Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Page From God's Playbook by Nina Keegan

Football is nearing its end for another season. The men in my household are gearing up for the Super Bowl! The main event!! The end of the road for football FANatics. It's time to separate the men from the boys in this mega contest of who's who in football. Which team will reign supreme?

I listen to my boys discussing the football players on the field, arguing and strategizing over each and every play they make, agonizing over their team's defeats or celebrating their glorious victories. Being heavily armed with a spread of football grub, while anxiously yelling at the TV is pretty much the norm around here during football season.

I think about each of these teams and their players and all of the hard work they put in during a season. Each team member must fully rely on the others for complete safety,dedication and for advancement. The Coach must accurately and efficiently write hundreds of plays that make up the team's official playbook. Each athlete must memorize, learn, and skillfully execute the plays in this manual. If one person is off, messes up, or forgets the format, the play will not work out as planned and they will fail to gain any yardage or momentum needed to score. The play book is a blue print, a pathway to a victory, a brilliant plan, one that when followed correctly, could lead the team to the championship game and a monumental victory.

That playbook on it's own is entirely not so fabulous, it is basically worthless. If it just sat on a shelf, had no team, and no coach to use the wisdom in its pages what good would it be? Used for its intended purpose, however, the information in that book is priceless.

What about our playbook, the Word of the Lord, the Holy Bible? It is after all a brilliant manual designed to give us all the insight we need to be our best selves. Like the team playbook, what good does that book do on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere? There is knowledge, powerful understanding, and wisdom for us to soak up and abide by on every glorious page. It is our very own personal playbook, a perfect outline for our individual and uniquely designed paths.

(Jeremiah 29:11)
For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord; a plan for good and not for evil. A plan to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future.

God very similarly to an NFL coach, has written a playbook for each and every one of us, it is a map of sorts depicting His plans for us. A highly efficient plan that is for our good and not for evil. Each playbook is hand written by God Himself! When God designed our plans, He sat down and wrote them in their entirety. The whole book start to finish. We each have a story so unique and inspiring. When we are faithful to follow God's will, we can flow through our pages with ease, absorbing a bounty of knowledge while breezing through the chapters with gusto and an unparalleled zest for life.

The simple fact of the matter is, we may only get small glimpses and mere fragments of these wonderful pages in our playbooks because we are so busy focusing on other outside influences, we are often bogged down with stresses and life's random issues. We let our problems and our fleshly nature take us on a time stealing detour. We are led down the bumpy, misguided road and off of our beautiful, divinely drawn paths. It's like we took all the pages from our playbook and tossed them all in the air and then as each page gently reaches its final resting place on the ground, we try failingly to piece them all back together. Each page left on it's own or in the wrong order can make no sense, it cannot tell a story, there is no plot to follow. It's us a jumbled mess, and our minds cannot grasp it. To the contrary, our playbook , when left in tact and diligently followed in its wholeness is an absolute masterpiece. It is like a road map for the soul.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Only God, the author himself, knows what our play book says, He gave the pages order and lovingly numbered every one. We may be stuck on page 54 and we do not like what it says. We may be facing terrible trials and are ready to give up. If we do just that and fail to press on through, we may never see how close we were to victory! We may never have read that page 55 was the page we were waiting for. The page filled with words of freedom, joy, and victory! The very next page may have contained the game winning play!

We must stay the course. We must wholeheartedly believe and trust God. We don't want to leave anything out. Every plot, twist, and turn on the pages of our playbooks are there for a reason. They are all a very intricate piece of our story. Without each page our book would be incomplete and we would miss our victory. We must hold strong and follow our author even in the valleys and trust Him for each day, good or bad... They are all leading us to victories beyond which we cannot conceive.

We do have free will. Our lives will follow the paths we choose, we can follow this book of life page by page in sequential bliss or we can live in the wilderness of uncertainty and unturned pages for a lifetime.
Choose the bliss !!!!

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path.”

Heavenly Father,
Help us to diligently seek to follow your plan for us even when we can't see the ending of our story. Help us to trust you in all things. We love you... In Jesus name we pray!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Nina Keegan Owens

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
(Isaiah 40:31)

Have you ever heard that old expression, somethings are just worth waiting for? Or how about, just take your time...Don't be in such a rush...what's your hurry? Or the ever popular Rome wasn't built in a day?....

Why are we all in such a crazed hurry about everything? Why can't we just have a little more patience? Maybe, for some of us, a lot more patience?

