Monday, December 16, 2013

Mary

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 agreed 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 Jesus around 
Not in the womb, but in my heart He’ll be found.

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

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

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.

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 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 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 thoughts of me, not other people's opinions.

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. Even if you are not going through a difficultly right now, it's the perfect opportunity to begin feeding your spirit with Truth so when those times come, you will stand tall and strong in the midst of it.

"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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pierced

I read this poem I wrote on the air this morning. After seeing Billy Graham's "My Hope America" this weekend, I remembered this poem and thought I'd share it. Oh, how I love Jesus!

The hands and feet of Jesus are what we’re told to be
To go where He will lead us - to serve in humility

To love and care for orphans, to support the weak and poor
Our lives a living sacrifice with motives that are pure

And yet to be his hands and feet, we must never forget the cost
Christ’s hands and feet were pierced that day as He hung upon the Cross

The piercing was so painful and it held him in His place
While the soldiers mocked & beat Him and death He bravely faced

He was pierced for our transgressions as our sin was cast on Him
We are pierced by our transgressions now each time we commit a sin

We are pierced when those we love don’t respond to Jesus’ Name
Or when we see a suffering child whose illness seems in vain

We’re pierced when our lives seem hopeless and we question God’s intent
If things don’t go our way and our faith seems to have been spent

We’re pierced when we see the Truth but to act means sacrifice
To truly live like Christ, we must give Him our whole life

That means the money that we’ve saved and the possessions that we own
It means the dreams that we have dreamt and the relationships we have grown

But sacrifice is never as hard as the enemy would have us believe
We must trust God enough to give without expecting to receive

The hands and feet of Jesus are what we’re told to be
Pierced but raised to New Life – walking in His Victory!

-Leslie Nease



He was pierced for our transgressions,
   He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
   and by His wounds we are healed. 


Isaiah 53:5 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dancing Leaves

Fall is here!  Oh, how I love this time of year. Driving down the road the other day, I noticed the colorful leaves "dancing" on the ground all around us.  My first thought was "What on earth would they have to dance about?  Don't they know they are dead?"  The poor little leaves.  It looks like their "hayday" is over.  They are withered up and they've fallen to the ground only to be raked away and toted off as trash.  It's a shame, because they look so beautiful on the outside with all the reds, oranges, yellows, purples and browns scattered across the walking trail.  But just because they were beautiful, that didn't change the fact that they were not alive anymore.

But they were dancing...

I wonder... if the leaves could think, what would they think?  Maybe they would recall the days when they were just a tiny bud, bursting into the warm sunshine with excitement and a zest for life.  Each precious day, they would soak in the rain, the sun and enjoy the warm breezes that blew through, prompting them to sing in unison with the other leaves holding tightly to the tree branches as they all rustled with the wind in harmony.

I wonder... if the leaves could think, would they think back to the day that they realized things were beginning to change? Life was beginning to get more difficult and the sun wasn't shining down on them as much.  Their colors became more beautiful and vibrant on the outside, but inside they were not feeling beautiful or vibrant at all.  I wonder if they knew something was wrong.  Instead of a welcoming breeze, the winds were chilly and uninviting.  I wonder if they recall the moment they realized they were hanging on by a thread to the tree...ready to fall to the ground, to give up and just let go at the first sign of the next breeze. 

I wonder... if the leaves could talk, would they tell us how it felt to float gently to the ground the day they finally let go?  The force of the wind was more than they could bear.  They had to surrender.  Would they tell us tales of how they would lay there, among other beautifully colored leaves, wondering what was going to happen next as they huddled together, terrified and vulnerable.  Would they admit that they pondered if this was the end of the road for them - that there was nothing left?

Then I wonder...if leaves could talk, would they tell us about the day the wind gust began to blow through their huddle with a powerful blast and instead of singing with the other leaves up in the tree as they did in their youth when those gusts would go through, they found themselves dancing with those very same leaves, all dressed up in their autumn colors, as if they were celebrating their new life!  A chance to dance freely - given only by the strength of the powerful and mighty wind.
Yes, the leaves may have been dead...but the wind brings life to them.  So they celebrate!  They are filled with hope again. 

Life is different now, and their path is determined by the wind these days, not by the security of the tree branch they so tightly held onto before the change.  They must trust not in their own strength to hold on now, but in the wind's strength to carry them through to where it would have them go.  Their mourning has turned to joyful dancing and they are clothed with joy!

What a beautiful picture this has given to me of the life God gives to us through His Spirit.

Psalm 30:10-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
      You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
      O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!


John 3:8
 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Losing Bonnie

Last Thursday was a tough night at the Nease House. After dropping my daughters off at the high school football game, I drove home to find our sweet kitten, Bonnie, caught in the top of the closed garage door. I suppose she was hiding on top of the door while it was open (she must have jumped up from the top of the car onto the door and was hiding there.) When I opened the door, she fell and she was not moving. Our dog, Max, was trying hard to lick her and move her with his nose, but I knew it was too late. She was gone and I was absolutely devastated.


My heart sank as I looked at her brother, Clyde, who was looking for her and already seemed to know something was wrong and then I thought about how I had to tell my sweet daughters about the accident. My heart hasn't been this broken in a very long time. I'm so thankful for my mom and step-father, who were there in an instant. He took Bonnie and laid her to rest. Words cannot describe my grief.

Later that night, when the girls came home from the game, I had to break the news. Of course, they were devastated and I held Kennedy as my mom held Peyton and we all just sobbed. What a horrible thing to live through. I kept praying God would give us peace and I knew it was coming - but at that moment it was pure grief.

Almost immediately, Peyton remembered that right before they left for the game, Kennedy had taken some pictures of Peyton holding Bonnie (they are the pictures I've posted here on the blog). They were beautiful pictures and immediately, the peace that passes understanding flooded us all as we looked at the photos and realized God gave Peyton an opportunity to say goodbye to her sweet friend. These pictures are absolutely precious to us.

A couple of nights later, I was talking to Peyton and she was doing surprisingly well. She mentioned she was feeling peace about it all and that she could tell that was something that God was doing in her to help her through it. When something bad happens, I try to teach my kids to look for the "God hugs" - those moments where you see God working in spite of the pain. She knew this was something good that was coming from it and she even said that on Wednesday, the day before the accident, she was prompted to pray for peace for our family for some reason. She was experiencing that "peace that passes all understanding" that God talks about in the Bible for the first time. She knew He was real and her heart was healing a lot quicker than she ever imagined it could.

