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Creatures of Habit

29 Jul

OOPS!

This post appeared earlier today (unfinished)! Sorry about that, if you wondered. I was planning it for September, but accidentally clicked on the wrong button, so I guess I’ll send it out today! (I’m a creature of habit … which really makes this funny, with the title.)

Anyway, before we get started …

My friend Janet Baker, a secretary for her church Bible study in Georgia, sends out a simple newsletter each week with reminders about the upcoming study session. She said at the end of almost every email, she adds a LOL from the LOL with God book to brighten the ladies’ week. Thank you, Janet! That’s being creative as well as encouraging.

And now for our LOL …

The driver screamed! He lost control of the taxi, nearly hitting a bus. He drove up the sidewalk and crashed into a store window.

After a few seconds of total silence, the driver yelled at his passenger.

” You scared me half to death!” he said.

The stunned passenger apologized and said he didn’t realize a little tap on the shoulder could scare him so much.

“You’re right,” the driver replied. “I’m sorry. It’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. I’ve been driving a hearse for 25 years.”

That driver was responding out of his experiences over many, many years. We do that too. We are creatures of habit.

The good thing about habits is that we can leave some things to our subconscious. Patterned grooves in our brain allow us to remember important things like phone numbers, our locker combination at the gym, our spouse’s birthday, etc.

The bad thing about habits is that we can succumb to nasty stuff just because we always have.

Psychologists tell us we need to get precise (very specific) when we want to change a habit. We need to think about the specific habit we want to change. Then we need to expect that it’s going to be difficult. After all, there’s that groove in the brain thing. And finally, we need to plan what we’ll do when we get tired of making positive changes, because changing habits are hard and everything in us will resist change.  We need to figure out what we’ll do when we feel most vulnerable.

We face our habits in many ways. We might rationalize our behavior. We might not really want to change. Or we might be trying and failing.

The truth is, it takes proactive choices to change habits. It takes positive replacement (Romans 12:1-2). We might temporarily change a habit, but more often than not, it takes more than will power; it takes the power of God.

Romans 8:2 explains that the struggle with bad habits (sinful or hindering habits) that captivate us (Romans 7:22-23) can only be conquered by the power of the Holy Spirit within us … the law of the Spirit working in us to overcome the law of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).

Have I arrived? Have I conquered all of my bad habits. Certainly not. But I’ll tell you … there’s been some real breakthroughs! And I’m glad, because God didn’t rescue and redeem my life so I could live a “normal” life. He changed me so I can live a supernatural life.

Here are some things that are helping me get rid of bad habits in my life:

1. I’m getting in the habit of yielding my life (every part of it) in prayer to God’s control, and asking Him for guidance and strength (Romans 6:1-14).

2. I’m getting in the habit of recognizing and confessing every detour (sin) into areas where God doesn’t’ want me to live (1 John 1:9).

3. I’m getting in the habit of thanking the Lord for the power of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

4. I’m getting in the habit of praising God for every victory ~ a God-ward focus (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Peter 2:9).

5. I’m getting in the habit of believing God for not only the ultimate victory (never experiencing the presence of sin in heaven), but many powerful-right-now victories as He conforms me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Think about your habits today. What characterizes your life? What do you do on a regular basis? What are you known for?

You ARE a creature of habit ~ either habits that pull you away from holiness and pleasing God, or habits that make you a better Kingdom Servant, bringing joy to the One who loves you.

May we all be godly creatures of habit … living out the life the Creator designed for us.

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Time to Resolidify?

28 Jul

Rhonda Rhea is a woman after my own heart. Chocolates bring her exceeding great joy.

In her new book, How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Rhonda described a day when someone gave her a big box of chocolates. *

“It was one of those boxes of chocolates with the map in the lid,” she said, and “that lid diagram is a treasure map. There are times when there’s nothing sweeter than digging for treasure.”

But then something terrible happened.

“I got sidetracked and forgot to take the box out of the car,” Rhonda said. “A few hours baking in the car and instead of a box of chocolates, I ended up with a chocolate ooze that eventually resolidified into one giant chocolate.”

She learned a tough lesson. “I’m tearing up just thinking about it,” she said. “It’s just too sad when good chocolate goes bad. Treasure lost.”

Rhonda is known for her quirky comedic train-of-thought, but also for her biblical applications. “How it must break the heart of God,” she said, “when we get messy, slow to learn spiritual lessons… how often do we forget about self-control and turn back to that old way, conforming to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance? Why do we even look back at the darkness once we’ve seen the light?”

I’m all about choices, and so is Rhonda. She asks her readers whether they are ready to choose obedience to God and commit to right choices. “Time to resolidify,” she said. Just like that chocolate.

Resolidify? What does that mean in a spiritual sense?

Rhonda explains: “Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the old paths of sin. Sometimes those old paths are well-worn and easy to slip back onto. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to choose well. … You can choose well, even without a map in the lid.”

Choosing well… choosing the path of obedience. I’ve never regretted one instance of obedience to God, have you? Every time I’ve responded to the Holy Spirit’s nudges in my own spirit, I not only bless my Heavenly Father, I also end up blessing my own life with new opportunities to obey! In many ways, my life has been one act of obedience after another ~ an exciting, joyful journey of obedience with the One who loves me and has an incredible purpose for my life … just as He has for your life.

I’ve only regretted the times when God gave me clear direction, either through the Word of God, the Spirit of God, the counsel of godly people, or my own conscience, and I didn’t listen. I didn’t obey.

