Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Lesson in Human Psychology - Nease Style!

My daughter, my son and I went to the movies after a run to Starbucks a few weeks ago.  We had not finished our coffee when we got to the theater and we were not sure if they would allow us to have outside drinks in the theater, so we were left in a quandary.  What followed was strangely psychologically intriguing as we all three reacted in ways that totally reflect our personalities...

Stephanie:  Stephanie is very cautious, never does anything to offend anyone and is super sweet.  Her personality is always "Avoid confrontation at all costs."  So....Stephanie chugged her coffee in the car before we approached the ticket counter and then ended up sick to her stomach as we approached the theater.

Tommy:  Tommy is a rebel.  He is one who takes risks, enjoys a challenge and is always angry that the movie theaters charge more than they should for food and drink so he has no issue with bringing his own food or drink in.  So....he took the coffee and put it inside of his jacket and zipped it up.  There was a problem, was spilling out all over him and he got wet and the coffee burned his skin and then he smelled like Starbucks for the rest of the day.

Me:  I've learned by life experience that "we have not because we ask not".  I did not want to chug my coffee because I knew it would make me sick, but my convictions would not allow me to hide it and I said to my kids "You're over-reacting..let's just ask what we should do and then we will be able to make a decision."  So....I asked the lady as I purchased my tickets if it would be okay if I took my coffee into the movie theater.  She warmly replied "Sure!  No problem."

At that point, my kids looked at each other and started cracking up laughing as they realized their decisions completely reflected their personalities and mine reflected mine. Often we think we know what we are up against but honestly we don't know until we ask or take a concerted effort to find out!  Hopefully, they learned that things aren't always what they seem...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fleeting Fame

For the past month, they were celebrated.  People dressed them up, told stories around them, prayed near them, lit them up and hung precious family keepsakes on them.  They stood tall, beautiful and lush.

Soon, they will be in a pile, stacked up, lying on their side with decorations taken off of them, lights stripped off and the only thing that is left from their month or so of glory is a few shiny tinsels left on the branches as they sit in the "recycle" pile, awaiting their destiny.

My heart broke as I saw the huge pile of used Christmas trees in a pile in my neighborhood.  How could we be so cruel?  What a sight it is - especially for someone like me who loves Christmas so much - to see a pile of beautiful trees who were still green and beautiful, but already forgotten.

I suppose that is how it is in life.  My thoughts turned to the way people chase fame.  People want to be loved, adored, lifted up and celebrated.  If we are honest, this would be something each of us has a desire for deep down in our human soul.  But what does fame really have to offer?

If you look around at those who are famous, you will notice a couple of consistent principles.  First, fame is fleeting.  Just like the Christmas trees, people can be celebrated, adored and decorated for a season, but inevitably, the world will move on and the famous one must work even harder to be noticed.  I've often thought that desire to stay in the limelight is what ruins so many people.  Is it better to have had it and lost it or never have had it at all?  We've seen it time and time again - people just don't stay famous once they get there unless there is tremendous effort and marketability.  So many child actors have gone down some dark roads because of this life pattern.

The season comes and goes, and so do the trees.  Next year, we get a new one, maybe even a taller one with lusher branches!  The world always looks for something better, something with more to offer.  It is impossible to please everyone, all the time.

Secondly, even though they are celebrated (almost worshipped at times) those who are famous are often lifeless inside - like the Christmas tree who has been uprooted.  The tree relies on people to keep it alive and watered, just as a famous person must rely on people's attention to remain famous.  But eventually, the trees will die without the root, and so do people.  It may look good on the outside, but inside, there is often a lifeless soul who is dependent on the care of others.

This world has nothing to offer us, in reality.  The desire we have deep down to be loved and adored comes from our deep desire for a relationship with God mixed with a very misled attempt to fill it with something fleeting.  In order to experience lasting love, adoration and celebration, we can only find that in one place - in the arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we seek Him first above everything else, everything will fall into place in our lives (Matt. 6:33) - including our need for acceptance.  We can find that acceptance and love in the arms of our Savior.

Our tossed out Christmas trees serve as a reminder to us to seek God's approval above all else.  He will never put unrealistic expectations on us.  He will never look for someone "better" or "more attractive".  He will never leave us, He will never forsake us.  He will always keep us as the apple of His eye! 

Even Jesus Christ, the greatest man to ever walk the face of the earth, was rejected by people.  His fame came from His obedience to God, not winning people's approval.  Thank God!  We do not have to be uprooted to find the love we so desperately crave!  Our roots just need to dig even deeper into the True Root, Jesus Christ, where we will find Living Water for our souls.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 This is what the Lord says:  "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord....But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the LORD their hope and confidence!  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit."

1 Thessalonians 2:4 ...Our purpose is to please God, not people.  He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

Galatians 1:10 Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.

1 Peter 2:4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God's temple.  He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honor.

(Note: I actually posted this last year...but it's on my heart and mind again and wanted to share it in case you were not following my blog then.  It's something I need to be reminded of...maybe you do too?)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seeing Purpose in my Failures

The year 2009 began with a bang!  I had so many hopes, dreams, plans and ideas I thought I would burst!  But then it happened.


Yuck, I hate that word.  It seems to have followed me around all year.  For instance,  I failed when I tried to get back into radio at 106.9 when my family did not respond well to the move to Asheville and everything seemed to fall apart, I failed at getting my book published when CBS told me I couldn't write about my Survivor experiences and then publishers told me I didn't have a platform without Survivor (gee, thanks), I failed at casting a vision for the future of the ministry God has given to me and I failed at the New Year's resolution I made to lose 10 pounds and instead I gained 10 pounds!

Because of my "failures" this year, I will be honest - I've had some discouragement set in.  Yes, we have had some successes and I'm so thrilled about that - people have responded to the message of Christ through our ministry and I couldn't ask for more than that!  But I know you know what I mean when I say that the failures we experience can be really difficult, in spite of many successes.  I began to ask: why am I in ministry?  What does God really want me to do?  Am I forcing it?  What direction does He want me to take?  These questions and many more have run through my over-thinking mind more times than I care to admit.  It seems like everything new that I tried this year has slammed into a brick wall and I'm left with questions.

Slowly, though, God has revealed to me that these "failures" are anything but the end of the ministry He has in store for me.  I'll give you some examples...

I had lunch with a dear friend who contacted me last week about an opportunity to serve over in Liberia in June.  I met her when I was in Asheville working at 106.9.  We attended the same church and connected immediately.  I would not be exaggerating to say that her friendship was a life-saver for me when we lived there and everything in our lives seemed to be falling apart.  When she contacted me last week, she started her message with these words "I think I know why God allowed our paths to cross...".  I began to tear up immediately as I was so encouraged to hear that there could possibly be a good purpose in that move that seemed like such a monumental failure to me.  Who knows where this whole thing will lead, but I'm greatly encouraged that God may be opening a door for me to bring the Good News of Jesus to the poor in Liberia!  My heart races with excitement as I think of what a privilege it would be to serve these sweet people!

