Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe. Honest Abe Lincoln. President Abraham Lincoln comes to mind to me quite often these days. For those of you who do not know the complete history of Abraham Lincoln, let me give you a crash course.

Abe Lincoln suffered losses as a child and a young man. His little brother Thomas died in infancy, his mother died when he was 9 years old and his sister died when he was 18 years old. Abe Lincoln had no education past the age of 11 years old, but he borrowed books and educated himself while he worked odd jobs to support his family. At the age of 21, Abe moved with his family from Kentucky to Illinois where Abe began the first leg of his political journey with a speech for improving navigation on the Sangamon River. He ran for legislation in the Illinois general assembly and lost. Abe became a business owner, but lost all his money with the death of his business partner. Abe ran for general assembly again and won. Abe studied law. He suffered the loss of his girlfriend Ann Rutledge due to a fever. Abe was re-elected several times to the general assembly and received his license to practice law. Abe married Mary Todd and had three sons, one of which passed away as a toddler. Abe was practicing law, then becoming a Representative for Illinois. He attempted to run for Senator in Illinois, failed twice, but did get nominated for President of the United States and won in 1860. The history of Abraham Lincoln is truly worth the time to research and read.

Adversity was no stranger to Abe Lincoln. From the time he was a boy until his demise. Not many of us would have kept pressing forward with our goals and dreams, however Abe Lincoln faced them with amazing courage and complete faith in God. He did not let his lack of education, money, social status or support from his family keep him from pursing his quest for greatness. Abe Lincoln always remained true to his belief in himself.

Abe Lincoln understood oppression. He understood that bondage on any level is not meant in human existence. His own journey through life kept him humble. His peers named him “Honest Abe” because he could not hold back the truths as he knew them. Honesty, integrity, and humility are definitely the characteristics of a true leader.

As I read Abe Lincoln’s history, I felt empowered by his perseverance and strength. He nothing held him back and he attributed it all to his devotion to the Lord. Surely, Abe was human and at times felt like giving up, but he did. not He took each defeat and failure as an opportunity to grow. His walk in faith paved the way for generations to be free, not just from the oppression of slavery, but from the consciousness of lack and inequality. Abe Lincoln made many speeches speaking to the hearts and minds of his constituents that we are all God’s children.

We live in a time where all that is good and fair is not as important as what is entitled and owed. I am sure Abe Lincoln’s journey in some ways, was no different from our own now. We suffer losses of loved ones, jobs, and relationships. Sometimes we fail as much as we succeed. We question the actions of others that hurt us. Often we shake our heads at what we read, hear and see that at times discourages us from moving forward with our goals and dreams. What matters when all is not right within our own worlds, is our faith in God, and our resolution to succeed.

All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and is the One Who makes it perfect. Hebrews 12:1

Character is like a tree and its reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think if it, the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln

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Your memory card is full or is it?

Memories. We have so many of them. Good memories. Bad Memories. Some memories we would like to forget while others get us out the bed in the morning.

As I have gotten older, memories seem to dictate much of my life. Memories will cause me quickly to pick up the phone to dial out or receive or not answer it at all. Yes, that is not always fair, but it is honest (Not directed at any person.) Memories will lift me up when the news is not so great and often make me think twice about decisions I need to make. Perhaps memories are a part of discernment which gets better with time. Being alone in the city, sometimes memories are all I have.

Recently, I went to my high school reunion and also visited my grandmother while I was home for the weekend. A weekend full of memories to be shared and made. My class reunion was great. I enjoyed seeing old friends and missed those not able to attend. My classmates and I mostly asked one another about other classmates and shared some funny times from back in the day. Seeing my classmates reminded me of whom I was then and who I am now. There is not too much difference, but life can sometimes take the personality out of you and give you an identity of its own. That is a constant battle that only the Lord can arm you with His grace and mercy to stay true to yourself. Nevertheless, I missed my classmates and I am sure the feeling was mutual. After so many years, coming home to unconditional love still available from my classmates, friends and family makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

