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Monday, January 31, 2011

Encourage or Discourage?

As believers, we have an enemy.
We are in a war.
Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget about the spiritual-warfare side of my life and how prayer and faith invade the enemy's territory. When that happens, the devil has to do something to retaliate. So he flings what he can our way—problems, sickness, relationship problems, etc. We brush it off, knowing God is on our side, that He will fight for us—or slowly, we allow discouragement to creep in and suck something out of us.

A couple of months ago my husband and I read a great book called Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge. It was life-changing. One of the great things that came out of that reading was Jason and I started praying together, putting into action the “wherever two or three are gathered” promise. We have been believing—together—for God to do great things. We're expecting healings, salvations, provision and leading like never before. The result has been that our faith has grown. But in conflict with that, we have found ourselves in situations of discouragement. One thing after another has been going wrong.

I Peter 5:8-9a says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

Knowing this, knowing what our enemy is up to in the face of our rising faith, we have said firmly that we refuse to be discouraged. However, yesterday I suddenly found myself in a chuck-hole of discouragement—almost without realizing it had happened.

If you, like me, have found yourself in a situation of discouragement, it may be that you have been praying and your faith has been building and your enemy doesn't want that to happen. Discouraging events may come our way, but we can fight this age-old tactic. The “Just say no” can work. Tell the devil “NO” and say “YES” to faith. We can remind ourselves that God is in control. He knows where we're at. He hasn't forgotten our situation. He answers prayer. Mt. 18:18 says “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” We can bind this attack against our faith.

I'm praying...“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. According to your Word, I bind discouragement and its effects on me, my family, and fellow-believers. I loose encouragement and Jesus' name.”

We can also build each other up in faith. Yesterday, I spent time reading the Word and praying, and then I went online and began reading fellow-Christian's blogs. I soon felt encouragement trickling into my soul. Faith blossomed in me anew as I read the journeys of my believing friends. We do receive strength from each other. In Hebrews it says, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds...let us encourage one another.” (Heb. 10: 24, & 25b)

I pray that you will be encouraged today no matter the situation you are facing.

Know that God is in control.
He hasn't forgotten you.
We do have an enemy.
We are in a battle.

But the One living in us is far greater than any foe! Let faith arise. Be blessed and encouraged.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sitting on the Bench

Sometimes life puts us on the bench.

A second-string high school basketball player knows exactly what it means to sit on the bench. He faithfully attend practices. He works just as hard as the first-string guys. He's pumped and eager to play the game. The whistle blows. He waits. The first quarter passes, and he waits. He cheers enthusiastically for his team. The clock ticks on toward the half. He tries staying excited and ready—just in case the coach gives him the nod. But before he knows it, the game is over, and he never got his chance.

Discouraged, self-doubt trickles in: Why didn't Coach put me in? Maybe I'm not good enough. Maybe I should quit the team.

Life has a way of keeping us on the bench sometimes.

We don't get the job promotion. We lose a job we loved. A project falls through. The savings account is empty. A long-awaited vacation must be canceled. Someone else gets the lead part in the play. Writers await that promising proposal to be acknowledged, a response from an agent, a new idea to strike.

We wait. Sitting on the bench. Wondering. Questioning. Should I quit the team?

Once I heard a dad say that whenever his daughter complains about sitting on the bench, he asks, “What is God trying to tell you through this time on the bench?” I'm sure the daughter wasn't eager to hear that question anymore than I want to be reminded of it when I'm feeling grumpy over something not going my way. But the truth of the matter is, What is God saying to me during the time that I am on life's bench?

In James it says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

While discouragement and doubt may hound me during my times on the bench, perseverance and patience are being worked out in my life, if I will only let them. Sure, it's tough to sit there and not make the game go the way I want. Certainly, I want to be the one charging up the court, making baskets, and everyone cheering, seeing me be successful. But for whatever reason, it's not my time. For me—and maybe for some of you—it's bench time. And while I'm here, if I listen, if I lean on God, I'll see that something good is happening within me. I am discovering a different perspective. A wider view. A calmer heart. Peace.

God is working out something good in me—and my attitude is changing toward this bench time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lost in the Story

The fire burned out.
My tea is cold.
Darkness has fallen.

Suddenly, I'm pulled from my story. How could it be so late? I haven't brought in the wood. The vacuuming isn't done. And what about dinner?

I was lost in the story again.

It takes a while for me to get there, but once I disappear into my pretend world of story-making, living there becomes more real than my neglected housework—or the cold tea in my cup. Usually, the shocker is the darkened, cold house. Once again I've let the fire go out. Chores and dinner preparations must be rushed. But for a little while I have lived in such a beautiful, enchanting place. The world of my imaginings.

It's that place I lived in when I was a little girl. It's the warm and homey spot I slipped away to when I was pregnant and dreaming of the family we would someday have. It's the place I escape to in a great book. If you are a writer or an avid reader, you know exactly what I'm talking about. How wonderful to still be able to find that magical imaginative world, where for a little while I can walk in other people's shoes, feel their hurts and pains—and their laughter. As a playwright, I have to think technically about what can and can't work on stage, and sometimes that distracts me, but oh, for those hours I live in the story, it all makes perfect sense.

I love when I'm writing and start laughing. If the actor says it anything like I imagined, the audience will really get a kick out of that one. Sometimes tears come to my eyes, and I wonder if anyone else will “get” that moment.

I love the world of my imaginings. But it's not until I share my writing that others get a glimpse of my thoughtful place...and the journey I have taken to bring this story to life.