Vital Behind-the-Scenes Forces We Need

“. . . your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

Work. Labor. Endurance. What images do these words bring to mind? We’re not talking marshmallows and kittens here. We’re talking rolled-up sleeves, sweat, and long-distance runs. We’re talking effort and strength.

Tasks and qualities like these that take strength and determination won’t happen by accident, will they? Behind-the-scenes forces such as planning, preparation, and prayer all play a role in carrying out our tasks, achieving our goals, or running the race life has placed before us.

In considering the scripture above, let’s look at the Thessalonian believers to whom the apostle Paul was writing. In spite of the severe suffering they faced (1 Thes. 1:6), they were at work serving God.

Notice the behind-the-scenes activity that Paul mentioned was present in their lives. How was their work produced? By faith. What prompted their labor? Love. What inspired their endurance? Hope. Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s consider for a moment the behind-the-scenes forces present in our own lives. Among the many influences at work in us personally, is faith playing a key role in the work we do—whether our day-to-day work or our service to God? Is love the motive, the impetus behind our labor? Is hope spurring us on, helping us to endure so we can finish strong?

Let’s learn from the Thessalonian believers and make certain that faith, love, and hope are playing vital behind-the-scenes roles in our work and in our lives. Remember, it won’t happen by accident.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 NIV

*What can we do to strengthen one or more of these behind-the-scene forces in our lives?

*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 Matt Trostle, Creative Commons License

Shot of Joy: Always Needed and Welcomed

Could any of you use a shot of joy? A fresh infusion of lighthearted spirits and smiles? If so, get in line behind me!

Between duties, deadlines, and disappointments, life has a way of bogging us down in seriousness. Even the winter days of the past few months can add to the down feelings we sometimes experience. We need some happy moments each day to help keep us looking up—and to keep us fit to live with, right?

Sometimes all it takes is a silly commercial or a clever cartoon to strike our funny bones. Other times we get a needed boost from a sweet card in the mail or an unexpected FaceTime call or Marco Polo from a loved one or friend. A day that had been a downer takes a welcome turn all because of one little shot of joy.

Are we doing our parts to be that infusion of joy for someone else? If we ourselves need happy moments each day, are we faithfully dispensing joyful moments to others as well? Maybe it’s time to make a call or send an unexpected text . Or to bake a special treat for someone on your heart or surprise someone with a little gift. We can even brighten a complete stranger’s day with a kind word or helping hand.

What about our hearts’ deepest needs for refreshment? Are we looking to the ultimate Source of joy to fill that need? Things we do for one another certainly bring sunshine into our days, but there is a deeper thirst for joy and renewal that only our Creator and Savior can fill.

Let’s meet with God in his Word, in the great outdoors, or in the sanctuary of our hearts and let him infuse us with his deep and abiding joy. The shot of joy he will give is like no other. It can rise amid tears. It can sustain during drought. It lives in winter. His is the shot of joy that will keep us looking up.

“. . . the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

*What will you do to share joy with someone this week?

*The new 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 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 Samantha Fortney on Unsplash

Hungry For More: Ice Cream and God’s Word

Maybe just another bite. That’s what I often think as I’m standing at my kitchen counter eating ice cream straight out of the carton. I usually limit myself to three bites (or one if I’m trying to drop a pound or two), but sometimes it tastes so darn good, I’ve gotta go in for just a little more. Just another bite to satisfy that craving.

I’ve found myself feeling that way as I close my Bible before too. As I start to put it away, I feel compelled to open it again for just another taste. I’m hungry for more. I need just another bite to satisfy my craving for God’s life-giving words.

Maybe it’s because my selected reading was kind of short for that day. Or maybe my spirit is searching for direction about something. But maybe the Word just tastes so darn good, I’ve gotta go in for a little more.

Whatever the reason, I follow the impulse to read a little more. I’m so glad I don’t have to limit myself to three bites of the Word like I do with my ice cream indulgences. In fact, the more I indulge in the Word, the better. And you know what? When I’m hungry for more, God always serves up a heaping portion of satisfaction. And I must say, it tastes awfully good!

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103 NIV

*What part of the Bible have you been reading lately?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out today. It’s not too late to receive it. 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 Mark BonicaCreative 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