When I was working on the book that was declined when publishers did not think I had a platform without Survivor, I was crushed and devastated.  I understand their point - a platform sells books.  Without Survivor as my platform, they were afraid nobody would know who I am and that would be too risky.  As I prayed and poured out my heart in sobs to God, I felt Him speak to my heart...Survivor as a platform is sinking sand.  Your platform must be built on the Solid Rock.  Immediate relief flooded my weary soul as I remembered an important lesson I learned while on Survivor:  Man's rejection is God's protection.  He is protecting me - He has a plan and I can trust it.  The world may think my platform doesn't exist, but God knows it does and He's building it brick by sturdy brick.  If He wants me to write a book, He will make it happen without a sinking sand platform!

My vision for the ministry God has given me has been all over the place this year.  Does He want me writing?  Speaking?  On the radio?  Does He want me to stay at home and be a full-time mom?  I just wasn't sure.  So my husband and I have been purposefully praying and seeking the Lord's will for the ministry.  I'm beginning to see that I was focusing too much on what I thought God wanted me to do and not enough on my personal relationship with Him.  That will change in 2010 as I just rest in Him and trust Him to show me the vision - one that I'm already getting small glimpses of but have not solidified yet (stay tuned!).

I'm also reminded that everyone at the foot of the cross when Jesus took His last breath thought that He had failed, too.  They assumed He was a fraud, that His whole story was bogus.  But they realized, after three days, that He was anything but a failure when He was resurrected!  What the world sees as a failure, God sees as an opportunity to begin a new thing.  And that new thing is always the better thing!

All of this to say....failure is not always what it seems to be.  Failure may feel like a death of sorts and in a weird way, it kind of is like a death.  But without death, there would never be a resurrection and new life!  Have you had some failures this year, too?  Know that God has a purpose and a plan for your life - whether it seems like it or not.  We cannot stand still and never try, though. We must walk forward and take risks for God and trust that if we are walking in the wrong direction He will turn us around, however He needs to.  This year, God has had to turn me around several times and it's been painful.  But you know, even though the year has been marked with failures, there was also some successes and I'm beginning the new year 2010 with hope - because God is not finished with me yet!

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Oh, one more thing....As far as the 10 pounds, I'd really like to say that I'm finding purpose in that failure, but honestly, the only thing I've learned is that I now have 20 pounds to lose in 2010!  But with God's help and some self-control, I totally see that happening! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Please Don't Shoot the Messenger!

When you watch the news and the anchorperson tells you the news for the day, do you get upset with them if you don't like the news they are reporting?  Most of the time when I watch the news, I hate what they are saying.  A lot of what they report is not good but it's not the reporter or the anchorperson who I blame for the news - they are just reporting what they know so I can't be mad at them for telling me the truth, whether I like it or not.  You know the saying "Don't shoot the messenger"?  I guess that would apply to this situation!

Speaking of messengers, I was reading in John 13 today and the words of Jesus rang in my heart.  He said in verse 16..."I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master.  Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message."  He goes on in verse 20 to say "I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me."  Jesus is the One who sends the message - Christians are just the messengers.

Unfortunately, often times in the world, people are angry with the messengers that Jesus sends.  No one wants to hear they are a sinner.  No one wants to hear about hell.  No one wants to hear about judgment or wrath.  So, instead of listening to the messengers who speak from God's Word, they "shoot the messengers".  But does that change the message?  No, it doesn't.  The message may not be the news that people want to hear, but it's the truth according to the Bible and it's important that we all face this at some point in our lives.  And this "bad news" can be delivered in love from a person who has been there - one who remembers what it's like when the news first came to them.

The problem is, often times we get it backwards.  Have you noticed that on the newscast they report all the bad news first...and then they follow it up with some light-hearted, good news stories as they close out?  I think that is strategic.  They close out on a good note, leaving you feeling a little less violated.  I believe that is an effective way to give the message of Christ to a lost world.

You see, there is some very bad the fact that we are all sinners and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) and that there is a God who will judge us all (2 Peter 3:7), there is no one who is righteous enough to get to heaven - not even the nicest person we know (Romans 3:10), our sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and that we have an enemy, the Devil (1 Peter 5:8).

But there is also some very, very GOOD news!  God sent Jesus to die for us and become the sacrifice for our sins and when we believe in Him through faith, He restores that relationship with God (Romans 3:9-31), Jesus Christ is the way to heaven (John 14:6), God will forgive us of our sins if we confess them and repent (1 John 1:9), God is patient with us and doesn't want any of us to perish (Psalm 145:8; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:32) and God loves us deeply (John 3:16).

I've often thought about how if someone were to come to my door and say "I found the cure for your illness!" I'd think they were crazy because I am not ill!  But if I were diagnosed with something terminal and then someone approached me with a cure, I would definitely want to hear about it.  If we don't let people know there is a diagnosis of sin and separation from God, they will not understand when we try to offer only the "good news" without the bad.  I think that's what's been going on in the world - we are so afraid to offend, so afraid to share the truth of God's word because people don't receive it well.  We want them to only hear the good news - but without knowing the bad news, the good news won't make any sense!

I had someone write to me the other day "I find it interesting that some people think that Christians wish that all be saved and led to Christ as some sort of hatred. I understand it for what it is, your true love for those you fear may not be saved in time. It is the greatest compliment that you may offer, that you think I am worthy of salvation..."  My eyes welled with tears because I saw that someone finally understood that my efforts are totally motivated by my heart for people and a desire to be obedient to the God I love, not my desire to be right or a "holy commission" of sorts! And the truth is, I'm not the only one who believes this person is worthy of salvation - God believes he is.  He believes you are worth it, too.

Now, if you don't agree with me on any of this, please don't shoot the messenger! :)  I'm only reporting what I know to be true from the pages of God's word and hopefully it is being delivered in the love it is intended to be delivered in.  He has appointed all believers to be messengers of His truth.  My heart is to tell people what He has told me to tell - and to do it with gentleness and respect for those I share it with.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Following the Rules

Not sure if you follow Survivor at all, but last night was the finale for the Survivor Samoa season.  There is a guy on the show named Russell who was in the top three and who played the game very well.  When I say he played the game well, I do not mean he played it nice - but according to the rules of Survivor, he did play the game well.  Mind you, the "rules of life" do not apply. The rules of Survivor are simple:  Don't physically attack anyone.  Don't make plans with anyone to share the money.  That's it.  Everything else is fair game, according to the rules, or should I say "lack of rules" on the show.

Well, this character (I will call him that giving him the benefit of the doubt that in real life he probably isn't this conniving and evil) Russell was just downright mean.  He dumped out the water to weaken his team, burned their socks so they would be uncomfortable, called his "alliance" names behind their backs and was very cocky about how he deserved to win because he played the game hard.  I'm not denying he played the game hard.  Probably harder than anyone else has ever played it if I were honest.  But he did it by walking on people, using people and being under-handed. But...there were no rules against that in the "game" so I suppose some would say he played well.