I love to cook, I am boastfully 100% Italian, so of course, I love to make all sorts of wonderful homemade pastas and sauces with all the usual Italian suspects; garlic, wine, plenty of asiago cheese, and olive oil. I used to cook often with my extraordinary, petite, Italian, grandma when I was a kid. We never measured anything. A little of this, a pinch of that.. "just eyeball it"...she would say as the wonderful aromas would waft from the pot gloriously simmering something amazing on the stove top. No recipes were ever followed, to her cooking was just common sense. She made it look so simple. I never saw her take the easy way out, cheat a little and just buy the noodles, nothing from a box or can would do. She had no microwave or dishwasher, yet she took her time and patiently created fabulous Italian meals from scratch and with love every single day.

Admittedly, if I am ever planning to make one of her made from scratch meals, I assure you, it is a holiday or a very special occasion. I consider ALL that work to be a huge deal. It is certainly very time consuming for just an ordinary, everyday, meal. I want dinner on the table quick and the mess to be cleaned up even quicker. I lack the patience required to make such a feast on a daily basis, yet my grandmother created them every day patiently and without complaining.

What has changed over the years? We have become such a society of instant gratification. We want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, and we want it now....

We do every thing lightening fast, we have drive through everything, fast Internet, even faster phone service, Instant this, quick that. We grumble and routinely complain over waiting even for the shortest period of time.

(Proverbs 14:29) A patient man has great understanding but a quick tempered man displays folly.

(Colossians 3:12-13) Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

We lack patience, not only in our everyday lives, but we have an even harder time waiting on God and His perfect timing when we are needing answers to our prayers.

It is so difficult to be going through a tough time when we have been praying relentlessly, quoting scripture, and just believing for God to show up armed with all of His answers. Then we fail to see Him at work and we don't hear from Him. We feel like He is being so silent. He is not answering our prayers. He's not showing up to help us."Where are you God?" we demand answers. We get so frustrated and discouraged because we feel like God is taking way to long! We even try to take matters in our own hands and tell God how to fix it for us the quick and easy way of course. "Well God, if you would just do it this way"... we even try to convince God that our plan is actually better than His. Our plan is faster too, who needs all this waiting around?

We don't want to wait and perhaps learn something valuable and important in our trials of patience. Learning those lessons sooner than later could catapult us to a higher calling, a new place in our lives, a much better place....One where we are gathered fully in our strength and ability through patient understanding. Our self discipline grows immensely when we are waiting faithfully on God. We are more peaceful in our wait when we sit patiently knowing that we have already prayed and now we will trust. We have asked, now while we wait, we can praise and thank God so graciously that His answers are on the way. Our heightened fears and anxieties begin to descend as we place our trust in God's timing.

God is always faithful and will always answer our prayers in His impeccably perfect timing. His answers may be decidedly different than we may have thought, for reasons only He knows. We must grow then in our wisdom and knowledge of knowing that He holds all the cards. He's pulling all the strings. We can rest then in our declaration that He is taking care of it all! He cares about every last detail of our existence. nothing is to small or to hard for our mighty creator. His righteous hand is covering it all! His way,His timing. We must gain patience while weathering these trials. God's plan will always be infinitely better than anything we could ever devise on our own even on our best and smartest day.

How many times in your life have you ruined something by rushing it? I have even ruined a whole load of laundry simply by not taking the time to remove a pen from a pocket. Doing things hastily typically will require us to repeat the process , this time correctly and patiently or it will cost us precious time and effort in clean up and frustration. Losing our patience is a test that when failed steals our joy!

That's precisely how God works! He's getting it right the first time, every time! He is behind the scenes writing the script for our story. He's dotting every i, and crossing every T. He leaves no stone left unturned when it comes to us, His precious children. Rest assured ,with a healthy dose of patience you will realize God does all things for the good for those who love Him! You will eventually be able look back and see that His timing was infinitely perfect. You will gain a testimony and a future reference when you have stood the test of time. We need to fully trust the mighty hand of the Lord with all things and through our patience and our waiting we will grow in hope and more importantly faith.

God is always faithful! He is so incredibly patient with us! Wait calmly on Him and with a good attitude. Stay joyful. Do not throw in the towel to soon. You may be so very close to seeing your prayers answered and your victory come to pass. Hang in there. God may not be early but He is never late....

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
(2 Peter 3 : 8)

Thank you Heavenly Father that through our struggles we will endure with patience knowing that your timing is perfect and you are faithful to always answer our prayers. We praise you in Jesus name!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Living in Excellence by Nina Keegan Owens

(Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might...

When my kids were little, I used to talk them often about their grades and school work. Our talks were about them always striving to do their very best no matter what. Whether or not they enjoyed their class, or were struggling in it, I expected them to try hard and give it their all.