Visiting my grandmother took on a somber tone in my heart. She is 93 years old with Alzheimer’s. When I looked at her, I wanted her to say hello to me and give me a hug. I smiled anyway, because I knew she would have if she could. I kissed her on her forehead and tried to get her to speak to me in her own feisty way, but she laid there relaxed and in her own world. I dared not disturb her peace. Instead I sat in the chair next to her and looked at all the pictures in the living room. Carrying on a conversation with her care giver while looking at the pictures, I took in all the memories of times I spent in my grandmother’s house. So many thoughts in so little time. I occasionally looked at my grandmother and felt a smile and a frown battling for space. I do not know who won. Grandma did share her memories for years before and during her illness. Memories are made to be shared.  The best gift she ever gave me was her memories. Well maybe the ability to take no mess, but that honor may belong with all the women in the family.

There is a line in the movie called “The Family that Preys” where Kathy Bates’ character, Charlotte Cartwright says,”Your memory card is full.”   She is sitting on the bed having her own reality check that she has Alzheimer’s disease. She gets upset and Alfre Woodard’s character, Alice doesn’t understand why she is so upset. Before the line in the movie, Charlotte and Alice go on a cross-country trip taking pictures everywhere they go to having the time of their lives.  As the trip ends, the memory card is full. In Charlotte’s mind, this is all that is left. A full memory card. No more memories can be put on it.

The Lord gives His gift of time to experience and enjoy life. He gives us the ability to have and share memories that will last a lifetime. In each moment of time we have, we are making memories happen. Will you look back at your memories and keep your peace knowing you enjoyed so much of your life? Will you hold a private pity party and say I wished things were different?  Will you think about what your memory card holds and decide, is it full or do I still have some memories to create? I already know the answer!

“We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us.” — David Seamands

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”–Matthew Barrie
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9

I can sleep when the wind blows

A few years ago, I found an article titled ” Never Give Up” and it happened to be dated on my birthday. When I read the article it didn’t seem to relate to never giving up, but it still had a profound message. The article posed a very good question. Can I accept a greater good when I am in the midst of pain and suffering or negative circumstances? VERY GOOD QUESTION!

The timing of this question was perfect because I was fairly new in my walk with Christ and while I understood basic principles of Christianity, I never thought about the good, the bad and the ugly and what my responsibility is when going gets tough.  I thought since Jesus saves, I’m going to be just fine. We all know scriptures and hymns for moments of despair, however in the darkest hour, it seems we either lose sight of our Heavenly Father or we force out words of affirmation that seems to make sense because some other Christian told us it is the right thing to do. Honestly, sometimes we are at a loss because we are not as prepared as we thought we were.

There is a story mentioned in the same article about a young man looking for work as a farmhand. He told his employer he could sleep when the wind blows. The young man intrigued the farmer and the farmer hired him. Some time later, a storm came through the farm, but the farm sustained no damage. The farmhand had the forethought to prepare for the days ahead not knowing what the days ahead would bring. He prepared for the  unforeseen storm when the skies where blue and the days were sunny. When no threat of rain or wind was in sight, the farmhand had everything in place and when the storms did come, he rested quite peacefully knowing he prepared for rough times.

Preparing for the unpleasant moments of life, especially when day-to-day experiences are normal or perhaps more gratifying than usual seems like the last thing we want to do, but it is so important to fortify our souls with the richness of God’s promise and faithfulness. Spiritual exercises are too important not to include in our daily living. Prayer, reading, meditating, spending time with the Lord insures empowerment and give us the tools we need when the storms stir up. Forgiveness, repentance, praying for others, praying for our enemies, and thankfulness are all wonderful and awesome gifts we give ourselves to use when we may come under attack.

Can you sleep when the wind blows?

