How Was Your Day? (Or Count Your Many Blessings)

by Chris Courtney

There are certain, open-ended questions we should never ask.

Never ask someone, “How are you doing?”  All you do is open the door for a potentially  insincere (if not entirely honest) “Ok”.  Ask instead a more direct questions (How are things at work?  How is your mom?  How’s your health?  How have the [insert name of favorite sports team here] let you down this season?)

Never ask “Where is your faith?”  Seriously.  Never ever.  It’s a slap in the face of a struggling believer.

And never ask, “How was your day?”  Unless you want to open the floodgates of complaining and grumbling (“It was awful!  The boss yelled at me.  My husband complained about the Egg-and-Dairy-Free Tofu Kale Omelet I made for dinner.  My youngest drew a moustache on his sister’s face while she was sleeing – with a black permanent marker, which doesn’t even match her blonde hair.  And the cat destroyed my Bobby Goldsboro album [don’t even ask me how!]”)

Etc.

Etc.

And so on.

As with most things in life, there are two views: our skewed perception, and the right view.

God’s view.

You see, God’s goodness bathes our lives with His grace, hope, love and mercy at all times.  Even when we can’t feel it.

When we can’t see it.

When we can’t perceive it.

When we question whether He hears our prayers, or stays with us, or even cares.

Let’s look at the 103rd Psalm:

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! – Psalm 103 [ESV]

 

As believers, we are each the recipient of many, many great and wonderful blessings from our Heavenly Father.  Shall we count our many blessings?  According to to the above Psalm of David:

  1. We are forgiven of all our sins – our transgressions removed from us “as far as the east is from the west”
  2. We are healed of all our ailments
  3. We are redeemed from the hell sin provides, and given new life with Him
  4.  We are “crowned” with God’s never bending, never ending love and mercy
  5.  We are fulfilled by His goodness and revitalized
  6.  We are the beneficiaries of His justice and righteousness
  7.  We are blessed by God Who made His ways known to His people
  8.  We are the recipients of amazing grace and mercy from God Who chooses to be “slow to anger” rather than wrathful (a wrath we deserve through our sin, but are forgiven through His “steadfast love”)
  9.  We are treated with compassion by our Lord – just as a father has compassion for his children
  10.  We are known – in astoundingly minute detail – by our Father God Who created us.  Think about that one for just a moment.  God knows your weaknesses.  He knows your gifts.  He knows everything about you.  He has placed you in His great plan.
  11.  We are given eternal life through Him (through Jesus) – “from everlasting to everlasting”.  We are rescued from the brevity and pain of life ib this material world.
  12.  All of this is the loving, gracious, merciful gift of God Who is Lord over all.

David and many of the Old Testament saints figured out the secret to life.  Are you ready?  Here it is:

You have to take it on faith.

You have to take God at His Word.

You have to trust that what He promises will come to pass.

And, understand this:

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. – Hebrews 11:13-16 [ESV]

This world is not what’s important.  It isn’t where our hearts should yearn for.  This place isn’t home.

It just isn’t.

I know not every illness gets healed on this earth.  I also know God can heal any disease.  He can also work through us to exemplify His grace, mercy and love to others.

Despite what we perceive, we need to keep our eyes on the prize, as Paul says.  Keep believing.  But keep a heavenly perspective.  It’s like my beautiful wife Jennifer likes to remind me when I’m feeling hopeless or down: will what’s got you bugged matter in a week?  A month?  A year?  A decade?  Most likely not.

Please know this: God is always with you.  He will work through those who love Him.  He will bring great things to pass.  We just have to keep faith, worship and praise the God Who so loves us and fills us.  Count your many blessings.

Name them one by one.

And see what God has done.

He lights your darkest path.

He fills your every longing.

Just look for Him.

See that our daily troubles and cares and worries are nothing compared to the greatness of our Father in Heaven.  Sometimes we just have to ask: what is important?  What does God treasure?

Now… knowing all this, let me ask you again.  How was your day?

(c) 2019 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

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Visit our website at https://bouvillediarist.com/, where you can subscribe via e-mail, or check out the Bouville Archives.

