Are You Angry?


“Medically, anger causes an increase in many physical ailments such as heart disease, stroke, and migraines. Joy, on the other hand, medically causes a decrease in all of those same things.

If the Joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and the enemy can keep me in anger at my brother or my neighbor or my spouse or my government or my children, then the enemy has stolen my strength without lifting a finger.

Joy is found in reconnection and restoration…(Luke 15). Joy has to be entered in to…(Matthew 25:23). Connecting with the Father and with others in love brings complete joy…(John 15:9-10).”

Quote from Alicia Hommon of Kingdom Driven Entrepreneurs taken from their newsletter 1/19/21
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When you look at the above picture, what do you feel?

Fear? Anger? Agitated? What if you were standing in front of this man in person?

I’ll bet, like me, you wouldn’t experience warm fuzzies making you want to engage with him.

Now what about the picture below?

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Different emotion completely, right?

This man makes us want to laugh, say hello, and find out what’s made him smile.

Incredible what a picture can illicit in us, isn’t it?

So, what is it like when we embrace anger or joy and others experience it simply by watching us? Not only do those emotions destroy or bring life to us physically or medically as is stated in the above quote, but they do the same to everyone around us.

Just for a moment, consider all the images we’ve seen lately in the news. Let’s ask ourselves why the majority of them are of anger, violence, hatred, and agitation. Is it possible that there is a spiritual agenda by the enemy (meaning the devil, not a political figure) to keep us in an angry, agitated state so that we can be destroyed and bring that same destruction to those around us?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Jesus

An abundant, joyful life is found in Jesus. It comes from sharing his love with others. Regardless of what circumstances around us look like, can we choose joy and love over anger and hatred? Not only will it benefit us, but it will benefit our world.

When I was a kid, there was a popular song called “What the World Needs Now is Love” composed by Burt Bacharach. Here’s the first verse:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

Love is what our world needs. Still. Now. Always. And we have it if we will simply embrace it. God IS love. Jesus showed this when he walked with man on earth and then died on the cross so we could forever experience God’s love here, now and for all eternity. When we acknowledge Him, confess that we’ve looked everywhere but to him, and receive the gift he give us, we can have all the love we need.

And that love leads to joy.

Let’s not let the enemy rob us of strength, joy, love and the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Unshakable Hope


A few months ago, a mysterious illness infiltrated my body. (No, not covid.) The signs were subtle at first. Some swelling in my ankles and aching in my arms. It rapidly progressed through my body and currently holds me hostage with severely swollen, aching arms and legs and sometimes debilitating stabs of pain. Test results are all normal. I have no other symptoms apart from fatigue and an occasional headache. The doctors are stumped. I am on a three month wait for a specialist.

Not fun.

But God.

Whether I am afflicted or healed, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has made every day, and I choose to rejoice and be glad in it.

As Jesus believers, we pray each day for healing, believing and claiming that by his stripes, I’m healed. And I believe I will be. It may not be today or tomorrow that my healing manifests, but it will be one day according to his plans. Plans I don’t understand, but that are always good.

So far, I’ve learned to trust him more. I’m learning to wait well. My mind is a battlefield, and I can choose to embrace God’s presence, hope, love, and joy, or I can believe lies and be filled with fear, anger, despair, and self-pity. Each day, and sometimes multiple times a day, I have the choice.

Days are better when I choose Jesus.

Today I watched the memorial service for a blogging friend of mine who went home to Jesus on December 30th. He wrote a blog called Unshakable Hope and lived with ALS for 24 years after the doctors gave him three to five to live. I met him because of this blog. He has been such a source of encouragement and faith building to me. As his two daughters shared some questions they asked him, and played his robotic responses while he was confined completely to a wheelchair with no voice and no ability to move, I was once again inspired.

Bill talked about the passage in Scripture where Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh. He commented that our trials here are fleeting and temporary in light of eternity. Now as I wait on the Lord for healing to manifest, I am encouraged by this man’s incredible life. His wife, Mary, has been his caregiver all these years. Her grace and patience humble me. Bill reached tens of thousands of people through his blog that he wrote with eye recognition software. How can I live my life daily in this affliction so that it has eternal value?

How can I consider my current situation close to what he’s lived with? I only hope that I can live it with faith, grace, and unshakable hope like he did no matter how long it lasts. In light of eternity we live a fleeting moment.

Today is the only today we have. Tonight it will be gone, and tomorrow will come. What will we choose today?

I don’t know what the rest of my day or my tomorrows will be. We don’t even know how many tomorrows we’ll have. But today, I live for Christ in response to his love for me. No matter what comes, his love, his presence, peace, joy, and hope are beyond measure.

Will you choose him today? Whether you know him or you don’t, he loves you. He chose you. He has a plan for you.

In honor of my blogging brother Bill Sweeney. He chose Jesus.

If you’d like to see Bill’s site and posts, you can read here.

A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

Full or Empty Cup?


close up of coffee cup on table
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

An empty cup can be filled, but a full cup can’t hold what God wants to pour into us.

What are we full of?

Fear, hurt, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, anxiety, dread, depression, anger?