In the finale last night, the jury of people who he had a hand in voting out did not agree that he played the game the best, though.  They gave the million dollar prize and the title of Sole Survivor to a girl who he was not threatened by at all - and they did it because she played the game in a different way - being more respectful of others, kind, gentle and being loyal to her alliance.  I found that interesting.

The majority of Survivor fans say that Russell should have won.  He even won the "fan favorite".  He played the game harder, didn't ride coat-tails, made the tough decisions and had his head in the game the whole time.  Yet the people who he used to get to the finals were all hurt and frustrated because he didn't play by the rules - not of Survivor - but of life.  I wonder if those "fans" who voted for him as "fan favorite" would feel the same way if they had been at the receiving end of his shenanigans?

How do people know what is right and what is wrong anyway?  Where do we get this inner-compass?   If you read in the Bible, you find the rules/laws of life.  They are not there to box us in or frustrate us or to control us.  They are there to guide us into what is right and good.  They are to protect us and to help us know the way.  I think we often think God is a kill-joy with a bunch of rules - but He is actually trying to help us live life to the fullest!  Last night's show was a reminder that if we want the respect of others, we must show that respect to them, as well.  There are lines we are tempted to cross every day in order to get to what we want, but people are watching and so is God.

God's whole purpose for creating us was love - not control.  As we fall deeper in love with Him, we realize it is not a duty but an honor and a privilege to obey Him - even when the "rules" don't apply.  I have nothing whatsoever against Russell - I've been told by a few folks that he's actually a straight up nice guy in real life.  But I think he and all of us were reminded last night of a very important life principle directly from the pages of the Word of to others whatever you would like them to do to you.  (Matthew 7:12)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you?  He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases Him, and love Him and serve Him with all your heart and soul.  And you must always obey the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Super Markets & Coffee Shops

When I go to the super-market and run into a friend, I'm always excited to see her and we usually stop and catch up quickly, but we both have lists to shop for, dinner to cook and errands to run so the time we spend catching up leaves much to be desired, though it is nice because it keeps us up on each other's lives.  I call those the "super-market encounters".

Then there are the coffee-shop encounters I get to have with friends.  Those are the ones that can last up to three hours (sometimes more if time allows!) where we get a lot deeper in conversation, we talk about things that are on our heart and really get to know what's going on in each other's life.  I prefer these encounters, of course, but they don't happen as often as I'd like.

Relationships take work. We must be intentional if we want to deepen those relationships.  Every time I have a super-market encounter with a friend, I am reminded how much I love them and begin to wonder why I don't see them more often or why I haven't taken the time to call them and let them know I care.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in activities and neglect those relationships that are so important in our lives.

Mary and Martha had a different encounter with Christ at the exact same time and in the exact same place in Luke 10:38-42.  Martha's was a "super market encounter" while Mary's was more of a "coffee-shop encounter".  Martha was "distracted by the big dinner she was preparing" and said to Jesus "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?  Tell her to come and help me."

Meanwhile, Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet, listening to what He was teaching.  And guess what Jesus said to Martha?  "My dear Martha (I love that He was gentle with her) you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."

Lately, I must confess, my quiet times have been more like "super-market encounters" with Jesus.  I've found myself busy, stressed and overwhelmed at times and the "to-do" list seems endless.  Can you relate?  I was reminded of this familiar story about Mary and Martha as I read the Bible today and it struck me.  There are nine words in particular that pierced my heart...."There is only one thing worth being concerned about."  Wow.  I need to remember this.

I pray that tomorrow morning, my quiet time will be more of a "coffee-shop encounter" with Jesus!  I want to sit at His feet, remembering that if I'm going to be concerned about anything, it needs to be that my time with Him is protected.  I pray the same for you!  Let's ask Him to help us to "Be still and know that He is God" (Psalm 46:10) - even during the busy times.

"A single day in Your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!" Psalm 84:10a

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good Morning!

"My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds "Lord, I am coming." -Psalms 27:8 (NLT)

As I read this verse this morning, my heart just skipped a beat. It's true - every morning these are the words I hear from God in my heart - "Leslie, I'm here - come talk with me"- and those words get me out of bed more often than not these days. I find my days go much smoother and I am a lot more at peace when I begin my days looking at God's face before anyone else's. That was a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I read in The Little Red Book of Wisdom - "We should first seek to see the face of God each day before seeing the face of any man". I love that.

So, how in the world do I explain those days when I roll over and push the snooze button every 9 minutes until I realize I've missed out on my time with God? What's that about? I have so much to look forward to - reading His word, praying, giving Him my burdens, and yet I choose to sleep through it sometimes. Oh, I pay for it dearly (as does my poor family, I might add!). But inevitably, there comes a day more often than I care to admit, that I do the exact opposite of what my heart really wants to do.

I'm so glad God is gracious and loving and forgiving. And that He doesn't base His love for me on my works, but by His mercy. I would be in big trouble were it not for His unconditional love.

A wise woman once said to me, "Leslie, if you are having a hard time waking up for your quiet times with the Lord, think of Him sitting on your couch, looking at His watch, eagerly waiting for you to come out and spend some time with Him. Maybe He's petting your dog. Maybe He's eagerly tapping His foot in anticipation! Whatever He's doing, He's doing it because He just can't stand to be away from you for one more minute."

I love that. It doesn't make me feel guilty or obligated at all - it makes me feel loved and that the God of the Universe is expecting a visit from me and He has much to share with me and it can't wait! And it's true - He waits for me. And He waits for you!

I've never in my life heard anyone say "Gee, I wish I hadn't gotten up so early each day to spend time with God - what a waste of time." Nope. And I never will. I promise you, if you are having a hard time getting up early to spend time with your Father in Heaven, He will give you the grace you need to get up (even if you're not a morning person!) and not only will you get a fresh, new word from Him each day, but you will find that you are more aware of Him in every day life. He will fill your life with His presence.

Getting up early and spending time with God is like getting dressed for the day. Who would go out into battle without getting dressed in their armor first? Spending time with God first each day ensures we are ready for whatever life brings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From Me to You at Christmas...

Christmastime is such a wonderful time where we reflect and thank God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.  I hope you will enjoy this early Christmas present from me to you - it is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!  May you be filled with joy as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!

Mary had a guest on that evening so bright
An Angel whose presence gave her quite a fright.

He came to her with a message of hope and of cheer:
The Savior was coming – the time was drawing near!

The message was more personal, as she would soon see
As the Angel unfolded just what God’s plan would be.

He told her she would be mother to the Savior of all
And with that to her knees sweet, young Mary did fall

But how could this be? She was not even wed!
She questioned the Angel and that’s when he said:

“Sweet Child, God the Father has chosen you to be
A vessel that will carry Him supernaturally...
He’s sending His Spirit to give you His Seed
So you and your people will finally be freed!”

She thought for a moment and said with such strength,
“If this is God’s will, then I’ll go to any length.”

She carried our Savior through long, lonely days
Where people would give her a judgmental gaze.

They’d point and they’d stare and they’d whisper her name
While she walked down the streets without any shame.