I have always believed if you give things your all, regardless of the circumstances, and if you continually do your absolute personal best always and in everything; then amazing things will happen as a result of your hard work, dedication, and excellence.

It's the classic law of reciprocity. We will get back exactly what we put in. We reap what we sow! Hard work pays off. God is always watching, He's never asleep, never on vacation. He is the rewarder to those who are deserving, and to those that seek Him daily and want to do what is good and pleasing to Him. Living in excellence will always give you a leg up, it will open doors for you and bless you for doing your uncompromising best.

Stop doing just enough to get by unless just getting by is how you want the rest of your life to go. We can always do more, we can always better ourselves, there is always room for improvement. Set your mind to come up higher. Set better goals and reach for the stars. Get a bigger vision for yourself. We should never be completely satisfied with the status quo. We should always be growing in our abilities to better ourselves. If we are not always trying to come up a little higher, then we can sit contently on the sidelines while the world passes us by....

There's a difference between perfection and excellence. No one ever asks or expects anybody to be perfect, in fact, it is a bonafide impossibility. Nobody is perfect! Living with excellence, however, means always putting forth your best efforts, going the extra mile and putting your best foot forward even when no one else is watching.

(Colossians 3:23-24)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this scripture we are taught that no matter what we do, we should always work as if God was our boss, our teacher, our parent. He is after all our ultimate authority figure. He is who gives us our blessings and abilities. Why not use them to be a blessing to others by using wisely each of our capabilities. If we work hard and with unprecedented integrity, we will simply be blessed. God can see to it that we get what we deserve. He can give us His unmerited grace and favor so that we will never be overlooked. If we study hard, God can help us on that test. He can help us to be standouts for a promotion. He can give us favor for doing what's right. When we do what we can, God will do what we can't.

Living with excellence, means staying positive and focused, working hard toward your end goals, and taking pride in yourself, your home, your work. Take care of the things God has already blessed you with. Clean up your home, wash your car, and make sure you take care to always look your very best. Treat people fairly and with respect. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Try to eat healthier, get enough rest and plenty of exercise. Smile more, laugh lots and spend more time with in fellowship with our loving God. When we do our best to take care of ourselves, God can bless us with a long and healthy life complete with joy unspeakable , and peace beyond anything we have ever known.

Excellence requires self control, staying away from strife and letting go of pettiness and anger. It is forgiving those who have hurt us. Try harder in all things! Get to work or school a few minutes early, be prompt, not hurried, late and scattered. Be more helpful, generous,caring ,and kind. Do not be the person that disappears in the face of hard work, instead be the person that spearheads the Job. Volunteer when you can. Be a light unto those who may be inspired by you to pay it forward and bless others.

2 Peter 1:5
"In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge,"

When we do our best, even in the small stuff, no natter how mundane or whether or not you think it will or will not matter; we will open the door to favor, goodness, positive change, and growth.
Likewise when we take care of and appreciate all we have, God can trust us with more. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, so why not start with the most simplistic of things?

We are what we repeatedly do so with that being said, we can even turn bad habits into good ones just by faithfully taking the first few steps toward a better life. For example, by taking those few steps to be a little more neat, tidy and organized, you can eventually change those bad habits of being disheveled and messy and soon you will start implementing more and more positive changes and improvements. Just those few little steps can turn into miles in terms of how different your life will be. When you feel better about yourself and your surroundings, you will act the part and you will become a much happier, joyful and more productive person.

I have a friend that was a 2nd grade teacher for many years. She told me once that when they had "picture day" at school, and the children all would come to school with their "sunday best"clothes on and their hair all coiffed and styled to perfection for their anticipated portraits, that the children's behavior was always so much better on that particular day. She said it was as if they behaved according to how they felt. They were proud of themselves and acted like fine young ladies and gentlemen as a result.

I guess I for one, have just never really understood the point of mediocracy. Why not do everything that you can to perform to the best of your ability? Why not be fulfilled with a marvelous sense of achievement and accomplishment? Try to do any and all things with excellence! What do I mean by that? Do things right the first time. Don't go around taking the easy way out all of the time . Living in excellence means being a person of quality, having high standards and a moral high ground that is unsurpassed. Always do a little more than what is expected. Surprise people with your willingness and awesome attitude. If everyone around you is giving 100%, give 110%... Set in motion the perfect plan of goodness, prosperity, blessings and favor that God has personally designed for you by always striving to be a person of excellence . The blessings that will result from you living your best life now will be inconceivable!

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Heavenly Father,
We want to live a life of excellence that will make you proud. Please help us with ability, wisdom, and discernment so we can and will make wise choices and always try harder . We know you can give us the grace we need to be our best selves and to live our best lives.
In Jesus name we pray!