Friday, October 18, 2013

Put Your Mind in Him

Put Your Mind in Him
Peggy Mack
October 17, 2013

One of the sweetest gifts my dad ever gave to me came in one of the saddest of many moments with him. He was enduring another medical procedure in his three years of battling colon cancer and I was overwhelmed with sadness and a sense of deep pain when I walked into the room and saw him. "Daddy", I said, "how can you stand this?" In his ever jovial, teaching frame of mind, he seized the moment to lift my spirits and to comfort and console me. "I just put my mind in neutral. They are not here to hurt me but to help me. All I have to do is not think about it. I think about something else positive. I put my mind in neutral. Before I know it, it's over and I am on my way." I cannot tell you how many times in the twenty years since his passing that I have, at the last moment, taken a deep breath, given into the situation and put my mind in neutral. I can promise you that it works. It really works but it does take practice. With time, it's a natural step to take.

This morning I was studying and was given a wonderful suggestion that takes Dad's words of wisdom and comfort one step further. Imagine it said, before you enter a room, a challenge, a procedure, that Christ is with you as you go through it. Remove from your mind all negative thoughts, for instance, "I hate the dentist!". Instead, imagine a vision of Christ right there in the room with you. Imagine Him watching over the doctor and assistants that have your concerns and guiding their minds and actions. And then, take a long cleansing breath and put your mind in neutral. Put your mind in Christ. Put yourself in a place of trust. What an amazing gift of an image that is for me!

Christ is such a giving, living gift in our lives. He is not our "have mercy" go to source. He is our loving Savior and friend who is right here. He is with us as we talk, think, work and live each day. He is our source of peace in an argument. He is our source of patience with co-workers. He is our friend in each day that we live and breathe. We are here to feed off of God's word and to do good works to complete God's plan. Yelling out, "Oh God!" is not considered a request for God's presence. We will not find peace and comfort in a last ditch effort to save the moment from turning into a disaster. God asks us to invoke His presence as we enter a room or a situation and to see Him with us as the moments unfold and to thank Him with a grateful heart when the moments are over and we are at peace.

The high school student taking an exam after staying up on the phone or Facebook the night before will experience little help when she sees the exam and whispers to herself, "Oh God! Help me with this. I am going to fail!" Her faith walk must include being responsible for her learning. It must involve attending class, taking notes, studying the week before the exam and reviewing the night before. Then when she enters the classroom for her exam, she can invision Christ is with her as she carefully reads and responds to each question.

We call 911 to respond to our emergencies for heart attacks, fires, etc. but our relationship with Christ was never intended to be an emergency pack we secure in the back of our minds to rip open when we go falling out of safety into danger. Christ is God's son who served God while He walked on earth and when He had completed His mission, he was crucified. He died and was buried and returned to His father in Heaven. Christ is our conduit, our connection to our Creator. He is our companion in life. We are warned not to lean on others or other things as our source of strength but to look to Him as our guide, our Light.

We are Christians who believe God is our Creator and His holy son is our Savior. We believe the Holy Spirit is our source of encouragement and enlightenment. We are here to be lights for others so they can experience the joy and peace and promise of eternity that we know. We are fed by the words in the Holy Bible with God's intentions and His will for us so that we can continue to do his works. But we are also challenged to put up with traffic, go to the dentist, deal with aggravations, pay bills and face barking, snarling dogs. I love the image of a maze and use it again here. Imagine you are going through a maze in the dark. That is life without Christ. With Christ we are still going to go through the maze of life with all its challenges, disappointments and heartbreak. We are going to grieve. We are going to feel loss and disappointment. We are walking through this maze of life. Around some corners we experience new grand babies, reunions and weddings and lunch with an old friend. Around another corner we grieve for someone we loved who has passed away or the loss of our home and all of its contents. Where was God we cry out in our sense of frustration and loss? The answer is always the same. God is right here. He's here to pick up the pieces and can put your faith to good works through your witness to others. What have you experienced that was so devastating you felt alone? Look at that time and go back and see how imagining Christ with you in each moment would have lead you to a sense of comfort in the storm. Imagine how instead of feeling at a loss that your mind instead would have been in a state of neutral allowing God to bring peace, comfort and enlightenment on what you needed to do and how to move from where you are to a place of hope, consolation and peace.