You are loved far more than you can imagine, by God Who is far bigger than we can fathom.

 

 

 

 

The Midweek Push: Whatsamottoyou?

800px-West_Seal,_Capitol_Square,_Columbus,_Ohio

Bob Hall from Christchurch, New Zealand [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

The United States of America: 50 states, 5 territories and a federal capitol district, each (well, most of them) with their own state / territorial motto.

Some of them are fiery, a reflection of the revolution that bore our country (Sic Semper Tyranus, or “Thus always to tyrants” [Virginia]; “Live free or die!” [New Hampshire]).

Others are a bit strange, certain to mean something to the locals but just odd-sounding without proper context (“John is his name” [Puerto Rico]; “By and by” [Washington]).

598px-2002_IN_ProofMy home state is the “Crossroads of America.”  (A shout out to my fellow Hoosiers!)

But my favorites are the inspirational mottos.

“God enriches” (Arizona).

“Samoa, let God be first” (American Samoa).

And, best of all, Ohio’s motto.  They went straight to the Bible for theirs: “With God all things are possible”.  Right from Matthew 19:26.  Verbatim.

It’s a beautiful motto to live by.

It’s a wonderful truth to cling to.

Here’s the bad news: we can do nothing on our own.  We are utterly reliant on God.

And, here’s the good news: we can do nothing on our own.  We are utterly reliant on God.

And God, our Heavenly Father loves us.  Cares for us.  Forgives us.  Sets our paths straight.

He knows our needs.  He hears our prayers.  When God seems silent, He’s not.  He’s working on our behalf.  He’s taking care of all the details.

And, when God’s timing is right… wow!  Be ready.  The LORD may move in ways beyond your dreams, beyond your expectations.  There is nothing beyond His ability.  Nobody beyond His grasp.  Nowhere He can’t reach you.  No one He cannot save.  No situation He cannot repair.

With God, nothing – nothing – is impossible.  Now that is a motto to live by.  Even better than Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice: If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you (Michigan).

(c) 2019 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

Please be a blessing and share this article with anyone who could use some Good News.

Please visit our website at https://bouvillediarist.com/

 

 

May I See Your ID?

Florida_Driver_License

I like the Kendrick Brothers movies.  They may be a bit corny but I always leave with something to think about.

Seeing their latest flick, Overcomer, was no different,  One of the overarching themes throughout the film is identity: who are we really?

Let me start with who we are not.

We are not helpless.

We are not hopeless.

We are not the sum of our failures.

We are not bullies teased us for allegedly being.

We are not the sins we have committed, the wrongs we have done.

We are not defined by our past glories – or pit falls.

We are not our job titles.

We are neither our accomplishments nor our misfires.

We are not anything definable in strictly human terms.

You see, we were each born with a purpose: to glorify and worship God.

We were born with a purpose, for a reason.

So… who are we?  The Kendrick brothers take us through Ephesians 1 and 2.  Here we find exactly who we are, as described by our Creator, Who formed and knitted together each of us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

That’s right.  Each of us was designed and put together individually by God, our Father, Who is Love.  Each and every human being is God’s unique creation.  Each of us has a purpose.

That means no one is useless.  No one is beyond hope.  No one is unlovable or unloved.

Take a few minutes, grab a Bible and a pen (and notebook).  Turn to Ephesians 1 and 2.  Prayerfully read the Word of God and joy down all the things He says we are in His name.

Then go back and read your list.

Then re-read it.

Let the Lord’s words sink into your mind and soak into your soul.  Understand He is talking to you.  Not just the apostle Paul.  Not some other Christians.  But YOU.

If you’d like prayer through this exercise, please e-mail me at bouvillediarist@gmail.com.

If you don’t have a Bible, check out Bible Gateway at https://www.biblegateway.com

If you have a moment, please share this article with someone who you feel would be blessed.

Finally, please remember to love others, and know how much God loves you!  He did, after all, send His Son Jesus to die for us.

For you.

 

 

 

 

 

The Midweek Push: Do Not Fear the Heat

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 7:7-8 [ESV]

Life gets rough. Circumstances come, sometimes through our own foolishness or failures; other times through no fault of our own, but simply because we live in a sinful, imperfect world.

