Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God's Plans May Surprise You

When we assume we know how God may meet a need, we are often wrong.  This year has been a prime example.  I was told in March that my hours were going to be dramatically cut at the community college where I have taught developmental mathematics for nearly eighteen years.  I would be getting less than half of my normal hours.

While others panicked, I wasn't initially worried at all.  I just "knew" God must have plans for me to teach full-time in a public or private school setting.  After all, I had just renewed my teaching license last year.  It had been expired for over a decade, and I had finally figured out that I should have it renewed just in case I needed it someday.  That someday was coming sooner than I thought, and I was practically congratulating myself on renewing my license just in time.  I was just sure that God had laid it on my heart to renew my license for such a time as this.

Over the spring and summer months, I spent countless hours jumping through the hoops of applying for dozens of teaching jobs.  I took personality tests, submitted a variety of documents, filled in hundreds of blanks.  I just "knew" I would be an ideal candidate, since I would be a cheap hire with lots of experience.  With only one year of public school teaching experience, I could give them my over twenty years of teaching background for the salary of a second year teacher.  What a bargain!  But God had other plans.

At the beginning of the summer school session, I "knew" God was going to give me a summer class, even though my original class had been cancelled due to low enrollment.  After all, I had taught 52 consecutive semesters at the college, and my daughter was planning to be married in July and funds were needed.  But God had other plans.

When we moved in 1999 and bought another house, God orchestrated the sale of our other house just in time to avoid double house payments.  I "knew" God would do the same when we moved about two years later.  But God had other plans.

In fact, I questioned God about that when we began having to make double house payments.  I prayed, "God, why isn't our house selling?"  He replied, "I'm building your character."  That was not the answer that I wanted to hear, especially since I had made the point of specifically not asking God for patience.  Thankfully, it only lasted a couple of months, and we never missed a payment.

Many times when God has other plans, I see his hand in the situation so clearly AFTER his plan is finally revealed.  Although I didn't get a full-time teaching job in the fall, I did obey God in the writing of my book, The Thankful Principle:  A Journey into Thankful Living.  Six days after I finished writing my book, I received an unexpected e-mail from someone who spotted my resume on a recruiting site and asked if I would like to apply to be the center director for a new math learning center.  The job seemed tailor-made for me, and within a few weeks, I was hired.  Many of my past work experiences have developed skills that will be needed and useful in this new challenge and opportunity. 

And even though I did not end up with a summer class, God knew that I needed a summer off from teaching after 18 years.  Not only that, but he provided a consulting project that covered the costs of what my husband and I spent on our daughter's wedding.

God is continually building my character, and I am working on being more thankful and accepting of letting his plan unfold, instead of rushing toward what I assume is God's plan.  His plans always have our best interests at heart.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.“  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Monday, December 16, 2013

News on the Kindle Edition of The Thankful Principle

The Kindle edition of The Thankful Principle:  A Journey into Thankful Living is now available.  Stay tuned for news of the print edition.  Just copy and paste the link below:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Gift of Encouragement

Did you know that encouragement is a gift?  Just the other day, I almost missed out on being a blessing and receiving a blessing, simply because I didn't feel like getting out on potentially icy and snowy roads.  It would have been much easier to stay home and relax, rather than attend an optional training session for teachers at the college where I work.

After dropping my nephew off at work, I realized that the roads were in pretty good shape.  I felt a prompting in my heart that I should go, and I had just enough time to change into presentable clothing and dash off to the event.  When I got there, I sat with several colleagues and excitedly showed them the cover design for my book The Thankful Principle that was beautifully created by my friend Tracy.

The women were all interested in hearing more about the book, so I gladly shared details about The Thankful Principle and the impact that Philippians 4:6-7 has had on my life.  All four women were receptive to my testimony and commented that they were excited about the book and would like to read it when it becomes available.  We had a great time of sharing that morning over breakfast, as we waited for the training to begin.

As the uplifting conversations continued through our lunch break, I learned things about each of the women that revealed to me God's plan to encourage them that very day.  I realized that by sharing the Thankful Principle with them, I had spiritually equipped them to fight their daily battles.  Whether they were dealing with health issues, a divorce, a grown son recovering from the devastating effects of a stroke, a challenging teenage child, or some other personal concern, practicing thankfulness to God would empower them to deal with the issues that were consuming them and help them to experience God's peace in their lives.

All day long, I kept thinking to myself how wonderful our time together had been.  I marveled at the fact that I had almost missed it.  I wondered about how many other times I have missed out on giving or receiving a blessing because I took the easier route.  Only God knows, but I am seeing that when I am obedient to his prompting, I am more in tune with what God would have me to do the next time.

Isn't it wonderful that when we make the extra effort, God gives us opportunities to bless others and to receive a blessing?  I love it when that happens.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Many times in my Christian walk, God has placed me outside of my comfort zone.  He does this to bring spiritual growth and to use me in ways that are greater than I could ever imagine.  Whether it be a prompting to offer to pray for someone or to take on a new responsibility, I am often challenged to obey and trust God in each instance.  Sometimes I feel as though I am going out on a limb, but God does not let me fall, if I am walking in obedience to him.