Aside from the amazing lesson God is teaching us about peace that passes understanding, we have also learned that with God, we can get through anything - especially when we are together. We've learned not to take a moment for granted with one another because life is fleeting. We've learned that grief comes in waves, and you can never determine when it will hit, but you can always know it will subside and when someone is there to hug you through it, it really helps. We've learned that God is faithful and He is true to His Word. We've also learned that when the horror of the moment tries to revisit in our minds, we can picture Bonnie, purring loudly and rubbing against the sweet feet of Jesus. That's my favorite.


Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Seasons of Doubt

"I think the Bible was written by men. It is a political thing to try to control people." Those words just broke my heart. I was speaking with someone I love last week who has many doubts about God, religion, who Jesus is and what it all means. This is someone who grew up in a Christian home and even would have said they were a Christian several years ago. But doubts, fears, and wordly wisdom have invaded the heart of this precious person. And things have changed. After a long conversation, I realized my "arguments" were useless. I needed to pray and trust God but I had no power to make someone change their mind.

Later that day, someone on Facebook, who is an atheist, posted this article that basically says Jesus is not real but was made up by the Roman Government to control the Jewish population. I couldn't even read the whole article because I felt nauseous. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, there was another violation of my faith and I was getting weary.

I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't start to doubt. What if they were right? What if I'm a fool? What if Jesus was just a made-up story? Have you ever been face to face with serious doubts like this?  Not only have you probably had doubts race through your mind at some point, they have also run through the minds of some of the strongest Christians in history. Even John the Baptist had his doubts - and the Bible says he was "filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb"! He was the voice calling in the wilderness, telling others the Messiah was coming - He saw the dove land on Jesus and heard the voice of God say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." If he doubted, why do I think I wouldn't struggle at some point with doubt? You can read about his doubting here.)

As I have struggled and wrestled with God in this season of doubt, I've really come a long way in a short period of time! He is so faithful to meet us where we are, to answer our questions, to bring us encouragement and to renew our faith when we earnestly seek Him. Here are some of the things I've learned in this "doubt crisis" that I want to share with you:

1.  Confess the Doubt 
My first thought was that I shouldn't tell anyone about my doubts. I don't want anyone not believing because of doubts I would have. I don't want to make people think I doubt to the point of unbelief! But if I wasn't honest, it would stay in the darkness and it would certainly grow. That's what happens when we pretend. And then we do not walk in truth. God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. I decided to voice my concerns and shine light on my doubts by speaking with a couple of trusted friends. And I found lots of company and more encouragement than I could have imagined!

2. Renew Your Mind
When doubts arise, it's an all-out intellectual and spiritual battle. But I'm reminded of how Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 how the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. God saw to it that we would never find Him through human wisdom! He prefers to use His Word and what the world considers "foolish preaching". If you are struggling in the darkness of doubt, find a way to go toward the light of truth - where God is. Spend time in His Word, with His people and in prayer. Let Him renew your mind. He will do it. Some of the scriptures that helped me this week are listed in this blog. I encourage you to look them up - memorize them and know them (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Hebrews 11, Mark 9:14-25, Psalm 94:19).  It's transforming!

3. Ignite Your Faith
Keep in mind that Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. He loves our faith! He is drawn to a humble heart that is seeking Him by His grace through faith.  Fan the flames of faith by remembering and thinking on the promises God has given and recalling the faithfulness of God in your past. Read through your old journals, recall times when you know God moved in your life. Remember the Dad whose son was possessed by demons in Mark 9? He asked Jesus to heal his son and then Jesus said, "If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes." The father then replied, "I do believe! Help my unbelief!" I can relate. God answered his prayer of faith and healed his son. And Jesus didn't scold the man for his confession.

4. Keep Your Doubt in Perspective
Finally, remember that doubt is not unbelief! There is a big difference. Doubt is questioning what one believes, but unbelief is choosing not to believe despite the evidence. The reason you are struggling with doubt may be because God is getting ready to deepen your faith even more! Take courage - and stand firm.

"When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer." Psalm 94:19

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Catching Up with Stephanie!

I had a huge blessing this morning on His Radio's Morning Show. I was able to catch up with my sweet daughter, Stephanie, who is on the other side of the world, via Skype! You won't believe the traffic she must maneuver around on her bike over there! It's enough to make a mom have a heart attack! But I trust the Lord with her...I know she is right where she is supposed to be. :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

God is Not a Kill-Joy!

Here is a clip from the show this morning about how much God loves us...and how sometimes those hard times we go through have a deeper purpose. :) To watch more from our Morning Friends Replay, go to www.hisradio.com/rob. :)


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Unforced Rhythm of Grace

What was I thinking?

Those were my first thoughts when I tried to get out of bed early this morning. Everything hurts! I feel pretty sore - probably because I've made the decision, again, to start working out harder. I've enjoyed the class I'm attending but I'm being reminded with every step, every movement, that I'm paying for the time I spent not working out consistently over the past couple of years.

Seems I'm slow to learn the lesson that I am being taught so often these days: When you take time away from fitness, you lose your fitness. You are more sore. You are less flexible. You are more tired. And you know better.  It takes a few weeks to make a habit and I feel like just before I get to the place where it's a habit, I always find excuses not to continue. But I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

It's kind of like this with my spiritual life, too, sometimes. I find myself slipping away from God, away from His church, away from His Word, not listening to His voice. I find myself more weary. I'm less hope-filled. My focus turns to the negative. And I know better. But I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

Why is it so hard to do the things that are the most important for us? Why must it be so hard to do the things that matter most? Maybe it's because we need to want it more than anything else and sometimes wanting something important over wanting something comfortable and easy can be tricky. And it's easy to lose sight of that in this busy world. But what do we really want?

It's so hard to get in the habit of going to church and so easy to lose it.

It's so hard to be still and spend time listening for God's voice and so easy to ignore it.

It's so hard to pray and so easy to lose my focus.

It's so hard to do the right thing and stand for Truth and so easy to compromise.

It's so hard to go to the gym and so easy to stay home.

Life can be so hard.

But it doesn't have to be.

There is a place you reach in your spiritual and physical life where it's not hard to do these things anymore, it's actually harder not to do them. I think it's called the unforced rhythm of grace. And it is possible to live in that rhythm! Here's the formula:

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Things Are Not Always What They Seem....