I am challenging myself beginning today to envision Christ with me as I enter or leave a room. If you are ill today and I have several friends who are. One has walking pneumonia. I am envisioning Christ over her bed and bringing healing to her body and weary spirit. Wherever you go today, I challenge you to envision Christ with you. Make your love for your Savior a part of your day by giving your thoughts to the presence of Christ. Embrace the love of your Savior. Rejoice in His presence. You do not have to wait for Heaven to find peace and comfort and calm. He is here. He lives inside your heart. Today, bring Him into your mind in all you do and all you face. When you walk into a room, put your mind in neutral and envision Christ.

He Lives, I Serve a Risen Savior
Alfred Ackley

I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.

He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho' my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro' all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.


Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

War of the Tongue

War of the Tongue
Peggy Mack
October 7, 2013

Being more round than I am jolly, I have often acknowledged that the reason I have battled with my weight since age 5 was because of my tongue.  A few years ago, I explained to my husband that all of our organs would appreciate our eating less or no sugar, more fresh fruits and vegetables and non-processed sources of protein.  Our body needs good nutrishes food.  Since I consider myself intelligent and educated I am at a loss to explain my craving for creamy desserts, mounds of ice cream, rich casseroles, fresh bakery breads, etc,etc. other than to say it's my tongues fault. My taste buds are short circuiting my brain and telling it what to crave.  With that theory in place for many years I was pleased to by fluke be watching Joyce Meyer this morning.  Bill's habits are set.  In the morning he wakes for his first fresh brewed cup of coffee, grabs the remote(s) in hand and turns on the morning news.  This morning, though we cannot completely explain it, Joyce Meyer was on and we watched.  Somethings I do not even try to logically explain, I just enjoy the moment.

Joyce's message was all about the war between the needs of the flesh and the desires of the Soul.  She was, if you can believe this, speaking to women about weight loss.  She had me laughing and recognizing myself within seconds.  How many times have we complained about our weight, witnessed a friend who drops weight in a way that seems too easy and the first thing we want to ask is, "How did you do it?"  She went on to explain that we need to stay within our own walk with Christ.  In our walk we know God is answering our prayers, giving us enlightenment and giving us the gifts of Jesus in our walk and the Holy Spirit to inspire and strengthen us.  If I already have the knowledge of what my body needs then I do not need to search for others' secrets.  Some of our challenges are solved quickly for us and other times, our challenges ask us to be patient, to walk each day with faith in God and to DO what we know God wants us to DO.  We will see miracles in life but they are not instant gifts that fall out of the sky and they may never happen in our own life or may come once in a lifetime.  We do not grow, she said, by having a miracle.  We grow in faith when we struggle, we walk daily in faith and we DO the work God gives us to reach our goal.

The flesh uses our tongue, she suggested, to do two things.  The tongue screams to our brain, "I need" and "I want" and it flourishes on the whispered voice that says, "No one is looking".  The flesh is what guides addictions to millions of things that are here to tempt us in life.  And the Word tells us, "Everything in moderation."  That works for most things including eating, celebrating, etc,etc, but it will not work for addictive drugs.  There is no moderation to those because the flesh will lie and say, "I can handle a little of this" and it only takes once to begin addiction.

The spirit says, "walk with me".  The spirit gives us gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Notice the last one of those, again. Self-control.  The spirit gives us the ability to have integrity which is defined as doing the right thing when no one is looking.
The spirit gives us strength and patience and fills us with goodness and enlightenment. 

So now, when I make excuses for not taking care of myself with my choices of food, I understand that it is not my tongue.  My tongue responds to my flesh which screams, "I need, I want" or it responds to my spirit which says, "I lean on Christ to guide my heart and mind in good things for me."

The other quick safety net that is available for me is this.  If it truly is something "I need" like a glass of water AND it meets my guideline for something good for me, then it passes the test.
If it is a Snickers bar in the checkout lane and I hear that little voice saying, "I need that because I am tired and hungry" that goes into the flesh column making excuses for why I am going to abandon my walk in faith to eat healthy food.  Mrs. Meyer lit a firecracker which sparked and quickly fizzled out and she said,
"that's how the flesh works"....It starts with a huge spark and fizzles.  Have you ever swore that you just had to have something to eat?  For me, those candy bars are sparklers.  My mistake is not eating something healthy first and drinking a glass of water before I shop.  I go into the battle of shopping in a grocery store without preparing myself.  I go into the grocery store without DOING what I need to do to make shopping easy and enjoyable. 

