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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Five Stones

Snow day! Not that this changes my routine much, but it makes me feel better about curling up with a blanket, a book, the Bible and my laptop in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. Thank you God, for a beautiful snow day, the roof over my head, heat and the safety of my family. While we pray those thanksgivings, also pray for those who are without shelter, without electricity and without heat during this snow storm. Pray for the postman that is delivering Christmas cards (and bills) as I type.

Okay, on to the "Facing Your Giants" wrap up. We actually finished this up in our Women's Connections Group a couple of weeks ago, and I have been notably absent from blogging for what seems a month now. But I am committed to keeping the conversation going (even if it's just Heidi and me).

Fast-forwarding a few chapters (there was so much good material in between, so I highly recommend reading a copy yourself) to the final chapter of "FYG" and Max Lucado introduces us to the five stones that David selected as he prepared to take down Goliath.

Remember your Goliath? Was it a failing marriage? Questionable employment? An attitude of arrogance? Depression? Debt? Cancer?

David selected five stones to prepare to battle his giant, and we can select the same five stones as we prepare for ours. We can use our hand to remember the five stones. The thumb shall remind you of...

1. The Stone of the Past

David remembered that God had given him strength to wrestle a lion and strong-arm a bear. Certainly He would do the same with the giants. We can learn from this. Write today's worries in sand. Chisel yesterday's victories in stone. Gaze at God's victories. A good memory makes heroes. A bad memory makes wimps.

I came across Heidi's post about her blessings jar. We are going to do that here, and I challenge you to do the same, so that in the midst of your deja vu, you are able to remember His victories.

2. The Stone of Prayer

Lucado says "Note the valley between your thumb and finger. To pass from one to the next you must go through it. Let it remind you of David's descent. Before going high, David went low; before ascending to fight, David descended to prepare. Don't face your giant without first doing the same. Dedicate time to prayer. Paul, the apostle, wrote, 'Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long' (Eph. 6:18 MSG)."

Max continues, "When David soaked his mind in God, he stood. When he didn't, he flopped. You think he spent much time in prayer the evening he seduced Bathseba? Did he write a psalm the day he murdered Uriah? Doubtful."

"[God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in [God], whose thoughts are fixed on [God]" (Isa. 26:3 NLT).

Pick up your stone of prayer.

3. The Stone of Priority

Your tallest finger, as Max writes, should remind you that your highest priority is God's reputation. As a Christian we should jealously guard it, letting no one defame the Lord. "David saw Goliath as a chance for God to show off!"

"What if you saw your giant in the same manner? Rather than begrudge him, welcome him. Your cancer is God's chance to flex his healing muscles. Your sin is God's opportunity to showcase grace. Your struggling marriage can billboard God's power. See your struggle as God's canvas. On it he will paint his multicolored supremacy. Announce God's name and then reach for..."

4. The Stone of Passion

Run toward your giant, emphasizing the Lord. "What good has problem-pondering gotten you? You've stared so long you can number the hairs on Goliath's chest. Has it helped?

No. Listing hurts won't heal them. Itemizing problems won't solve them. Categorizing rejections won't remove them."

5. The Stone of Persistence

David had five stones, because he knew that Goliath had "four behemoth relatives". David was not going to give up. He didn't go in to battle with one stone, he went in with five. Five decisions. Past. Prayer. Priority. Passion. Persistence.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Attn: Prayer Warriors

UPDATE (11/30): I don't have much to say. Just wanted to update you on Deb. Please, please, please, be praying for this boy and his family.

John Noll's mother, Deb Noll, passed away this past weekend after battling with cancer.

There is a visitation from 5-7 tonight at Steven's funeral home

The funeral is tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. at St. Cecilia




---------------------------------------------------

Please, please, please, keep Deb Noll in your prayers. Some of you may know her through the business department at ISU. I know her because her son, John, was in my homeroom last year. She was an amazing homeroom mom. She kept us supplied throughout the year, often making trips to the school to deliver needed materials, other times sending them with John. She is a great mom and it is very evident that she cares deeply about not only her son, but all the children in our district.
She has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer (which hits close to home for my family) and the Dr.s' report is not good.
I am especially heartbroken over this because John is her family. She adopted him and has been raising him on her own. I remember a time she had to be gone last year and needed a friend to come in to take care of him. I'm sure she is worried more about him at this point than she is herself.

If you are willing/able to help there is a walk Oct. 10th at Ada Hayden Park at 9am. If you email me today (heididh33@hotmail.com), I can get you signed up to walk with my group ($20 for t-shirt, $10 without).
If you'd like more information on how you can help them in other ways, please email me and I'll get that to you as well.
(Update: On the right column of this ISU page, there is a little information about the walk.)

Even if you are not able to help them financially, please storm Heaven's door on their behalf; I know they would more than appreciate your support.

___________________________________________________________

Prayer Wall

Are you a prayer warrior?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is it enough?

In case you were worried I had a big head after you read my last post, I'll knock myself down a few notches for you (The truth is I can't wait for Beth's "So Long, Insecurity" book to come out, and for the simulcast at the Ridge on the 24th...... but I'll save that post for another day...).

God has put a lot of people in my pathway in the last year that are struggling with forgiveness. He's let me listen to nearly a dozen people recently that are having a hard time forgiving someone that's hurt them. People that they work with, people that they used to be friends with, people that they love. He has filled the silences I've shared with those people. He's been in the tears I've shared with them. And He's given me the words that come from my own journey of forgiveness.

I was beginning to think that my struggles of forgiving people in the past (as recently as six months ago), was to use me to help others through that process.

I had read a book that said "You know you've forgiven someone when you think of them and don't feel anger or hurt. You feel pity. You pray for them." I was there (I still am) with so many of the people I've had to work at forgiving. I thought I was doing pretty good....

But. He isn't finished with me yet.



"But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." Genesis 33:4

You see, when Esau had been hurt deeply by Jacob, he didn't just forgive him...

.....he embraced him.

He was hurt by Jacob. He was in mourning.

"Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4

He was in mourning and he was comforted. He let go of his bitterness and was set free. His heart was made whole.

It wasn't enough for him to forgive Jacob. Forgiveness alone is not complete. Forgiveness is about the past. Healing is about the now. Is about the future.

We. need. healing.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted..." Luke 4:18

He was sent here to do much more than help me to forgive. He is here to heal me. Here to give me life to the fullest. Here to make me whole.

And He's here to do all of that for you too.

Lord, I recognize my brokenness. I recognize my vulnerability. I see that I'm not living life in full like You have planned for me when I merely forgive. Lord, lift me up. Hold me close to You. Take away the pain that's still there. Put back together the shattered pieces. Give me life to the fullest like only You can give. I need You. I love You. Amen.

note: If you are in the same week of the Esther study as me, you may be wondering how this ties in.... It doesn't directly.. but last week as Haman was begging Esther for his life, one of my sweet Esther sisters asked if Esther should forgive him. If Esther should give him another chance. We talked about how we are to be Christlike and how that fits into our lives. I realized I have forgiven people but I still keep them at arms length. I was (okay am) following Proverbs 4:23 pretty literally and wondering if I'm following it too literally. The following Sunday (two days ago), Pastor Mike was talking about Esau and Jacob. I have a lot of "Jacobs" in my life I need to embrace... Which brought me to the above post....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am great (no really, I am)

So remember how I mentioned yesterday my head was spinning a million directions after last night's Esther study?
One thought I was trying to wrap my mind around was "Haman stepping off."
As a little background reminder, Haman is the "villain." He sentences all of the Jews to death (Esther is a Jew).
Haman is interested in fame, in honor, in power.
He wants to do great things and to be someone great.
The entire time I've read about him, I've thought what an awful person, who could live like this?