Have you ever noticed that when someone is out in the sun and they get a little bit of color on them, everyone says, "Oh, you look so healthy!"  Strange, it's true - sun can make someone look like they have a healthy glow.  However, the "healthy glow" we see is, in reality, evidence of damaged and very unhealthy skin.  So what we are seeing is really not so healthy, after all.  Over time, it can cause sun spots, aging of the skin, wrinkles and even cancer! 

What we see can sometimes deceive us into thinking things that are not necessarily true.  Like when we look at someone and judge from their appearance.  Sometimes it comes in the form of someone with tattoos, a nose ring and spiked hair.  Or, perhaps we look at someone who is absolutely gorgeous and fit and we think they have their lives all together without a problem in the world.  Sometimes it comes in the form of someone who is "the least of these".  There's a great example of this in the Bible (actually many) but today I'm specifically thinking of the story of a young teenager named David.

At first glance, you wouldn't think he'd be much to look at.  He was a shepherd of his father's flock and spent all of his time outdoors.  You read in 1 Samuel 16 that he was not even considered when the prophet Samuel came looking for the next King of Israel.  His father, Jesse, paraded all of his big, strong, burly brothers in front of the prophet thinking that he was looking for one of them.  But Samuel said, "Are these all the sons you have?"  Jesse thought for a moment and just half-halfheartedly said, "Well, there is still the youngest, but he's out tending to the sheep and goats."

As soon as Samuel saw David, he knew that he was the one God wanted to anoint as the King of Israel.  Everyone must have been so confused!  David?  Why him?  What did he have that the others did not have?  In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says that God doesn't judge by appearances or height, he doesn't see things the way we do.  He looks at the heart.  David would be known as a man after God's own heart. 

God's ways are not like our ways.  As you go out into your day today, remember that what we see is not always the truth of the matter.  Looks can be deceiving. 

If someone cuts you off in traffic, it could be that they are on their way to the emergency room with a sick child and they are not thinking straight.  

If someone hurts you with their words, it could be that they have been hurt by words and they are just acting out.  Hurt people hurt people, you know.  

If you are the target of gossip, it could be that the person gossiping has such a poor opinion of his or herself that they must gossip in order to make themselves feel better. 

And if you see someone who seems to have it all together, don't assume they have need of nothing and don't need a friend or a kind word.  Sometimes they are the ones who need it most.

There are always some things I am not going to understand.  But one thing I do understand is that God's ways are not my ways, and everything and everyone He allows into my life has a purpose.  When I seek to understand what He might be teaching me in the moment instead of trying to place blame or draw my own conclusions, I can see a glimpse of God's ways in my everyday life.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mystery Flu: Clean Blood Needed

Relax! It's just a headline to get your attention - but a story that I believe will change your life. I read it about ten years ago and finally found it online again today. I wanted to share it with you because it made a huge impact on me. I'm a mother of a son and I've never forgotten how it made me feel the day I read "Clean Blood":

Imagine this ...

You're driving home from work next Monday after a long day. You tune in your radio. You hear a blurb about a little village in India where some people have died suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It's not influenza, but three or four people are dead, and it's kind of interesting, so they are sending some doctors over there to investigate it. You don't think much about it, but coming home from church on Sunday you hear another radio spot. Only they say it's not three people who have been infected anymore, it's now 30,000 people in the back hills of this particular area of India. CNN runs a little blurb: people are heading there from the disease center in Atlanta because this disease strain has never been seen before.

By Monday morning when you get up, it's the lead story. It's not just India; it's Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and before you know it, you're hearing this story everywhere. The media has now coined it as "the mystery flu." The President has made some comment that he and his family are praying and hoping that all will go well over there. But everyone is wondering, "How are we going to contain it?"

That's when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe. He is closing their borders. No flights from India, Pakistan, or any of the countries where this thing has been seen. And that's why that night you are watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman is translated into English from a French news program. There's a man lying in a hospital in Paris, dying of the mystery flu. It has come to Europe.

Panic strikes. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for a week before you even know it. Then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms. And then you die. Britain closes it's borders, but it's too late. South Hampton, Liverpool, North Hampton, and it's Tuesday morning when the President of the United States makes the following announcement: "Due to a national-security risk, all flights to and from Europe and Asia have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I'm sorry. They cannot come back until we find a cure for this thing."

Within four days our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are wondering, "What if it comes to this country?" Preachers are saying it's the judgment of God. It's Wednesday night, and you are at a church prayer meeting when somebody runs in from the parking lot and yells, "Turn on a radio, turn on a radio!" And while everyone in church listens to a little transistor radio with a microphone stuck up to it, the announcement is made: Two women are lying in a Long Island hospital, dying from the mystery flu. Within hours it seems, this disease envelops the country.

People are working around the clock, trying to find an antidote. Nothing is working. California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts. It's as though it's just sweeping in from the borders.
And then all of a sudden the news comes out. The code has been broken. A cure can be found! A vaccine can be made. It's going to take the blood of somebody who hasn't been infected, and so, sure enough, all through the Midwest, through all those channels of emergency broadcasting, everyone is asked to do one simple thing: Go to your downtown hospital and have your blood analyzed. That's all we ask of you. When you hear the sirens go off in your neighborhood, please make your way quickly, quietly, and safely to the hospitals.

Sure enough, when you and your family get down there late on that Friday night, there is a long line, and they've got nurses and doctors coming out and pricking fingers and taking blood and putting labels on it. Your spouse and your kids are out there, and they take your blood and say, "Wait here in the parking lot, and if we call your name, you can be dismissed and go home." You stand around, scared, with your neighbors, wondering what on earth is going on, and if this is the end of the world.
Suddenly, a young man comes running out of the hospital screaming. He's yelling a name and waving a clipboard. What? He yells it again! And your son tugs on your jacket and says, "Daddy, that's me." Before you know it, they have grabbed your boy. "Wait a minute, hold on!" And they say, "It's okay, his blood is clean. His blood is pure. We want to make sure he doesn't have the disease. We think he has the right blood type."

Five tense minutes later, out come the doctors and nurses are crying and hugging one another - some are even laughing. It's the first time you have seen anybody laugh in a week, and an old doctor walks up to you and says, "Thank you, sir. Your son's blood is perfect. It's clean, it is pure, and we can make the vaccine."