Her final thought was the fact that we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including SELF-CONTROL, but we must walk in the Spirit and we must DO what is required of us.  It is up to us to DO the work.  It is up to us to give our concerns and needs to God and to understand that while He is with us, it is our challenge to DO the work.  She consoled me by saying, you do not grow from a miracle, you grow when you make a commitment like giving up smoking and you drag and you fight and you struggle day by day until you are delivered from it.  They call it a "real battle" for a good reason.  A few, like my husband, gave up smoking three packs a day when he faced surgery.  He threw them away and has not smoked in 11 years.  He was delivered.  But for most people, it is a long, hard battle with set backs.  The good news is that when you walk in the Spirit you are not facing it alone.

What is it you have in your life today which seems like an endless battle?  Life is a constant challenge.  Are we allowing the flesh who screams, "I need, I want" to dictate our decisions in our marriage, our personal choices, the way we behave with co-workers or with church members or are we walking in faith and listening to God speak to our hearts?  There is a silent war of choices going on within us and we are asked to choose.   So I forgive my tongue.  It is the battle of flesh and spirit within me.  Now, here I go, the lady who failed Weight Watchers eleven times, going back into battle to get my eating to a place of good health.  I do not want you to wish me luck.  Instead, I ask you to pray I will heed the spirit and deny the flesh.  Can you see me shaking my head in doubt of myself?  It is okay.  I know my past.  Now, I will approach this with a new attitude and a new plan. 

I am grateful for the wisdom, ministry and delightful real humor of Joyce Meyer and pray for her continued health and ministry.

Dear Heavenly Father,
My husband and I are at that crossroad where we must focus on delicious, healthy food and let go of those desires for scrumptious, finger licking solutions to our cravings.  We are not easy to work with at all.  We have stumbled and we have fallen, but now, it is time to get real with you.  Walk with us and lift us when we fall.
And thank you, Lord, for leading us to watch Joyce Meyer this morning.  I will not try to explain it.  I will only acknowledge the moment and give thanks.
In Jesus' Name,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Devil Made Me Do It

The Devil Made Me Do It
Peggy Mack
October 6, 2013

Last July I had two separate conversations with friends from the Golden Isles of Georgia and both mentioned how they loved the book, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young. 

Within that same week I was buying groceries at my favorite coupon honoring, low discount, specials of the week grocery store.  Heaven knows how much I love to stretch my budget and loathe paying full price for a steak when I could keep two dollars in my pocket if I wait for steaks to go on sale.  I attribute that totally to our mother who loved spreading out the Wednesday newspaper on the dining room table and circling items on sale.  She would build her weekly menu by those sale items and then add whatever else she needed to complete each meal.  She could maneuver ads, coupons and a grocery list with great ease and satisfaction and I thank her so much for those lessons which leads me to say this.

It was totally out of my character to pause at the "Gospel" book shelf in the grocery store where my eyes went directly to a soft, faux leather bound copy of Jesus Calling.  My budgetary mind drew my hand back at first, but I allowed myself to thumb through the pages.  At one point I turned the book over, saw the price of $14.95 and began putting it back on the shelf.  I never buy books in a grocery store and certainly not with $15.00 I could be using to save money on groceries.  Then my hand reached out and I picked it up, again.  This is another example of so many God moments in my life.  They are like little nudges.  You know the ones where a voice inside your heart whispers, "Pick it up."  At that moment, it is a tussle between the gentle voice of the heart and the frugal grocery shopper.  This time, the small voice won and I proudly unpacked it with my bags of bargains and set it aside.

The next morning, I faithfully followed my new promise to begin my quiet morning with meditation and prayer and excitedly opened Jesus Calling.  Over time it has come to be my second go to source for enlightenment.  The first will always be the Bible because God speaks to us through others who have written those books and through God's own words from Christ.  This book, Jesus Calling, is an amazing gift from Sarah Young.  She shares her deep faith through what she senses are messages God wants us to hear along with prayer and Bible verses which are her basis for writing. If you find a copy be certain to read her story at the beginning of the book.  Most of us skip the author's introduction, I know, but this time it is so precious and so important.

Within the next week, I received a message from Sandy Williams whom I know through working on a songwriter's site.  She was going to send me a copy of, you guessed it, Jesus Calling. God wanted to make certain, I suppose, that I had not only bought it but was using it.  The book appears to be a blessing to so many.  I believe Sarah Young's book is so valuable because it has a daily message by dates and can be used day after day, year after year. And with each new year, depending on where our lives and faith walk lead us, we will be enlightened in new and different ways. It is not a read cover to cover and put on the shelf kind of book but will be a wonderful source to have in your collection of devotional sources.

