It is said that truth is truth no matter where you find it. On my flights home yesterday, I read a novel and it contained these wise words.

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

I find that to be true. I have worked tirelessly to make friends with myself. As that has become reality, I find not only are there less enemies without, the ones I encounter no longer have the same power to manipulate or control me. I am set free from discouraging forces.

Jesus said this:

“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.””

Matthew 22:37-40

Loving oneself is the key to eliminating the enemy within. When I am able to love who I am, I love others more fully. When I am loving others as people with potential, created in God’s image, I no longer see them as my enemies.

That’s a win-in for everyone. Who can you love unconditionally today? Consider extending an olive branch to someone you have previously considered an enemy. If it’s difficult, perhaps the problem is within rather than without so take a moment to consider who the enemies within might be.

Now that’s deep thinking for this Thursday morning.

There was a song we sang when I was a child about the great state of Montana. It went like this: “Montana, Montana! Glory of the West. Of all the states from coast to coast you’re easily the best. Montana, Montana! Your skies are always blue! M-O-N-T-A-N-A! Montana, I love you!” It was sung to the tune of a school fight song. And in my heart, that is how I feel. I will always love Montana.

While shopping for thread, I met a woman who moved to Montana from Minnesota. The thing she missed the most from the midwest is Western salad dressing. I didn’t know, but it is not available in Montana. Her family is missing it. It made me smile that when she learned I was from Indiana, she was compelled to share her love of Western dressing with me.

Years ago, at lunch with new co-workers, I attempted to make connections with the women by sharing something about my previous employer. Impatiently, the matriarch in the group told me I didn’t work there anymore so I didn’t need to worry about that work environment. I was silent the rest of the meal.

It’s difficult to let go of attachments. It might be a place we lived, a hometown, a job, a salad dressing – whatever our heart attached to; the thing that gave meaning, purpose or enjoyment. Just as my co-worker harshly pointed out to me, letting go is necessary to successfully embracing the next step. Paul, in kinder words, said it like this…

…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:13-14

I wonder how often our longing for the past, even distant past circumstances, hinders me from truly living in and embracing the present moment. I don’t believe I can be fully present in the NOW if I am longing for what used to be, even if it is just the place where I once lived.

A few years ago, arriving in Indiana after a few weeks in Montana, I realized my heart was home. I reveled in that feeling, knowing that it was the place my children call home, the only thing they know. I was happy to be home in Indiana.

I am grateful for my heritage. Montana — and everything that word means to me — will always hold a corner of my heart. To borrow scripture, I keep these things and ponder them in my heart, while at the same time, holding dear my present circumstances.

But for now, Montana, I bid you adieu! Until next time!

How about you? Is there anything that has your heart’s attention? It might be your place of origin, a relationship, a job, an ex-lover. Can you let go of what lies behind so that you can grab what is ahead with both hands?

Since I arrived at Mom’s last week, we have worked on finishing a quilt for my sister. Part of the time, we watch TV. HGTV and Food Network are my choices this week. On Food Network, I found a common theme among the competitive chefs — losing the way due to drugs and alcohol and then finding the way back from these addictive behaviors. It was the third chef sharing the same journey that I began to put this together with my hiking experience on Sunday.

Most people don’t set out to get lost and stuck in the mud. It happens one step at a time, missing one sign post, not listening closely, ignoring a warning. Until one day, the sun comes up and realization that life is a nightmare rather than a dream come true becomes glaringly clear. What does one do?

The overwhelming lesson I learned listening to the stories of these people is this: there is a way back. It isn’t easy. Scars incurred in the roughs stand as reminders of the past — not as signs of failure or shame, but as proof of overcoming. Paul says it like this in his letter to Rome…

12Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Romans 12:12-14

Simply put, changing who one listens to makes all the difference. If I continue to listen to my broken, sinful desires, I will stay in the mud. In order to rise above the chaos, I need to be led by God. But I don’t do it by myself. I am empowered by the Spirit of God.

Are you struggling to find your way? Sit and think for a second. Who has your ear? Do you need to change what you are listening to?

