phone call from a city council member, asking me if I would help her host a delegation of Iraqi leaders who would be visiting our city to learn more about democratic governance. I had met the woman one time. She said she had prayed and felt the Lord wanted me to help with this effort. It was a huge undertaking. I called the governor, speaker of the house, majority leader of the state senate, a dinguished federal court judge, a prominent business leader and speaker, and a number of other distinguished people, asking them to meet with our guests. I was amazed that God could use an ordinary woman to accomplish some difficult things. I learned so much from the experience, and, hopefully, the Iraqi leaders felt the power of American and Christian life as they visited in our homes, toured our city, and met with church and state leaders.

I’ve learned when we ask the Lord to use us, He often asks us to do things that are outside of our comfort zone. He allows us to develop talents that we may not have known we had. Mother Teresa said, “I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.”

My friend, Sandy, prayed with faith after her son started using drugs and rebelling against God. As she prayed, she pictured her son going to Church with her and living a godly life, and eventually her prayers of faith were answered. Several of my half-brothers and –sisters also rebelled from the teaching of their parents. Until my father died, he prayed with faith for his children, and I have seen many of them turn towards God as they experienced severe trials in their declining years.

Immaculée Ilibagiza describes how prayer saved her life during the Rwandan holocaust. In her book, Left to Tell , she writes about how she survived for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom that was three feet long and four feet wide. Because Immaculee was inspired to have the homeowner place a bookcase in front of the bathroom door, the violent mob did not find her or her fellow survivors. She describes in detail how she escaped the murderous mobs through her earnest prayers and the power of her faith in God. She also tells about other incidents in which her life was spared. In her second book, Led by Faith, she shows how God directed and used her life to bless others after she forgave the brutal men who murdered her parents and her beloved family members. I would recommend the books to anyone who wants to learn more about the power of prayer, forgiveness, and faith in a Higher Power.

Prayer is powerful. As we pray with faith, God will answer every prayer according to His will, timetable, and tender mercies. Sometimes the answer will be “no,” and sometimes it will be “wait,” but the answer will come. People who unite in prayer are more forceful that anything on earth. Prayer is one of the greatest forces in the universe.

© Carol Brown

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Loving Ourselves

Loving ourselves begins in the heart. Our hearts--the spiritual, godly part of us-- have the power to decide which thoughts we will nurture. We choose peace or misery, good or bad, love or hate by the thoughts we hold in our hearts. . When we harbor unloving thoughts about anyone, including ourselves, we lose sight of our intrinsic worth and our godly potential. When we choose to think compassionate thoughts about ourselves, others, and God, we discover we have greater self-respect, self-love, and feelings of self-worth. Truly, as we sow, we reap.

Think about the things we sometimes say to ourselves: “I’m so stupid, messed up, incompetent, unattractive, ___________.” Fill in the blank. These toxic thoughts can destroy our peace of mind and our self-love.

When the enemy zaps us with negative thoughts, we need to immediately cast them out of our hearts and minds. We can say, “Uh, uh, I am NOT stupid, messed up, incompetent, or unattractive. I am a child of God, created in His perfect image. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am a person of infinite worth.” We need to say these positive affirmations until the siege of negativism ends.

To love ourselves fully, we need to think compassionate thoughts of others. That’s not hard to do when people are kind to us, but when others betray or abuse us, it can be very difficult. We need to realize that forgiving others is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves. When we harbor unloving thought about others, we injure ourselves.

We do not love ourselves fully when we hold onto thoughts of anger, revenge, or bitterness towards another. Now, these thoughts will come, but when they do, we need to cast them out so that we can more fully love ourselves. We may need to seek God’s help to do this, especially if we have been deeply injured, but He will help us if we ask for His help. Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “We must forgive those who have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don’t want to keep paying for the injustice.”

Finally, to fully love ourselves we need to think loving thoughts towards God. I found that easy to do until someone I dearly loved was horribly abused by a neighbor. Then, I became really angry at myself, the offender, and God. It seemed so unfair that an innocent child could be horrifically tortured and violated by someone I trusted. “Why didn’t I protect her? How could the perpetrator do that? Why did God allow such evil?” I asked. I tormented myself with these toxic thoughts.

It took me years to realize that no matter now vigilant I am, I cannot protect everyone I love from harm. I also realized that I was abusing myself by allowing the perpetrator to wound my soul. Forgiveness brought me comfort and was the most healing gift I could give myself. As I watched my loved one suffer from the effects of the abuse, I then faced the issue of forgiving God.

"Oh, I’d never do that,” some may say. “I would never be angry at God.” I thought I never would either, but after watching my loved one experience indescribable suffering for years, I began to question God’s compassion. “How could He allow someone to torture and abuse my loved one?” I wondered. “Why did he allow a precious, innocent child to suffer so? Why is He letting her life spin out of control because of the abuse? Why won’t He permit me to ease the pain? Why? Why? Why?”

When I stopped asking “why” and accepted the fact that life contains inexplicable suffering, I found peace. To love God, we need to remember that His ways are not our ways and that He does not create suffering but that He is the source of all comfort. Some things will never be understood in this life, but we can trust that God knows the meaning of all things.

As we endure sorrow and difficulty, we can better understand the suffering of others. We develop patience, kindness, mercy, and meekness as we endure suffering well. When we face adversity, we can ask God to comfort us, for He has experienced every pain that we have felt and He will either ease our anguish or help us to endure it.