But the truth is, I'm not always that different from him.

Growing up, I wanted to stand out, I wanted to be different. I liked being known, I liked feeling in control and I liked feeling like I had the power.
Okay, so it's not at all on the same scale as Haman. I wasn't seeking control over an entire country, just wanted to be the president of my class, of most of the organizations I was in, and the United States of America (okay that last one hasn't happened yet but the dream was there...).
I basked in the 'glory' of awards and honors. I loved being elected a state officer and named a state "student of the year." Then, as an adult, in my first "real" job, I loved being named a national "outstanding educator of the year" my first year on the job.
It wasn't until I took another position and didn't receive an award that I realized I had been feeding off of them.
I liked the "honor" and the "glory." I liked the attention. I liked the feeling of being appreciated.
I felt like I was doing something great. I thought I was going to be someone great.
Sadly, I thought that receiving awards was a great measure of success to show that I truly had become someone great.

But.

The truth is, I was wrong.

(I know. You're shocked. But it's true... )

as much as I hate to say it..... I. was. wrong.

The glory isn't mine. I didn't do any of that. I don't deserve any awards. I didn't earn a single one of them.

It's. all. His.

He did that. He worked through me. He even blessed me with some awards along the way, as undeserving as I was am (yeah, I'm guessing he knew I needed a confidence booster at the time).

You see, it's not the awards, the titles, or the honors that make us great. And while we are called to the fame of Jesus, it's not our glory. It's His. It's all His.

He doesn't want us to do a million things for His kingdom (which is good, because I'm guessing I cant). That's not what makes us great in His eyes.
But I can do a few.

I can stop being afraid of being mediocre and stop trying to do great things.
I can allow myself to be great in Him. Just like he wants me to.

At after school club tonight, the students were working on a building challenge. Part of their points came from how high they could build their tower to hold a golf ball. Another part of their points came from being able to knock the golf ball out of the work area at the end. They were focused on getting the highest number of points possible for the highest tower. According to the points the tower could be 60" tall. They decided they wanted to make it as tall as they could, their goal being 60" tall. The big problem was that they didn't have 60" of materials to work with in the first place and even if they stretched the materials as tall as they could to build a tower, it wouldn't be sturdy enough to support a golf ball. Having focused all of their energies on this goal, when the timer went off, they had no tower and hadn't even set up the golf ball to attempt to get the second part of their points.
You see, while they were trying so hard to do great things, they were disqualified for not even completing the small task.

Lord, please help me to be great in You. Help me to set my focus on using the gifts You give me and doing what You would have me to do. Don't let me be so focused on doing something great that I forget about all of the small tasks that make me great in You. Please remind me (often) that being great in You is not the same as being great by the world's standards. And thank You so much that it's not! Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How?

Just got home from Esther study. My head is spinning in a million directions. I'm not sure if it is from 'Session Seven Viewer Guide" or from the new trimester starting tomorrow (or maybe I'm way off and it's from the shot the dentist gave me tonight....).

I digress.

Esther is coming to a close. In two more weeks, we'll wrap up. We are starting "Turn Arounds" this week. In chiastic structure form, we'll be looking at the "It's tough being a woman...." scenarios and turning them around.

Turn Around Scenario #7
It's tough being a woman who feels responsible for the "how."

Um. Yeah. Just a little bit. Am I alone here? Do you ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Like it is up to YOU to figure out where to go from here? Like you need to be the peace keeper, the decision maker, the doer? Do you feel the need to be in control? to work it? to make it work? Dare I ask, do you ever feel like you need to play God?

Maybe it's just me... but I often feel responsible for the "how." Ask Rusty, he'll tell you that he is the thinker and I am the doer. "Let's do this and get it done. Let's make this work. Let's go this direction."

But guess what?

(I know you are going to be shocked!)

We're not! We're not responsible for the how! It's not our job!

"The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment." 2 Peter 2:9

"For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:14

Did you catch that?

"The Lord knows."

"For He knows."

I will not fret my way to victory. But TRUSTING in Him, HE will take care of the HOW. Because HE already KNOWS.


Lord, thank You for taking care of the 'how.' Thank you for holding me safely in your arms and giving me rest while you work it out. Lord, I trust in You. I believe You. I will wait for You. This is all Yours, God. I'm giving it over to You. Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Become Undignified

Sounds strange right? Become undignified? Become undignified before the Lord. As David Crowder sings, "I will dance, I will sing to be mad for my King. Nothing Lord is hindering this passion in my soul. And I will become even more undignified than this. Some may say it's foolishness, but I'll become even more undignified than this. Leave my pride by my side and I'll become even more undignified than this."

That's exactly what David did in 2 Samuel 6.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. What would cause David to be undignified? What would cause him, in verse 14 to wear nothing but his linen ephod (what's an ephod? You'll wish you had one.) and dance for the Lord with all of his might? Okay, this would be like the President of the United States dancing before the Lord, in the middle of Dupont Circle, in his underwear (well, the ephod was much more sacred than Hanes, but you get the image nonetheless).

Did I mention that three months prior to David's "crazy dance" he had requested the Ark of the Covenant? The ark was commissioned by Moses and symbolized God's provision (the manna), God's power (the staff), God's precepts (the commandments), and, most of all, God's presence. Max says that, "During the temple era, the high priest would be granted a one-a-year audience with the ark. After offering personal sacrifices of repentance, he would enter the holy of holies..."

God had given very specific orders for the care and transportation of the ark. Orders that involve acacia poles, priests to carry the ark with a system of rods and to carry the sacred objects on their shoulders, and not to touch. When David plans for the massive parade and requests the ark, Uzzah, a Koathite priest, who knew better loaded it up on a wagon with oxen. As Max says,

"The holy became humdrum. The sacred, second-rate."

An exchange of commands for convenience. No obedience or sacrifice; expediency instead.

In God's anger, He struck Uzzah dead. Dead? Why? Why did Uzzah have to die for breaking commandments?

Joe Shulam, who grew up Jerusalem, studied at the Orthodox Jewish Rabbinacal Seminary, and still lives in Israel says "The question is not why did God will Uzzah but rather why does he let us live?"

And that is why, after David is confused and hurt of the Lord punishing Uzzah in His anger David retreats back to Jerusalem. But after three months David returns for the ark. This time, priests replace bulls. Sacrifice replaces convenience. God comes. God comes on His terms. His presence is known because His commands are revered, hearts are clean, and confession is made.

David dances with all of his might before the Lord.

David didn't care what anyone else thought. Micah was disgusted that her husband, the King, would disrobe himself in front of the slave daugthers of his servants. She was embarassed because he lost his dignity in the presence of the Lord. Scripture had never portrayed David dancing at any other time. He slayed Goliath, and he did no victory dance. The ultimate touchdown, and no dance. He was named King of Jerusalem and quietly took his throne. No dance.

So, when God came to town David "rolled back the rug and celebrated the night away". When's the last time we did that? Set aside our own pride, set aside our cares for what other people were going to think, zoned out the world around us and danced for the Lord. Dance for Jesus. Because of Him, we are not struck down to our death as we daily break the commandments of the Lord. Because of Him, we are not struck to our death because we trade in His commandments for convenience.

