Category: thoughts by Debbie West

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Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5&6

In the fall of 2013 I found myself in a very deep pit. I was over-committed, exhausted, stressed out, and severely depressed. Circumstances and habits of worry had started me on a downward spiral that ended in extended time off from work, counseling, and medication. I knew I had to make some permanent changes in my life.

Thankfully, I got the help I needed and I began to dig my way out of the pit. Little by little I began to find my footing and learned how to put margins in my life and live healthier. In the beginning, I remember how much it meant to me when someone told me, “You’re going to get through this. You will get better.

Not only did I get better, I gained more than I ever imagined through the experience. I found my strength and I found my voice.

Read more of Debbie’s story of burnout. https://issuesiface.com/burnout

Looking back on the whole, horrible experience, I see what a precious gift it was. My life and health was entirely in God’s hands — and only then could I experience His strength to get me through. It is a gift I share with other people now. Some people live with the shame of mental health issues like depression, but I found that being open about my experience has forged strong relationships with other people who struggle with similar issues. My story has helped others get out of their own pit and have hope that life can get better.

God, help me be truly thankful for the hard things and send my way others whom can benefit from my story. Amen.

By Debbie West

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God has an amazing plan for us and He is in Control.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure … surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6

I get anxious, really anxious, when I try to make sure I know how to act. I wonder, “What will I say if someone asks me this question?” I plan, “If this person does this, then I need to do this.” I go over dialogue in my mind. I think about the exact tone in my voice I need to use to get my point across. Just like a favorite scene from a movie or TV show, I imagine how smart I will sound.

Please don’t judge me.

Though this internal rehearsal seems like a harmless personality quirk, I’ve learned that for me it is a much bigger issue. In my journey to know God and follow Him, rehearsing the future can be a symptom of pride and distrust. It enforces the lie that I control the future, not God. Not to mention what rehearsing the past can do for my emotional health. Going over past conversations in my head, hoping for a do-over is counter-productive, at the least.

God promises throughout His Word that He has got our future under control and has amazing plans for us. He knows our past and can use it for great things. Our focus needs to be in the present. Here. Right now. This moment.

Today, I can enjoy His presence anxiety-free and experience His blessings, while leaving the future and the past to Him.

God, I ask that Your Spirit in me would guide my thoughts. When I start to rehearse, help me take each thought captive and make it obedient to You by enjoying this present moment and leaving everything else to You.

By Debbie West


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Friends talking & listening

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.Proverbs 10:19

We live in a world that won’t stop talking. We have 24-hour news stations. We can watch video after video on YouTube. Radio talk shows want listeners to call in or tweet their opinions on certain stories. Our society encourages constant communication.

In light of Proverbs 10:19, I have to wonder if God is pleased with all this talk. In the 21st century, communication is faster and farther reaching than it has ever been — and yet it is so much harder. We are constantly bombarded with talk. But is anyone really listening?

When we are constantly talking, we are not connecting. And God is all about connecting. Connection comes from listening to understand.

As an introvert, I’ve tried to fit in more with our extroverted society. I’ve tried to say more. I’ve tried to be louder. But it wears me out. After many years of questioning God’s motives for making me this way, I’ve come to the conclusion that He did not make a mistake when he gave me a quieter spirit. He gifted me with a temperament that’s drawn towards reflection and listening. I’ve come to believe that attentive silence is one of the most valuable skills a person can possess, as I’ve experienced the difference it has made in my relationships. Therefore, I’ve chosen to hone that skill in my life.

James tells us in the New Testament to be “slow to speak” and “quick to listen” (James 1:19). Practice the habit of listening.

Lord, I live in a world full of people who desperately want to be heard. Help me be a better listener to You and to the people around me. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Prayer to Keep my Peace - devotional

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 2:26

God often speaks at the most unexpected times. One day I was casually talking with a friend about a situation at my job. In the middle of the conversation I said, “This is driving me crazy.” My friend simply looked at me and said, “Only if you let it.

In five words, my friend had summed up one of the major issues I have been struggling with for years: how do I keep from giving away the peace I have in Christ?

I confess that I am a perfectionist. If something doesn’t go the way I want it to go, I get anxious and upset. I feel out of control.

I have to remember that the peace of God is with me because the Spirit of God is with me. I must keep my mind on the person and promises of God instead of letting circumstances lead me into thoughts of anxiousness. To me, this means remembering some important truths:

•    I am a child of God (Romans 8:14).
•    God is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31).
•    I have the favor of God (Proverbs 8:35).
•    God’s love for me surpasses my understanding of it (Ephesians 3:19).