Just the other day, I was speaking to a friend about a recent offer to pray for someone's healing.  A woman I knew seemed to be experiencing a serious medical issue right in front of me, and only one other person was in the room with us.  She sat very still, as she began to perspire.  Her face turned beet red, and her heart was racing.  I felt very helpless and questioned whether we should seek medical assistance.  The only other option I had was to pray for her.  Because I wasn't sure if she was a believer or how she would react to my offer to pray, I hesitated for a moment.  Would it be awkward or embarrassing, if she refused?  Would she think I was some religious nut?

However, I realized that God wanted me to offer to pray, and so I did.  She nodded her head in agreement when I asked, and I prayed out loud for God to heal her in the name of Jesus and for her body to line up with the Word of God.  As I was praying, I felt a warmth and knew that God was working in her situation.  I commented, "I don't know exactly what happened, but I believe God is doing something in you."  Fifteen days later, I saw her again, and she excitedly shared the details of a miraculous healing.  After months of suffering from a variety of medical problems, her CAT scan had come back completely normal.  In addition, she had experienced none of the troubling symptoms since the night we had prayed together.  I rejoiced with her and was thankful that I did not give in to my initial reluctance to pray.

I was nearly 20 when God first told me to minister to someone for healing.  At the time, I was attending a bible study with some girls in my dorm at Evangel University.  One of the girls was experiencing terrible back pain from muscle spasms, and someone prayed a prayer over her that seemed hollow and empty.  She had meant well, but it came across like she was throwing up a prayer that she didn't expect to be answered: "Lord, please touch her, if you've got the time."  I thought to myself, "We aren't ministering to her."

When the bible study was over, we were having a time of silent prayer, and God spoke to me, "Marcia, I want you to minister to Bev's back."  I tried to argue with God and tell him that I wasn't a minister.  My dad was a minister, and my brother was going to be a minister.  How could God ask me to minister to someone?  Finally, God gently and firmly told me, "Marcia, if you'll minister to Bev's back, I'll heal her."

How could I continue to refuse?  If I didn't obey God's prompting, then it would be my fault that my friend was continuing to be in pain.  Nervously, I asked Bev how her back was feeling, while inwardly I prayed, "Please say that you were miraculously healed from the earlier prayer."

Instead, she replied, "It's still hurting."  I gulped and launched into telling her that although I had never done anything quite like this before, I had seen my dad minister to people with back pain, and I wanted to offer to minister to her back.  I prayed for her and commanded her back to be healed in the name of Jesus.  When she sat down in a chair, we could see that her hips were out of alignment and one leg was about a half-inch shorter than the other leg.  As the other girls in the room and I prayed, everyone saw a miracle, as the shorter leg lengthened.  Afterwards, Bev reported that all the pain was gone.  She began jumping up and down, and everyone else did also, as we praised God.

Sometimes when I share stories of obedience and answered prayer, others assume that it always comes easy to me, but they would never feel comfortable doing such a thing themselves.  They hear the victory at the end at the end of my story, but they don't realize the tendency I have to drag my feet until I can no longer ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Others tell me that they do not know how to hear God's voice.  Listening takes practice.  When a thought comes to you that does not seem to be coming from you, test it against scripture.  Does it line up with the Word of God?  Does it ring true in your heart?  If so, then you are probably hearing from God.

"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him." (Psalm 128:1, NIV)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What is the Thankful Principle?

Over the past six months, I have been sharing the Thankful Principle wherever I go.  In fact, as I was writing my soon-to-be-published book, I have been looking for opportunities to share this good news with people who are hurting, discouraged, or frustrated.  It is not hard to find them, when I am looking. 

What is the Thankful Principle?  The Thankful Principle is based on Philippians 4:6-7:  "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."  When we come before the Lord with thanksgiving and present our concerns, we allow and invite God to work in our situation.  By thanking God in the midst of trying circumstances, we are exercising faith and trusting God to solve the problem. 

In my experiences over the past nine years of praying with thankfulness, God changed me, the situation, or both.  No matter what, peace always followed.  The peace of God does transcend all understanding, and it is wonderful to be able to feel that peace even when nothing has seemingly changed.  Somehow, this calm assurance during our storms of life brings confidence.  Confidence that our Father cares about us and is looking out for our best interests. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chapter 1: Victim of Circumstances (Excerpt from The Thankful Principle)

In the spring of 2004, a typical weekday morning took an unpleasant, dramatic turn.  I was heading to my teaching job at a local community college and planning on dropping my fifteen-year-old daughter, Danielle, off at our local high school.  Although I don’t recall exactly what I said or did in the minivan that morning that ticked her off, some sort of argument ensued.  Typical.  It seemed as though every time I turned around, there was some sort of major upset or drama with this child.  My daughter was constantly lashing out at someone:  her younger brother Jacob, little sister Laura, her father, or me. 

