Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sowing in Tears

It had been building up all day and finally around dinner time, my husband said, "Honey, you just need to cry and get it out."  He was right.  I let loose with sobs that came from such a deep place in my soul that I was overwhelmed.  I would pull myself together and then -wham!- I'd go through another wave of emotion.  This is what a broken heart felt like and I knew it.  I had some very heavy things on my heart and mind and all of the pain was coming out through each and every tear that fell down my cheek.  Oh, it feels so good to cry sometimes!

Can you relate to this?  Most women totally get it.  I'm so glad that my husband knows it's a part of who I am and not only does he allow me to express myself in this way, he encourages it.  He knows that if I hold it in, I'll be miserable.  I'm a crier and even when I try not to, the tears just come sometimes.  I had a woman tell me on my radio show once that my tears come because I must be "so full of the Holy Spirit that He leaks out sometimes"! (smile)

Psalm 126:5-6 says, "Those who plant in tears
    will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
    but they sing as they return with the harvest."

I love these verses so much.  What a beautiful reminder that my tears are a labor of love. It always amazes me how the labor just before giving birth to my children was so painful, long and hard, but once the bundles of joy arrived, I realize it was worth every moment and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  It's like that with the pain of persistent prayer and a broken heart for those we love or for a burden that has been persistently prayed over for a long time. I look forward to the day when I can sing as I return with the harvest!

I am not at liberty to tell you exactly what has been so heavy on my heart at this moment, but I can tell you I believe the joy is coming.  It may not be in my timing, but God hears my heart and my prayers.  He knows and He cares about ever tear that I cry over this burden.  He has a plan and a purpose and what a joy it is to know that my tears don't go to waste.  He will use them to water the crop that is going to grow as a result of faithful prayers, plentiful tears and unending trust that I have in His perfect plan.

If you are hurting today, I get it.  If you are weeping over something or someone who is a burden in your heart, I want to encourage you not to give up.  In Galatians 6:9, Paul reminds us, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."  The joy is coming! Don't ever be ashamed of your tears - they could be just what is needed to water the harvest.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hopeful or Hopeless?

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!" Jesus had just 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. What seemed like an utter failure in the eyes of man ended up becoming the most powerful Victory of all time!

Is there anything in your life that you are seeing from a hopeless 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.  We don't always have to have the answers or even know why things are not happening the way we may have planned.  In times like these, we can trust the character and sovereignty of our God.  With His perspective, we get a glimpse of hope.
If God 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.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Every Job Counts

I remember quite a few years back, before I was on the radio, I took a job as a waitress at a local restaurant.  My husband had just lost his job and we were in a situation where we needed some extra income.  I was such a brat about it at first.  The first two weeks I felt sorry for myself, cried on the way to and from work and thought how unfair it was that I "had to do this".   I'm embarrassed as I recall my ungodly attitude about it.  (In retrospect, I kind of miss waiting tables - I was in great shape, met lots of interesting people and it was very challenging!)

I was in my quiet time one morning and God spoke to me through Colossians 3:23, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."  As soon as I read that verse, I knew I needed to change my attitude.  I needed to be grateful God provided me with a job!  Many people didn't have one.  I found one quickly and it was close to home and it was bringing in good money for us.  I needed to work as if it was the most important job on the earth and I needed to show God that I could be faithful with the small things.  I felt He was telling my heart that if I would humble myself and work hard, He would honor that.

Within a month, I was promoted to the Lead Server, my attitude changed and I began to see a change in the people around me. It still amazes me how a change in attitude can make a job go from a chore to joy in such a short time.  We began to pull together and work as a team and morale went up in the entire restaurant.  It was bittersweet, when just nine months later, I left my waitress job to become the co-host for the Morning Show on New Life 91.9 radio.  God honored my obedience and now I was in a job I had always dreamed of having!  Funny though, as much as I love radio, I still miss waiting tables sometimes!