The other day as I walked in the early morning hours, a very old song ran through my mind. It went like this, “Listen to the Lord as he speaks softly. Listen to the words of a perfect man. Listen to the words of God Incarnate. Listen even when you don’t understand.” And it’s been my mantra all week. May it also become yours.

Sunday morning my sister and I decided to do a short hike in the early morning hours. Okay, so it was 7:30. That seemed early!

The hike we selected was not long, but was said to be quite steep in places, so we decided to take two cars and park one at the top and go to the bottom to begin the hike. Armed with enthusiasm, we hit the trail with gusto.

Hiking is a great opportunity to talk and neither of us were particularly concerned about choosing the right path. We assumed there was just one and it would be obvious. The first fork in the road was not far into the hike and said “Hikers Only” with an arrow to the correct path. Well, we were hikers, so we followed the arrow up a narrow, steep path, even though the path we didn’t choose was much wider and seemed to meander lazily off in the other direction.

The first bit of the hike was quite strenuous so spotting a bench overlooking the valley was a welcome sight. We detoured just a bit to enjoy the lookout and then turned back to the hike. Now we had a decision to make. My sister pulled out the trail map and we tried to make sense of all the little dotted lines and landmarks. Certain we were armed with good information, we chose a trail and continued walking.

Again, this was a narrow little trail for “hikers only” that meandered down into a little valley and up again on the other side. It was quite pleasant. Soon we encountered another bench and more trail options. About this time, we noticed trail markers inconspiciously placed on the trees. We were attempting to follow the red trail and we noticed red markers on the trees to the right. So we went that direction. Now the trail was wide and mostly downhill. It was a bit puzzling as we were trying to get to the top of the hill. But talking, and our certainty, kept us going.

About this time, another hiker came along. We decided to ask directions. To get to the top of the park and the visitor center, we needed to go back the way we had come and continue past the bench. So, we turned around. Now the trail was an uphill grade. The portion we had just come down so easily, became quite challenging. Returning to the bench, we discovered we were only five minutes from the parking lot when we took the downhill path.

Later that evening, we looked over the trail map again. The path we wanted to take was the wide path we had ignored in the morning. The signs that warned “hikers only” were to indicate paths meant for humans, not horses.

I wonder how much longer our hike was because we didn’t understand the signage, we didn’t read the map right, we were distracted by conversation and didn’t notice the trail markers.

It’s easy in life to ignore the most obvious signs pointing me to good and pleasant outcomes. I have the Word to guide me – but sometimes I don’t read it until I am in trouble. There are signs along the trail, but I don’t see them because I am distracted. I don’t question the terrain, because I assume it is the right way. Recently, I realized I made choices in the past because I believed the hardest way must be the right way. In retrospect, the hardest way didn’t align with the truth of the God’s Word.

105Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Are you wandering through life without direction? Does the way seem long and difficult? Why not stop at the bench, take a look at the map (God’s Word) and see if there is a different way. I think you might be surprised how peaceful the journey can be.

My first day in Montana began earlier than usual for me. Awake by 5 o’clock, I laid in bed until 6:20 when I realized if I got up I could watch the sunrise. I rarely get a chance to do it — partly because I don’t have a good eastern view and mostly because I am not up. Just keepin’ it real!

As I sat in Mom’s driveway, coffee in one hand and my morning meditation in the other, I watched as the sky came alive with morning colors. I thanked God for the morning sun, his watch over the earth, the way he reveals himself through nature.

Mom and I shared conversation over breakfast, doing the simple things I don’t often get to experience with her. We ran out for a few groceries, planned dinner together, walked through her neighborhood. I thanked God for these few days with Mom and the beauty of time together.

Today my day was marked with gratitude. Gratitude for all things large and small. Other things my heart sang with joy over today…

…fresh cherry tomatoes from Mom’s window box garden — crisp, juicy and fresh.

…cherry pie hot from the oven waiting for me when I arrived Wednesday night.

…dinner with two sisters, one brother and one brother-in-law recalling memories of frozen Ding Dongs, Spam from the can, chopped roast beef sandwiches, apples from the tree for school lunches, uncles that scared us, redemptive moments with people from the past, shared laughter over spiders in coffee cups.