After we have been comforted, we can better comfort others. Paul says, “The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.”

As we nurture compassionate thoughts about for ourselves, others and God, we discover that love gives us the power to live joyfully. We can learn to love and accept ourselves just as we are, knowing that God has great plans for us and wants to use us as His instruments. When we choose to focus on loving thoughts and refuse to harbor thoughts that lack compassion, we are better able to respect ourselves, forgive others, and trust in God. Love creates in us strength instead of weakness, happiness instead of misery, and courage instead of fear. It eventually will make us whole.

© Carol Brown

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Power of Acceptance

During the past year, I’ve had a hard time walking, and at times I feel frustrated and sad. Once able to hike and run, now I struggle to go grocery shopping and to weed my yard. My once-strong knee is worn out.

Life is seldom easy. Some struggle with health, relationship, or money challenges. Others face rejection, loneliness, or disappointment. We can choose to allow these experiences strengthen or weaken us. One key to finding peace amid sorrow is discovering the power of acceptance.

By acceptance, I do not mean giving up, remaining in a dangerous situation, or condoning bad behavior. Acceptance is allowing God to refine and purify us as we endure suffering well. Acceptance is also recognizing that we—and others—are infinitely loved and infinitely valued by a Higher Power.

So, how do we draw upon the power of acceptance? I would suggest we can do three things to experience wholeness and beauty amid the trials of life.

First, we begin by believing that God knows us personally and that He loves us. When we are weak and weary, we may feel abandoned by God. Some may think that God has forgotten them or that if He loved them, we wouldn’t allow them to suffer. Consider what God has to say about how much He loves you: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”

God will reveal His love for you if you ask Him. As you meditate on His words, you will experience His loving kindness. Scripture says,“But if you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Next, we need to trust that God has a purpose for us, that He will strengthen and comfort us as we turn to Him for help. This isn't always easy to do when we're afraid or over-whelmed. Sometimes we need a friend or family member to remind us that we're valuable and cherished.

If we feel alone, we can trust in God’s promise to us: “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.

Now comes the harder part, surrendering ourselves to God. Most of us want to control our lives. Then something happens that we can’t control. Our knee quits working, we get really sick, we lose our job or our home, someone abuses us. How do we submit our hearts to God when we face serious adversity?

We surrender to God by trusting that He knows us better than we know ourselves. When we recognize that He can care for us better than anyone or anything in the world, we can give our hearts and lives to Him, knowing He will save us. Abraham surrendered to God by obeying God when asked to sacrifice His beloved son Isaac. Abraham trusted that God would raise Isaac from the dead if necessary, and God blessed Abraham by making Him the father of many nations and blessing Him with descendents that would become as numerous as the sands of the sea.

Mary surrendered to God when asked to become the mother of the Son of God when she was not married. “Be it unto me according to thy word,” she said, and generations have called her blessed.

Jesus surrendered all when He laid down His life for us. “Thy will be done,” He said, knowing that He would suffer more than anything a mortal man could endure. And, because of His total surrender, He made is possible for us to be resurrected and to live with Him again eternally.

Believing in God. Trusting in His perfect love. Total surrender to His will. It isn’t always easy to do, but when we ask God to help us discover the power of acceptance in our lives, He will. And He will help us do it over and over again, for life provides us with many opportunities to surrender our hearts to Him. In return, God gives us a heart filled with His peace, joy, and love.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Celebration of Honesty

Last week a few shingles blew off our roof. Because our neighbors with homes the same age as ours reroofed their homes this year, I called a highly-recommended roofing contractor to get an estimate for a new roof. In a faltering economy—when it would have been so easy for the contractor to say that we needed a new roof—the man told me the truth. After inspecting the roof, he said our roof has five years of good use, and for twenty-five dollars, he replaced the shingles. He asked us to call him in a few years, and we will!

A few years ago an honest friend saved my sanity. I was over-extended until I was ready to collapse. I wasn’t sleeping well, was over-whelmed and under-nourished, and didn’t know what to do. My friend told me if I didn’t slow down, I would be in big trouble and then suggested exactly how I could simplify my life. I followed her suggestions and was soon feeling better.

Some of my dearest friends are young children and the elderly, and their honesty delights me. My older friends give me priceless advice. “Be sure to hug your children and grandchildren often,” they say. “Enjoy your youth,” (Oh, I love that one!) “Always know that we love you and that God loves you.”

Recently 7-year old Hailey said, “Grandma, you’re so much fun. I’ll have a lot of nice things at your funeral.” I don’t know if I look that old or if Hailey’s attended too many funerals lately, but her honesty delights me. You would think that God is sitting right in the room when she prays. She thanks God for her family with such sincerity that one would think she just moved here from a refugee camp. She praises God for simple things: robin’s nests, watermelon, butterflies, chocolate chip cookies, her dog, Teddy. The world is a better place because of this child.

There is so much dishonesty in the world. Popular politicians sometimes smear their opponents and are elected. Powerful executives who made immoral decisions have devastated millions—if not billions-- of people throughout the world.

So today I celebrate honest people everywhere: A roofing contractor who saved us thousands of dollars of needless expense. A friend who saved me from myself. Friends old and young who inspire me to live more authentically and joyfully. Thank you for making my life happier and better. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

© Carol Brown