OR

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, hope?

Do we fill our cup each day with “what if’s” that breed fear?

OR

Are we filled with excitement, dreams, possibilities and “God will”?

Jesus said that for all of us who are heavily burdened to come to him and trade whatever is weighing us down for his life of love, joy, peace, and hope. Laying everything down at his feet, we can let him handle our concerns and let him lead us by still waters.

Sometimes we find it hard to empty ourselves.

Pride, fear, shame, and disappointment can cause us to not trust God. We feel the need to control. But every step of faith that gives God more control yields relief and a lesser weight on us. Then we are free to let God determine our journey.

And his ways are far better than what we think we need or want.

He blows my mind with the healing, blessings, fulfilling ways my life expands and gets to touch others. His word says he gives us the desires of our hearts. I testify to the truth of that!

So today, are you empty or full? What is your cup full of?

What the World Needs Now


HOPE. Lava bringing life

Life will never look exactly the same again. This season in our world has been one of:

  • fear
  • uncertainty
  • questions
  • opinions
  • contradictions
  • frustrations
  • accusations
  • loss
  • grief
  • weariness
  • isolation
  • and excitement.

Wait.

What was that last word? Excitement? How can anyone be excited in this season?

Because in the midst of all this, God’s plans can’t be stopped. He’s not surprised by this. He knew it was coming. His plans are always for us. For a hope and a good future.

Things may not look like we expected or planned. There may be shifts in our lives from certain activities to spending time with our kids; from the job we hated every day to a new opportunity we love; from comparison to companionship. We may be weary or grieving a loss.

But God offers us hope.

This is my prayer for you:

May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

When we trust God, he fills us with hope, joy, and peace. That’s why I’m excited about what’s to come. In Jesus, there is hope, healing, comfort and a sense of peace no matter how things look.

Today, may you have a little of what the world needs right now. HOPE.

He Chose You


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For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame… Hebrews 12:2

Jesus thought of you and me when he chose to lay his life down.

He thought of being with us as a joy. That’s how much he loves us. He didn’t want to be without us. So he endured the humiliation, torture and devastation of being nailed to a cross.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

He overcame death and rose again. Not only so he could be alive, but so we could live forever with him. Forever alive. Forever without tears, sorrow or pain. Because he took all of that on him for our sake.

Wow.

Happy Easter. 

 

Getting a Handle on Fear


Aussie land 145A couple of weeks ago, I posted about fears sinking us.

As I learn to trust God more, I’m beginning to understand to a greater depth that he really is in control of every situation. I don’t believe he causes bad things, but I see how he allows them to bring about something better for us. Sometimes our idea of “good” isn’t as good as his “best.”

As a result, my fear is diminishing.

Over the last three months, I’ve read a couple of books that are changing my perspective.

Prison to Praise is the testimony of Merlin Carothers who describes his journey finding God and his power in Merlin’s life. Power in Praise gives numerous stories of people, including Merlin, who began to praise God for every situation in their lives – both good and bad.

God’s plans for us are good. And they can’t be hindered.

I know that you can do ALL things, and NO purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Job 42:2

So every situation is from his hand in order to bring about something good.

every. single. situation.

I get that is hard to wrap our minds and hearts around. I have friends who just lost a son. How do we apply this mindset? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Yet.

I won’t offer platitudes. But I do know that God is good and is doing something good even in that situation. It comes down to whether we can fully trust God, his goodness, his promises and most of all his love for us.

And that is what alleviates our fear.

No matter what happens, I’m trying to choose to praise God and trust that he is doing something good. Even when it looks bad.

At the very least, my heart is calmed, and I find peace and joy.

But I’m also finding that God works out the circumstances I thought had no answer or were too bad to take – not usually as I envisioned, but always better than I hoped.

As we approach Easter, I see the ultimate example of this.

When the religious leaders dragged Jesus away, and mocked, tortured and crucified him, his followers scattered. Terrified and alone (so they thought), they tried to make sense of the turn of events. They had believed, expected that Jesus would rescue them from the oppression of Roman rule. They watched their hopes and dreams die on that cross. Right?

Wrong.

God had a better plan. An eternal plan for life beyond the one they were living on earth. He sent Jesus to save them from being forever separated from God. God’s perspective was far greater than theirs. Saving them from their current situation was not as crucial as saving them for eternity.

With God, there is always a bigger picture.

One we can’t usually see until after the fact. You know, that 20/20 hindsight thing. So if we can believe this, trust God and thank him for what he’s doing even when we can’t see it or understand it in the moment, we experience peace. We also take our hands off situations which allows God to work things out.

To experience his best way, we have to get out of the way!

I challenge you to consider taking your life forward by praising God even for the tough stuff that seems bad. What looks bad to us, is a gateway to the ultimate good from him.

Let me know your thoughts…

 

10 Ways to Take Our Life into the New Year


Resolutions. Hard work. Expectations. Failure.107

Sometimes we feel like we have to work so hard to make life work or to be who we think others or even God requires us to be.

But it’s actually simple.