Max says "God loves you too much to leave you alone, so he hasn't. He hasn't left you along with your fears, your worries, your disease, or your death. So kick up your heels for joy." He also points out, "Uzzah's lifeless body cautions against such irreverence. No awe of God leads to the death of man. God won't be cajoled, commanded, conjured up or called down. He doesn't respond to magic potions or clever slogans. He looks for more. He looks for reverence, obedience, and God-hungry hearts.

And when He sees them, he comes! And when he comes, let the band begin. And, yes, a reverent heart and a dancing foot can belong to the same person.

David had both.

May we have the same."

Our Father would not miss a chance to dance with His children.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

His Unfailing Love

And You never change
God You remain

The Holy One

My Unfailing love

Unfailing love



You never change, God. You remain.

Early in the Esther study, Beth talks about feeling like

God

is

so

far

away.



When God feels far away,

it's easy to feel

alone.
discouraged.
exhausted.
overwhelmed.

Sometimes life just stinks. There's struggles at work, at home, with family, with friends, and everywhere in between. Sometimes I feel like I'm a terrible wife, horrible sister, bad aunt, awful friend, lazy teacher, and not to mention a lacking Christian. When life gets hectic, when things get crazy, it's easy to question God. It's easy to ask Him where He's at in all of this.
But His answer is always the same,

"Right here."

We are told time and time again in His Book that He will never leave us.

"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." -Joshua 1:5

He is always here. Always by my side.

When I'm stressed to the max and don't take time to read my Bible, He's here.
When I'm running late in the morning and don't read my daily devotion, He's here.
When I'm too sick to get out of bed to go to church, He's here.
When I'm angry with Him and lacking in prayers of thanksgiving, He's. still. here.

He doesn't change. When I feel far away from Him, it's not Him that's moved, it's me. He's always the same. He always remains. He's always good.


He will never leave me nor forsake me.

And He wont you, either.


He will never change
He will remain

He's the Holy One

He's my Unfailing love

Unfailing love



"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has compassion on you." -Isaiah 54:10


Lord, there are times I feel so far away from you. Times I feel like I'm failing in everything. Times I feel like I'm just grasping to whatever I can to keep from falling farther and farther away. During those times, even when I cannot feel You, I know You are there. You are there to hold me, there to carry me. You love me. You love me with an unfailing love that I cant fully comprehend. Thank You for remaining steadfast. For never changing. For always loving me. Thank You for Your unfailing love. Please help my heart to always feel the warmth of Your unfailing love, Lord. Amen.



("Unfailing Love" by Chris Tomlin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_MyC6kJzPg )

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Consult Your Maker

Okay, I've had a case of writer's block. And, a case of the "too tired's" and "too busy's". I'm back, sans excuses. Two amazing chapters out of Max Lucado's "Facing Your Giants" (fondly referred to throughout as "FYG"). I wish I could just retype both chapters here. It is difficult to pick out the highlights and share them. If you find me quoting Lucado a lot in this post, it is because there is no better way of explaining what he has to say, nor a more profound way to paraphrase.

Max starts off Chapter 11 talking about his sense of direction, or lack thereof. He can practically get lost in his own home. I can relate. Unless I am on the interstate, I have no idea whether I am going north, south, east, or west. All I know is what is to my right, and what is to my left. I get where I'm going by familiar landmarks. When there are no familiar landmarks, I'm lost. (Thank you, God, for GPS. Amen.)

Isn't that how we feel in life, though? We come to a tough decision and we aren't sure which way to go? There are no familiar landmarks, we've never been faced with a decision quite like this before. What about the little choices in your day? What should I have for lunch? A juicy cheeseburger sounds so good, but that grilled chicken salad is so much healthier? I know I only have $20, but that $30 sweater is much higher quality. Are we including God? Are we consulting the maker?

Oh, our reliable David. Certainly not perfect, but a true Biblical hero. David makes a habit of running his options past God.

The Lord says,
"I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." - Ps. 32:8 NLT

"Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." -Prov. 3:6 NLT)


Max says, "Consult your maker. You have a Bible? Read it."

"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." - Isa. 30:21 NLT

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" - Heb. 4:12 NIV

"I will never fail you. I will never forsake you" - Heb. 13:5 NLT


"Don't make a decision, whether large or small, without sitting before God with the Bible, open heart, open ears, imitating the sprayer of Samuel: 'Your servant is listening' (I Sam. 3:10 NLT)"

"God will not lead you to violate his word. Do not disguise your sin as a leading of God. He will not lead you to lie, cheat, or hurt."

Max encourages us to find a strong Christian fellowship, to turn to his family of faith and consult them. He says, "Is your marriage tough? Find a strong one. Wrestling with business ethics? Seek sage advice from a Christian businessperson. Battling midlife decisions? Before you abandon your family and cash in your retirement, take time to get counsel. 'The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice;' - Prov. 12:15 NIV"

My prayer is that we would all feel the nudge of our Christ-possessed heart. That we recognize the decision which makes us peaceful is so many times God letting us know that what we are feeling can be different that what we want. I pray that Satan would not assist us in disguising our sin as a leading of God. Lord, we trust that you will faithfully lead us through your Scripture and that your advice is faithful. Remind us to turn to you with EACH decision of our day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just Wait

I love the song, "While I'm Waiting." And it always seems to come on the radio just when I need to hear it. Waiting in a long line at the drive-thru, waiting in traffic, waiting on a friend. Waiting.

The Lord tells us to wait and He will renew our strength.

But what is it we're waiting for?
Are you waiting for a new job to work out? Waiting on your paycheck to come in? Waiting on a family member to do what they said they would do? Waiting on the Dr's report? Waiting on a child? Waiting for a wedding? Waiting.

Waiting on things, on people, on events, can be so draining. We can grow so weary while we are waiting.

But God tells us to wait on Him.

We're familiar with:
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." --Isaiah 40:31

So why do we continue to wait on things and not on Him?

"Wait upon the Lord."

He will renew our strength.

Lord, Help me to be patient. Give me the strength to wait on You. Take my focus off of the things, the events, the times that I'm waiting for. Give me a God ward focus. Turn my eyes towards You. Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ashley

"This is going to sound weird, but...."

This is how I started a message to Ashley (she said I could post her real name). I found a message she posted on a random page (on facebook) about needing help. I told her I felt led to send her a message and to tell her I was praying for her.

How she responded broke my heart.

Thank you very much. My boyfriend was just omitted into a hospital. He overdosed on a mixture of heroin, coke, crack, pot, oxy's, and alcohol and then stabbed himself three times in the neck. I'm struggling with the idea that there is really nothing more I can do but support him and be there for him. Thank you for the prayers.

I replied and not knowing what else to do, asked if I could post a prayer request for her here. Please be in prayer for Ashley.

Lord, Please be with Ashley. Be close to her, hold her tight. Lift her up and show her a peace only you can give. I know she must want to be there for her boyfriend right now, but please give her the strength and wisdom and courage to take care of herself. Make her strong and fill her with joy. I don't know where she lives, I don't know what she does for a living. But I know You do, Lord. I know You know everything about her and you accept her just the way she is. Please let her know that today. Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A me focus or a He focus?

Ever noticed that when God is trying to tell you something, He can be very persistent? That the message simultaneously shows up during your study of the Word, in a book you are reading and coincidentally in general conversation? That something you have been thinking about ends up being the topic of the sermon on Sunday morning?

Last week I wrote about my "Love Walk" and, truly, what a struggle it is to fully comprehend and put in to action in my life. Sunday evening I picked back up with "FYG". Chapter 7 "Barbaric Behavior" is based on Nabal and Abigail. I'll let you read up on that, I Sam. 25. But, what hits home for me is the Love Walk that Max Lucado challenges us to become a part of. While he never directly calls it a love walk, it certainly ties in to exactly what I read in RMTL.