…growing relationships with my own children and grandchildren as we all learn what it means for them to be adulting and sharing lives and responsibilities.

18Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Today the Holy Spirit led me to be grateful for all things large and small. What are you grateful for today? What are you experiencing that, covered with a spirit of gratitude, is a stepping stone to God’s will for you?

Happy Friday everyone! Remember, it might be Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Today I am going to Montana to visit my mom. As I observe people and situations, I will listen for what the Holy Spirit wants to teach me along the way and share them as my Montana musings. Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

My travel day began with more adventure than I intended. Considering myself a seasoned traveler, I tend to be impatient with the foibles of less seasoned companions. But this morning, I was the novice.

I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, I dropped my bag off and moved through security in record time. As I collected my belongings, I realized I left my Yeti in the bathroom outside of security. Immediately turning to go back to the bathroom, I checked with TSA to ensure it was okay to go out and come through security again. Cleared to do so, I hurried through the automatic doors with the recorded voice advising me that I was moving into an unsecured area and I MUST NOT TURN AROUND. At that same moment, the sickening realization that I left my driver’s license in the grey security bin hit me. Without considering the ramifications, I turned around!

The alarm instantly made me aware of my mistake and the hurried movements of the TSA personnel confirmed I had erred. The doors automatically locked and six pairs of eyes trained on me as I apologized profusely, explaining I left my ID in the grey tubs.

Looking frantically with no sign of my ID unnerved me but just that quickly one of the TSA personnel spied it in a tub coming down the conveyor. After retrieving it, another kind TSA employee called the police officer who was coming to assess the threat, letting them know she had me in her sights and it was okay to unlock the door again. She led me through the doors to meet the officer and assured him the threat was neutralized.

I walked quickly to the bathroom, retrieved my Yeti from another kind airport employee and returned to do the whole security thing again. They were just as thorough the second time through but this time I didn’t forget anything. Two passages came to mind as I pondered the adventurous beginning to my day.

19Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

James 1:19-20

…don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 

Philippians 2:3

Today I was reminded to approach all of life with humility, understanding that we all have foibles. It is what makes us human and lovable. Too many times, impatience, annoyance and even resentment wells up when others slow me down. Today, I caused a stir, slowing down the security lines, making others wait because of my humanness. Everyone was so gracious with me. I want to pass that on to someone else, too!

What about you? Is your righteous indignation necessary? Are you impatient with others, forgetting that you do the same things? How can you be gracious to others today?

Years ago an older gentleman gave me his commentary on Revelation to proofread and critique. I asked how he thought it might be used in the future; he saw it being a tool for a class study on end time events and the coming of Jesus. I looked it over and returned it to him with two comments. First, it was very long making it cumbersome for the type of class he envisioned. Secondly, it only presented one view of the events outlined in Revelation. My recommendation was that a class on Revelation would appeal to a broader audience if it included more than one interpretation. You see, on this topic, I adhere to Pope John XXIII’s motto: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things, charity.” The essential element of the second coming is just that: Jesus is coming again! How, when, pre/post/a millenial, pre/post/mid tribulation — those are all nonessential details that do not change the reality that Jesus IS coming back for us.

Paul writes to encourage the Thessalonian church to not be led astray by the whisperings of some who say the Lord has already come. You can read all his encouragements to the new believers in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

It is his blessing that stands out to me and encourages me when I am troubled. He says this:

13As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 14He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. 16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, 17comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

These are wonderful words of assurance of salvation, exhortation on living well, and a blessing of peace to be upon us. May they be words that comfort you today in whatever you do and wherever you go!

Last week our family camped near Brown County State Park in southern Indiana. For camping, it wasn’t exactly roughing it as we have travel trailers with all the usual amentities — air conditioning, full hook-ups for showers and toilets, refrigeration, hot water, real mattresses. No sleeping under the stars or cooking over a sweltering fire in summertime temperatures.

Even with all these conveniences, it wasn’t like HOME. We ate outside even when it was so warm the sweat poured down our faces. The pool was nice for cooling off and helped to alleviate some of the discomfort of the high humidity and warm temperatures. Sleeping in air conditioning in a travel trailer is nice, but not quite like home. It’s much noisier and less consistent.