But the LORD wants us to keep our gaze fixed on Him, not our circumstances.  Troubles come and go.  Problems rise and fall.

But God… He never changes.  He is the one trustworthy constant we have.

And the LORD says don’t worry.  Don’t sit and stew over circumstances.  Instead, pray.  Look to God.  Wait expectantly on the LORD.  He has a plan.  He will move when His time right.  And He will use whatever you’re facing to grow you stronger.

Think about Peter, walking across the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a raging storm.  He was walking to Christ and, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he stayed upright.

But as soon as Peter switched his attention from the LORD to the storm, he started to drown.

And yet, who saved Peter?  That’s right: Jesus.

When the heat is on, and life looks bleak, don’t look at your troubles.  Look to God.  Fix your gaze on the One Who saved you, Who never eaves or abandon you,  Who sees you through every trial.

Tell God your troubles.  Ask for His help and guidance.  Keep the faith and trust that He’s going to do what needs to be done in His time.

And, until then, He will sustain and carry you.  God is your Father.  And He loves you beyond comprehension!

(c) 2019 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

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Cave Dweller

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Caves.  They’re dark.  They’re wet.  They’re cold.  They’re a haven for bats and – if Monty Python are to be believed – at least one killer rabbit.

However, caves can also make great hiding places.  David and his followers holed up in a cave.  So did Lot.  Obadiah hid 100 prophets in two caves (fifty per).  The Dead Sea Scrolls were found hidden in caves around Qumran.

Caves make good hiding places.

And there are times a-plenty I have wished I had a cave to flee to.  What did I want to flee?  My anxiety.  My worries.  My troubles.

Chances are pretty good you’ve had times when a remote cave sounded pretty appealing.

However, running from our problems never solved anything.  God sent a prophet to David telling him to get out and face his enemy.  As unpleasant as it may seem, facing our fears, worries and doubts are far better for us than hiding from them.

When we’re feeling anxious or worried, when doubts start to creep in, here are a few reminders from our loving God to help us stand tall and be strong in our faith:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 [ESV]

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:25-34 [ESV]

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
    Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
    my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.
20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
    those who frame injustice by statute?
21 They band together against the life of the righteous
    and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my stronghold,
    and my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He will bring back on them their iniquity
    and wipe them out for their wickedness;
    the Lord our God will wipe them out. – Psalm 94:16-23 [ESV]

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. – Psalm 118:5-7 [ESV]

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7 [ESV]

So seek the Lord first.  Trust in Jesus.  Step out of your cave in faith and put everything in His capable, loving hands.

(c) 2019 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone and everyone.  It is my goal to be a blessing in Jesus’ name to as many people as God will allow.

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A Very Special Bouville Diarist

Cringe.

That’s what I did every time I saw a TV ad for a “very special episode” of some ’80s sitcom.

I cringed because I knew “very special” meant some overly dramatic turn of plot designed to boost ratings by hooking you in with the travails of one of their characters.

“This week, on a very special episode of M*A*S*H, Colonel Blake returns from the dead to donate his spleen to Radar, who discovers he was born without one.”

“On a very special Alf, America’s favorite intergalactic puppet deals with discovering that he is really a laboratory-created cross between a cat and an opossum.”

“On tonight’s very special Family Ties, Alex has to face his family with the revelation that he is actually a closet liberal.  Guest star: Alan Alda as the wacky yet wise psychoanalyst Dr. Doug “Dewey” Hackmeyer who helps the Keaton family adjust.”

You get the drift.

I’m calling this “a very special” Bouville Diarist with much trepidation, because I’m ging to get personal.  And sometimes people react negatively to “personal”.  They get uncomfortable.  Squirm in their seats.

Cringe.

I don’t believe this post is going to be cringeworthy, so relax.  No uncomfortable revelations.  Just some good ol’ heart-to-heart.

You may have noticed an uptick in posts very recently.  It may seem odd: the Bouville blog has sat fairly dormant for so long.  Like a volcano, it sits quietly, occasionally puffs out some smoke or drools a bit of molten magma now and again.

Then, one day… BOOM!  Eruption.  Post after post.