Lucado opens with the story of Ernest Gordon, former chaplain of Princeton University. Gordon was a prisoner of war, captured by the Japanese in World War II. When Diphtheria took over his body he was left by the Japanese to die. New prisoners encountered Gordon and rather than focus on their own long sufferings the began to "cleanse Gordon's ulcerated sores and massage his atrophied legs. They give him his first bath in six weeks. His strength slowly returns and, with it, his dignity."

I don't know about you, but I can honestly say that I am not certain I would have been the soldier who could have focused on the dying, rotting body on the cot. I fear I would be way to caught up in my own misfortune to notice the suffering of those around me. Thank you, God, for putting your Word in my life as a lamp unto my feet a light unto my path.

The story of these soldiers, Abigail and Christ all show that goodness is contagious. Selfishness, hatred and pride saturate the world around us. But over time the tone of "camp" will soften and brighten and sacrifice will replace selfishness.

Abigail places her very life in the path of David's army and in Nabal's place "begs not for justice but forgiveness, accepting blame when she deserves none". I feel so convicted when I read about Abigail. It's easier to place blame than to take it when it's not deserved. I think we know someone else like Abigail. Not someone who stood between David's army and certain death for Nabal, but someone who stood between our sinfulness and the wrath of God. Jesus.

The lessons we learn from this story? "Meakness saved the day... ...gentleness reverse[s] a river of anger. Humility has such power. Apologies can disarm arguments... The contagious power of kindness. The strength of a gentle heart."

When you are facing your giants this week, face them with beauty. Max writes, "His sacrifice begs us to ask this question: if he so loved us, can we not love each other? Having been forgiven, can we not forgive? Having feasted at the table of grace, can we not share a few crumbs?" "Shift your gaze to Christ. Look more at the Mediator and less at the trouble makers. Be the beauty amidst your beasts and see what happens."

I leave you this morning with these verses, Proverbs 25:15, Romans 12:21 and these questions*:
Describe a time you saw the good influence of one person change the atmosphere of a group or organization. What specific environment could you reshape by your good influence? Do personal possessive pronounds dominate the language of your circle? My career, my dreams, my stuff. I want this to go my way on my schedule. If so, you know how savage this giant can be.

*From Max Lucado's study guide for "Facing Your Giants"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Destiny

Do you know what your purpose in life is? Do you ever find yourself having a hard time making decisions? Do you know how you fit into God's big picture?

I'm not sure.
I do!
and I'm working everyday to figure that out.

And Day 4 of Esther study this week was a great tool for me use in this quest.


"And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

There's some big questions packed into that short verse.

Who knows?

A time such as this?

To put the verse into context. Esther is between a rock and her husband (the king). The king has issued a decree that all Jews will be killed (Esther is a Jew). Her uncle tells her to go talk to the king about it. But she hasn't been summoned by the king in 30 days (there's trouble in paradise) and if she goes without summons, she could be killed.

Esther has a tough decision to make.

Do you ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you have to make a decision about it? And quick.

Have those big decisions ever come your way, right when your in the middle of your own crisis?

When life throws us a giant weight and we are in the middle of our own crisis, we are tempted to say, "not me, not now."

But that is God's perfect timing. If is right on schedule. His schedule.

Beth talks about it being hard being thrown a giant sized weight. She says,

"Know the feeling (of being thrown a weight)? So do I. Every giant-sized weight drops into our laps right on schedule. None of our purposes will be fulfilled easily. All of them will require the most difficult decisions we think we can make. Decisions that we may feel will practically kill us. Then God does something miraculous and we become something we are not. That's when "who knows?" becomes "I know!" At some of the hardest times in my life, I have been able to make the more difficult choice out of pure blind-eyed, bent-kneed acceptance that it was somehow part of a greater plan. I was beaten by a conviction that throbbed relentlessly against my strong self-centeredness. As much as my flesh wanted relief, I knew that when all was said and done, I'd sit on that side of glory having much rather fulfilled my calling than served myself all the way to meaninglessness. I had to accept that I was not called to an easy life I was called to a purposeful life."

I've been in the middle of making some tough decisions lately, so I can relate. Mary tweeted this to me awhile back. I saved it because I knew it applied to me and have been working on it for awhile.
Mairs812 To @heididh33 RT @DougBench Your brain doesn't have to believe in your goals at the start. Mairs812 Nothing of any significance was ever accomplished by a realistic person!

While the decision I make will affect my husband, my coworkers, my students, and myself, the choice is not to be about me. It's about Him. It's about His Kingdom.
Beloved, in the times of greatest struggle when you make the Godward decision over convenience, earthly comfort, or carnal pleasure, you too have come to a critical moment in the fulfillment of your destiny. A defining moment. A war is being waged over your head in the unseen realm, and a great cloud of witnesses is cheering you on. You have no idea what is at stake.

Lord, Be near to me as I make these tough decisions. Help me to know that it's not about me. It's not about my comfort. It's about You, Lord. It's all about You. It always has been, and it always will be. Amen.


(I'll be back with more about Who Knows. Soon.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reduce Me to Love

Off week for FYG.

Last week I finished reading the book "Reduce Me to Love" by Joyce Meyer (keep an eye out, maybe a copy will be a give away). I use the term "finished" loosely, because this is one of those books that I marked up the pages and know that I will come back to many times, mostly because for me loving like Christ is a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute battle. But yet, the most important attribute of Christ (I Cor. 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing) and the first thing we are to draw up from the spirit (Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy...).

Faith that can move mountains. My faith is strong, but does my faith stand up to my mountains, that they will be crumbled, to my giants, that they will be slayed. I'm getting there, I know I am.
But love. Love is one of those things, for me, that it took digging in to realize I need to be humbled, that in learning the love walk, I am still merely crawling. If that.

On September 9, 2009 I wrote in my personal blog:

The deal is, the devil... SUCKS. I don't particularly care for the word "sucks" but in this instance, I can't describe it any other fashion. He is putting me in situations and around people that are difficult to LOVE. They don't treat me with LOVE and so my initial reaction is not to give it back. If they don't love me, why should I love them? Then God says, "Really, Mary?! Really?" Or something like that. Then you have a duh moment. God sent His son to save the WORLD. The whole WORLD. All of us, the undeserving.

Meyer points out that when Jesus was being crucified, He was comforting the thief next to him (Luke 23:39-43). When Stephen was being stoned, he prayed for those stoning him asking God not to lay the sin to their charge (Acts 7:59-60). When Paul and Silas were in prison, they took time to minister to their jailer (Acts 16:25-34).

Here I am reminded of the song by Casting Crowns called "If We are the Body". The song talks about people entering the church, looking for a refuge and realizing that they are being teased, that they are being judged. That people are picking and choosing who to love and the song says "Jesus paid much to high a price for us to pick and choose who should come" and continues with, "But if we are the Body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the Body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way. Jesus is the way."

I have so much work to do. I am incomplete, but I am still completely His.

This morning, this is the prayer that I would ask you to join me in.

"Lord, you are putting me face to face with some challenging people. People who do not treat me with love, nor do they treat themselves with love. People that are easy for me to judge. People who put their judgmental weight on my shoulders. People who make me feel like I am better than they. People who encourage me to fall prey to the material things of this world. Thank you for these challenges so that I may grow in love and learn to love as you first loved us. Forgive me for my judgmental thoughts and glances. Forgive me for my words. Guard my heart, Lord, that I may love everyone. Be my words, Lord, that I may be your light. Give me your contagious Spirit, that I may be a woman of your word. Give me your strength. Give me your wisdom. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me, the underserved. Thank you for forgiving me so that I may start fresh in my walk with you. Go ahead of me and blaze my trail. Help me to love others without regard for what I will receive in return. Show me your ways. Amen."