I love being acutely aware of opportunities and God "nudges".   Of course, I am also aware that our soul is in a constant tug of war with another voice.  It is the voice I call the "I deserve it!" voice.   That one often whispers to me when I pass the fresh made salt water taffy candy store at Broadway at the Beach. I remember in the 70s a comedian named Flip Wilson whose favorite character was Geraldine.  She was an old church lady all dressed in a floral dress with lacy collar wearing white gloves and carrying a Bible.  Every now and then she would justify her misbehavior by saying, "The devil made me do it!!"  Well, I am saying that when I go near that candy store this little voice nudges me and says things like:  "You deserve it!  It won't hurt you! You know you want to go in here! You are going in there to buy some for others! You'll only buy a small amount!" Just the other day I posted a picture on Facebook of a Dunkin Doughnuts ad and my high school buddy, Sandi, said and why did you eat doughnuts?"  And I proudly giggled and typed back, "Because I can and I wanted to!"  That afternoon the doctor told Bill he needs to lose weight and get control of his sugar intake.  We were doing so well but the last blood work caught us misbehaving.  So while I admit I am telling my secrets to the world, it is for the purpose of stating, "Beware of what you think you deserve" and do not attribute those whispers to God.  He speaks to the heart and not to our stomachs.  Go on, laugh.  God loves a cheerful heart.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for gently nudging us to find positive ways to walk in faith. You leave it up to us to answer those callings and to discern between those and temptation.  Give us the wisdom to know the difference.
In Jesus' Name,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading is Not My Favorite Thing

Reading is Not My Favorite Thing
Peggy Mack
October 4, 2013

One of the gifts I have received in the past four months of writing my thoughts and acknowledging God in my life, is the appreciation for study.  Now for some who love to read that seems like a comfortable endeavor, but for this old school teacher whose eyes are tired and often glaze over, reading is one of my least rewarding and satisfying choices.  Dottie has taught me to place a soft ply carry-on bag beside me filled with devotional books from numerous authors, several pens and a notebook, a journal for prayers which holds the names of those who I hold in prayer, a spare pair of reading glasses and finally, the most important part of all is my Bible.  Always focus on the Bible, Dottie told me.  It is my go to source for knowledge.

Now, having read almost every morning in my devotions and time of prayer with God, I have realized that tiny "aha" moments come to me as if I am seeing things clearly for the first time.  I suppose the proper term for those are revelations, but it is too big a word for the occurence.  So, I prefer "aha!".  

My most recent moment of enlightenment came when I realized how simple God's lessons are for us to learn if we only sink ourselves into them with open minds and hearts.  I have long valued Bible readings on Sunday morning and Bible study with a group in Sunday School, but somehow this private time in meditation and study has yielded so much more for me.  The only way I can explain it is to say, the readings I am lead to through my devotionals are personal messages for my life on a specific day.  They touch me to the core and give me a clearness of thought that I have never felt in church or Sunday School.  For that reason alone, I have to encourage you to consider making your own "bag of devotional goodies" and making the effort to dedicate 30 minutes a day to communicating with God through reading and prayer and meditation.  Meditation is an important part of my process because basically I quit telling God what I want and start listening and sensing what God is telling me through His word. 
In that process I receive rest, peace of mind, clarity of thought and a focus on where I might make a difference.

Why would I have lived 63 years and never have seen the importance in studying God's word on a daily basis.  To me, the hard head and independent one, I always felt like the Wesley brothers were telling me to get with the program and do it because they said so. Well, I have never warmed up to that approach, AT ALL!  NO, not Peg!  I have always been known to go kicking and screaming into any kind of regimented, ordered activity.  I feel the walls closing in on me without someone explaining what I am going to get out of it.   Dottie did that for me.  She made me realize that God is so amazing and powerful, larger than infinity itself and we are not able to begin to "understand" Him.  Through God's word, the Bible, we are slowly shown the relationship God wants us to have with Him.  We slowly see that He has created us with brains that are capable of comprehending that God made this universe and all that is in it and that He gave us His son to clean up the messes we sinners continue to make.  His mercy is endless as is His love for each of us, His creations.  With our belief we are showered with grace and mercy.  But that is not the end of the story.  If it were, we would be fixed.  The problem is that we often during moments in every single day go running off on our own trails convinced we can "handle" something.  And BAM! the balloon pops, frustration sets in with a good dose of mad and angry.  Then you hear the familiar wail, "Oh Lord!"
We are called to invite God into every moment of our days. We are encouraged to envoke the Holy Spirit to enlighten us.  We are challenged to walk in faith with goodness and kindness and patience and love. 