It takes practice to keep my mind on Jesus and not on the turmoil around me. But when I can do it, I have His perfect peace in the middle of the storm

Lord, help me cooperate with You to keep my peace. Help me focus my mind on You. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Talk is CHEAP, Love is PRICELESS

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.1 Corinthians 13:1

One day in the summer of 2003, I stood on a street corner in New York City debating with a young man about why I thought the Bible was real. I was in Manhattan with a group from my church. We were there to promote a new church in the city by passing out subway maps and other literature.

This man who stopped to talk to me proclaimed himself a student of religion. He had studied many holy books and wanted to know my thoughts on the difficulties he saw with the Bible being authentic.

At the end of our conversation, I felt proud that I had intelligently countered his arguments. But looking back now, I am bothered by the realization that my knowledge probably did little to bring him closer to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We parted, both of us still entrenched in our own understandings.

Having background knowledge of our faith is important, but if we don’t love people the way Jesus did, then, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, we are just noise.

What if I had asked about his family? What if I had asked to pray for him? What if I had encouraged him to open his heart to a love that is bigger than his understanding?

Second-guessing myself is never helpful. However, in the future I want to focus my attention less on winning a debate and more on showing God’s love to those who need to see it.

Lord, break any fear that You see in me. Holy Spirit, teach me how to love the people around me the way You do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

By Debbie West

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Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all of you who are upright in heart!Psalm 32:11

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Have you ever had a secret? As children we likely all kept secrets from our parents about the things we did that we knew were against the rules. It’s part of growing up.

As adults, many of us have secrets. We may have done things that have severe consequences if someone found out. We conceal our past actions because they could bring embarrassment or humiliation on us. Maybe we fear the way someone we love will see us if they knew.

The problem with keeping secrets is that they bring consequences of their own. Living in fear of discovery affects our happiness and our relationships. It stands in the way of true intimacy with other people.

King David learned that keeping secrets from God was detrimental to his mind and body. In Psalm 32, David describes how keeping quiet before God about his sin haunted him day and night. He writes, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away…. my strength was sapped.” But when he admitted his mistakes to God, his guilt was gone.

Based on what I read in Scripture, I believe that because of God’s nature and His relationship with David, God had forgiven David’s sin long before David asked for forgiveness. But the guilt David felt lingered. The moment David confessed his sin to God, his guilt was gone, his spirit was lifted, and his relationship with God was restored.

God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am forgiven of my sins. But, Lord, I want to be free from any guilt that I feel. Help me be honest with myself and with You about the truth of my pride and rebellion. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”   Psalm 37:5-6

We live in a world that demands justice. It is the top news story nearly every night. Someone was treated unfairly, and the ones who were responsible should have to pay.
We see the same theme in the movies we watch. The bad guys wreak havoc on innocent people; the good guys sweep in and give the bad guys the justice they deserve. It leaves us with a sense of balance and rightness in the world.

But real life is seldom like the movies. Sometimes injustice goes unpunished. The drunk driver goes free. A hard-working employee loses a job because of someone else’s mistake. The thief gets away with someone’s life’s savings. We can get treated unfairly and told that there is nothing that can be done.

David saw his share of unfair situations. In his youth, crazy King Saul chased him around with the intention of killing him. The only thing David was guilty of was being appointed as Saul’s successor. He did not deserve the treatment he got.

But after years of walking with God, David knew the One who would have the last word. Even in an unfair situation, David writes, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). He knew that God was just, and in His time, God could be trusted to bring balance to every situation.

God, when things are unfair, remind me that You are the author of justice. Though I may not see the outcome, help me trust in Your ability to handle every situation. God, may Your justice win so that Your name is praised. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Social media has seeped into every aspect of our lives. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is now worth $245 billion. The reason why it’s so popular is because it allows us to keep in touch with people. It gives us the platform to express our opinions and our lives. And to be honest, it feels good when people respond to us. When comments show up on a recent post, it affirms who we are and what’s important to us.

But isn’t there something we’re missing amidst all the likes and comments? What about actual connection? Is Facebook something that exists for us just to keep tabs on each other? The truth is it’s easier to hide behind a computer screen than to engage people. Shouldn’t it really be called unsocial media?

I’ve begun policing myself by asking some hard questions: “Why am I posting this rather than calling a friend?” And, “If none of my friends were on Facebook, would I know what is going on in their lives?”