We came home Sunday afternoon and by 9:00 o’clock I was ready to snuggle into my bed. HOME…it’s the best. I slept better than I did all week. It was quiet, cool and cozy. It was nice to walk around the house without running into one another or needing to sidestep along the end of the bed to get to the bathroom. No noisy air conditioner or fan running all night. Just quietness!

This morning in my meditation time, I reflected on the two accommodations. For camping, our travel trailer is amazing. I could live in it for a long time, if necessary. But I always look forward to and long for HOME. I know there is something better awaiting me.

This experience reminds me of my life on earth. While it seems I have all the conveniences I could want, something better awaits me. Just as my travel trailer provides all the comforts of home, it is not HOME. My life here is full and complete, I am surrounded by the Spirit of God and he gives me rest on every side, but it is not HOME!

As I read Paul’s letters to the new believers in Thessalonica, I sense their excitement for another home. They anticipated Jesus’ return, living with him forever. It seems they had three concerns: What about people who die before Jesus returns? When will this happen? How should we live until then? Paul clearly says that even those who die before Jesus’ return will meet him in the air (so I admit, I don’t know that I understand how it will happen–I’m content to know that it will happen.) Secondly, the timing is not important. Finally, it matters how we live. Alert, clear-headed, protected by the armor of faith and love is how we live. And then he says this:

…wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

The intended use of these words is to encourage one another! For me, I need to be reminded that I can take confidence in my helmet of salvation. Jesus died to save me, not to pour his anger on me.

And that encourages me! What part of this is encouraging to you? Share it with someone today!

In 1988, there was a publication that gained quite a bit of popularity in certain circles entitled “88 Reasons the Rapture will be in 1988.” The author spoke with certainty, even narrowing the Lord’s return to three days in September—11, 12, 13. Needless to say, it caused a stir for many, me included.

One woman I know didn’t preserve anything from her garden that summer or buy her son school supplies since they wouldn’t be needed anyway. She was scrambling for school necessities on the 14th when she was still here and her son brought home a school supply list.

Others, like me, anticipated those days with trepidation. I was pregnant at the time and dealing with a good bit of anxiety. I remember laying down for a nap one day listening to a flock of birds raising a raucous in the trees outside my window. They were suddenly completely quiet and my immediate thought was, “He took the birds first!”

Well, here we are almost exactly 32 years later and we are still waiting and watching and expecting for the clouds to burst open, announcing the arrival of Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand…I am excited to be gathered together with the Lord in the sky. I just think about it differently now than I did then.

We aren’t the only ones who have waited nor are we the first to question the signs of the times. Apostle Paul wrote two letters to the new believers in Thessalonica and both letters include encouragement to maintain the course despite what they heard about the Lord’s return.

The most outstanding bit of advice Paul gives these new believers is at the beginning of chapter five:

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

It reminds me a lot of Jesus’ admonition to the disciples in the book of Acts.

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”

Acts 1: 6-7

I guess it must be human nature to want to know what happens next and when. But Jesus says it isn’t for us to know. So what are we to do with this in-between time until the Lord returns? Hang with me this week as we explore what Paul said to the new believers in Thessalonica and what we can do today!

Happy Monday! God is good. He is still in control. He is coming again! I encourage you with these words!!

So, I go to the dentist – I show up – and he is going to do the work. What else do I need to do? I have to position myself for the work. For me, this often means taking my coat off and hanging it, along with my purse on the hook provided. I sit in the chair, submit to the paper bib and relax into the chair while the hygienest eases me back into a prone position. At any point, if I refuse to cooperate, the work cannot be done.

The same is true in the work that God is doing and continues to do in my heart and mind. I need to show up AND position myself for change. It means I put down anything I brought with me — this might be lies I believe about myself, God or others. Willingness to let him rearrange my thinking is imperative. He doesn’t force me; I willingly submit to his work in my life.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6

The work — transformation into the likeness of Christ — is God’s work. He will continue the work until the last moment of history. We accept God’s gift of salvation and then show up and position ourselves for him to do the work of transformation.

Are you showing up and positioning yourself so he can do the good work in you?