And when the day came for her to give birth
The heavens declared His invaluable worth.

Jesus was born and the plan would unfold
That for thousands of years was prophetically foretold.

He came to live among us, to show us how to live
Then He laid down His life, so our sins He could forgive.

But it didn’t end there – no He rose from the grave!
So all men could trust Him and their lives He could save.

And save me, He did, but first I had to admit
That I couldn’t do it alone, to Him I had to submit.

Just like Mary did on that bright, clear night
When she submitted to God’s plan and did not put up a fight!

And once she submitted that God’s plan was the best,
His Spirit came upon her and gave her sweet rest.

He did the same for me -though I can’t explain how –
His Spirit came upon me and He lives in me now!

Just like sweet Mary, I carry Him around
Not in the womb, but in my heart He’ll be found.

Some people do point now, they stare and whisper my name
They think I’ve lost my mind, though I’m perfectly sane.

But all the while I know that I’m free and forgiven
So I tell others now about the life that I’m livin’

The words that the angel told Mary were true!
And He’s telling the same thing to me and to you:

“Sweet Child, God the Father has chosen you to be
A vessel that will carry Him supernaturally...
He’s sending His Spirit to give you His Seed,
So you and your people will finally be freed!” 

Leslie Nease

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Dear Friend,

I've heard of your decision to turn away from Jesus Christ
and I understand the reason is the people you've met in life.

Apparently some Christians that you've come across before
have much to say of the wrong you do, but your needs are just ignored.

Many who claim to know Jesus don't know Him very well
(At least the way we live our lives, it's really hard to tell)

Our lives should always reflect Him but they don't and that's a shame.
We judge, we point, we criticize - all in Jesus' Name.

I think we believe it's easier to point at others when they sin
than to look into the mirror at the person who's within.

We often quote the Bible to prove to you that we're right
instead of loving and praying for you, we'd rather win a fight.

Although we read in scripture that quarreling is not effective,
instead we should show grace and love while listening to your perspective.

We often say that we know God and that He tells us what to do
but we live a life that's contrary to what we've shared with you.

God tells us in His word that for the world His life He gave
But we judge and avoid the "sinners" - the very ones He wants to save.

Sometimes I think we just forget that we are sinners, too!
Our broken lives, healed by His love - the same love He has for you.

He's the only One you can fully trust - the rest of us are frail
we're in a process - just like you - and often we do fail.

In the pages of the scriptures, though, we see a better way
We must live out what we believe if it's Truth we want to convey.

I beg of you to look to Christ - He's the only One who is perfect
He saves us, though we aren't deserving - He believes we're worth it.

My deepest apologies, dear friend, for the treatment you recieve.
I pray you'll look past our many faults and in Christ, by faith, believe.

Matthew 7:1

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reactive or Effective?

I threw a spoon across the kitchen yesterday.  It felt good for about two seconds and then I realized I was being an idiot.  My girls had been screaming and picking on each other all afternoon and I had reached my limit. "She's looking at me!"  "She's touching me!" "She won't leave me alone!"  "Why did you have to be born?!" Initially, I chose to stay out of it and try to let them work it out.  But it just got worse and worse and they were now pushing me to the edge.

When I finally decided to jump in and intervene, it was too late - I was an emotional volcano and I erupted with a spoon thrown across the kitchen floor while screaming at the top of my lungs "KNOCK IT OFF!".  Yeah, that was effective.  I'm so glad they were upstairs and did not see my 3-year oldish reaction.  What in the world happened anyway?!  Who was this psychopathic woman in my kitchen and where did that sweet, gentle mommy who was there a moment ago run off to?  Sure, the girls got quiet - very quiet - but I think it was because they were in shock!

Have you ever reacted to something and then really regretted how you responded?  You obviously know my answer to this question! I think it's when my emotions get all wired up and I lose my "filter" to be able to respond in a godly way.  I always regret a knee-jerk reaction - usually it's not the godly response I would prefer to have, but it feels right for about two seconds.  After the two-second window, my heart is sick and regrets creep in, along with remorse.

I think that when I'm hurt deeply, that is when I do this the most.  As I've prayed about this specifically this week, I've felt that what I'm hearing is "Be effective, not reactive".  I have been meditating on this and searching the scriptures for examples of how to be more effective in my life rather than reactive.

When I react spontaneously and without thought, it is usually out of pure adrenaline and emotion.  A reaction is so quick that unless my heart is changed completely, it will come from my human nature, not my new spiritual nature in Christ.  The key to being transformed and being able to be effective in my response is found in Romans 12:2:  "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

When I'm confronted with a big decision, if I'm emotionally injured or stirred up or even if my children have done something wrong and I need to discipline them but I'm too emotionally upset to think straight, I need to wait before reacting.  When I react in a discipline matter with my kids, it's usually reactive and not as effective a punishment as when I take the time to think, pray and seek wisdom in the matter.  When I speak before thinking when I've been upset or emotionally injured, I will inevitably say something I'll regret two seconds later.

Proverbs 15:28 says "The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words."  That's interesting, because if you read Luke 6:45 it says "...What you say flows from what is in your heart."  That means that if our heart is not being changed by Christ (transformed - by the renewing of our mind and changing how you think, which will trickle down into our heart) then our quick reactions will not be naturally good.  That is why I need to stop, think, pray and seek His response before I allow an ungodly one to erupt out of my heart.

After a heartfelt apology to my girls for my foolish reaction, we are now fine. Thank goodness for grace!  Once everyone was calm, I was able to speak to them about their relationship with clarity and purpose.  God used my spoon-throwing reaction to remind me that if I'm in a process...and He's not finished with me yet.

Proverbs 29:11 "Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back."

Proverbs 15:1 "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seeing Through His Eyes

I am always amazed by how Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16 - He said to him "Get behind me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." Can you imagine? Why would Jesus say something like that? Seems extreme.

Peter thought he was defending Jesus when he said "Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!" after Jesus told him He was going to suffer, die and rise again. But sometimes things are not what they seem, are they? Sometimes God's purposes can work out even in the most seemingly hopeless situations.

Peter was seeing things through man's eyes, not God's. As a result, he began to fear and doubt. He loved Jesus and didn't think He should have to go through those things. He didn't want Jesus to die - but what he didn't grasp was the importance of His death and His resurrection that would follow!

Is there anything in your life that you are seeing from a human perspective? Maybe you received a dire diagnosis.  Trust the Lord.  Have you lost your job?  Trust the Lord.  Have you been rejected?  Trust the Lord.  Sometimes things don't make sense from our human perspective.  If He brings you to it, He will see you through it. He is working in the situation in ways you may not see and when we begin to doubt and fear, we are allowing Satan to influence our thinking. Just rebuke him and tell him "Get behind me, Satan!" Then, walk forward in trust, knowing the Lord has a plan. He always has a plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you, not to harm you - plans to give you hope and a future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seeking Wholeheartedly

Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans that I have for you," says the Lord.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.   If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me."