What’s going on?

A personal wake up call, that’s what’s going on.

Consistency has never been my bag.  I’ve always allowed my biggest enemy – my inner critic – to get in my way.  I write and then I read and edit (not enough admittedly, but…).  And then I imagine the few who read the Bouville Diarist turning off their computers.

Checking Facebook.

Beginning to… you guessed it…

Cringe.

Is this true?  I doubt it.  I hope not.  It’s what I hear from my inner critic.

I understand the inner critic is not my friend.  He doesn’t want me to minister.  He doesn’t want me to succeed at what I believe the Lord wants me to do.

Here is what I want to do,

I want to write.

I want to draw.

I want to be free of the inner critic.

I want to do these things to God’s glory, which means blessing others with what I produce.

I want to start small groups for God.

I want to disciple people.

I want to bring freedom and peace and joy to those who struggle with despression and anxiety and all the awful mental tar that sticks some of us in such a miserable place.

I want you to feel joyful.

I want you to be peaceful.

I want you to know God’s great love.

I want you to not feel alone.

But I cannot do that until I shut up that [deleted] inner critic.

And that is what I intend to do.

So… am I doing this for purely selfless reasons?  Yes and no.  I am human.  I will relish in the joy of reaching out and trying to bless people.

I want more of what God has intended for me.

Don’t you?

I won’t be intentionally rude or shocking, but I won’t be politically correct either.

I will trip and falter and fail at times, but I will get back up again by God’s great mercy and grace.

I will dream big dreams and pursue great goals, but only with His help and guidance.

I know God has a plan for me.

I know God has a plan for you.

And I’m sick of looking back at my life and wanting to… here’s come the word of the day again…

Cringe.

Lastly, I want you to join me on this journey.  If you’re as tired of mediocrity as I am, come alongside.  Drop me a line.  E-mail me at bouvillediarist@gmail.com.  Commengt on this post.  Share these posts with your friends and loved ones, and ask them to do the same.

Visit bouvillediarist.com

I hope to hear from you soon!!

All in God’s grace,

Chris

 

 

 

Injection Molded People – Collect Them All!

 

Mold-A-Rama-01.jpg

Mold-A-Rama machine at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.  Photo by Ayleen Gaspar.  Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spookyamd/6229954232/

I love Como Park in St. Paul MN.  It has a wonderful, free zoo.  They have a lion, a tiger, some bears (oh my).

And lots of primates.

Go to the primate building. Bring the kids.  Bring something to cover the kidlets’ eyes (the tamarins can be a bit naughty). 

And bring some quarters for the Mold-A-Rama machine.

For the price of a handful of spare change, you can watch the Mold-A-Rama mchine melt a wad of poly and mold it into your favorite wild critter (from the limited options available).  You know the finished product is a Mold-A-Rama toy not only because you watched the machine make it, but because of their appearance.

They all look the same.

All the lions look the same.

All the tigers look the same.

All the bears?  The same.

Oh my.

This is because they are all formed from the same molds.  Same basic colors.  Same lastic material.

Sadly, we tend to look at other people as if we’re injection molded.  It’s as if all humans of a certain race are made from the same mold.  All religions, their own mold.  All political affiliations?  Yup – same mold.  All telemarketers… well, okay, all telemarketers are spit from the same mold.

I find it interesting that, the more society moves toward embracing / enforcing individuality, the more cookie-cutter stereotypes pop up.  (By the way, I was identifying as a billionaire for a while.  However, my banker assured me I had mislabeled myself.)

God created each of us individually.  He does not have a Human Mold-A-Rama where all Caucasians look the same, all Democrats look the same, all Christians look the same…

That’s right.  Not all Christians look the same.  We don’t all act exactly the same, or think everything the same. We were each created different – unique – by a supremely amazing God, Creator of all.  Some of us are “conservative” in thought, some “liberal”.  Some of us are moderate in our thinking.

Some of us are thin.  Some of us less so.  (I prefer to consider myself “substantial”.)

Some of us are professions.  Some of us artists, others artisans.

We are rich.  We are poor.  We are middle class.

We are all these labels.  And yet, should we accept any of these labels?