It's been awhile since all of that happened, but God reminded me this week that He expects me to serve joyfully - no matter what the job is.  (Yes, I was cleaning my bathroom when the thought came to me!) Even if it's a job that is tedious, unglamorous, or even difficult.  When I do it with joy, people notice and my attitude changes from "having to" to "getting to". We are blessed to be able to work with our hands.  Every job counts.

If you are facing a job today that doesn't sound like a lot of fun, ask yourself a few questions:

-What could God be teaching you through this? 

-Who is watching and how can you show them Christ? 

-And finally...Have you thanked God for the opportunity to work with your hands?

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

Philippians 2:14-15
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Luke 16:10
If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.  But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rooted or Rotted?

The wind was howling outside to the point of shaking the windows for hours.  When the stormy winds passed, we assessed the damage outside and I was really surprised by how many trees in our back yard had fallen.  I'm so thankful none fell on our house, but also sad to see so many lying on the ground or stuck in the branches of stronger trees that did not fall.
I recalled the big tree that fell in my back yard several years ago.  Every time I would look outside for the first few months, my heart would sink as I would think about the life the tree had - the majesty of it but now it was a dried up piece of wood lying in my yard, helpless and alone. What happened to it that made it so weak that the stormy winds knocked it over?

The tree somehow lost it's nourishment.  It became weaker and weaker as the days would pass and even though I couldn't see what was happening inside the tree, it was drying up and dying, rotting from the inside out.  The outside looked normal initially, but then it slowly started producing green leaves and before too long, after a storm passed by, it was uprooted and fell helplessly to the ground.

I was reading in Jeremiah 17 this morning and saw some verses that really challenged me.  Look at this from verses 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 heads away from the Lord.  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope for the future.  They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

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."

How often have we felt dried up and lifeless in life?  There are usually tell-tale signs, or symptoms that we may be rotting up.  First, we will begin to worry more and trust God less.  We may also notice that we feel a sort of "hollowness" in our spirit.  Like the tree, initially our outside will not show the signs of decay inside, but we know something is missing.  We may also notice our leaves and fruit production begin to halt.  The life drains from us slowly as we begin to trust in other people instead of God and spend less time in His word.

God's word is nourishment to our dried up spirits.  His words give life! Psalm 119:165 says "Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble."  Great peace.  I want that, don't you?  I do pray that today we will tend to our roots, take an inventory of our lives and ask God to plant us by His living water.  Without nourishment, we will be doomed to rot from the inside out - a slow, painful and difficult process as we lean on our own understanding and the opinions of others for our nourishment - which will lead us to dry up and live in an "uninhabited salty land".

I heard a quote yesterday from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "If praise elates you, then criticism will deflate you."  So true.  And so convicting.  I know this is a struggle I have faced my entire life, but I also know my strength comes from the Lord, and through Him I can be rooted and strengthened as I focus on His opinion of me, not other people.
The storms of life are not optional, they are a part of this fallen world.  These storms can either break us or help us grow stronger.  We do not need to fall in those storms, though!  We can stand tall, firmly planted and rooted in the truths of God's word when those storms come.

"As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands.  Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live." Psalm 119:143-144

Thursday, March 8, 2012

There, I Fixed It!

Have you ever taken a short cut in fixing something around the house?  I know I have.  The reasons we take these short cuts can be varied:

a) You didn't have the funds to fix it, so made do with what you had

b) You fixed it with what you had because you thought you were super-creative and penny pinching in your approach

c) make it a habit of taking short cuts.

I had to laugh as I looked through the pictures of "quick fixes" on a website today called www.thereifixedit.com as it brought to mind my many days of duct tape and safety pin creations! But then I began to think about this from a spiritual perspective and realized that I was feeling a tiny bit of conviction. I thought about the times in my life when I wanted to do things the quick and easy way and ended up burning myself.

Like when I decided to forgo my devotions with God and instead look up the scriptures on Facebook that my friends posted in their status updates thinking that would tide me over spiritually...

...or when I had to apologize to a friend for something I said or did and instead of facing them decided to write an email...

...or when I hurt someone's feelings and then laughed about it thinking that the humor would make things all better...