As the word begins to spread all across that parking lot full of folks, people are screaming and praying and laughing and crying. But then the gray-haired doctor pulls you and your wife aside and says, "May we see you for a moment? We didn't realize that the donor would be a minor and we need... we need you to sign a consent form."

You begin to sign and then you see that the box for the number of pints of blood to be taken is empty. "H-h-h-how many pints?" And that is when the old doctor's smile fades, and he says, "We had no idea it would be a little child. We weren't prepared. We need it all!" "But... but... I don't understand. He's my only son!" "We are talking about the world here. Please sign. We need to hurry!" You ask through a quivering voice, "But can't you give him a transfusion?" They reply, "If we had clean blood we would. Please, will you please sign?" Their response was final. In numb silence you sign the paper with shaking hands and tears falling down your face. Then they say, "Would you like to have a moment with him before we begin?"

Could you walk back? Could you walk back to that room where he sits on a table saying, "Daddy? Mommy? What's going on?" Could you take his hands and say, "Son, your mommy and I love you, and we would never ever let anything happen to you that didn't just have to be! Do you understand that?" And when the doctor comes back in and says, "I'm sorry, we've got to get started. People all over the world are dying," could you leave? Could you walk out while he is saying, "Dad? Mom? Dad? Why... why are you leaving me?"

And then next week, when they have the ceremony to honor your son, some folks sleep through it and some folks don't even bother to come because they have better things to do with their time. Some people come with a pretentious smile and just pretend to care. It breaks your heart as you look around and see people watching the clock, texting, whispering and some are even nodding off.  Would you want to jump up and say, "Excuse me! My son DIED for you! Don't you even care? Does it mean nothing to you?"

I wonder, is that what God wants to say to us at times?

This story was so powerful to me and it really put God's incredible sacrifice into a picture that made complete sense to me. Would I even give my son in the first place? I cannot imagine giving my son's life to save others, especially if those he gave his life for didn't even acknowledge or appreciate the incredible sacrifice. Unfortunately, isn't that the heartbreaking reality of what God lives out every day? But in spite of our unfaithfulness, He is faithful. In spite of our lack of mercy, He is merciful. In spite of our unwillingness to forgive, He forgives freely. He knew we would be complacent, unwilling to yield and unfaithful - and yet He freely gave us Jesus anyway. That blows my mind.


Monday, July 22, 2013

First World Problems

It all started when we lost hot water last week for about 24 hours. I realized quickly how much we rely on our hot water heater when it stopped working! Taking a bath became a huge ordeal as I had to boil water and then I ended up bathing in an inch of water. I was amazed at how much I let it get to me. Egads!

First world problems.

Later, a friend told me about how they lost power for over 24 hours. He was saying the same thing - they were really dependent on power and without it they just didn't know what to do with themselves! No coffee!  No air conditioning!  No lights!

First world problems.

Can you relate? With all of the storms lately, have you had to adjust your lifestyle for a few hours? It can be very unsettling and hugely inconvenient, can't it?

First world problems.

Is it okay to find discomfort and to vent that every now and then when we don't have access to things we are "used to"?  Sure, I suppose. But perspective will knock the complaining right out of me every time. I remember a few years back when I took a mission trip to Bolivia. I was awed by how the local children huddled around marbles in a dusty road and kept themselves busy playing with each other for hours.  There wasn't power in many of their homes. They had to boil water for a bath every single day. The inconveniences we find most annoying are a way of life for these people. And honestly...they were so happy. Happier than most Americans. Happier than me at times. It was a huge wake up call for me.

How ridiculous we must look to some people when we complain about petty things. Philippians 2:14 tells us, "In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them." What an important thing to remember. 

Here are some "first world problems" that might give you a good chuckle...and might help you find some perspective in the process:






Philippians 4:11-13 - I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Humiliated or Humbled?

Awkward. Yeah, that's probably the word that would describe how it felt to be at the Survivor Casting Call yesterday. Yes, I was a contestant on Survivor: China, but it was six years ago. Not only that, I only lasted three episodes. So, it was a bit awkward to see people whispering to each other, "I don't know who she is - who is she anyway? Which Survivor? She doesn't look familiar!"

One dude asked me if I was embarrassed because I came in 14th place out of 16. I said, "Oh, no. Actually, the way I look at it is that 30,000 people applied and I was 14th out of 30,000 - that's not too shabby!" As funny as it was, I'm not gonna lie, it was a bit embarrassing!

So, I was on my way home and was thinking about it a bit more. I am not easily embarrassed, honestly, but for some reason I was feeling a wave of humiliation. The voice of the enemy was blaring through my head telling me what a disaster that was and how I should never go to one of those again. My time is over and nobody knows who I am anyway. You're a washed up has-been!

Then, today I awoke and found this in my messages on Facebook:


  • Although we are friends on FB you do not know me personally nor do you know the profound impact you had in my life.  On July 26, 2009 I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I share this with you because God used you to reach me and for that I will be forever grateful. I was seeking. Looking high and low for a spiritual connection. I watched Oprah; I tried the Eckhart Tolle oneness with the universe concept. The Wayne Dyer and Hay House New Age stuff. Our Heavenly Father knew His sheep was lost and He spoke straight to my heart the day you stood outside that temple in China and told Jeff Probst you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Immediately, I knew what was missing from my life and deeply desired my own "personal relationship with Jesus". That moment began a true spiritual journey to today when I can say with all my being that I too have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

    My humiliation and the negative thoughts from yesterday have completely disappeared. Maybe most of those people didn't remember who I was, but this woman came to know Jesus as a result of my brief appearance on Survivor Who cares if anyone remembers me or not? It's not about me. It's all about Him. I want them to remember Him. And He reached into the heart of a perfect stranger to me and took her on a journey into His arms - and this journey began as she watched a woman most people won't even remember!  

    God is so sweet to send such a gentle reminder to me today. Today, instead of being humiliated, I'm humbled. Humbled that the God of the Universe took a moment to encourage me through one of His children this morning.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Survivor Casting Call!

Tomorrow I will be at the Survivor Casting Call at Dave Edwards Toyota in Spartanburg, SC.  The casting call is from 9am-4pm and I will be there from around 11am-2pm, giving tips on auditioning, signing autographs and selling my new book, Wholehearted: Living the Life You Were Created to Live.

I made an appearance on Scene on 7 tonight talking about the casting call and a little bit about my experience on Survivor China. 

If you have ever thought of auditioning, now is your chance! All the details are here!