Who knows what treasures ~ what adventures with God and opportunities to bless and reach others ~ I missed through disobedience.

God gives us a precious treasure map (His Word) … but we’re not willing to follow it. How foolish is that?

“There really is treasure in obedience,” Rhonda said, “and in leaning on Jesus, loving Him, serving Him, bringing glory to His name.” Rhonda is quick to point out that our richest treasure is Christ Himself:  In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).

Have you discovered the treasure of obedience in your own life? Can you remember specific instances when God spoke, you obeyed, and either your circumstances or ministry changed? Do you see the precious treasure of Jesus, your Savior, and how He has transformed your life through His truth and light?

Thank God for those precious treasures…. and for the Word of God and the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Want another LOL moment?

Rhonda says she discovered a silver lining in the chocolate-melting incident in her car.

“Now that it’s one big hunk,” she said, “I can eat the whole pound and still tell people I only had one piece.”

* Rhonda Rhea, How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?: Bright Ideas for Delightful Transformation (New Hope Publishers 2011), pp. 81-82, 85


Up with Upgrades!

3 Jun

Upgrades. We all love them, don’t we? My husband flies internationally many times during the year, and with his long legs, he always is eager for an upgrade to sections of the plane with more leg room!

I saw this photo that made me think how desperate we get sometimes for an upgrade. This is one man’s attempt to upgrade while waiting to move up from his iPhone to an iPad! LOL.

I also saw an overworked computer mouse that needed a serious upgrade!

Upgrades are fun, and often a wonderful blessing. We might upgrade appliances when we remodel our homes, or upgrade our wardrobe when we lose a lot of weight.

Did you know you can upgrade something every single day?

As a midlife woman, I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had spent all of my life serving others, but needed to focus some time on much-needed changes in my own life. My appearance was a little ragged. My quiet times were a little desert-like. My times with loved ones were a little scarce.

It was time for some upgrades! I discovered that even little changes each day make a difference, and it doesn’t matter the season of life you’re in, either!

Let me give some examples:

Appearance: Making sure my hair is neat and wearing simple makeup helps. So does watching what I eat. (For me, cutting out wheat is a major change ~ but simple choices every day are still required.) Writing in appointments for the gym make a difference (when I make the choice to keep them)! I’m starting to feel like a new woman, one choice at a time!

Quiet Times: Just as in marriage, doing the same thing the same way brings a level of comfortableness, but if we’re not careful and creative, the relationship can get stale. Likewise, in my relationship with God, I don’t want my interaction with God to suffer from sameness. So I started memorizing bits of scripture, and praying them back to God. I imagined God saying many of the “red letter” parts of scripture to me personally. I put a Bible on a chair near my Quiet Time spot to remind me that the Living Word is always present with me. Simple things.

Relationships: My girlfriend Pam Farrel is such a people person; but I’m a blinders-on task-oriented person. If I’m not careful, I’ll go a whole week and not see anyone! That’s not healthy, and it certainly doesn’t contribute to building a marriage or leaving a legacy with children and grandchildren. I need to see, interact with, and serve people. I need to rub shoulders with people who don’t know Jesus, too. So I have scheduled “timer breaks” from my work to either pray for or call people, or to jot down a note about something I want to share with others. And I clear out spaces in my calendar each week to “see people” ~ lunch dates, social gatherings, church, special meetings, “dates” with a grandchild, etc.

The point is, I can do a little bit of something every single day to upgrade these weak areas (and others) that need change. Every little choice helps!

Four questions help me know how to upgrade, and I hope they’ll help you!

1. Ask: What’s Going on Now? ~ You have to see and admit where you are, what your circumstances are (your weaknesses as well as your strengths) before you can see clearly what needs to be changed. Before you can upgrade, you need to drop any pride (Proverbs 18:12) and stand humbly before God, asking Him to show you your heart attitudes and behavior as they really are.

2. Ask: What Do I want to Be Different? ~ Get specific about upgrades. You have to decide what you want to do or change before you can make any plans for progress. You might also want to clarify what you don’t want … but spend more time on what you do want to be different. Let that be your focus. (Where you place your attention is where you’re going to see the greatest benefits and blessings. )

3. Ask: Lord, Is This Something YOU Want Me to Upgrade? ~ Always check with God to be sure your goals are good, godly, wise, worthy, and in His will (biblical) ~ see Romans 8:28.  If they are, you can ask Him to help you upgrade (believing that it is possible, because He put it in your heart).

4. Ask: What Choices Am I Going to Make TODAY to Get There? ~ This is the tough part, but it’s necessary. Ignore the arguments in your mind. Eliminate the excuses. Just act … take a first step. And a next step. Take baby steps, if necessary, but get moving forward on your upgrade. The point is to make a situation or attitude better.

When you change one little thing, you may find that an entire pattern of life changes, necessitating other changes.  How fun!  (Your habit patterns got you where you are, and new habit patterns will take you somewhere else! This Replacement Principle is illustrated in Romans 12:2.) When it comes to the nitty-gritty of life, upgrades happen in day-tight, bite-sized pieces.

And the wonderful truth is, God is in the process of a major upgrade in each one of us who are in Christ! His eternity-focused upgrade goes beyond “a little bit better” to total transformation ~ He is transforming us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:292 Corinthians 3:17-18).

When you woke up this morning, it was another day for God to work in and through you for His glory and purposes and for your eternal good. Praise Him … thank Him … cooperate with Him!

No matter your season of life … think of at least one thing you can do right now to change your life for the better (An action? An attitude?).

Consider it an adventure with God. Up with Upgrades!

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