Christ followers are held together in community not by being Stepford Believers, but a shared love of the Lord.  A common belief in Jesus as our Savior.  A desire to grow together in our relationships with God.

Despite our differences.

Through our differences.

Sharpened by recognizing, appreciating, and discovering our differences.

Christ followers share much in common.  But it doesn’t make us all the same.

As a Christ follower, I am firmly Calminian (there are aspects of Calvinism I agree with, and the same with Arminianism).  I seek Jesus, not a dogmatic teaching.

You see, the one thing I am not is a stereotypical Mold-A-Rama “Christian”.  What I mean is, people do not look at me and say, “He’s your typical, run-of-the-mill church-on-Sunday Christian.”

That’s just not me.

And I’m fine with that.

I am who God created me to be.  Not a photocopy of a Christian.  Not a Mold-A-Rama person.  I am a unique, individual.  I avoid labels.  I reject “isms”.  I am me.

I am who God created me to be.

So are you.

No, you’re not me.  You’re who God created you to be.  The wonderful, gifted person the Lord designed and formed individually in your mother’s womb.

If you don’t conform to someone else’s mold, so be it.  All the better!  Life isn’t about faking it ’til you make it.  It’s about seeking God, loving others and using all the talents the Lord gave you to serve Him and others.

And that means you gotta be you.  Not who someone else says you should be, but truly yourself.  That’s being true to yourself.

It’s no good trying to be someone else.  You have to be you.

The real you.

Stand out.

Serve others.

Love God.

Trust Jesus.

Be fearless.

Be honest.

Be real.

And I’m serious about shielding your child’s eyes.  Nasty little tamarins…

 

 

 

I Just Don’t Like Boomerangs

I’m not going to lie to you.  This is a good thing since I’m a Christ follower and not lying in a ministry blog is a bare minimum requirement / expectation.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  Nothing major, mind you.  Just a series of minor incidents and stuff to deal with, including a boomerang (a problem you thought was resolved only to have come back and unexpectedly smack you in the back of the head).

I detest boomerangs.

It would be easy for me to throw my hands up in frustration and give up.  In my flesh that’s what I’d like to do.  I’m tired.

I’ve had it.

But the Lord reminded me, as I was feeling low and praying tonight, that these burdens are not mine.  Jesus calls us to come to Him with all – all – of the troubles that weigh us down and leave them with Him.  Drop the yoke of worries, pain and trouble, and take up His yoke.  His yoke is much lighter, as it is the yoke of trusting God.  (See Matthew 11:28-30.)

The Lord is far greater than anything life throws at us.  There is nothing He can’t handle.  Nothing surprises God.  He knows, and He is more than willing and capable to care for us, His children.

Remember this, the next time life’s getting you down and you’re ready to give up:  we aren’t supposed to put around our heavy burdens.  We’re not supposed to read or worry.  We are supposed to trust God fully with our very lives.

Week God through Jesus.  Draw closer to Him. Kay down your burdens and pick up His yoke of !ove, grace, peace, mercy, wisdom, strength… Find refreshment in the Lord, and strength for the road ahead.

And watch out for those boomerangs.  They’ll hit you when you least expect it.

Never Alone.  Never.

Nighttime can be tough when you’re dealing with anxiety.  In the dark, even with others in the house, the middle of the night can feel very lonely.

But remember always, no matter how you feel, regardless of what you think, you are never alone.  God promises to never leave us, never abandon us.  The Holy Spirit lives within every believer.  He guides us, comforts us, helps us.  He prays for us with groans too deep for words.  When we don’t know what to pray, He does.

Sleep well.  Rest easy.  Cast your cares on God for He cares for you.  Trust in Jesus.  Rest in His love and grace and mercy.

You are not alone.  Ever.  In fact, far from it.  

Rest well.  You are loved beyond comprehension!

Good night, dear friends.

Embracing Purpose (or Confronting the Enemy in the Mirror)

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Back  in 1872, when I first started the Bouville Diarist, I had in mind something different,  A change of approach,  Something fresh, exciting, uplifting.

To say I have wrestled with the right approach is an understatement.  Rather like saying North Korea lobbing missiles into the Sea of Japan is a bad thing.