See you tomorrow!!

Leslie
http://www.wspa.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9012145

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kindness

I was reading through John 18 a couple of days ago where we are taken to the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before Jesus' journey to the Cross. Remember when an armed guard approached the disciples and Peter drew his sword and sliced off his ear? Peter was trying to defend Jesus and keep Him protected. But what did Jesus do? He told Peter to put the sword away.

Peter was misrepresenting the mission and compassion of Jesus in doing something so careless. He was using violence and defensiveness and as a result, the man was wounded. Jesus walked over, put His hand on the man's ear and it was healed immediately.

Jesus is so different that we can be, isn't He? So kind. So compassionate. So forgiving and understanding. He is more concerned with making things right with others than in being right. God tells us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:4, "Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" I love this. His kindness. Are we showing that same kindness to others in our lives?

I think we can often be like Peter in this story in John 18. We draw our "sword" and become defensive, often times making is so that people will not hear a word we have to say. It's not lost on me that it was the guys ear that was cut off - could it be that we are cutting off the hearing of others when we lash out in careless defensiveness?

Maybe it's a fellow Christian who is living in a specific sin, and we feel the need to judge them and point it out in self-righteous and hurtful way. Or perhaps it's a non-Christian who doesn't understand the love and forgiveness of God, so instead of showing them His love, we only speak of His judgment and anger and try to scare them into a relationship with God. They feel attacked and have no desire to hear a word we have to say when we approach them like this.

Then Jesus comes along and says, "No, my way is better. Kindness and compassion is how we will show them the way." And He heals them. Only then can others hear what He has been whispering to them all along:

"I love you."


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Living the Adventure!

It was always my favorite time of the day. I was in second grade. We would sit cross-legged on the "magic carpet" (a rug in the middle of the floor) and our teacher would have different people come in and read to us. The sound of the crackling library book opening and the way the pages turned always
thrilled my little heart because I knew we were going on an adventure!  I even remember the way those library books smelled - like sweet expectation!

Now I can get the same feeling, but not at story time. Now it's during my quiet times with God. I love the feeling of expectation as I sit and open my Bible, knowing God will meet me there and share not only life changing stories, but truth to help me live my life with purpose and passion. It's the reference manual for my life and it's truly an adventure!

So...why is it that sometimes I have a hard time getting motivated to go on these adventures with God? Tired. Busy. Stressed. Not in the mood. All of these are excuses I've used. And none of them are acceptable. I truly believe the reason it's so hard to get motivated to spend time in God's Word at times is because it's not something the enemy of my soul would want me to do. He knows that is what brings me closer to God. He knows that is what strengthens my heart and gives me hope for my days. No wonder it's so hard sometimes!

If you're human, you have struggles and temptations. And if you have a relationship with God, sometimes that struggle is finding internal motivation to be still before God and allow Him to speak into your life. Maybe you don't want to hear what He has to say?  Or maybe you just don't feel like you have the time?  It makes no sense - because when we do take time to spend alone with God, it's always amazing.

I want to encourage you - if you are struggling in your quiet times with God, don't beat yourself up!  You can be motivated again. It's not a life sentence to stay where you are.  Just ask Him to help you. I truly believe that is a prayer from your heart that God will answer with a resounding "Yes!"  Ask Him to increase your passion for His Word. Ask Him to give you wisdom as you read it. And turn away from any part of your life that pulls you away from Him. It's not worth it!

God wants to speak to us...but we have to be still enough to listen. Praying we all learn to be still, at least a little while, today.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God..."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Help Me Make a Sick Child Smile Again!

One of the perks of having been on a Reality Show is that I get the opportunity to help support different charities through fundraisers where they invite former contestants to help out.
Please GIVE NOW by clicking HERE!
I wish I could support all of these incredible charities but my busy schedule prevents me from attending all of them. I do like to take the time each year to support Give Kids the World in Orlando, FL, though. This incredible organization blessed my heart when I attended this fundraiser for the first time and has continued to touch my heart for the past four years of my involvement with them.

GKTW helps children with life-threatening illnesses and their entire families smile and forget that there is a devastating illness hovering over them. For an entire week, they are treated to a Disney vacation and all sorts of other incredible opportunities to be "normal". I cannot imagine how hard their lives must be - as their new normal is hospital visits, tiring treatments and medications and the constant wonder of what the next day might bring. How heartbreaking!

What I also really liked is that they pay special attention, not only to the sick child, but also to the siblings of the sick child, who so often get overlooked with all of the dire needs of their brother or sister who is suffering.

In this summer event, many previous reality contestants come together, dress up like princesses and pirates and get to spend an evening with the children who are there. The following day, we spend the
day autographing and raising money to support them. All money that is made is sent directly to the charity to support it so more and more families can be treated to this incredible opportunity!

We also get the chance to raise money prior to the event through friends and family, like YOU!  If you would like to help me out and send some precious, terminally ill children to Disney World with me, please support me by clicking here!  It doesn't have to be much - if everyone reading this would donate at least $5-$10, we could really make a difference together. Of course, if you want to give more, I would appreciate that, too!!

Thank you and God bless you for helping out the children and their families!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Peace and Grace in Suffering

Very few moments in time leave me completely speechless.

Monday was one of those days for me.  I watched in horror as the now F-5 tornado barreled through neighborhoods, hospital and even schools.  The feeling of helplessness just swept over me and I was nauseous.  I still have that same nauseous feeling when I see the photos and updates

I would never presume to know God's intent for allowing such a horrifying event to happen.  Only
Neighbors recognized each other and embraced at Briarwood Elementary School
God knows why this has happened, and I trust Him.  I know that it could never happen unless He allowed it, though, because God's Word tells me He is sovereign and in complete control of the earth.  I do believe with all of my heart that if there is any chance that any of these precious people would seek after Him and begin to trust in  Him through this disaster, He will be waiting with open arms.  I also know that those who already trust in Him will be given incredible and unimaginable peace and grace through their pain.

Suffering can usher us into God's arms, because in the midst of it we are reminded most that we are human, we are powerless and we don't have all the answers.  After all, Jesus suffered tremendously here on earth - but because of that suffering, we are now able to be restored to God through Him when we put our faith and trust in Him and what He did for us. His death seemed like the end of the promise, but His resurrection brought hope for all mankind! Brokenness always precedes usefulness with God. As a parent, I cannot imagine the grief God must feel when He sees us suffering. I hate seeing my children hurting. I know His heart is breaking and that He is full of compassion for those in Oklahoma right now.  Psalm 116:15 says, "The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die."