It seems paradoxical to be ambitious about leading a quiet, private life, but that is what the Apostle Paul asks of the Christians in Thessalonica. He was trying to stop the schemes of the busybodies of his day. I think we can take his advice in order to put balance in our lives.

Making real connections with the people God has put in our lives is the way we fulfill our destiny. Social media only resembles real connection. Putting down our devices and reaching a hand to the people directly around us gives us real significance.

Lord, show me my motivation for using social media. Am I keeping real connections with the people in my life? Is the draw of expressing my views and sharing my life with a bigger audience leading me away from the people you have placed in my immediate path? Show me how to use my time wisely and bring balance to my day. Amen.

Action: Take a Facebook fast. Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media for a week. Or make a deal with yourself that for every check of your news feed or every post you make, you must call or meet face-to-face with one friend. (That’s right, call. Texting doesn’t count!)

By Debbie West

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“...The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I grew up in a time when we dressed up to go to church on Sunday. Everyone at my church looked pretty much the same. The men wore ties. The women wore dresses. The children were all clean-faced and well-behaved. The church building was big and spotless and everyone wore a smile. I grew up thinking that that was what Christians looked like.

As I got older, my understanding of Christianity began to change as I met Christians who didn’t look or act like me. Some were rougher around the edges. Some didn’t go to church as often as I did. They had different views of life and faith. My image of what a Christian looked like changed as my life experiences became more varied.

I began to realize that I was judging others’ relationship to God by the way they looked and acted. I was even taking comfort in knowing I fit the holy image in my own mind.

But God has shown me that this kind of self-righteousness is full of flaws.

The prophet Samuel knew that it was not the outward appearance of a person that determined his or her destiny. It was the heart.

Our God is so creative that He made people from all cultures, backgrounds, and life issues to worship Him. Followers of Christ may all look different to each other, but our hearts carry the very same love of God.

God, forgive me for judging others’ faith by their outward appearance. Help me see people the way You do. Amen.

Thought: Do you tend to judge people based on their appearance? Ask God to show you where you can begin to shift your thinking.

By Debbie West

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“‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’” Matthew 8:26

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and I was halfway through my second triathlon. Fifty-mile-per-hour winds whipped across North Texas in winter’s final appearance of the season. Throughout the cycling portion of the event, there were times when the best I could do was brace myself against a wind gust that threatened to blow me to the curb. My clothes, still damp from the swim, made the temperatures feel even colder.

As I began the second loop of the course, the wind picked up even more. I gripped my handlebars tighter. I thought about pulling over into the fast food joint on the next block and calling it a day. But I pushed on and kept going.

Through clenched teeth I started to pray, “Lord, you are God of the wind. You calmed the Sea of Galilee in the storm. Have mercy on me and stop this wind!”

And just as I had articulated the last word of that prayer, the wind blew harder. “Not funny, Lord!” I said.

I can look back and smile on that experience now. I believe God showed me something important in that moment. “I’m not going to take it easy on you, Debbie,” He said. “An easy life makes a weak person. Just trust me. I’ll get you through and make you stronger.”

In my battle with depression and anxiety, He has done just that. He has strengthened my mind and my faith. So don’t despise the storm. Let Him make you stronger through it.

Lord, I like things that are easy. But I also know that it’s during difficult experiences when I have the chance to get better, stronger, and closer to the person You want me to be. Help me not to avoid or despise the storms in life, but to hold on to You and learn the things You want to teach me. Amen.

Thought: Whether you are in a storm, coming out of a storm, or going into one, consider that part of the purpose may be to make you stronger and to prepare you for something in the future. Stop and thank God for the lessons from the storms.

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By Debbie West


photo credit: Robert Couse Baker  https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/  
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daily devotional“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.Psalm 16:8

As a single woman, I have a lot of freedom. But with freedom comes occasional loneliness. Many of my friends and co-workers are married. They go home to their husband and kids. The weekend is filled with activities and family time.

Though I am happy with my life and content with my situation, sometimes I wish I had a person to share life with on a daily basis.

The longing for companionship is part of being human. God created us to need other people. But, primarily, He made us to need Him. God wants to fulfill our need for companionship. He is always with us. He is there to guide us in making decisions. He is there to teach us and show us His love through our circumstances.