...or when I thought I was right, so I forced my opinion on others only to eventually find I was wrong and instead of admitting it to them, I just chalked it up as a personal lesson learned...

...or when I knew a friend needed help when she was sick and so I told her "if you need anything let me know!" but didn't offer to do anything specific...

I suppose you see where I'm going here. I don't tell you these things to make you think I'm a terrible person but to help you see that when we take short cuts (I know I'm not the only one) we wind up making things worse. The pictures of the jury rigged stuff make me laugh out loud but the thought of me jury rigging things spiritually isn't quite so funny.

Thank God He forgives me and shows me a better way! Sure there are times in life we must make do with whatever is available to fix something (materially speaking). But in our walk with Christ, we are assured in 2 Peter 1:3-4 that "by His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence."
Today, if you are feeling tempted to take a short cut, to jury rig something in your life spiritually, remember the vast provision He has given you when He gave you His Spirit, His Word and His Truth! You don't have to take short cuts, you don't have to "make do".  I can be lazy sometimes (maybe you can relate) and it can be hard to do the right thing.  So here are some scriptures that may encourage us:
Proverbs 12:24 Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.
Proverbs 21:5 Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
Romans 12:11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
2 Timothy 2:15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.
God never jury-rigs anything. His work is good, strong and able to withstand the toughest of storms. We just need to trust Him to do the work in us and sometimes through us and be should willing to take responsibility for the work He asks us to do in order to live a life that shouts out "There! HE fixed it"!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Little Did I Know...

It makes my heart smile when I remember why I wrote this poem in December, 2006. I was frustrated because I had been auditioning for Survivor for five years and nothing was happening. I believed God was calling me to audition for the show, and my husband and I were in agreement about this. It did not make a whole lot of sense, but we trusted His leading.  I had never even received a phone call of acknowledgement from casting in ten attempts to be on the show and I knew the eleventh attempt was coming up.  I didn't know if I could handle the rejection again.  It is hard to be rejected over and over again and you begin to question everything after awhile.
I felt like God's will was keeping me in a constraining "fence". I felt like He was holding me back and even though I trusted His timing and His plan, I must admit I was getting frustrated - until I wrote this poem. My heart was free after writing it when I realized I could handle the rejection if that is what was coming because He was there with me and would never do anything to harm me.  He had my good and His glory in mind all along.

Little did I know, Survivor casting would actually call after my eleventh audition, just three months after I wrote the poem. 

Little did I know that God was not punishing me by having me go through this long and difficult process, but He was preparing me. 

Little did I know I'd be spending my summer in China competing alongside fifteen other Americans on Survivor: China.

The Fence 

My fence is there to keep me safe and I know this to be so
But beyond the fence, to greener grass, I always long to go.

I have so many plans in life – I always seem to strive
There are ministries, people to please and dreams to keep alive!

I know if I could only go beyond my fence and try
I’d do all sorts of wonderful things like an eagle I would fly!

But my fence won’t let me wander out, it keeps me locked inside
"Why can’t I go explore sometimes?" to my Shepherd I confide.

He spoke with just a whisper while holding to my hand
He walked with me inside my fence, in the safety of the land.

"This very fence that keeps you in, the one we speak about
Not only keeps you safe within but keeps the devil out."

"The grass beyond the fence, you see, may look so green and lush
But it’s only artificial turf and your grass is real and plush."

"I saw you crying to be free and my heart just broke in two.
So instead of taking you out of your fence, I crawled inside with you."

-Leslie Nease

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zion & Babylon

Lately I've been really enjoying the music of Josh Garrels. He's a unique Christian artist with lyrics that leave you challenged, convicted and inspired.  His passion really comes through and the message is loud and clear.  This one is called Zion & Babylon.  Enjoy!