I know from my own personal experience that God's mercy in the midst of suffering is what opened my eyes to His Truth in my life.  I don't think I would have paid attention if He had not allowed suffering in the boundaries of my life and honestly, I'm thankful for that.  No matter what the suffering here on earth, it doesn't even come close to comparing to the suffering of an eternity separated from Him!

The truest disaster of all is someone dying and facing an eternity separated from our merciful and compassionate God.  And He knows this, so He allows things in our life to get our attention while we are still able to call out to Him. Only a loving parent would allow such a thing.

So I am praying those who do not know Him will seek Him and allow Him to comfort them today, not only in Oklahoma, but everywhere in the world, as we all watch and pray for those who are waking up each day now to their new reality. Our suffering does not have to be in vain.

Psalm 103:19 "The Lord has made the heavens His throne; from there He rules over everything." 

If you would like to help out the victims of this devastating tornado, please visit His Radio's Website where we have links to ministries that are already on the ground, helping and bringing Hope to those in need.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Drastic Decisions

You cannot escape the news about Angelina Jolie's recent decision to have a double mastectomy because of test results that showed she has the same gene her mother had that gives her an 85% higher risk of developing breast cancer and a 50% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. There are a ton of responses all over the internet - both supporting of her and some, well, not-so-much. Everyone seems to have an opinion!

Personally, it just got me thinking. A few years ago, I had the same test done after learning my mother had ovarian cancer in her 30's. My mother's cancer was caught early - she was having a hysterectomy for something else when they removed the ovary and found it was in the beginning phases of cancer. I'm thankful they caught it early - this disease can be vicious. And it can be inherited, too. That's why I had the test done.

My results were negative for the gene, but if they had been positive, what would I have done? I honestly don't know. It's so hard to know what one would do in a situation unless they are actually in the middle of it. I remember saying to my friend, who had cancer, that I didn't know how she was able to stay so strong. She simply said, "I have no choice." It made me realize that when the Bible tell us that God gives us grace to go through what we must go through, He means it.  And it also made me realize that He doesn't give us grace when we just imagine going through it.

I'm not going to judge Angelina because I've never walked in her shoes. I didn't witness my mother slowly pass away from ovarian cancer like she did.  I have not been through the things she has been through, so how could I know if what she did was over-kill or necessary?  I just know that my heart breaks as I realized that in order to avoid the possibility of a drastic diagnosis, she had to take drastic measures. And she did it for her family.

I'm not sure what decision you are faced with today, but I know you probably have at least one big decision to make and it could be a decision that will forever change your life. And I know that God's grace will be sufficient to get you through it. He will give you wisdom to know what is best for you. He will give you discernment to know which way to go.  You just have to ask.

So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. -Ephesians 1:6

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pinterest FAIL


pinterest-fail-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-pancakesI can’t seem to get into Pinterest. I’ve tried, I really have. But honestly, everything I’ve tried on Pinterest has been a complete failure so being on the website is a tad depressing for me. I’m not crafty. My idea of crafts is a crayon and coloring books.  I don’t cook fancy meals. My idea of cooking a fancy meal is making a casserole. I’m definitely not a fashionista. My idea of dressing up is wearing jeans instead of sweatpants. You get the picture.

So, you can imagine how incredibly giddy I felt when I came across the website www.pinterestfail.com!  Oh my goodness.  This is me, in a website form!  I realized quickly I’m not alone. Others mess up too – and they have a sense of humor about it instead of allowing it to sink them into the depths of comparison despair.

If Pinterest Envy has you feeling down in the dumps, take a trip to the alternative website that will embrace all of your imperfectness. I’ll see you on www.pinterestfail.com! (smile)

-Leslie

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Letter to a Friend


letter to a friend


When I was a contestant on Survivor, I was able to spend a lot of time with people from all walks of life. After all, apart from challenges and survival stuff, all we had was time! The days were long and the nights were longer, but they led to some very interesting and deep conversations. I became very close to these people.

One of the most common things I heard from my tribe mates when they spoke of Christians they had met in their life was that they felt very judged and very shunned by them. This broke my heart. After all, Jesus never shunned us. He came right to us, to save us from that sin that separated us from God. He showed us how to love people, regardless of how “sinful” we think they are and how to serve people instead of demanding to be served. After all, didn’t He love us enough to reach out to us? Aren’t we sinners, too?

When I returned from China, this weighed heavy on my heart so much that I wrote a poem about it (below). I’m sure I’ve given this impression at times. I’m sure I’ve acted self-righteous and prideful at times. But it really breaks my heart to think I may have hurt someone like that. It made me realize that we can be the very reason people excuse themselves from church, from Christianity and from Jesus, Himself. It’s not his fault we sometimes act like that. His heart must break, too.

I hope you enjoy the poem. Thanks for taking the time to prayerfully read through it.

Blessings! -Leslie

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring!


Between the sneezes and swollen eyes, I’ve noticed something incredible about this Spring. I’m appreciating it on a whole new level. Maybe it’s because we now live on four acres of beautiful land, something we’ve never done before. We usually live in a housing development for the low-maintenance and close neighbors. But now we are surrounded not by neighbors, but by nature.

This year, I’m really appreciating the new life that is all around us as I watch the trees bud and begin to fill out and the flowers make their struggle from a bud to a beautiful adornment in our yard. Every day I see a new flower or bud that makes my heart jump! It’s like Christmas in April!

Just a month or so ago, we all thought we had a pretty yard, but the trees were bare and there were no flowers yet. We bought the house in the fall, so we never saw how the yard looked when the trees were at their best, but we still fell in love with it. Now we feel overwhelmed as we see all of the beauty as things are coming to life again.

There are days in my life when I feel just like those bare trees and dormant flowers. Like hope is a million miles away – sometimes non-existent. But today as I sit here looking out my window, I feel God is reminding me that hope is always there. Always. And spring always comes. New life can come. The pruning I go through is for a beautiful purpose and has incredible potential to make me even healthier than before. But it can be painful and it can seem like a long and dreary season. During those dormant times, God still looked at me and thought I was beautiful, though. So He bought me at a high price because He thought I was worth it. And when I go through tough times in life, He never leaves me.