I read this scripture passage this morning and kept backing up over the word "wholeheartedly".  According to the dictionary, the word means fully or completely sincere, enthusiastic, energetic, etc.; hearty; earnest.  Am I seeking God like that?  Because if I am, that means I'm going to find Him.  There are days when I know I'm not seeking Him like that - the days when I can't find him no matter what I try.  So what signs can I look for to know if I am seeking Him wholeheartedly?  Here's some ideas that come to mind...

Am I seeking His approval before others?
Am I seeking His will above my own?
Am I seeking His praise above man's?
Am I seeking His Word or the advice of my friends?
Am I seeking His Kingdom or my own?
Am I seeking His truth or the way things seem to look in my life?
Am I seeking fulfillment in what I can do for God or in my personal relationship with Him?

These questions can help me to know if I'm seeking God with all of my heart.  When we seek other things first, even if they are good things, we are not seeking Him with all of our heart.  When we look at things from an earthly perspective, we can lose sight of God completely.  But when we look at things from an eternal perspective, everything changes.

Today, I pray we will not base our faith on our feelings, our friends, our expectations on others or our emotions. I pray each of us will seek Him first above everything else.  He tells us in Matthew 6:33 that when we do that, everything else falls into place.

I like that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Public Opinion

It seems like God is always in the process of teaching me something important.  I'm so glad it seems He really only focuses on one deep-rooted issue at a time.  I don't think I could handle more than that at once!  This week has been very painful, but I'm beginning to see what He's up to and honestly, it's pretty cool.  But I won't lie, it's been tough.

Last week I came across an article written about me by a woman who attended an event I spoke at about a year ago.  She wrote things that were very hurtful.  She claimed I said things that I did not say and she held me up as the example of what not to be as a Christian.  She said I was telling people to "vote unbelievers out of their lives" and she said I was the epitome of a mean Christian.  I was devastated after reading this.   Why would she say these things?  Had I done something wrong?  My doubts began.

If you know me or if you've heard me, you know that is no where near the message that God has given me.  She says she is a Christian, too, and I suppose that is why it hurt so badly.  I really struggled as I found myself reading comment after comment on her article about how other Christians agreed that I was a "lousy messenger" and they gave their opinion, one after one, about my actions in the Buddhist temple in China on Survivor. 

We've all had things said about us that aren't true, we've all had our feelings hurt and we've all been judged by public opinion, so I know I'm not the only one.  It is so hard to face rejection and slander.  Especially when it comes from other believers.  Man, I felt hung out to dry!  I have heard it said before that the Christian "Army" are the only soldiers that shoot their wounded.  I know this breaks the heart of God.

The week has gotten better as I focused not on what these people were saying, but on what God had to say about me.  He knew the truth.  He knew everything that was going on - even before I did.  And I have to trust that He has a purpose in allowing me to stumble across this article.  Every Christian speaker I know has this issue at some point.  We all face this.  Even the Apostle Paul did.  Look at 2 Corinthians 6:7-8:

We faithfully preach the truth.  God's power is working in us...We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.  We are honest, but they call us impostors.  

He goes on to say in verses 11-12....

Oh, dear Corinthian friends!  We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you.  There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us.

I'm really sad that Paul had to go through that but honestly it gives me comfort to know that even he struggled with this very thing.  Our being accepted by those who we speak with is not the issue - the issue is were we obedient in saying what God wanted us to say!  And if so, we need to trust that He will use it to open the hearts and minds of those we speak to.  And when we mess up, we need to trust that God will still use what we say because even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful.  He will use it to help us grow, one way or the other. What we cannot do is cower in the face of public opinion and become fearful of speaking out again.  That is exactly what Satan would love for us to do.

God will allow these things in my life to test me and see where my heart is - will I crumble when people don't like me or slander me?  If so, I'm in the wrong ministry because every person I read about in the bible who stood for Christ and spoke about Him was hated by many, many people. Yes, there are days when I wake up and think "It sure would be easier if I could just keep my mouth shut!" but it's in my bones - I cannot keep from speaking about Him.  And I hope that when this happens again (I won't be delusional and assume this is the last time!) I pray the hurt and pain will go quickly as I dwell on scripture and truth, not slander.

I choose to surround myself with godly people who are in the scriptures and get counsel from them.  I cannot take counsel for this ministry from people I don't even know or who don't know me.  I have a group women who I meet with each week and we pray, seek truth together and go through each talk I give to make sure we are being good stewards of God's Word with this ministry.  I have a husband who gives me honest feedback.  God has blessed me with an amazing mentor who helps me stay on track.  These are the voices God gives me to listen to.  And what a blessing they are! 

I'm learning that public opinion is no yardstick for measuring truth.  If I base my ministry on what those who do not know me say, I could become discouraged,  begin to doubt my call and I could be easily deceived.  Do I believe this is what God has called me to do?  Absolutely.  Will I mess up occasionally?  Absolutely.  Will I be slandered?  Yes, I will.  But will I give up?


...A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.  Romans 2:29b

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baby Steps

It's very rare that I complete everything on my to-do list.  Maybe that's because I'm a lofty-thinker and think that I can do more than I actually can, but sometimes it's because quite frankly, I am a poor time-manager (something God is definitely working through with me!).  When I don't accomplish everything, I tend to be very hard on myself.  But lately I've been feeling accomplishment because of something I've figured out.

Even if I do nothing else to clean my house for the day, I make my bed.  It's the one thing that I know I must do.  It's a decision I made and I'm not going to go against it.  My mind is made up!  It's my first step, I suppose you could say, to trying to be more time-efficient.  And it's really amazing how good I feel!  I've never been a bed maker because I figure I'm just going to be getting back into it that night, so why bother?  The only time my bed every got made before was when people were coming over.  Otherwise, it went unmade.

But for the past few months, I've made a decision to change that.  My mentor once told me that if the bed is made, the room looks 70% clean, no matter how unclean it really is and I can honestly say she is right!  The bed makes up 70% of the room and if that is made, it gives the illusion of clean and for some reason in my mind it makes me feel accomplished and I've been a lot less hard on myself as a result when I don't finish the rest of my "to-do" list!

I've applied this to my flossing, too.  A week or so ago I went to the dentist and had not flossed the way I should have and the dental hygienist tore my mouth up and I was sore for days!  I decided to apply my bed-making philosophy to flossing and be discipled in it and I'm surprised how focused I am at accomplishing that one task.  Next time I go for a cleaning, I'm hoping it will be more pleasant.

I'm on to something here!  Baby steps are all that are needed in making changes.  I think I overwhelm myself with getting everything right instead of getting a few things right.  I think I assume the whole house must be clean when really it's just a few things a day that will keep it tip-top.  I can't believe it's taken me 40 years to figure this out! (haha)

It's like this spiritually, too.  When we become a Christian, often I think we expect that everything will be completely different right away, but really God doesn't over-whelm us - He is patiently working in us but will do it one step at a time.  Once that one thing is improved, He moves on to the next.  It's a gentle and amazing super-natural thing that only He can do in us.  When we put pressure on ourselves to get it all right at the moment we surrender, we end up discouraged and frustrated.

