Paying Attention to Warning Signs

Several years ago my hair dryer made me nervous each time I used it. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, hair wet and as straight as a string, and panicked a little each time after flipping its switch on. The faint burning smell it emitted could not be a good thing.

Thank goodness for the warning sign. This particular hair dryer had served me long and well and was now even giving me a heads up that it might be nearing its last blow dry session. What a trusty friend, huh?

Somehow, though, I’d forget the warning and go on my merry way, not thinking about it until the next time my head was wet. After a few nerve-wracking episodes of blow dryer roulette—also known as praying for it to dry my hair before it shut down permanently—I decided to take precautions and buy a new hair dryer before disaster struck. In other words, I finally paid attention to the warning signs.

Since a hair dryer disaster is a trivial matter (if it happens to someone else!), let’s consider other more serious warning signs we might be overlooking or forgetting as we hurry on to the next item on our agendas. What do we see happening in our lives that warrants our proactive and precautionary attention?

Maybe our bodies are trying to tell us something. Is it time to see the doctor? Do we need to make more time for sleep at night? Or maybe we see signs of trouble with our families. Do one of them need a medical appointment? Or are our kids acting out or withdrawing? Do our spouses seem troubled or distant? And what about finances? Are we juggling payments or hiding purchases and credit card statements from our significant others? For each of us the warning-sign scenarios may be different, but if we are wise, we’ll pay attention. And that’s not always easy to do.

And what about warning signs that something may be amiss in our spiritual lives? Do we feel like God is far away? Have we been neglecting time in his Word or in talking with him? Or perhaps the joy has disappeared from our relationship with the Lord. Have we slipped into following a set of rules rather than loving a person?

Let’s be thankful for warning signs that alert us to possible problems—and then let’s be proactive.
Let’s take precautions, if possible, before we encounter major malfunctions. We’ll all rest easier then.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” Proverbs 4:6 NIV

*Have any warning signs come to your attention lately?

*The current issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is FREE. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Public Domain photo by Henrique Vicente

A Tactic of the Enemy: An Opportune Time

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 NIV

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, was well-acquainted with temptation during his days here on earth. Scripture tells us that immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sent him into the desert where he was tempted by Satan for forty days (Mark 1:9-13.)

The gospels of Matthew and Luke show how the devil tried different tactics to cause the perfect Son of God to stumble and sin, but the enemy had no success. Jesus stood strong, using the Word of God as a shield and weapon against the devil’s schemes.

Satan lost the battle in the desert. As the above verse in Luke points out, he left Jesus—at least for the moment. He had plans though. Plans to attack again at an opportune time. And he did.

One of those times happened just after Jesus told his disciples he would suffer and be killed and then rise again on the third day (Mark 8:31-33.) When Peter tried to rebuke Jesus for speaking of such an unthinkable thing, Jesus recognized this as another temptation—another of the enemy’s attempts to cause him to stumble.

Satan must have thought Jesus would be more vulnerable as the time drew nearer for him to face death. Definitely, an opportune time to attack again. Combine that with the appeal of one of Jesus’ close friends, and he had the perfect opportunity indeed. But Jesus stood strong once again. “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said.’” (Mark 8:33) He was ready to resist. Ready for Satan’s attacks during opportune moments.

Are we ready to resist when the enemy comes at us during times when we’re vulnerable or caught unaware?

What do our opportune times look like? Our opportune moments could come when we’re exhausted or sick or worried. They might happen when we experience either failure or success or when we’re on the cusp of a new venture or ministry (like Jesus’ temptation in the desert.) We’re especially vulnerable when we’ve neglected time in the Word or in prayer—when we’ve allowed ourselves to grow distant from Jesus or have become complacent in our spiritual lives.

Let’s be alert to Satan’s tactics. He will wait for an opportune time, and then he’ll be there, ready to tempt us. Will we be ready to resist?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

*What can you do to be ready for Satan’s attacks?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by seyed mostafa zamani, Creative Commons License

Worthy of Our Pursuit

“. . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV

When you hear the word “pursue” what comes to mind? I think of going after something or someone—striving to capture or attain a deeply desired object, person, quality, or state of being. When we have to pursue something, it doesn’t just fall into our laps or happen naturally. “Pursue” speaks of action, involvement, effort.

From our earliest days, the world around us teaches us to pursue certain things. Money, education, good jobs, status, relationships, possessions, health, beauty, success—in other words, the American dream.