Where do we learn?  We learn through study.  I knew from the age of ten that I wanted to be a teacher just like Mrs. Cook, my fourth grade teacher in Macon, Georgia.  She was the epitome of Southern grace, but she was also a light of God's love.  She was forever soft spoken, gentle, patient and forgiving while maintaining order and filling our minds with knowledge.  Although my memories are fuzzy these 53 years later, I do remember having to stay after school on numerous occasions to write "I will not talk in class 50 times".  Somewhere along the way she should have realized it was not changing me.  But I forgive her gentle soul because she had no way of knowing God knew I was going to love teaching Kindergarten and would need lots of talking in my life.  She had no way of knowing I would fall in love with words and writing.  All she knew was that Peg would not hush and was disturbing her quiet order in the classroom.  She filled me with a love for reading and went to work solving endless mysteries with Nancy Drew.  I have not loved or hungered for reading like that until this summer when Dottie said, "Well, if you want me to help, this is what I do for my devotions each morning."

Knowledge and understanding comes through reading and studying.  Gosh that seems so obvious doesn't it?  I am not memorizing verses to be repeated in Sunday school to get my star on the chart.  I am not studying my lesson to hash out opinions in an adult Sunday school class where the topic often strays far from the reading.  I am studying and reading each morning and feeling new joy and discovering a clearer view of how I can follow Christ.  I used to love the well worn phrase, "light bulb moment".   I saw those little light bulbs go on in little Kindergarteners so often and their eyes would gleam as a smile crossed their face and they would proudly announce, "I can tie my shoes!"  or "I wrote my numbers to 20 all by myself!" or "I can READ!"  Light bulb moments are such a joy.  For me, thanks to my friend from high school days, my little light bulb keeps lighting up with new understanding. Knowledge is power it is true but in this case, knowledge is a closer walk with God.  Here's the key to understanding.  Find a comfortable way to develop time to read each day and get ready for the lights to go on in your heart and mind and soul.  Reading may no longer be my favorite thing due to aging eyes but spending time in reading about God in my life and searching for answers in His Word have truly enlightened me.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for placing special people in our path that open our minds and hearts to you.  Thank you for gently teaching us more about you through each time we spend in studying your Word.  We believed in you and you showered us with grace and mercy and love.  Your word is truly the finest book ever written.  You enlighten us and reveal yourself to us through the lessons recorded in the Old and New Testament.  In those words we find our source for understanding, peace, grace, hope and love. Thank you, Lord.
In Jesus' Name,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Come to Me

Come to Me
Peggy Mack
October 2, 2013

I have few memories of my grandmother and her sister, Aunt Etta, who took care of me after school in first and second grade while my parents worked long hours at their business in Tampa, Florida back in the 1950s.  One faint memory I have of my grandmother is an embroidered lavender and green on white handkerchief that she seemed to carry as her favorite and her shoes which were always Daniel Green slippers.  It is funny what a small child remembers when they look back as an adult.  My grandmother was small but mighty in attitude and faith.  Her faith simply was never shaken.  She knew God's promises and accepted life as it was and on she went into her 80s.  One of the Bible verses I often here her whisper was from:
Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Now I admit that up until recent events this week I perceived that to mean if we were brave and faithful in our struggles here on Earth that we would indeed be given rest at the end when we walked into Heaven.  Nice, I thought, in years past, but I am exhausted now.
I never allowed my mind to translate another meaning of that verse.  But when you look at the words a realization comes that rest given from God can occur anytime. 

In recent weeks I have been asked to pray for a classmate, several classmates in fact, but this one in particular is one I like to refer to as "the Ever Ready Bunny."  You see he seems to do things so well that he has found himself owning a business, serving as a pastor and actively organizing a class reunion, not to mention being a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend.  I can only imagine that his brain is sputtering and his mind is on overload like one of those computers in a cartoon which starts going berserk and spitting out odd commands while lights flash brightly and then emits this errrrahhhhheeeeeek sound and a puff of smoke rises.  When I spoke to this beloved friend I shared with him one main message.  God wants you to REST.  "But my doctor said I can resume normal activities", was his response.  I laughed outloud and said, "You're not normal!"  This man who is trying to maintain excellence in three areas at the same time is the same age as many of us who have retired and are sitting back and enjoying the simple, sweet things in life.