God’s done everything for us already. Psalm 104 & 105 reminds us that he set boundaries for waves, made mountains and every creature that dwells there. He’s given us plants for food and makes each thing suitable to the place he’s put it. He’s forgiven us and given us his spirit to help us live.

So what are we stressed about?

All we need to do is respond to his love and care for us.

Here’s 10 ways to do that:

  1. Give thanks to the Lord
  2. Call on his name
  3. Make known what he has done
  4. Sing praise to him
  5. Glory in his holy name
  6. Let your heart rejoice
  7. Seek the Lord – his face – get up close and personal with him
  8. Look to him for strength
  9. Remember the wonders he has done
  10. Shout for joy!

Not a hard list, is it?

Let’s try it for a couple of days and see if our day goes more smoothly. Or even try it every day for 1 week and see if you notice your days shifting to less stressed, more positive and happier. Try it for 3 weeks to make it a new habit.

I can’t wait to start.

Let me know how you’re doing by sharing your experiences here in the comments or by emailing me at laurabennet14@gmail.com

 

Sweet Hymns of Joy


For many this time of year isn’t a cheerful time. But JOY can still be found.

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As the song says,

“…a weary world rejoices…”

And today’s world is certainly weary, isn’t it? But it is an emotional weariness. A deep question of where is the good in all the bad.

So for today’s post, I feature my author and musician friend, Lisa Hamil who has created some helpful material for taking your life forward into joy.

Don’t we need some joy?

Lisa coaches people in a practical way to create joy in their lives. She utilizes three steps: Faith, Appreciation and Relationship as the basis for gaining a settled life of more joy.

You can download her material here.

Not only that, but she’s just released her new book, It’s About Time.

Her book reviews various perspectives of time both conventionally and from a biblical perspective and shows us how to live NOW.

We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience a rich, fulfilling life. We can enjoy our “now” by living in the present with JOY.

Lisa has a passion for healthy vibrant living. As a pharmacist, she knows that medications may not be the best answer for creating what really promotes healthy life-style changes. Spiritual guidance has so much to offer in propelling our life’s mission.

Our thought life is what energizes our world.

Lisa has found that her moment by moment connection to the presence of God is what transformed her life. That life long pursuit grows more fully with each day. Her mission in life is to share that expanded joy with those seeking to live a life of purpose, passion and fulfillment by knowing the reality of God. Lisa herself is a joy and delight to be with. She exudes peace and confidence. Her book and music are available on Amazon or on her website.

What Is Joy?


2014 was a rough year.

Continuing illness from our house with mold, landlord issues, lack of employment, moving across country, saying goodbye to friends and family, and then a job loss took its toll on our family.

So when our pastor, Matt Keller, at Next Level Church here in lovely, balmy Florida began talking about choosing joy during his holiday sermons, you can imagine my divided thoughts and emotions. Yes, I know God’s good, and in all of it, he has done incredible things.

But we were challenged to choose joy. In every setting. You know the verse in James, “Count it all joy, brothers…”

REALLY??

Interestingly enough, around the same time, I was contacted about Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back With Joy. Would I be willing to write an honest review if I were provided a few chapters?

Naturally I said yes.

I don’t think this was a coincidence. Joy seemed a struggling commodity in our lives this past year. I wanted joy. I need joy. Maybe my word for this coming year should be “joy.”

Margaret says in her book that she always thought of “…joy as a natural byproduct of a life well lived.” I think that is what I believed too. But if that was the case, then I hadn’t lived well the previous year, had I?

Was joy the measure of whether my life was good or bad?

It couldn’t be. And if joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life, something God grants me then couldn’t I have it for the asking? Couldn’t it be cultivated in my heart?

What is joy anyway?

This is what Margaret Feinberg reveals in Fight Back With Joy.

And she goes a step further, showing how she chose joy in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer. Say what? Who does that?

In her typically engaging, lay-it-all out there way, Margaret shares how her life-threatening challenge created a compelling platform for discovering and communicating what true joy is and what it meant in her darkest time of need.

Defiant joy that declared darkness would not win.

We are encouraged that joy doesn’t deny hardship. It doesn’t sugar-coat our trials and pretend they are easy. No,

…joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

Wow. It seems my battles have been joy stealers. The concept that I can choose joy to fight gives me hope and fills me with – joy!

Margaret goes on to explain all the ways God gives us joy. Such as through embracing his love for us, looking for joy in each good thing, being blessed by people God sends to refresh us (like Philemon for Paul in the Bible) and choosing to create moments and situations of hilarity. Those are only a few of the thought provoking and uplifting discoveries this encouraging author offers.

I nearly cried when my first few chapters came to an end.

This is a book I needed. And I have the inkling that many others do as well. We need this honest look at how to deal with the trials of our lives. Life, especially these days, is rough. Not everyone is facing cancer, but as Margaret acknowledges, every one of us has dealt with or is going through some difficult situation.

And God intends for us, enables us to live in joy.

Even in the darkest, most heart-wrenching of times. Not putting on a fake smile of “Everything’s great!,” but existing with something deeper and stronger in the midst of pain or sorrow.

I for one need that.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story. Thank you for showing us how to fight in life with true joy.