The Lord is my rock, and my safe place, and the One Who takes me out of trouble. My God is my rock, in Whom I am safe. He is my safe-covering, my saving strength, and my strong tower. Psalm 18:2

my son(or daughter), do not forget my teaching. Let your heart keep my words. For they add to you many days and years of life and peace. Proverbs 3:1-2

Beauty for Ashes

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Years ago when I began my walk with Christ, I needed to know something. I needed to know it (what ever it was) was going to be OK. I searched for bible verses that would speak to me and give me peace and comfort me when I needed comforting. Isaiah 61:3 found me.

I was watching a television show and the speaker recited Isaiah 61:3. The verse caused me to sit up and listen intently. I smiled. I felt like God just kicked the bully who tried to hurt me. This verse came along at the perfect time in my life and it reappears like my guardian angel when I need to be reminded of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes. When we think about all the times something happened or is happening to us and in the end we became better human beings for the challenge we face, that is a crown of beauty. Our positive attitudes, smiles, words of encouragement, our inner and outer strength, our obvious healing and our successes are big shiny diamonds in the crown. The definition of ash is something what remains after it is burned. In other words, it is finished. Whatever the ash may be, it is done. You have been delivered and given glory for your troubles.

A joyous blessing instead of mourning. Mourning is heavy and does not give light to the darkness we face in our suffering. Mourning is a personal journey and means different  things to different people. Before the ashes became ashes, they were real people, real situations, and real hopes and promises. Most of them we felt were gifts and blessings from God and a sign of his love for us. When they are taken away or we lose them, we think we the worst, which is a human way of thinking. But the Lord did not promise us worldly things. He did promise us he will always be present. A joyous blessing may not even seem like a joyous blessing when we receive it, but the Lord is on time and never goes back on his word. The sooner we seek him in the midst of the trials and tribulations, the sooner his joyous blessing appears.

Festive praise instead of despair. The Bible gives numerous verses on praise because praise shakes up the enemy and empowers us to be bigger than our circumstances. I think this is the hardest part of Isaiah 61:3 to understand. Who feels like being festive and giving praise when despair is much more comfortable and wins pity even within ourselves. I can tell you from years of practice, praising when you do feel lead to will work wonders on the soul. This is the part where the Lord wants us to be active in the healing process. He wants us to praise him will help us give praise and thanksgiving when we open ourselves up to doing what it takes to get past the ashes. Praise is showing we know how great our Lord is and how much we believe in his wonder-working power. Despair and praise both require thought, so why not praise? I know you can!

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. When we overcome our suffering, we stand tall, not just to the people around us, but also in the eyes of the Lord. Our beauty comes from surviving the ashes in life and emerging with rejoice and full of praise.  Like the great oak tree, we are mighty and respectful and the Lord takes pleasure in seeing His glory in us. It is honorable to be a better and stronger person for having beauty for ashes.

Oz didn’t give anything to the Tin Man…

….that he didn’t already have.

We have all watched the Wizard of Oz at least a million times.  A movie with so much rich satire it warrants repeat viewing. I chose the Tin Man because of a line from a song called ”Tin Man” from a band named America.  “Oz didn’t give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have.”

The Tin Man was looking for a heart.  Just like the Tin man, we’re all looking for something whether it’s a job or a lifestyle change, there’s a longing for completion within ourselves.  As the Tin Man goes through the forest his adventures are filled with the joy of making new friends, confrontation of a horrible witch and ultimately finding his way to Oz. So much of life is like the Tin Man’s journey. We meet great people who are encouraging and supportive. The trials and tribulations on life’s journey can be discouraging giving hope and faith less appeal, yet we keep going knowing what we’re looking for is just around the corner. We do our best to stay on the Yellow Brick Road. When the breakthrough arrives, we reflect on the experience from start to finish with humility. Realizing the thing or things we wanted or needed weren’t far from our reach.

The Tin Man was focused on lacking a heart and didn’t see his actions as loving as he saved his friends from the perils of their journey to Oz. He did indeed have a heart.

Our Father does give us what we already have in him. Philippians 4:13 says, I can do everything in him who strengthens me.  The New Year’s Resolutions, the promise to resolve situation, or wanting to be a better person are only a thought away from reality with empowerment promised from God already in you!

What’s your Tin man story?