At times, I wondered if this was typical teenage behavior or whether we were dealing with some other unexplained issue.  It felt like I was living with two different people.  My daughter could be sweet and enjoyable one minute and angry and moody the next.  Whatever the root cause, it was beginning to take a toll on our entire household.  My younger children would often be upset with their sister or reduced to tears, and my husband and I had begun experiencing greater tension between us, too.  It seemed my angst-ridden daughter was keeping our entire household in a constant state of turmoil. 

During these tense, difficult months, I would frequently question my skills as a parent and ask myself and God, “Why is this happening?  What have I done to deserve this?”  It seemed so unfair.  I had begun feeling like a victim of circumstances.  Poor, miserable me would often host a pity party.  Mentally, I would remind myself that I had been a good daughter to my parents (and, consequently, didn’t deserve this situation based on my past wrongs), and I was a pretty good mother to my children, too.  Nevertheless, I was constantly crying out to God and asking, “Why?   Why?  Why?”  Some days I just wanted to crawl into a hole.

After I had dropped Danielle off at school that unfortunate morning, I seethed inwardly, “How dare you start my day like that!”  I was extremely angry, especially considering the fact that my day was already going to be stressful, since I was going to be giving final exams to my college math students that day.

Immediately, the thought crossed my mind, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Ephesians 6:12 had popped into my head, and it immediately made me feel defensive.

“It sure feels like I’m wrestling my flesh and blood,” my mind argued. 

Within a split second, a portion of another scripture crossed my mind.  This passage had gotten me through tough times before, and it came back to me again that day at a time I really needed it:   “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, NIV).

My mind then flashed back to the many times I had called my parents to complain about some situation, and they would usually reply, “Praise the Lord.  Are you thanking God yet, Marcia?”  I found their frequent urgings and cheerfulness a bit annoying at times.  I didn’t need a guilt trip, when I just wanted a sympathetic ear.  Couldn’t they just let me vent?  It’s hard to praise the Lord when the car breaks down, the kids get sick, or there is an unexpected expense, but at that moment, something clicked in my mind.  If I was supposed to come before God with “thanksgiving” and make my requests known to him, then that must mean I would have to THANK him for the problems.  After all, if there is a request, it generally means that there is a problem involved that needs solving. 

Since I was alone in my car and still in an angry frame of mind, I began shouting in my car:  “Thank you, Lord, that Danielle has a crummy attitude!  Thank you, Lord, that you’re going to send people across her path today!  Thank you, Lord, that you’re going to be our testimony!”  I probably shouted out several more bits of thanks to God in those few moments and said whatever came to mind.

If anyone in a passing car had noticed me yelling and gesturing, they may have thought that I looked like a crazy woman, but I didn’t care.  I felt like the kid who has finally had enough of the school bully and begins to take action by swinging his fists and hoping he hits something.  Please note that although I was angry about the situation, I was not mad at God; however, I was mad at the devil.  Consequently, each time I yelled my thanks to God, I felt like I was punching the enemy and giving him a busted lip or a bloody nose. 

It was quite therapeutic.  The next thing I knew, I began feeling a little cocky.  Inwardly, I pictured myself looking like a boxer, dancing around and taunting his opponent by saying, “You want a piece of me?  You want a piece of me?  Just try to get me, punk!  I’m not scared of you!” 

A new resolve replaced the victim mentality that I had been operating under for months.  That day I served Satan notice that if he tried to get at me again through my children, I was going to start thanking God EVERY TIME, whether I felt like it or not.  It was like I had suddenly gotten this clever idea and was boasting to my enemy by saying, “Yeah, I’m going to start thanking God.  What do you think about that, Devil?  I’m not going to take this from you anymore!”  No longer was I going to be bullied or a victim of circumstances.  I didn’t have to take this lying down, but I could now do something proactive and give the enemy a black eye in the process.  It was freeing to recognize this truth, and this realization transformed my thinking about dealing with difficult circumstances.

Surprisingly, after my “scream fest,” I began to experience a strange sort of peace, the peace that “transcends all understanding.”  It didn’t make sense, but I was no longer feeling angry.  In fact, I had a fantastic day and was pleased to learn that Danielle had also had a good day that day at school.  I thought to myself, “It works!”

Although it didn’t all happen overnight, this experience was a revelation of God’s truth that would continue to grow and change my thinking.  In the days ahead, I would cling to this truth to an even greater extent, and it would transform my life.  This was the beginning of the Thankful Principle.

Description of The Thankful Principle: A Journey into Thankful Living

The Thankful Principle follows Marcia Day Brown’s life-changing journey into thankfulness.  While frustrated and dealing with a troubled teenage daughter, the author reluctantly began thanking God in the midst of trying circumstances, according to Philippians 4:6-7.  Feeling empowered, she began applying it to other areas of her life.  Dramatic results followed.  Through sharing her testimony with friends, strangers, on the mission field of South Africa, and even in a women’s prison, the Thankful Principle is continuing to change lives today. The book is not publicly available yet, but please stay tuned for further developments.