Spring is here today, though. And I’m thankful that the hope that Christ brings to my life ensures that no matter how dark of a season I have, no matter how far back I get pruned, no matter how lifeless I feel…spring is just around the corner. New life is promised to all of God’s children!

My heart is overwhelmed.

Hosea 6:3 “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring is Here!

Between the sneezes and swollen eyes, I've noticed something incredible about this Spring. I'm appreciating it on a whole new level. Maybe it's because we now live on four acres of beautiful land, something we've never done before. We usually live in a housing development for the low-maintenance and close neighbors. But now we are surrounded not by neighbors, but by nature.  This year, I'm really appreciating the new life that is all around us as I watch the trees bud and begin to fill out and the flowers make their struggle from a bud to a beautiful adornment in our yard. Every
     My Yard in Winter                                My Yard in the Spring
day I see a new flower or bud that makes my heart jump! It's like Christmas in April!

Just a month or so ago, we all thought we had a pretty yard, but the trees were bare and there were no flowers yet. We bought the house in the fall, so we never saw how the yard looked when the trees were at their best, but we still fell in love with it. Now we feel overwhelmed as we see all of the beauty as things are coming to life again.

There are days in my life when I feel just like those bare trees and dormant flowers. Like hope is a million miles away - sometimes non-existent. But today as I sit here looking out my window, I feel God is reminding me that hope is always there. Always. And spring always comes. New life can come. The pruning I go through is for a beautiful purpose and has incredible potential to make me even healthier than before. But it can be painful and it can seem like a long and dreary season. During those dormant times, God still looked at me and thought I was beautiful, though. So He bought me at a high price because He thought I was worth it. And when I go through tough times in life, He never leaves me.

Spring is here today, though. And I'm thankful that the hope that Christ brings to my life ensures that no matter how dark of a season I have, no matter how far back I get pruned, no matter how lifeless I feel...spring is just around the corner. New life is promised to all of God's children!

My heart is overwhelmed.

Hosea 6:3  "Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring."


Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Forget Me!


This weekend we packed up and moved several loads from our rental home to our new home.  As we packed, moved, loaded and prepared, our dog Buddy was getting nervous.  He kept watching us pack things up and walk out the door time and time again.  When we would come back in the house, he'd follow us around as if to say, "Hey, don't forget about me!"  It was so pitiful.  He wanted to go out with us each time we left, but we knew it wasn't time yet.

Finally, once we were ready to take the final load for the day, I grabbed the leash and went over to Buddy and said, "OK, sweetie, now it's time to go!"  He looked like he would explode with glee as I leaned over and put his leash on him.  He's so cute when he gets excited because not only does his tail wag, but his entire body wags!  I wish I could have communicated the plan to him all along. I can see it now..."Buddy, just relax and get some rest because once everything is packed up, we're coming back for you.  We would never leave you here alone!"  But it would have been wasted words, since he wouldn't understand me anyway.

As I put the leash on him, I realized that sometimes, I'm just like Buddy with God.  I see His work all around me and want to be a part of it.  I think sometimes that He's forgotten about me or that He overlooked me.  What I fail to understand most often is that He never intends to leave me out at all.  I was always a part of the plan but sometimes I don't understand that He's protecting me and waiting for just the right moment to bring me into the plan. If only He could communicate to me all along!  But more than likely it would be wasted words, as I probably wouldn't understand anyway.

That's where trust comes in.  Buddy probably knew in his heart of hearts all along that I wouldn't leave him, but the doubt is what made him freak out.  I believe that is my problem, too.  When I stop trusting God's plan and instead look at what's going on around me, I can lost my grip on Him and fall into seasons of doubt.

Can you relate?  Have you felt left out or looked over?  Please know that God has not forgotten you.  He would never dream of forgetting about you!  He promises in His word that He will never leave us nor forsake us. 

So today, if you are freaking out because you think you may have been overlooked, please rest and know that He won't leave you out.  You're His child!  Trust Him.  Nobody loves you more than He does.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Radio Interview About My New Book, "Wholehearted"

Here is a radio interview I did with Dr. Tony Beam, host of Christian Worldview Today on Christian Talk Radio in Greenville, SC.  He is one of the endorsers of my new book, Wholehearted.  You can get a copy of Wholehearted on Kindle, Nook, on Amazon (paperback and hardcover) and on Barnes and Noble or at the website of my publishing company, Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com) If you want your local Christian Bookstore to carry the book, please let them know! The ISBN # is 978-1-4497-8515-4 (they will ask for that). Thanks so much!



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fraud or Flawed?

My kids see me at my worst – they see me when I’m having a rotten day, when I’m tired or over-extended, when I’m not as attentive as I should be.  They also see me at my best – and sometimes, when I take them with me to speaking events, they see me on stage, sharing God’s Word with people.  When I’m on the stage speaking, it can seem like I have it all together and that I have all the answers.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  And my kids know it!

One night as I was preparing to leave for a speaking engagement, my husband and I were in a heated argument about an hour before I was to leave. I was in tears and as I was leaving, I fell into his arms and sobbed, “I feel like such a fraud! How can I go share God’s Word with people when I’m not even able to live it out myself all the time?!”  He cradled my face with his hands, looked me in the eye and said, “You are not a fraud.  You are a beautiful woman of God who has a message to share.  There is not one person speaking God’s word who lives it perfectly.  We are all imperfect.”  Then he prayed for me and I left very encouraged.

I realized something as I prayed on my way to the event.  I wasn’t a fraud.  I was flawed.  There’s a difference.  I like that my kids and my husband clearly see how God can use a person like me – a real, live, flawed, imperfect but willing vessel – for His purposes.  I like how they see that a mom or a wife who may have yelled at them earlier (and apologized for it through tears) is still capable of being used by God later that night.  That’s how powerful He is!  If He can use me, He can use anyone.  I hope they will see that He can use them, too.  Flaws and all.

Are you avoiding obedience to God in something because you’re afraid you won’t measure up to the role you think you have to play in order to do it?  Are you afraid you are going to seem like a fraud if you forge ahead and do something, knowing you don’t have it all together yet?  I totally understand that thought process, I really do.    But I also know it’s a lie.  Think about it – if God really wanted you to be perfect before He could use you, then it would be about you…not Him.  But it’s not about you.  It’s totally about Him and what He can do through you.  You’ll be amazed at how He can change you along the way, as you become more and more like Jesus.