None of these things are wrong and can, in fact, be used for great good. But if we’re focused on what the world holds up as worthy of pursuit, chances are we’ll neglect things far more important.

In the scripture above, look at what Paul instructs Timothy to pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. In using the word pursue, Paul must have known that these things would not come automatically to Timothy. He knew Timothy would have to go after them. He knew he would have to take action, that he would have to make an effort.

Take a closer look at Paul’s list. It’s filled with some biggies, isn’t it? And if these qualities are not easily manifested in my life, it shouldn’t surprise me—they take effort. I have to go after them. (Personally, I struggle with gentleness in certain situations so I’m encouraged to know that it does indeed take work. And isn’t it interesting that gentleness is keeping company with major spiritual pursuits like godliness and love? Wow.)

So what are we pursuing in our lives right now? Do we need to make some adjustments or additions to our lists? Let’s not reach the end of our days and discover we’ve spent all our efforts going after things that won’t matter in eternity. May all of our pursuits be worthy. May they all be guided by God.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV

*What are you planning to pursue this year?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it. Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.) p.s. If you sign up after Jan. 27th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

2022 Theme Words: Guard and Gift

Yes, you read that title right—I’ve selected two theme words for 2022! Two theme words is a first for me. It’s always good to branch out and try new things so I guess I’m starting the year off right, huh?

Do you start the New Year by selecting a theme word for the year? Some people refer to it as an anchor word and others even choose an anchor verse from the Bible. I jumped on the theme word bandwagon back in 2012 (over ten years ago now!), and I’m so glad I did.

I love how a theme word keeps me focused on a particular quality or action throughout the year. I won’t think of my chosen theme word every day, but I will think of it periodically. It will help keep me on track or give me guidance.

The words I’ve chosen for 2022 are guard and gift. I usually start thinking and praying about what my word for the upcoming year should be sometime in November or December.

This year, before even praying about it, I immediately thought of the word gift because I’d recently read my friend Edie Frink Winters’  book Giftitude. I loved the perspective she shared of seeing problems and challenges large and small as gifts—something we can learn from by asking “Where is the gift in this for me?” I knew I wanted to start applying this to my life, and selecting gift as my new theme word for the year seemed like the perfect way to do that.

When I began to pray and seek God’s guidance about my theme word, though, right away he pointed me to the word guard several times. I didn’t really want to settle on that because I’d already used it as my theme word several years ago, but when God kept bringing it to my attention, I knew I needed to listen and obey. After all, I’d been thinking about how I need to guard my tongue right now because of a personal ongoing situation that can cause a lot of frustration and upset feelings. It’s all too easy to say the wrong thing. So once again, guard will indeed be my theme word for the year.

I still had the strong desire to focus on gift though too, and as I prayed about it, God was so good to confirm to me that it is indeed okay to have two theme words with gift being one of them as well. So here I am with two theme words this year! Hopefully, I will see growth in both areas, and I probably won’t know the full impact of these particular theme words until the year is out. The Lord knows about it all right now, though, and I’m thankful he’s preparing me for whatever may come as the year unfolds.

If you haven’t done so yet, why not choose a theme word for 2022? I can guarantee it will help give you direction and help you grow throughout the year. Who would want to miss out on a deal like that? May God guide you and bless you in your choice!

“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

*Do you have a theme word or anchor verse for 2022? I’d love to hear about it!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

A Whisper from God: Love Anyway

Every now and then I share some of my poetry with you, and the theme of my latest looks at loving when it’s difficult. It’s not always easy to love, is it? I hope this poem encourages you to go ahead and love even when it’s hard. May God strengthen us all for such times for they will surely come. Let’s keep looking to him, friends. He will enable us. He will help.

Love Anyway

Once again I find myself
Coming to God in confession,
Sorry for words I shouldn’t have said,
Thoughts that shouldn’t be mine,
And attitudes that need adjustment.
How grateful I am
I don’t have to wonder
If my God will love me anyway,
For he meets me each time with mercy
And freely grants forgiveness,
Then he gently reminds me
At just the right time
To do the same for others.
When someone wrongs or hurts me—
Even when the offense is great
Or happens time after time,
What God has done for me
Comes whispered back to me—
Love anyway.
Only by your power, Lord,
Only with your help.
Yes, help me, Lord,
To be like you,
Help me to freely forgive,
Help me to love anyway.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV

*Who do you need to love anyway today?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton on Unsplash