I think about when my kids took their first steps.  I didn't yell at them and tell them,"That's not good enough - you need to learn to do it right before you start walking!"  Rather, I was proud of them as I watched them take a step, fall down on their cute little diaper butt and get back up (about a hundred times!).  I know that's how God feels about us.  He's proud of us for trying and not angry with us when we fall down.  He just wants us to get back up again.

Yesterday I didn't make my bed.  It was the first time in months and honestly when I went to bed last night I felt discouraged.  I thought that it was the beginning of a downhill slide.  But as I prayed as I lay there before going to sleep, I felt God whisper to me "Just make your bed tomorrow. Let it go."

In life there will be times when things we thought were improved in our life - like a bad habit, an ugly emotion or a destructive pattern - will come back to taunt us.  This is not the beginning of the end!  This is life.  But the key is to remember that you wake up the next day with the attitude of "I may have messed up yesterday but today I'm back on track" instead of the natural human thought process of "Oh, man, this is the beginning of the end.  I messed up so now I'm doomed."

Changing the way we think can work wonders.  Don't allow discouragement keep you from moving forward in your walk with God.  If you fall, just get back up again.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ever Wonder What Satan Thinks of You?

I found this "Letter from Satan" online and had to share it with you.  I cannot find who originally wrote it but I was nauseated after reading it because it's true...this is what Satan thinks of us:

Hey Fool...
I saw you yesterday as you began your daily chores. 
You awoke without kneeling to pray. As a matter of fact, 
you didn't even bless your meals, or pray before going 
to bed last night. You are so unthankful. I like that about you.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that you have not changed 
your way of living. Fool! You are mine. Remember, you and I 
have been going steady for years, and I still don't love you yet. 
As a matter of fact, I hate you, because I hate God. I am only 
using you to get even with God. He kicked me out of heaven, and I'm going to use you as long as possible to pay him back.

You see, Fool, GOD LOVES YOU and HE has great plans 
in store for you. But you have yielded your life to me and I'm 
going to make your life a living hell. That way we'll be together twice. This will really hurt God. Thanks to you. I'm really showing Him who’s boss in your life. With all of the good times we've had.....

We have been watching dirty movies, cursing people out, 
partying, stealing, lying, fornicating, overeating, 
telling dirty jokes, gossiping, backstabbing people, 
disrespecting adults and those in leadership position, NO respect for the church, bad attitudes: 
SURELY you don't want to give all this up.

Come on, Fool, let's burn together forever. I've got some 
hot plans for us. This is just a letter of appreciation from me
to you. I'd like to say "THANKS" for letting me use you for 
most of your foolish life. You are so gullible. I laugh at you. 
When you are tempted to sin, you give in. HA HA HA 
You make me sick.

Sin is beginning to take its toll on your life. 
You look 20 years older. I need new blood. So go ahead 
and teach some children how to sin. All you have to do is smoke, 
drink alcoholic beverages, cheat, gamble, gossip, fornicate, lie, look at pornography and be a hypocrite in front of them. Do all of this in the presence of children and they will do it too. Kids are like that.

Well, Fool, I have to let you go for now. I'll be back in a couple of seconds to tempt you again. If you were smart, you would run somewhere, confess your sins, live for God with what little bit of life that you have left. It's not my nature to warn anyone, but to be your age and still sinning, it's becoming a bit ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I still hate you... 

I don't share this letter to put anyone on a guilt trip or to make you feel frustrated.   As a matter of fact, that would be a lie from Satan - yet again.  He desperately wants to discourage you and steal your joy in Christ!  In order to balance this, I also want to show you something I read in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, a devotional that takes Biblical Truth and puts it into words like a love-letter from Jesus.  I was touched as I read this the other day...

Hello, My Love...

Do not be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on Me.  I know that your heart's desire is to be aware of My Presence continually.  This is a lofty goal; you aim toward it but never fully achieve it in this life.  Don't let feelings of failure weigh you down.  Instead, try to see yourself as I see you.

First of all, I'm delighted by your deep desire to walk closely with Me through your life.  I am pleased each time you initiate communication with Me.  In addition, I noticed the progress you have made since you first resolved to live in My Presence.

When you realize that your mind has wandered away from Me, don't be alarmed or surprised.  You live in a world that has been rigged to distract you.  Each time you plow your way through the massive distractions to communicate with Me, you achieve a victory!  Rejoice in these tiny triumphs, and they will increasingly light up your days.

Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 4:14-16

Mercy and grace or guilt and condemnation.  We have a choice.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Monday, November 2, 2009

Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say...

Are you watching Survivor Samoa?  If so, you know there is a character on there named Russell H. who is controlling the game, being deceitful and conniving behind everyone's backs.  Yes, there seems to be at least one of those every season but this year it seems to be over the top!  I have had a few things to say about how he is playing the game - and unfortunately not much of what I've had to say has been positive.  Sure, he doesn't give me much to work with in the positive realm, but nonetheless I should have been a little less judgmental.

This morning I woke up and found a post on my Get Gutsy for God Facebook Fanpage from his wife. She was hurt because she thought I hated him and that I was judging him as a person.  My heart sank.  It's so easy to forget, even after having been on the game myself, that these people are real-life people with feelings and lives outside of the game.  I should never have expressed my opinions publicly about how he is playing the game.  When you say you are a Christian, your behavior is put under a microscope and people expect you to behave in a different manner.  I didn't behave in a different manner and as a result, I've hurt her feelings and had to humbly ask for forgiveness.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?  I think we tend to justify putting people down when we feel they "deserve it" but Ephesians 4:29 is clear..."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."  It doesn't say "unless you think they are deserving of your slander" anywhere in that verse, nor does it say it anywhere in the context of the scripture.

Today I have to seek not only the forgiveness of Russell and his wife, but also the forgiveness of God. I misrepresented Him.  It's the worst feeling ever to know that I've done something that gave Satan ammunition to attack me - and most important, to attack my faith and my ministry.  I have learned though - and will be more careful what I say in the future.  You know, here I went trying to do God's job again!  I know according to the scriptures that's His job to judge, not mine!  Thank God for His grace and mercy!

This poem came to mind this morning as I reflected on my life-lesson.  I hope it will bless you today.  I didn't write this poem - I found it online a few years ago - not sure who wrote it...

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean living'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"
I don't think I know it all
I submit to my Redeemer 

Asking humbly to be taught.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"

I do not wish to judge
I have no authority

I only know I'm loved.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Difficulty That Lead to Destiny

I remember when the doctor came in and looked me in the eye and said "We're not sure she's going to make it."  After that, I sort of blacked out.  I woke up and there was a man with a collar in the room, asking me if I wanted him to pray for me.  He prayed and then once he left I said my own prayer.  I knew I didn't deserve to have my prayer answered because I wasn't living a life for God at all - as a matter of fact, since I left my home to get married and start a family, I had completely turned my back on God and didn't even go to church anymore.  But things seemed dire at this point.  Would He listen?