Quick.. GO

Some of you I've already talked into taking a road trip with me for one of next year's Living Proof Ministries Live events (you know, with BETH MOORE!).
Well TODAY and today only, you have a chance to win two free tickets (you know, one for you, one for me). :-) They are giving 30 away for Amanda's (Beth's daughter) 30th Birthday.

So go here to wish her a Happy 30th. And let me know if you win!

http://livingproofministries.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time?

I mentioned I was feeling slightly overwhelmed last week. Sometimes when I feel that way, I start slacking on some of the things I normally do. Sometimes I even start slacking on my daily time with God.

Because it just seems on top of everything else I don't have enough time.

Time.

I once heard a pastor say, "it's not a time issue, it's a priority issue."

Time.

Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time? Is your calendar full of dates and appointments?

Don't stress. Every moment can be a moment spent with Him. As Beth puts it,

"Every date on your man-contrived schedule can be a date with Christ. He'll do the driving."

How are you spending your time with Him this week?

As you visit us today...

Remember to visit the Prayer Wall and comment on the Week Three Challenge to be a prayer warrior!

Untitled.

Where do I begin with what to say? I've played this conversation in my head so many times. I'm certainly not claiming to know everything, but what I do will save your life.

I know, I know that God is able [and will]. I know, I know that He still reigns. I know, I know that love has found [and will find] a way.

-MercyMe

This lyric is hitting me hard this week, anyone else find Christian music to be an incredibly powerful voice of the Lord? Wow. This blog is not a plug for MercyMe. But, I do have to share more powerful lyrics throughout, because they are all blending together in to one big message for me.

Studying our giants can bring up some difficult truths to face. Remember,

There is a season for everything. There is a reason for all things here on earth. Every second of every moment seems to have its worth. Rest assured life's not in vain, for all things work here for His fame. It won't be long until we all go home with all things revealed, and on that day we'll finally know oh, as we are fully known.

This week, in "Facing Your Giants" (FYG) we talked about "Dry Seasons" and "Grief Givers". Reading this, assembling the prayer wall, and hearing other stories this week about heartache and misfortune made the devil seem so prominent, so powerful. But then I was able to realize and feel that God is bigger. Bigger than the air we breathe, bigger than our giants and SO much bigger than the enemy. But, the only way to overcome the enemy is through Christ's love.

Time has come to raise our hearts as one and glorify the God of everything. We live our lives for the renown of Christ, oh we are children of the sovereign king.


My heart will fly when I finally see you face to face, and my tears will fly away, away.

The enemy stands between us and God, He has since the book of Genesis, and the only way back to God is through Christ. And so, we are to live our lives trying to be imitators of Christ and overcome the enemy. We have so many questions for God, all beginning with "why?" Why this happened I cannot explain. Why write the script with such heartache and pain? Could there not have been an easier way? Watching life through this glass so faded, I cannot see the bigger picture taking place. Oh, to understand one day... When I finally make it home. Then I'll gaze upon the throne of the King frozen in my steps. And all the questions that I swore I would ask, words just won't come yet. So amazed at what I've seen, so much more than this old mind can hold.

Stability
Max Lucado says in Chapter 5, "But sometimes we have no vote. Calamity hits and the roof tips." The devil starts to isolate us by removing every source of stability from our lives. We become disconnected. Disconnection turns to deceit. For David, the enemy is Saul. Max (I figure, we're journeying together, we're going to be on a first name basis with Max) says, "Has your Saul cut you off from the position you had and the people you love?" Where is your refuge? Where do you go to be renewed?

Are we turning to our job, to find that it is not secure? That no matter how hard we work today, it might not matter tomorrow? Are we turning to our spouse or significant other only to find that they are not rock solid?

Max says "Make God your refuge. Let Him, not [your] Saul [giant] encircle you. Let Him be the ceiling that breaks the sunshine, the walls that stop the win, the foundation on which you stand." Max also talks about a man in his church who had just buried his wife and had a daughter becoming more ill by the day and he said "You'll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have".

Let me just say, I am incredibly inspired by those that have had their Saul remove every earthly stability from their lives and still they find their rest on Christ the solid rock. I am taking this lesson now, and am thankful for the Lord putting their example in my life.

When we find refuge in the Lord, He WILL restore us. Find your refuge in Him, and your comfort in His people. David did, and in the "midst of [his] desert [he wrote his] sweetest psalms."

Grace
Our Saul's can be the people in our lives that Max refers to as "Grief-Givers". Once David has been restored and Saul hears of his location, Saul once again begins his hunt for David, with the ultimate goal to kill him. So many times David and his army are in a position to slay Saul, and yet David continues, with a "God saturated mind", to remember that Saul is the Lord's appointed King. David hears the Lord, and allows Saul to live, even though he knows that Saul will continue to hunt him down and try to kill him.

How are we reacting to the Saul's in our life. Are we focused on our Saul? Will we slay our Saul if given the opportunity? Are we able to forgive our Saul? Max says "We forgive the one-time offenders, mind you. We dismiss the parking-place takers, date-breakers, and even the purse snatchers. We can move past the misdemeanors, but the felonies? The repeat offenders? The Sauls who take our youth, retirement or health? Failure to do so could be fatal. 'Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple' - Job 5:2 Enemy destroyers need tw
o graves."

Max says that David "refused to see his grief-giver as anything less than a child of God. David didn't applaud Saul's behavior; he just acknowledged Saul's proprietor - God." God is saying to us the offender and the offended, "What he [you] did was unthinkable, unacceptable, inexcuseable, but I'm not finished yet." Our enemies, God is not finished with them yet. Did we think that He was? This was such an eye opener for me. I certainly know that He is not finished with me yet, but have I stopped to think that about my enemies, my Saul's? "You honor God when you see them, not as His failures, but as His projects."

I think it is important to take a moment here to point out, as Max and so many others have, that forgiveness is not acceptance. God hates sin, loves the sinner, and calls us to do the same. Forgive the sinner, but keep your distance if you need to.
As Max puts it, forgive the child molester, but keep him out of the school. "To forgive is to move on, not to think about the offense anymore. You don't excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route thoughts about them through heaven. You see your enemy as God's child and revenge as God's job." And what appears as incomplete is still completely Yours and one day we'll see as we've been seen and we'll soar.

Max closes this chapter the same way I will end this post "We, like Saul, have been given grace. We, like David, can freely give it."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Opportunities

This is (one of) my week(s) off from Esther. While I was not looking forward to it, it ended up being a nice break this week as I've been feeling (just a little) overwhelmed. (What? You noticed from my poor quality of blogging and worse than usual returning of messages? Sorry!)

So while on my Esther hiatus, I picked up my "Life Above the Negativity" book again. One of my favorite pieces from the book is:

"I am not my own. I am bought with a price. I belong to God. I choose to grow in and put on love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I recognize the opportunities God gives me to grow in these areas."

The opportunities? That's a nice way to put it. You know the kind. When a family member hurts your feelings, a coworker says something discouraging, your stuck in traffic, a friend says something about you, an unexpected bill, a poor doctor's report, and on and on and on.

There are opportunities all around us to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. But how do we do it?