Or we wish Iran would just leave oil tankers in the Persian Gulf alone.

Or saying a “Friends” 25th reunion TV special would just a sad, bad idea.

However, I think I know what the problem is.

I’ve been sitting at the Osseo MN Caribou for a couple of hours now.  (Not to be confused with Osseo WI.  If I were there, I’d be tucking into a slap of homemade pie at the Norske Nook right about now.)

Sitting in front of me were a young lady and her family, discussing future college plans with an advisor of some sort.  (Just so you don’t think I’m some kind of creeper, I put in my ear buds and cranked up the tunes so as not to overhear their conversation.)

Now and again I would look up from my laptop  screen to see this kid grinning from ear-to-ear.  She was clearly filled with joy at future prospects of education and life.  Excited.

Anticipating good things.

Filled with hope.

Happy.

Joyous.

Joyous.

It’s funny (odd, not ha-ha) how we have our plans and schemes, our hopes and dreams… And, inevitably, life leaps out in front of us.  We get tripped up.  We lose our place on our map.  We confront our enemy.

To paraphrase Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo (remember him?), “I have met the enemy.  And he is us.”

How often do we discover we are each our own worst enemy?  I can tell you I recognize him.  He’s the one who tells me my writing stinks.  The one who told me my drawings was no good because the local traditional art guild said my style didn’t fit in.  (Let’s face it, I’m no Omer “Salty” Seaman.  (My Wabash Valley homies will get the reference.  Everyone else, look him up on the Google.  He really was talented!!)

We are our own worst enemy every time someone maligns us, detracts us, derails us with criticism or just plain makes fun of us – and we allow it.  When let the slings and arrows penetrate into our souls, we miss what God may be trying to tell us.

You see, God has created each of us with a purpose.  We see this when He told Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV).  

David knew it, too: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV).

We are each individually wonderfully designed and created by our Father God, with a God-given purpose in life – a purpose to glorify the Lord and bless those He places in our lives.

We aren’t made to please the world.  Friends, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).  Paul  warns us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2, ESV

The truth is we need to expect a bit of abuse from the world.  As Christ followers, we aren’t intended t fit in.  Acceptance by the world is not a prize worth chasing.  So, go ahead.  Be you.

Be who God created you to be.

The next time you begin to feel low and down trodden, useless and ill equipped, do these five things:

  1. Stop.  Stop telling yourself lies about yourself.  Stop feeding your inner critic, your worst enemy.  If need be get in front of a mirror and physically tell yourself, “Stop!”
  2. Pray.  Ask God to open your eyes to Him.  Ask God to show you His will.  Ask God to reveal Himself – and His Truth – to you.  And be prepared for His will to be less about what you do and more about why and how.
  3. Read.  Grab your Bible and start reading it.  Fire up the Google and search for verses about God’s purpose.
  4.  Write.  Grab a journal, a notepad, an old napkin.  Jot down what you learn from your reading.  Record what you felt God spoke into your heart when you prayed.  (If you don’t feel like He spoke to you, don’t sweat it.  He often answers our prayers in unexpected ways, and always in His time.)
  5.  Remember.  Think about what God has done for you throughout your life.  Ponder His goodness with much gratitude for all He has done.  It may sound trite and old, but count your blessings.  God has filled you with more than you know.  When we’re feeling low, it can be a struggle to see the good Jesus brings.  Just look.  He’s there.

Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, or says.  Expect the world to not embrace your thoughts and beliefs.  Sometimes – and this is far sadder – you can’t expect Christians to accept you.  When religion or misguided leadership get in the way, remember Jesus didn’t call you be abused by self-serving individuals.  Shake it off and move on, following Jesus’ lead.

Forgive and love.  Don’t begrudge.  And keep doing what God said to do.  No matter how big the task may seem, keep on keeping on.  Surround yourself with others who will support you.  Remember Jesus never called us to religion.  As a matter of fact, it was the religious who gave Him such a hard time.  No, we are called to relationship.

To love.

To give.

To serve.

To be filled with joy for the glorious future ahead – on this earth and beyond to eternity.

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