A few days before, my daughter Stephanie, who was four at the time, had come down with the chickenpox.  She was very sick from the get go but the second day of her illness, it got much worse.  Her fever had gotten up to 106 and I was scared.  I'd taken her into the doctor several times and was told "It's just the chickenpox.  Give her ibuprofen and give it time, she'll be fine."  But things weren't fine.  Her body was swelling and she was moaning as if she was in tremendous pain.  She couldn't even stand for me to touch her.  I finally called the ambulance and said "You are taking her to the hospital right now and I'm not bringing her home until you tell me what is wrong with her!"  They took her to the hospital.

Now, they were telling me she had the flesh eating bacteria and that her body had gone into septic shock.  The doctors had cut off her hospital bracelet twice and replaced it because it kept getting so tight from the swelling that ballooned her tiny body.  She was now unconscious and it seemed hopeless.  Doctors crowded around her, poked at her, took x-rays and blood and now they were telling me they did not think she would make it.  I was absolutely devastated.

I think a part of me believed God was punishing me for running from Him.  I even think a part of me, due to a legalistic upbringing, believed I deserved it.  But that morning I found myself praying for the first time in years.  Through loud sobs, I begged God not to take my baby away.  I told Him I was sorry for turning my back on Him and that if He took her away I wouldn't survive.  I begged Him to please let me keep her.  I told Him that if He would allow me to keep her, I would dedicate her to Him - she would be all His.  I wasn't sure how that would all work out, but I remember vividly that I was not willing to give up myself, but that I was willing to give her to Him.  I knew I had already proven that I couldn't live up to the standards of a good Christian, so maybe she could?  My ideas of God were so twisted.

God chose to heal my daughter, much to the doctor's surprise.  She was in intensive care for two weeks at a Children's Hospital.  It was the longest and most frightening two weeks of my life.  But God gave me the grace I needed to get through this time.  To this day I think "How did I do that?!" and then I remember the grace.  He helped me through it.

Once we were home from the hospital and she was all healed, Stephanie developed a love for Jesus that I cannot explain.  I certainly cannot take credit for it!  She wanted to go to church.  So my husband and I would drop her off and come back and pick her up or we'd send her with her grandparents.  I didn't go with her - honestly I think there was a part of me that didn't want to ruin it for her.  She was doing so well and I knew I was a failure in God's eyes (or at least that's what I was convinced of).

As I watched my daughter grow up loving Jesus, I saw something in her that I desperately wanted.  It was a relationship.  She wasn't religious at all - it wasn't about keeping rules and playing the church game - it was about grace and relationship.  It was beautiful.  I began going to church to see if I could find what it was that she had.  Eventually, the Lord did open my eyes to the Truth and I gave my life to Him.  I often smile when I think about how I thought dedicating my daughter to Him was such a better idea than dedicating myself. God knew that He would use that relationship with her to get to me, too!  He's so good.

Today, Stephanie is a 19 (almost 20!) year old student at North Greenville University.  She is passionately in love with Jesus.  She is majoring in Intercultural Studies and wants to be in missions.  I look at her often and thank God for allowing her to stay here with us and for showing us Himself through her witness.  I know that few weeks back in 1994 had to have been the most difficult of my life, but I also know that through that difficult time, God brought me into a real relationship with Him.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by life right now - please remember that God has a plan.  You may be able to look back on your life in a few weeks, months or years and see how God was weaving His will into your life through these situations all along.  He will give you the grace for the moment - for whatever you are going through.  Trust Him.  He loves you!

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Waking Up

I have determined that waking up my teenage son each morning is the most dreadful thing I have to do all day. He just won't budge! He says "I'm up!" and then I get distracted, picking up things, doing laundry or blogging (haha) and then ten minutes later I realize I don't hear any movement at all.

Are you awake??! I yell. "Yeah, mom. I'm up." Still nothing. I go up and try begging and pleading "Please, you don't understand. I have so much to do. I don't have time for this! I don't know how you're ever going to make it out in the world without me to drag you out of bed every morning."

I'm kidding but serious at the same time, of course.I love my son so much, he's a great kid. He just really likes to sleep. Well, unless it's night time. He's a night owl like I used to be. I'm convinced that by the time he falls asleep, he reaches the REM state of sleep right around the time I go wake him up!

Anyway, this got me thinking this morning about the night Jesus asked the disciples to pray for Him but they kept falling asleep. Remember this? It was the night before His crucifixion and He knew that even though they were in the nice, quiet, peaceful Garden of Gethsemane, the time was coming and He knew that it was merely the calm before the storm that would be upon them within minutes. (You can read about it in Matthew 26)

Three times Jesus asked them to pray and He kept finding them asleep. In the Bible it actually says "they couldn't keep their eyes open" (NLT version). I know that feeling, and I think my son does too!

This story always broke my heart when I read it but then I realized that often I do the same thing. If you notice, Jesus even says in this passage of scripture that we have to pray so we don't give into temptation because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He was very adamant in telling them that He was crushed with grief - to the point of death, even! And yet they slept.

I can't help but wonder if it is because the garden was so peaceful. What could possibly go wrong on a night like that? It didn't make sense to them. And they probably remembered that just a few days earlier, they were in a storm, fearing for their lives on a boat in the middle of the water and Jesus was sleeping! Why couldn't He stay awake during their time of need? (Luke 8:22-25)

I think it's another subtle way that God is teaching us a very important life lesson. Jesus is the One we are to pattern our life after, right? So when was He actually resting? Was it in the peaceful garden? Or the fierce storm? 


I think it's amazing how easy it is to forget about God, to fall into temptation and follow my own ways and desires when things are easy - peaceful and serene. But when those storms come, the times when He tells me to "rest and trust", I panic.

We can get things so backwards sometimes, can't we? But God is patient and loving and He gives us encouragement in His word to show us the right way. Jesus told us to watch and pray so we don't fall into temptation and I believe the temptation He could be talking about is the temptation to forget about God during times of bliss. We must be intentional in our prayers during those times.

I truly believe this is a message for us today.  It's time to wake up, get up, clean up, dress up and stand up for God's Truth.  It's easy to get complacent, it's easy to forget that every good thing we have is from Him.  But the Word of God instructs us to "forget not His benefits" and Jesus specifically says we are to keep watch and to be alert to what is going on - He will be coming back for us.  His words in Matthew 24 are coming to pass...but are we going to be awake to see it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Learning Curve

I went to a different grocery store today.  I love the adventure of learning something new but I'm not sure I appreciate the learning curve so much.  It took me over an hour and a half to find what I need.  Usually I'm in and out in about 20-30 minutes at my regular grocery store.  It's usually pretty quick unless I run into a friend and chat for awhile! I always make a list in my mind knowing the order in which I will find everything because I know the layout of the store so well.  It's productive and efficient.

Not today.

Today I was up one isle, down the other, on the wrong side of the store from where I should be and the olives were nowhere to be found.  I could not understand the layout of this store and honestly it was overwhelming!  I was taking mental pictures in my mind of what was on the shelf so it wouldn't take so long the next time.  I think one lady thought I was stalking her because I kept going up and down the same isle, hoping what I was looking for was there.  I was so frustrated at one point I looked this older gentleman in the eyes and said "I can't find anything!" He smiled and looked at me like "Yeah, been there, done that!" but I could tell I freaked him out a little bit.