I've been working on first recognizing the opportunities. If you are feeling frustrated, upset, or annoyed, it's a pretty good indicator there's an opportunity for you to grow in that area (and believe me, I have a LOT of room to grow in a lot of areas!).

Sometimes I'm upset about something and feel like talking about it. Sometimes that talking turns into complaining, grumbling, whining, even gossip (gasp!*). Society calls this "venting" and tells us this is okay.

But God says it's not.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." -Ephesians 4:29

In fact, He tells us to avoid those who do it.

"A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don't hang around with chatterers." -Proverbs 20:19

I came across this quote today, "When you are tempted to complain, think of it as an invitation from God to give thanks."

An opportunity to go to God in thanksgiving.

So after recognizing the opportunities that come my way, I take them to Him. I talk to Him about them and seek guidance. Sometimes it's an opportunity to give Him thanks that I even have the problem I'm having in the first place (giving thanks for having a job, rather than complaining about the job I have). Sometimes the answer is to simply be still. Be quiet. Sometimes I have a really hard time finding what the answer is and I just lay it in His hands.

Whatever the answer, He is trusting me with a lot of opportunities to grow and I am definitely a

work.

in.

progress.

What opportunities has He trusted you with lately? How do you recognize them and what do you do to grow in the fruits of the spirit?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22-23

*"Life Above the Negativity" defines gossip has something you are talking about but are neither a part of the problem or the solution. Sounds like a whole new post for another day.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are You a Prayer Warrior? (& GIVEAWAY!)

Week Three Giveaway!

Are You a Prayer Warrior? In Matthew 17, Jesus says "I assure you, even if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain 'move from here to there' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Check out our prayer wall and lift up these prayers to the Lord.

We encourage you to share your thoughts on prayer, your prayer requests or prayers of thanksgiving! Let us know that you would be a prayer warrior with us, by leaving your comments on this post. Please leave your comments by Wednesday, October 7th at midnight and we will announce the winner of "How to Pray" on Thursday, October 8th!

_________________________________________________________
Updated:
Contest now closed.
Congratulations, Christa! I'll get the book to you this week. What perfect timing since you'll be in the state! :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Something Borrowed.

Truly, today's post has nothing to do with "Facing Your Giants" but rather another thought that I had yesterday and wanted to share and receive feedback on.

A couple of weeks ago I held a rather large Mary Kay event, a "Ladies Night Out" at Iowa State. Now, normally we work in small groups and more intimate settings. So, for this event, I had to borrow some supplies from other consultants and ended up borrowing items from three separate women. I assured them that if they would allow me to borrow their supplies I'd make sure they got returned or replaced. As soon as the event was over, I boxed and bagged up supplies for these three women, certain that I knew what needed to go back to each respective person.

Then, they made it to the back of my car. I was very anxious to get these items returned and back to their respective owners in a timely fashion, as I know they needed these items in the near future.

Yesterday, after dropping off the last bunch of supplies I had this huge sense of relief. I was so thankful that these women trusted me enough to let me borrow their items and that I could use those items for a successful evening for some wonderful young women, yet I was glad to have given everything back to their rightful owners safe and sound.

This got me to thinking a bit about Ang's comment on our Week Two Challenge. That what helped her get over her fears was knowing that everything that we have, ourselves and our families included, are not our own. Everything that we have is borrowed from Him. Borrowed. He has given all that we have to us, temporarily, in order that we may prosper (Jer 29:11), or, in other words, succeed. How thankful we should be to know that God trusts us to borrow what is rightfully His. That He expects us to be good stewards of all that He has given to us.

And now, this is where you come in for discussion. The feelings that I had in the situation yesterday were those of thanksgiving to know that I am trusted, but also relief to know that I had given everything back, cleaned up and in condition that the supplies were ready for the use of their owners.

I fail again and again at remembering and recognizing that everything I have is from the Lord. But, I am ready to start returning what He has given me, cleaned up and ready for His use. Where does one begin to give back? Tithing comes to mind so quickly. But, I started really thinking about this. Looking first at my material possessions. Then, at myself. How about my smile. Have I given that back to Him today through someone else? I have some other thoughts, but I'd love to hear yours.

What are some ways that you return to the Lord all that you have borrowed? When you return it, is it all cleaned up and ready for His use? Please share your encouragement, some relevant scripture, or simply your thoughts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Goodbye Ordinary

My husband took his oath to "officially" become an attorney, yesterday. For all of his hard work, I wanted to give him a gift. Something with meaning. We have been talking a lot lately about quiet time with the Lord, so I got him a 365-day devotional for men and a MercyMe CD (our mutually favorite band that we will be going to see in November!).

We popped the CD in immediately on our drive home from downtown and the first song was one neither of us had heard before, called "Goodbye Ordinary". I felt moved to share the lyrics with you, I hope it touches you and compels you to make some changes...






I wonder
when we first bought into this
So satisfied with status quo
Have we convinced ourselves that this is all there is
Well, all that is within me says we were meant to break free.

Live like there's no tomorrow
Love extravagantly
Lead a life to be followed
Goodbye ordinary
Goodbye ordinary

We were never meant to compromise
Settle for mediocrity
This life was never made to be a waste of time
Well, all that is within me says no more just existing

No more complacency
No more just settling this time
Goodbye to atrophy
For we were meant to be alive.


Friday, September 25, 2009

ashamed?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes." -Romans 1:16

"We are called to be the light of the world, so that God can reveal the radiance of His glory through our lives. Yes, feel the weighty responsibility of it, but also feel the privilege. Christ is not ashamed of us (Heb. 2:11). What honor!"

Have you ever forgotten your identity in Christ? Hidden the fact that you were a Christian? Or gone through a time where you haven't fully disclosed your identity?

Ever been in a situation where God is calling you to 'stick up for' Him but you remain silent?

Today, as I was working with the college students, one of the girls shared with me that she felt it was hard to be Christian in some of her classes. We talked about how some professors take off points for your opinion differing from theirs.

Often, at my job, I feel like it's not okay to have my own opinion. Like I am not allowed "stick up for" God. Like I will get 'points taken off.' Just yesterday, I was talking to Mardi about how it can be difficult to be a Christian in the public school setting. In a place where there is supposed to be a separation of church and state. (I know... I've had this conversation with many of you.)

A separation? What a sad thought to think that there would be a separation between my creator and the work He currently has me doing.

Even if we forget our identity, He doesn't. He is always by our side. He never takes His hand off of us. He is never separated from us. He is not ashamed of us. He 'sticks up for' us. Always.

Lord, help me to always let Your light shine. To reveal the radiance of Your glory. To not be ashamed. To never separate myself from you. Always. Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 2 Challenge & GIVEAWAY!

UPDATED:
Congrats to Pamela. And what a perfect week for her to get the giveaway... it's her birthday week! Happy Birthday!



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What are your fears?

We've talked some this week about fear. And about how fear can cause complacency in our lives and in our faith.

Fear is powerful. But God says, "Do not be afraid." He says, "Take courage, I am here."

Week 2 Challenge
Comment on this post (or post a link to your blog post) about your fears or how God is working in your life to conquer your fears and challenge complacency.

Giveaway
And to help you overcome your fears, one commenter will receive Max Lucado's "Imagine Your Life Without Fear". Comments for giveaway must be posted by Sunday midnight. Good luck!


Monday, September 21, 2009

My History

My history, the ugly parts of my present, and how they all fit into the Big Picture.....

The Big Picture. I've posted about it before on the Hickstionary here. But God is not yet finished telling me what He has to say about it.

This week at Beth Moore, I heard something about this differently than I had thought of it before.