Since Jesus is not physically present with us, we can easily forget that He is there. As we go about our day and feel frustrated, excited or nervous, we crave the chance to share those experiences with someone. Sometimes a flesh-and-bone friend is there. But we need to remember that God is there too. His Spirit lives in every believer. Closer than a best friend, He is there to listen and show us His love in the middle of our circumstances. If we pay attention, we can be aware of His presence and experience His companionship through every part of our day. We will find His friendship to be unshakable.

Lord, thank You for being my friend and constant companion. Please show Yourself in every situation I go through. Amen.

Thought: Keep in mind throughout the day that you are not alone. God is there. Set an alarm on your phone, tape a reminder on your desk, or write a message on your hand: “God is with you. He is at your right hand.”

By Debbie West

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feature scene“God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

How many of you would jump out of an airplane, or bungee-jump over a mile-high canyon, or race a car over one hundred miles an hour? Risky? You bet! But many people love to take these risks, even when it means putting their lives in someone else’s hands. The thrill and rush of adrenaline drives out their fear.

What about loving somebody? Really, deeply, openly loving another person? Now that can be scary. Riding a zip-line is one thing, but giving someone your heart is a completely different kind of risk. Loving means letting another person really know you. It also gives them the power to really hurt you.

God is that kind of vulnerable love. He understands what it means to be rejected by those whom He loves. Since the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, people have turned against God. Yet, when it came to giving up His Son, Jesus, to die for those who broke His heart, He did it willingly. He knew the risks and still chose to love us at the ultimate cost.

Thousands of years later, He still offers that unwavering love. He offers hope, purpose and belonging to all and knows that some will love Him back and others will continue to reject Him. Could you do the same?

As God’s people, we are called to this hundred-mile-an-hour, jump-from-the-plane kind of love.

You know the risk. Will you take it?

Lord, thank You for taking the risk to love me. Give me the courage and strength to love others the way You love me. Amen.

Thought: Ask Jesus to help you in loving that difficult person in your life.

By Debbie West

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Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b

Power is sexy. We live in a world that admires strength and pities weakness. Fortune 500 companies, movie stars, and politicians all have some level of power over our lives. Some athletes have the physical power to dominate their opponents. We often celebrate and admire the power they all have.

But have you heard anyone brag about being weak lately? The Apostle Paul did. He had been through many life-threatening situations. Yet, he didn’t brag that he made it through in his own strength. He knew that it was only God’s strength that carried him.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, his attitude is one of gratefulness for weakness. The man who once possessed the power to order the imprisonment and execution of Christ-followers, speaks of how glad he is to lack power because his weakness served to magnify how big his God is.

Paul understood that in his own limited power, he could not do the work for which God had called him—to spread the gospel to the world. But, by admitting his own limitations, he opened the door for God to work powerfully.

We should have the same attitude as Paul. Instead of relying on our own strength or resourcefulness, we should trust in God to supply the power. Then we can say along with Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Lord, help me see my weaknesses as opportunities for You to show Your power. I offer me limitations to You today. I’m trusting You to do what I cannot. Amen.

Thought: Take the opportunity to thank God for your weaknesses. If there is a specific area of service you are struggling in, ask Him to give you the power to serve Him to the best of your ability.

By Debbie West

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How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.Isaiah 30:19-21

Many of us are very good at what I call the ‘What-if‘ Game. “What if the situation turns out this way? What if it goes that way?” We plot and we plan. We play the options over and over again in our heads, rehearse what we will say and think of all the possible ways the others involved might react. We might even be confident in our ability to sway other people to our way of thinking in order to get what we want.

The Israelites fell into this trap. When their enemies came, the Israelites ran. It seemed the sensible thing to do. They counted on their ability to run faster than their enemies. The prophet Isaiah warned that if they relied on their own abilities instead of on God’s, they would not be able to outrun the enemy.

God told them through Isaiah that rest and reliance on Him were the answers to their problems. The moment they turned to God and confessed their need for Him was the moment He spoke.

King David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) The Israelites didn’t have to be stronger or smarter. They just had to listen to their Creator. God’s protection and guidance was theirs and is ours today if we will be still, resist the urge to figure it out ourselves, and instead wait for the Teacher’s voice.

Lord, help me resist the desire to rely on my own wisdom and abilities. Give me your peace in every situation and give me the strength to wait on your instruction. Amen.

Thought: Be conscious of where your mind goes today. If you find yourself playing the ‘What-if’ Game, direct your thoughts back to God and His Word. To help you do that, you could put the following verse on your phone or write it down somewhere handy:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

By Debbie West

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