  My gosh! I thought to myself~!  I would spring a leak, bust a gut and blow a fuse too, if I was doing all he is doing.  That's when the memory returned of my grandmother saying, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Bing! The light went on for me.  Too many of us are like gerbils on a wheel spinning faster and faster and feeling as if we are going nowhere.  How often that is true!  We do not have to die to rest.  Rest can come to us in small moments in our workday.  When it is time for a scheduled break or lunch, we can arrange to spend time alone in a peaceful place and ask God to recharge our energies.  When we have been through several weeks or months of non-stop challenges we can take a day of sick leave but instead of using it to do errands, we can take the morning to meditate and rest our minds.   At the end of a day of work, instead of woofing down a quick meal and plopping ourselves in front of the television, we could consider a light snack of fresh fruit, cheese and crackers with refreshing water and then go to a bedroom for silent communication with God.  God is with us all the time.  He created our brains differently from any other living being in that we can freely choose to silence the world around us and to open up communication with God.  In our normal daily schedules or our extended travels, God is with us and can give us the rest our souls, hearts and minds need so badly.  But it is our choice and often we ignore God's presence and go running through life like gerbils on a wheel never pausing to stop and rest so we can be renewed, revived and repaired.

Exodus 33:14

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Years ago, while teaching Kindergarten, running a household and caring for my ailing mother I began to have recurring, massive migraine headaches, dangerously elevated blood pressure and 5 or 6 petit mal seizures daily.  I was sitting in my classroom when all three happened at once and all I could tell the assistant was, "Call my husband!"  I don't remember how I got to the emergency room or much else about that day except for what my neurologist said to me.  "I am placing you in a private room for two days with no tv, no phones and no visitors.  You are to remain quiet and to allow your brain to REST!"  I had believed that I could handle anything.  We know the familiar Bible verses:  "I can do all things through Christ who is my strength" and the quote, "God never gives me more than I can handle."
Well, I agree!  God does not give us more than we can handle but often we make our own pile of endless responsibilities and do little to understand that our minds and bodies are not super engines.  Under stress they will fail.  End of sentence. Period. 
God never asked us to make a pile so high that we would destroy ourselves and for what?  God asks us to lean on Him, to believe in Him and to come to Him when we are weary.

If you know someone whose burdens are heavy, please, give them the gift of permission to rest.  It can literally save their lives and allow them to be lights for Christ a lot longer than if they burn themselves out like an overloaded computer system.

Dear Heavenly Father,
I come to you with the names of those who I know are working too hard and threatening their own well being.  I ask you, Dear Lord, to touch their minds and hearts, their bodies with a healing balm of peace and comfort and to whisper to them,
" Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."
In Jesus' Precious Name,

The Maze of Life

The Maze of Life
Peggy Mack
October 2, 2013

Several years ago, my lyric writing was in its infancy and I discovered a wonderful website designed and managed by a Nashville songwriter.  In that tiny arena of writers we found lasting friendships and folks we could lean on in hard times of our own lives in addition to honing our craft and sharing our love for the magic of words on paper.  In 2004, I "met" Nathan, the son of an English teacher, who had an amazing eye for metaphors, similes and all those other writing techniques which I studied but never "warmed up to" in my own efforts.  I began sending lyrics to Nathan who would dissect them to infinity and return them to me often for much needed repair.  Though frustrating me to the ends of the earth, Nathan was kind spoken and patient and I valued all I seemed to be learning at "warp" speed.  One day Nathan asked me if I had ever considered putting down my Bluegrass lyrics and trying to work with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) lyrics.  As I often tell people, if there's a challenge, the "Irish in me" kicks in and I go full tilt into trying to prove I can do it.  He came to me with the thought that while we see barriers in our lives, God who knows and sees all, sees the corners and sees where we are headed.  We worked on and created a lyric entitled, "The Maze".  While it never made its way to completion as a song we both were satisfied completely with, it did indeed stir up images and phrases that have made a difference in my own life since that time.

How many times have we heard someone or ourselves use the phrase, "I've hit a brick wall."  Or maybe they say, "I don't see any way out of this!"  At the point we reach that position in our lives, frustration and worry and a feeling of loss step in and our knees seem to buckle under the weight.  We turn to exasperation and words of defeat.