Zion and Babylon
By Josh Garrels

Oh great mammon of form and function
Careless consumerist consumption
Dangerous dysfunction
Described as expensive taste
I’m a people disgraced
By what I claim I need
And what I want to waste
I take no account for nothing
If it’s not mine
It’s a misappropriation of funds
Protect my ninety percent with my guns
Whose side am I on?
Well who’s winning?
My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves
Orphans, widows, and homeless graves
I sold their souls just to build my private mansion
Some people say that my time is coming
Kingdom come is the justice running
Down, down, down on me
I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son
I refuse to give my love to anyone,
Fight for the truth,
Or help the weaker ones
Because I love my Babylon

I am a slave, I was never free
I betrayed you for blood money
Oh I bought the world, all is vanity
Oh my Lord I’m your enemy
Come to me, and find your life
Children sing, Zion’s in sight

I said don’t trade your name for a serial number
Priceless lives were born from under graves
Where I found you
Say, my name ain’t yours and yours is not mine
Mine is the Lord, and yours is my child
That’s how it’s always been
Time to make a change
Leave your home
Give to the poor all that you own
Lose your life, so that you could find it
First will be last when the true world comes
Livin’ like a humble fool to overcome
The upside-down wisdom
Of a dying world

Zion’s not built with hands
And in this place God will dwell with man
Sick be healed and cripples stand
Sing Allelu
My kingdom’s built with the blood of my son
Selfless sacrifice for everyone
Faith, hope, love, and harmony
I said let this world know me by your love
By your love
Oh my child, daughters and sons
I made you in love to overcome
Free as a bird, my flowers in the sun
On your way to Mount Zion
All you slaves, be set free
Come on out child and come on home to me
We will dance, we will rejoice
If you can hear me then follow my voice

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Well Done!

My daughter, Stephanie attends a Christian university and she shared a quote one of her theology Professors shared with the class the other day.  It was awesome.  It was hard to hear.  And it was true.  It was something to this effect: "There's going to be an awful lot of Christians in heaven with a lot of energy left over."


I wonder how many opportunities God presents to me each day to share truth with others, to serve others or to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this dying world and out of fear of failure, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of rejection, or just feeling too tired or overwhelmed, I decide to go my own way.  My easy way. My comfortable way.

I don't want to be a "Medium Rare" Christian!
This morning as I was reading Matthew 25:14-30, I was struck by the part where the master of the servant says to him, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!" How I long to hear those words one day!  "Well done."  Oh, to hear the Master say that to me!  Keeps me going on days when I want to give up, you know?  But honestly, I think I live my life many days more like a "medium rare" Christian.  Someone who chooses the path of least resistance.  Someone who chooses to be comfortable rather than obedient. Some days I have far to go before I am "well done"! (smile)

Do I really give my all for Christ every single day?  These thoughts and more are swirling in my mind and heart today.  Please hear me clearly: I know that salvation is not about works, so that is not what I am saying.  I know God loves me and accepts me on the basis of Christ's righteousness, not my own.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." But the very next sentence in verse 10, it goes on to say, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. So, even though my salvation is not about my works,  I have been given a new life in Christ so that I will be equipped to do those good works that I would never be able to do without Him on my own. What a privilege!

Am I wholeheartedly embracing this privilege?

Am I allowing His passions to become mine?  

Am I becoming more like Him each day? 

Am I allowing Him to transform my heart so that He gets glory in my life?  

Am I serving people out of an overflow of the relationship I have with Him?  

I can allow God to use me as a vessel for His glory in this life or I can go my own way.  My prayer is that as I focus on my relationship with Him, He will change my heart so thoroughly that His passions become mine and His ways become naturally mine.  One thing is for sure - when He uses me, I have a joy and a thrill that nothing can compare to in this life!  And when I decline an invitation that I know is from Him to be used for His purposes, I get a deep sadness in my heart - almost a grieving - as I realize He has so much more for me.

I believe that the talents and gifts He has given to me will be wasted if I don't trust Him to use them for His glory as often as He presents an opportunity in this life.  I don't want to have a lot of energy left over when I face Him at the end of my life!  He will provide all of the energy, all of the time, all of the resources and all of the passion I need to fulfill His purposes through me.  And at the end of my life on this earth, I deeply desire to hear those precious words as He tells me, "Well-done, good and faithful servant!". 

Got Questions?