Sure, I know everything fits into the big picture and that God works all things together for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). This is so uplifting to hear when we are in the middle of grieving. All things will work together for good. They are just bumps in the road that God will take care of on the way to the Big Picture. Right? Not so much...

You see, God has a destiny for me. He knows what my destiny is. He has the plans in place and is pushing me through the path of my destiny every day. And those bumps in the road? They aren't actually just inconveniences that are slowing me down on the way. They are a part of His plan. A part of my destiny.

"The grand ending to our destiny doesn't happen in spite of those challenges, it often happens because of those challenges."

Because of them.

Really? God knew those were a part of the plan and He was okay with that? His plan included for me to be hurt? In pain? To struggle?

I look to friends and family that are hurting right now. This is a part of His plan?

There are things in my past I'm not proud of. Things from my past I'd like to forget. People that hurt me, and people I've hurt. I'd like to forget about them. Erase them from my history.

But as much as I may want to, I cannot amputate my history from my destiny.

It is a part of me. It is where I came from. It is part of the reason I am who I am today. I learned from it. I'm growing from it. I am working towards fulfilling my destiny because of those painful puzzle pieces from my past. I remember the pain, as if God is saying, "Don't forget what I dragged you out of!" In Beth's study, she says, God is attracted to weakness- there is more room there for the strength of God. It's often those painful times in our lives that draw us closer to Him.

So whether you are in a period of grieving, remembering a period of grieving, or heading towards a period of grieving, remember His word,
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." --Jeremiah 29:11

The Voice of Truth

Disclaimer: I have heard the VOICE OF TRUTH so much over the last few days, I hardly know where to begin or where to end...

This weekend I read through Chapters One and Two of Max Lucado's "Facing Your Giants". As I read through the chapters, the song "Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns just kept playing over and over in my head. Then, on the way to study this morning, it played again. Then, in the car after study, it played again. The lyric that is resounding in my mind is

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again "boy, you'll never win!


and then,

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
.

It wasn't until I recognized my giants that I could start to hear the voice of truth. Because when I can finally recognize my giant it is then I can hand it over to God. And our giants can change daily, right?

Before I introduce one of my giants to you, let me just say that until this morning in Women's Connections, I was certain I was the only woman that would even call something that seemed so trivial a giant. And then, someone else introduced my giant before I could even open my mouth...

The biggest giant in my life, lately, is time management and organization. Laugh if you must. I'm sure that seems so trivial to some but I struggle with being a good steward of the time the the Lord has given to me. God's word says:

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." - Ephesians 5:15-17

God tells us flat out to make the most of EVERY opportunity. How many times do I sit and watch my son play, or set him down to play so that I can get other things done. How many times do I sit idle on the computer when I could be serving my husband or reaching out to others. It is my job to serve the Lord, serve my husband, serve my children and then to do the other activities. There is a time for everything if we are careful to plan:

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven"
- Ecc 3:1

(Read the rest of Ecclesiastes Chapter Three here, it's the TRUTH -
Turns out... the Beatles didn't come up with their lyrics themselves...)

This tells me how important it is to plan to make the most of the time that He has given to me for service. I have been resisting a plan because it seems too hard to stick to it. But why? Am I missing out on anything if I don't stick to it? I actually believe I am missing more opportunities by NOT sticking to it. It seems like I have had to be in a routine since I was in kindergarten. Someone always saying you will do this at this time and this is how.

Then we get to high school and it's school, sports, and a part-time job and it is again, you will do this at this time and this is how. Then we get to college, and we make our own choices about what to be involved in, and I was over-involved. Constantly having to plan each fifteen minute increment in order to be in the right place at the right time, succeed in classes and not let anyone down. In the mean time, I tried to fit in a boyfriend and a social life.

That overwhelming anxiety that I would feel when I can't breathe because I am exhausted just thinking about my day, let alone actually accomplishing the long task list. Be here, do this, study that - sleep? Who needs sleep? Rest? Who needs rest? You have a twenty page paper due in another class? I thought I was your only professor!

But then, it just got better. I joined the working world and real life. However, I didn't need a schedule. Who has time for anything but work during busy season? Who needs a plan when they eat, sleep, work, repeat?

So, when Matthew was born it was the first time in 20 years that I didn't have to be routine. I had an excuse to put on my sweatpants, throw my hair back in a pony tail, turn on the television and feed my baby every two hours. Sorry momma, you can only pull that off for a couple of weeks.

The GIANT says, ha - here we go again: the cupboards need refilled, the laundry needs done, and oh that wooden furniture that used to shine? It needs dusted. Have you looked at your floorboards lately? Hey mom, Matthew can crawl - when's the last time you vacuumed? Oh, and, you've got some big Mary Kay goals but you haven't even been on the phone."

But the VOICE OF TRUTH says, "Have you even played with your son today? Or have you just kept an eye on him? Have you made him giggle today, or have you just watched him slobber? Have you taught him anything today, or have you just handed him a toy?"

The VOICE OF TRUTH spoke yesterday during the message at church. Our pastor quoted scripture and said, "The world and its desires pass away but the person who does the will of God lives forever." He continued to explain, "The things of this world are temporary. The things of this world are empty and yet, we just fight so hard to really believe that. God wants you to be happy but not through the things of this world. They’re empty and temporary. And actually the fact of the matter is God wants you more than happy. God wants you blessed. God wants you more than happy. He wants you blessed. If you look at the scriptures, new International version, there are about 31 instances of the word happy. There are over 400 of the word bless or blessed. God wants you blessed. Blessed is so much better than happiness. Why? Because happiness deals with the happenings around us. It’s all external. Blessed is what’s going on inside of us. It’s deeper. Happiness? Happiness can be taken away from you. The stock market can go south, you can lose all your money. Somebody can steal your car. You can, all of a sudden, contract a deadly disease and your health is gone. Happiness can be taken away from you. No one can take away being blessed."

The VOICE OF TRUTH was on Life 107.1 on the way home today when the topic of "Family Life Today" was "Mixed Feelings Stirred Up By The Empty Nest". Suddenly I realized that my son could be taken from me at any moment, that God willing he will become a man, meet a woman who will become his wife and leave. He won't always be "momma's buddy" or "momma's little helper". And that moment is going to come before I know it. And suddenly, I'll wonder where the time went, what I did with it and my house will be way to clean, way too organized, and way too empty. Prioritize, said the VOICE OF TRUTH.

Max Lucado points out that in I Samuel 17, rather than David dwelling on Goliath he references God nine times to the two times he even mentions Goliath. Here he has the enormous giant to slay right in front of his face, and he can't physically see God. He has to trust that God is there! Blind faith! Lucado says "Are you four times as likely to describe the strength of God as you are the demands of your day?"

So, as I sit and know that I need a plan, I run from that and avoid it because the negative thoughts tell me that I can't stick to it, it will create anxiety, it will take away the "fun" things. I know the only way to make the most of every moment and honor God is to have a daily plan. I need to hear what God is telling us through the story of David. "Lift your eyes, giant-slayer. The God who made a miracle out of David stands ready to make one out of you."

The everyday tasks are for HIS glory. HE has given me plenty of time to nourish, educate, enrich, and teach my son and still make my home a sanctuary for my family (I didn't say it was a sanctuary, critics, but that I CAN make it that way) and to serve HIM, but I need to make the most of every moment. Be wise in how I spend my time.

My giant? The waves that keep on telling me time and time again "you can never win".

My sling and a stone? A routine. So darn simple.

The voice of truth? "Do not be complacent in your ways. Do not be afraid, this is for MY glory!"