By the time I checked out, I had made so many compromises, I couldn't even remember what it was that I was initially there to get.  I bought things I didn't really want because I couldn't find the things I really wanted.  My mental list had changed, my stress level went up and I began to wonder what the heck I was thinking by going to a store I didn't know!

I remember feeling the exact same way before I began reading and studying God's Word as a new Christian.  I would find myself in situations where I wasn't sure what to do.  It was new territory and because I'd never been there, I would find myself wandering around, wondering what to do.  I would tell other believers "I can't find anything!" and they would smile, remembering they had been there before, and show me the scriptures to help me in my time of need.

As I began to spend more time in God's Word, I found myself navigating more through life like my trips to my familiar grocery store.  I knew where to find things and the stress levels decreased.  I found myself not compromising more and more as I would find God's perspective and learn His ways through His word.  It's actually quite wonderful, this learning curve.

Jesus tells us in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  But if we don't know what His commandments are, how will we know what to keep?  As believers, the Holy Spirit is the One living in and through us, teaching us the Way and the Bible is a very important resource He uses to do that and if we don't know what it says, we will not know what to do.  Being in His word teaches us God's ways, His desires, His provision, His likes and His dislikes - His heart.

I pray that you find the time to get into God's Word.  There is no better way to get to know the layout of the Christian life! The benefits of reading and studying God's word are listed in Psalm 119 - a great place to start reading if you haven't yet.   If you need accountability in this, we offer that on our Facebook Fan Page and you can join us by clicking here.  We are currently reading through the Bible in a year and jotting down thoughts, observations and questions along the way.  We're helping each other navigate through, I suppose you could say.

Now, I want to help others who may be wandering around, wondering where to find things!  Been there, done that.   I still have so much more to learn, as it seems there is a bottomless well of truth in the pages of God's Word!  But I'm finding more and more that the things He is teaching me are helping me to navigate through this life with more victory each day, through Christ.

Psalm 119:1-2 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.  How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh, Happy Day!

My daughter was doing the dishes the other night and she held up a bowl that had been through the dishwasher and said "Mommy, this isn't clean, should I put it back in the dishwasher?"  I looked at it and it was one of those white bowls that had become stained from spaghetti sauce weeks ago.  I told her it was just stained but that it was clean, so she could put it away.  She said "Ewww!!!  Can we throw it out?"  

I didn't throw it out, but I realized something as we spoke.  Even though the bowl could have been used, it would have been a constant reminder every time we used it of the time we stored spaghetti sauce in it.  I used some diluted bleach water and off came the stain.  Now, we can use it without the memory of the spaghetti sauce that used to be in the bowl every time we use it!  Funny how something can seem clean, but still be stained.

My mind couldn't help wandering off into a thought about how sin had stained me in my life.  As I thought about it, I kept finding myself singing "Oh, happy day, happy day...when You washed my sin away!"  I decided to look up some scriptures on the word stain and found something interesting in Jeremiah 2:22....

Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is still before me," declares the Lord God.

This verse just reminded me of all the failed attempts I made to wash my own sin away in the past.  I would say I was sorry, but then do it all over again.  I'd do good works, hoping God would look past my bad because of them.  I would say all the right things, do all the right things, but my heart was still stained with guilt because I was trying to take care of things in my own power.  It was like I was the bowl that would come out of the dishwasher, thinking I was all cleaned up but in reality there was a constant reminder of the stain of my sin in my heart.  My self-cleaning cycle didn't really help the situation at all.

I'm so grateful the Lord finally showed me that nothing I could ever do would wash away the stain of my sin, except to repent (repent is not just saying I'm sorry, but saying "I'm through!") and trust Christ to wash my sin away - for good.  Since that day, there isn't a stain left in my heart.  He's changed me, forgiven me, saved me and given me a fresh start.  Only He can do that.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Psalm 51:7

Oh, happy day....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reading Through the Bible in a Year - Together!

We all know how important it is that we are in the Word of God.  And yet sometimes it can be hard to know where to look, where to read and what to make of it all.  I thought it might be fun for us to go through the Bible - together! 

If you go to and click on "Free Resources", there is a Bible Reading Schedule there for you to download.  If followed every day, it will get you through the Bible in one year!  On our Fan Page on Facebook, we will post the scriptures each day and have a place where you can leave comments and insights into the passages.  It will be a great way for us to be accountable. 

Please know, you do not have to read the entire passage every day.  Each day's reading is suggested reading.  Even if you only get a few verses in, that is fine!  I know you will be blessed by being in God's Word each day - and it will be a blessing for us to share this journey with you!  You can find our Facebook Fan Page by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Thought you'd enjoy a laugh today...this is me and my daughter, Kennedy, fishing last summer.  It was quite humiliating....haha

Monday, October 5, 2009

Groundhog Day

Did you ever see the movie "Groundhog Day"?  You know, the movie where the guy (Bill Murray) wakes up every day and lives the exact same day over and over again?  It's been years since I've seen it but I remember thinking how freaky that would be if it ever really did happen.  Well, guess what.  I'm living that movie lately!

Ever since Peyton got the flu last Thursday, it's kinda been like that around here.  Wake up.  Check her temp.  Give her medicine.  Give her fluids.  Watch kid movies and reruns of Suite Life on Deck or True Jackson.  Make soup.  Feed soup.  Change sheets.  Check Temp.  Give meds.  Play Battleship.  Win and feel guilty about it because a mom should let her sick kid win.  (I know - shame on me!) Say prayers. Go to bed.  Then we wake up and it's the same thing all over again. 

It's times like this that we, as humans, tend to get in a rut.  As monotonous as I feel it has been, I feel for little Peyton even more.  At least I'm not confined in one room.  I've got the whole house to run around in - she's stuck up in the playroom and unless it's me, she's all alone.  It's like she's completely alienated from her life.  It is heart breaking to watch!  Yesterday she said "Mommy I'm bored.  Is that a symptom of the flu?" hahaha

It's easy to cave into the "poor me" syndrome at times like this.  It's the monotony of every day life when our faith is really tested.  Can we handle the pressure of having no pressure?  Can we handle the stress of having no appointments? Can we do the monotonous and do it with excellence?  Can we do the tedious and do it with joy? 

I have a feeling that there are a lot of moms in my boat right now.  As prevalent as the flu and other bugs are this year, the "Mom Brigade" is out in full force!  And it can be a little monotonous.  It can be a little tedious.  It can sometimes feel a little like "Groundhog Day". 

But it can also be a glorious, amazing time of reflection and re-prioritizing, too!  I've been blown away by the perspective these past few days have given me.  It's a great reminder of what matters most to me in life.  It's also a huge reminder that the greatest impact I can have in this life is on the little people God has given to my husband and me to raise and love - our children.

Psalm 127:3 Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.

Got Questions?