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“Wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:20-21).

I offered my head to the young apprentice. She needed to practice, so I would become the lab rat of her experiment. Few had seen the procedure and my outcome was difficult to predict. Bowls of gel mixtures littered the small table. Countless paint strokes surrounded me. After an hour, I resembled an alien with head of silver tentacles sprouting hair. A cosmic halo orbited my noggin, projecting heat onto the foils. A tiny flutter stirred in my belly, churning a bit of acid to rise into my throat.

It’s only hair, I told myself. No matter how this turns out, I will be okay.

This year brings a variety of changes for me, all more significant than last fall’s balayage venture (which proved less dramatic than I anticipated, by the way). My son leaves for college. I’m handing off an officer position. At the same time, church and career undergo major transition. I’m not sure how the results will look, but a different world is shaping up around me.

Change shakes up our lives in a myriad of forms, and can often prove refreshing. Some novelty brings joy, hence the constant trend shifts in technology, fashion, and adventurous recreation. New movies rock. Hidden waterfalls delight the soul. Who doesn’t love a fresh outfit?

The transitions we don’t seek will occur, too. We age. People leave us. Security blankets blow away in one strong gust of calamity. Expected or not, certain life-upheavals rattle our roots from their comfortable places. From relocation to chronic health issues to grief, uncomfortable transitions stretch across differing levels of life’s Richter scale. They all begin with a similar emotion, as the first thing felt in an unwanted quake is loss. Pain screams to the forefront of human awareness, blocking other details from our perspective.

The time varies with the impact, but painful aftershocks begin to diminish. The dust settles after a while. If we choose to open our eyes, we can see. Before surveying the land, we know it has changed. We don’t need to look to acknowledge the change affected us. Life shifted, and things are not as they were.

I cannot move on from a state of loss until I open my eyes and accept the new reality. I must survey the landscape to identify my resources. A strange realization dawns in the moment of clarity after the impact has subsided. Despite the change, all is not lost. My greatest resource remained with me even when I could not see Him.

In the tumult of life in this errant world, God remains steadfast. He never leaves us. His love gushes endlessly over us whether we sense it or not. Often, He brings our sweetest blessings in the times we feel most lost and alone. Regardless of the many transitions and losses we experience, God never changes.

As my maturing sons depart and work and worship landscapes transform, these changes occur on the temporary plane of my existence. Even if I lose all I hold dear, the Lord will sustain me with His precious loving presence to the end of mortality. And then, all be restored. Adonai, Whose every work surpasses excellence, revitalizes life with extra gobs of glory lavished on top. Eternity will gather my entire spiritual family to worship and serve together. Ultimately, nothing will be lost forever. I will be better than okay.

What changes are you experiencing today? Try offering a prayer of trust and praise with me. Choose to believe in God’s steadfast nature, despite the shuddering earth. Let’s cling with all our faith to the Rock in the midst of life’s quake.

  “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:6).

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36:5-6).

He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change” (Psalm 55:18-19).

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“Now remain in my love…

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this:

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”

(John 15:9-13).

He grinds his jaw as his blistered soles pound the trail. His gear weighs as much as a man’s corpse, and the load drives an ache through his spine and knees. Perspiration stings his eyes. His lungs heave in a steamy breath. Five more miles before the downhill slope. Must. Press. On.

“Let’s go, soldier!”

Ears clogged, he can’t tell if the raspy command comes from behind or ahead of him. But he knows that voice.

The crack of gunfire shatters the air. An explosion rattles through the earth into his weary bones. He stumbles in the plume of smoke, but does not fall. Adrenaline pulses to steady his gait. Chaos dulls his pain and drowns the officer’s words. But he knows his mission. Heart bearing the worth of his people, the soldier plunges headlong into the deadly fray.

Soldiers. Willing to lay down their lives for our people, they represent the utmost fulfillment of Christ’s call to all of us. This Memorial Day, many of us will offer our respect to the soldiers who have offered the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Active duty service men and women also deserve our thanks, for they lay aside peace and comfort most of us take for granted. Many in our military face unimaginable horrors in battle, continuing years afterward to fight for emotional survival.

We owe them thanks in many ways.. Verbal gratitude, assistance, and favor provide a good start. Tangible appreciation must never be neglected or diminished one iota. There remains an even more significant means of honoring our troops–join them in answering the call.