The lyrics and working with Nathan taught me that we see things in a one dimensional or two dimensional approach.  If you imagine, for a moment, a goal you have to complete a project at home or at work.  You run into problems with a budget that won't support the items you need, or staff members who "don't get it" or are "too busy" to be part of the work or you experience a "set back" with an illness.  So many things can slow our progress or give us feelings of defeat and "running into a wall".   Compare those feelings to the ones you experience in a maze.  It is fall now and many communities are designing mazes in the corn for kids and adults to enjoy.  Years back there was a news report of one so difficult that two teenagers had gotten lost in the maze and they could not locate them.   Calling to them or sending others out to find them seem to bring no results but further worries and frustration.  Finally someone called the Sheriff's dept who did not have a helicopter unit but who thought to call a nearby farmer with a crop dusting plane.   The farmer/pilot was able to fly over the maze and give directions to the quadrant where they were standing while a copilot shone a bright light on the wall section where they stood.  The boys were rescued with no harm done before midnight.

How often have we felt like we were facing a wall or had our back against a wall and our only thought was disappointment and failure and a need to quit.  In those moments we feel like we are at the end of a road when in fact, we only are facing a challenge.  Challenges demand a few things of us.  They ask for time to think.  We often want to go into a faster push to get past the walls.  We don't seem to feel comfortable around them and want to run when in fact, we should accept the situation and actually pause to think.  What we fail to realize is that, like in a maze, where our view is only one or two dimensional and much like tunnel vision, we fail to see our options as challenges come along.  The step we need to approach to our lives is this.  We need to call for help from God and we need to look upward.  Instead our shoulders droop and our heads look downward in defeat.  God has an amazing perspective of our lives that we do not have.  His view is from above our maze of life.  He sees every challenge we will face and every wall that will slow us down and affect our positive minds.  I have heard my dad say, "just because you have a problem does not mean you have to see the negative side of it.  For every challenge there are negatives and positives. Find the positives and use your brain to find a way."  When we reach the wall, as the teenage boys did in the maze, we need to slow down or even stop.  We need to find patience while we think and plan.  We need to look up to God for His perspective and view and wait for him to place those in our paths who can shine a light on what we are facing in order that we can find our way out. 

It seems so simple and what I am learning in this walk of faith is that often what we make so difficult in our lives is quite simple to tackle if we allow God and time to work with us and for us.  Instead we often choose defeat and the old "why me, Lord?"   It is not about God "picking on us" at all.  It is truly the fact that we were blessed with the gift of life when we were born and our lives are not brightly lit, straight and narrow pathways.  No, not all!  Our paths change in texture and challenges and they weave through time like in a maze.  We can do just fine when the path is straight but when it turns and we hit a wall, we "throw up our hands in defeat" when God is right there with us "in every step of the way".  We know that! 

When life gives us a wall, all we need to do is slow down, rest, think and ask God to guide us around the wall and to send others to light our way.  Onward we go in this amazing maze of life. 

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you so much for not only being in our lives walking with us but above our lives aware of what challenges lie in our future.  Thank you Lord for gifts of friends, like Nathan, who helped turn my failing efforts into a positive path that continues to bless me each day. 
In Jesus' Name,

Here is our collaboration on "From the Maze to the Amazing".  I hope it is a blessing to your life in some small way.  Thank you, Nathan, for being a light that opened up so many positive choices in my life and renewed my faith and spirit.

"From the Maze to the Amazing"

All my life,
I've heard that grace was so amazing
But how does that help me here today?
All mixed up,
in this rat race going crazy
The walls of life close in and block my way,
One more disappointment after another
One more bad decision lying right around the corner

All I want is a choice that's worth the making
All I need is a chance that's worth the taking
Lord lift me up above so I can see
That grace is all I need to carry me
From the maze to the amazing

All I see
Are walls of guilt and failure
Some windows of forgiveness would ease the way
But grace so free
Keeps my world together
And opens doors I walk through every day
Falling on my knees at another dead end
I look up toward the sky, to see His guiding hand


If I could fly up in the air
I could see quite easily
The way from here to there

But why when He's watching over me
Would I fail to see His hand
Holding everything I need

And now there's so much more to grace
Though my heart is holding out
There's mercy on His face

And wow, the view is so breathtaking
I can't help but soar
And know His grace can take me

From my maze, to the amazing...