Prayer Request

I woke up this morning to some emails from friends telling me about God's blessings. One in particular was talking about the mysterious ways God's plan falls together for us. What a great feeling. God is GOOD!

Then I read an email from my good friend. She had the following prayer request. One that I can't find words to describe to you how this makes me feel. If you can find the words, could you leave them in the comments? I know she reads this blog.


Pray for me....I just found out a student of mine (just moved to the Jr. High this year) was killed with his brother yesterday. His mother shot them both and then killed herself. Tomorrow is going to be a rough day, for students and for staff. And somehow I have to be able to help them all.....


Update: I hesitate to post this but God knows who they are and their needs... As I was driving to school and praying for those in situations so dire they feel the only way out is to end it all, I got a text from someone else very close to me. Their father took their life last night. Please keep all of these families in your prayers.

Giveaway Winner!


Congrats, Mardi!
You are the blessed recipient of the first giveaway. I'll get it to you this week!

Friday, September 18, 2009

GIVEAWAY!

 We are so blessed that YOU are here joining us in the challenge to overcome complacency! We are excited to have you be a part of this conversation and journey. We know that you are here, and if you are comfortable doing so, would love to get to know you better and have you introduce yourself on the introduction post.

The feedback has been so positive, and now we'd love to hear your thoughts. Did you interpret the passage in a different way than us? Did this passage impact you in a different way because of your circumstances and experiences? Can you share some inspiration, and encourage us?

God's word says "My Grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you." - 2 Corinth 12:9 (Check out Heidi's three-part post here). Grace. God's amazing grace. We could all use a little inspiration from God's Grace every day. In fact...

We are so eager to get the conversation going and have you join in our challenge that we are having our first GIVEAWAY - Max Lucado's "Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year".  

 

How do you win?

When you introduce yourself here and complete the "Week One Challenge" we will enter your name to be randomly selected to be our first winner!

Week One Challenge
We would love to hear how God is challenging complacency in your life or your general thoughts on the Proverbs 1:32 passage.

Comments need to be made by Sunday at midnight - good luck!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Does God Even Know Where I Work?

Have you ever felt alone? Like God was nowhere to be found? Like no matter how much you prayed, begged, and pleaded you couldn't find an answer, you couldn't feel Him? Have you ever felt that the lonely set of footprints in the sand were your own? 

One of the questions I had before starting the Esther study was why is God not directly mentioned in this book? And since He is not, why are we studying it?

Beth's answer in short was, God's name may not be in it, but HE'S ALL OVER IT.

He's all over it. There are times in my walk with Him that I feel very close to Him. I feel like I ask a question and BOOM, the answer is right in front of me. There are times when I doubt Him and BOOM, He gives me a concrete reason to trust. I know, without a doubt, at those times He IS all over it.

But.

There are times. There are times when I'm sitting at my desk. Almost in tears. Feeling helpless. Feeling Hopeless. I wonder where He is. I question Him. I think, "Does God even know where I work?!?" It seems so Godless here.

Just like in the pages of Esther, at times, I can't outwardly, directly see God. But maybe that is the point. Does God have lessons to teach me about how He is always here? ALWAYS by my side. Even when I cannot feel Him. Even when I cannot see His work.

When I say, I feel all alone. God says, I am always there. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5


When I don't feel God, when I don't see God, He tells me He is there. Both in the miracles and in the mundane, God has a hand in it. Maybe the true miracle is the everyday natural works that God does in our lives. Even when we cannot see Him.

"Faith is being sure of what we Hope for and certain of what we do not see." -Hebrews 11:1

Monday, September 14, 2009

Be still and know.

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted [honored] among the nations,
I will be exalted [honored] in the earth."
-Psalm 46:10

Our pastor opened devotion this morning with Psalm 46:10. What a powerful verse. As this group of women begin (or continue) this journey in Bible study we experience a range of emotions. For me, it was excitement. I was excited, after taking the summer "off", to see the women in my small group who have become more than a Christian acquaintance, but have become my friends. Heidi, as you found in her post is nervous. So, in your excitement, nervousness, anxiousness take a moment, just a moment and be still.

Be still and know that HE is God.

The context of this passage, as our pastor explained it, is that the Psalmist is describing the turmoil of the world, the the Lord can cease wars and shatter the spear, verse 10 is not the Psalmist but rather God interjecting and saying "BE STILL". In my mind I hear this thunderous voice and the world actually falling silent, war ceasing, the oceans still and the tongues of men quiet and a resounding peace.

Then, we listened to Steven Curtis Chapman's "Be Still and Know". Here are just some of the lyrics:

Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know that He is holy
Be still, O restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

As we sat there and listened I bowed my head and closed my eyes, I tried to forget that there were other people there with me and visually and mentally tried to set everything aside, for just a moment to be still, "stand in awe and be amazed". He has done so much in my life, yet in the hustle and bustle and the to-do lists I am rarely considering all that He has done.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about being fearful of the Lord preparing us to have to deal with something big. More of a fear of having to deal with tragedy. That we have experienced so many of His blessings lately that something bad is bound to happen. Is it that type of fear that brings us to a place of complacency? That if we dig in to the word and prepare ourselves and build our faith we will be put to the test and might endure some type of pain or suffering?

The TRUTH is that He knows His plan for us. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Because the devil is real, tragedy does occur and will occur and is occurring. My prayer would be that I, and you, never have to deal with tragedy; that if you have you can put your hope in the Lord; that if we do we can turn to the Lord instead of away from Him, that we can focus on Him and let Him slay our giants; that we would surrender to Him. The Lord doesn't bring tragedy, the Lord knows that because of the devil there will be tragedy and He places all of His infinite knowledge, wisdom and the tools for preparation at our feet and we need to pick up our cross and keep trudging forward in a world of broken pieces knowing that He has gone before us.

"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." - Deuteronomy 31:8

And that in all of it, we can stop for a moment, be still, stand in awe of what He has done. Set aside our fears, our anxieties, our joys and celebrations and be reverent.

How Can I Pray for You Today?

While most of high school is a faded memory, I remember bits and pieces of my time there vividly.

I remember graduation.

I was standing outside of Central Decatur High School in the receiving line. Many families, friends, teachers, and everyone else from town was going through the line. Many of my friends were crying. Many were laughing. I was emotionless. Too tough to cry. Not letting on in the least bit that I had feelings. When asked, I talked about how I was sooo glad to be graduating and how I couldn't wait to leave town. The truth is I was scared. Terrified of the unknown. Afraid to be alone.

At church that week the graduates were introduced in front of the congregation and given a gift. As I walked out of church that week something told me that was it. I remember feeling so afraid as I walked out. I remember the drive home telling myself how stupid that feeling was. I would be in town all summer and would still be going to church. But after that day, it never felt the same.

There were no small groups that summer. No Bible studies. No youth outings that I attended. I sat in the pew on Sunday mornings. But it never felt the same.

You see, I started attending church in middle school with my friend's family (a family that played an integral part in God's plan for my life). Something told me that day as I left church I knew I'd spend more time in "my mom's church" than "my church" as I went home for breaks from college.

Unfortunately, that feeling was right.

My senior year of high school was the last time I did a Bible study. While I feel I've grown sooo much in my relationship with God since then, the thought of joining a new Bible study makes me anxious. I am scared. I am nervous. I am afraid of the unknown.

But it's exciting. I know He has something to tell me and I don't want to miss it. 

Esther starts tonight at 6:30.

Would you pray for me? Would you pray that my heart be open and that I really hear what God has to say to me?

How can I pray for you today?