Christ commissions all of us to lay down our lives in love for one another. If we rise to follow His example, setting aside our comfort to plunge forth in the fight against evil, we adopt the soldier’s mission. Carrying out acts of love despite hardship will honor the soldier, for we rise to a value more worthy of his or her sacrifice. More worthy, though it remains difficult to imagine we’ll deserve what our fallen troops have offered.

We’ll never deserve the sacrifice Jesus offered for us. No manner of thanks, no acts of service can make us worthy. Grace cannot be earned. Yet our grateful hearts prompt us to follow His example and love others. Like these noble soldiers, we, too, can grow selflessly loving hearts. Far away from perfection, long before we reach our destination, God awards us, both spiritual and tactical soldiers, an amazing distinction. He calls us friends.

This Memorial Day, join me in the ongoing practice of thanking God’s friends. And becoming one of them.

Blessings to all who have offered service to our country and our King.

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“Sacrifice thank offerings to God . . . and call on me in the day of trouble;

    I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:14-15).

Heels bouncing. Arms upraised. Palms waving. I did the happy dance today. Full-on, Snoopy-style. A long wait sweetens good news, and I had waited over a year for an acceptance letter. Could’ve sworn I tasted chocolate while reading.

I love champagne truffles as much as any girl, but I’m more thankful for achievements. Success and answered prayers fire up my worship to a near-charismatic levels. Hand-raising tends to linger outside my comfort zone. When gratitude for provision and healing bubbles up from my soul like a wellspring, I can hardly help myself.

Christ receives my best praise when things go well. Do I offer the same level of gratitude during tough times? I pour out passionate prayers, declaring the power and perfect nature of God. I cry out, reach out, and plead. But days of trouble don’t bring out my Snoopy-style, charismatic thankful dance.

Eternal, indefatigable blessings remain with me at all times, bright or dark. The Holy Spirit promises never to leave me. Christ redeemed my soul and declares me an heir to heaven. The All-Powerful Creator adores me as a Father. Whether I see circumstances working out in my current moment or not, the Lord assures me of His presence. God promises to work out the big picture for my good, and I can trust Him with the immediate details. His goodness never fluctuates. Christ’s most significant blessing remains with me always. Jesus deserves my happy dance every day.

In Psalm 50:14-15, the Lord promises two bonuses if we offer thanks when we’re in trouble. He first assures our deliverance, a cherished gift of His grace. A grateful attitude provides additional perks. Praise shifts our mindset toward hope. Faith grows and strengthens. We secure our footing in the awareness of God’s presence. Thankful prayer offerings sustain and support us through trying circumstances. The privilege of new status gleams on our souls like a crown, for He lifts us up as those who honor Him.

I’m a fan of pleasing my Lord, so I set a new prayer objective. Every day, rejections and life-worries notwithstanding, I plan to fire up some thankful Snoopy waving. I’m working on my “Woot!” Will you join me?

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving: (Psalm 69:30).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 4:6-7

Afternoon rays highlighted splatter-spots dappling my kitchen window. I corralled piles of dishes toward the sink. The third time since breakfast. My hands trembled as I scrubbed the grimy counter. Why is it always such a mess? Recurring, ugly streaks, just like my failures in business and publishing. I tossed the rag at the sill.

I marched out the front door with an announcement to any ears in range. “I’m going for a walk.”

As I strode under the oak canopy, I grasped the air at my side. “Walk with me, Jesus.”

My morning time of prostrate meditation remains a precious way to center myself before the day’s mission begins. Bedside prayer also offers great benefit, laying all needs and offenses in divine hands. Sometimes, I wrestle with overwhelming angst and need to break out of my conventions to better connect with God. Fresh perspective unstops the ears of my soul.

This common need resounds from world headlines to the soul cries of our neighbors–financial crises, illness, general household chaos. Circumstances shatter our peace. Life whirls around our heads, distracting us from intimacy with the Lord. In this tumultuous life, we need help centering our spirits in prayer.

Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s new book, Praying Upside Down, offers novel tools to uncork conversations with God. She expands our view of divine interaction beyond the formulaic ideas of conventional prayer. A graphic designer, she crafts an artistic pathway to spiritual intimacy. Her analogies and suggested applications prove easy upon a reader’s eye and attainable to a beginner’s soul.

Have you ever struggled to focus? Railed at the ceiling as if it were a blockade? Or felt your heart too overwhelmed to summon a prayer? Upside down experiences might just refresh your mind and reveal the path to renew your weary soul.

If you’re interested in Praying Upside Down, find out more information from Tyndale or check out Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s website http://www.prayingupsidedown.com/

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