Don’t be afraid to be flawed.  If you were perfect, you would have absolutely no need for Jesus.  A fraud is someone who pretends they aren’t flawed.  Be real, be honest, and be transparent about your struggles but most important, be honest about how God taught you through them, how He’s growing you in His grace and how He is forming you into the person He wants you to be.  But please…don’t delay obedience waiting for the day you will have it all together.  That day will never come this side of heaven.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Blog! Joel Anderson, Survivor Micronesia Contestant

Recently, I've had the incredible opportunity to speak with Joel Anderson, a contestant on Survivor: Micronesia in 2008.  Joel is a husband, father, firefighter and a big guy who was kind of remembered as the "bully" of the season. He was famous for angrily dragging around one of his fellow contestants during a challenge and some pretty intense outbursts on the show.  These are really not something any of us want to be remembered for, which is why he tried to forget all about his experience on Survivor for a long time.

This is not the Joel Anderson I spoke with the other day, though.  A lot has happened in his heart since his Survivor experience.  God used his time on Survivor to humble him and show him how he was coming across to others in life.  As I spoke with him, I couldn't help but think of Proverbs 15:33, "Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor." His humility in sharing his heart really made an impact on me. It was so inspiring to hear him tell me his story that I asked him to write a guest blog for me. Below is what he wrote. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did - and I hope you will check out his website and show him some support (www.thekickashlife.com).  You can follow him on Twitter, as well (@SurvivorJoelWho) God is using him and his message to help encourage others to live a life of authenticity and character.   -Leslie


“What was it like? Did Survivor change your life?” This was the number one question that was asked of me after my adventure on Survivor: Micronesia in 2008.  For years after Micronesia aired in 2008, I would angrily and curtly answer, “Nope, nothing changed.”  Part of my answer was because I did not want anyone to think I changed. I was pretty proud of who I was. Another major reason was because I was angry and bitter.
Now what in the world would anyone who was given an opportunity to play Survivor, win $1million dollars, visit another country, go scuba diving in Palau, spend a month in Phuket Thailand, have everything paid for, do almost anything I wanted and live like a celebrity for a month, not to mention be on the most popular reality TV show of all time, have to be angry and bitter about?
Good question.
The short answer is I felt misrepresented.  I know; I even sound like a child to me when I say it now, but I genuinely felt misrepresented and misunderstood because of it.  I felt the producers made me look like a bully, a crazed lunatic and like a jerk.
I looked at my opportunity to be on Survivor as an opportunity to share with the entire world my “awesomeness”.  Yes, I know exactly how that sounds.  I absolutely wanted to win the $1million and believed that would actually be the easy part.
When season sixteen aired in February of 2008, I was received as anything but great or awesome.  I never considered looking at the way I acted as a contributing factor for the reception.  After all, I was just being myself and being myself meant being “awesome”. 
I felt the edit played down my greatness and played up my weaknesses while also placing me in the shadow of returning players and so called “favorites”.  I was furious.  How could no one catch the great fumble by production and editing that the entire season was about me?  So what if I was only there fourteen days?  So what if I was voted out fifth?  So what if I was only on five episodes of the entire season? I was the greatest thing that Survivor or any of its fans had ever seen and the edit completely stole that reality from the audience! 
Like I said, I never considered that everyone was reacting to the fact that I was just being me.  I never considered that I was, in fact, accurately portrayed by the edit.  I never considered the fact that maybe my strengths were less than I thought they were and my weakness were greater.  I never considered that maybe I was harsh, abrasive or insensitive with the way I treated others.  I never considered that my social interaction was slightly inept.  The only possible explanation in my mind was that I was so great the editors had to tone me down so I didn’t overshadow everyone else on the season, without ever even consulting me about it!
That had to be the problem. I had to be made to look weak so that everyone else on season sixteen, and every other season, would not realize how weak they were in comparison to my greatness.  That was the only possible solution and it infuriated me that such a travesty would be allowed.
Fast forward through the next four years and through raising my two boys and my daughter.  My goal as a father is to raise my sons into men of honor and my daughter into a God-fearing woman of honor, too.  For me, it all starts with teaching them to love God, know the Jesus of the Bible and honor God with the choices they make.  This process actually starts with me modeling the same behavior which I desire to see in them.  Sure there are a lot of other details and factors but this is the big one. 
Each of my children is a little mirror of me and my wife.   My oldest boy is literally an exact clone of me.  From his attitude to his facial expressions, mannerism, competitiveness and even his need to be in control of everything; my oldest son is a mirror image of his father.  Naturally, when he was acting in ways that I considered unacceptable, inappropriate and not honoring to God I would ask him, “Where in the heck did you learn that?”  He learned it by watching me. In the same way people who watched Survivor saw something in me that I did not see in myself at that time. 
Four years after my season aired, a light bulb finally went on.  The light bulb shed light on the way I had been living my life for the last thirty-six years.  The realization was a large and tough pill to swallow.  The truth often stings but it is way better than wandering around aimlessly in the dark. 
I didn’t do anything different on Survivor than I had been doing in my personal life up to that point.  I treated people in my personal life the same way I treated my fellow castaways on Survivor.  I was no less aggressive, abrasive or a control freak in real life than I was on Survivor. 
Four years later, for the first time, I realized I had been pretty accurately portrayed.  Four years later I realized people’s interpretations and perceptions of me were pretty fair and true.  Four years later I realized something needed to change and that something was me. If I wanted to have the life I thought I had been working towards, if I wanted to be the man I thought I had been portraying, if I wanted to be the dad I thought I had been, if I wanted to raise the sons I thought I had been raising, I needed to change.
My theme song in life used to be "My Way".  My way was powerful.  My way was aggressive, independent, driven, determined, in control, resilient and relentless.  None of those things are necessarily bad, except for the fact that my way of using those traits was to glorify me.  My way was to share with the world my greatness, my awesomeness, my excellence and my glory.  My way had nothing to do with honoring God and living my way would never teach my children to honor God.  My way would never teach my children the person of Christ.  My way would never do anything except create two more men and one more woman in this world who believed the entire world revolved around them.  I think we have enough people in this world like that already.  I needed to stop living my way and realize I was actually lost in my ways.
I have a lot of blessings in my life and I see them now.  I have my wonderful wife of twelve years.  I have my awesome children, two boys and a little girl.  I have had some really incredible and unique experiences over the years, too.
So if you ask me now, “How did Survivor change your life?”  I will tell you it allowed me to see me for me.  I have another blessing, a sort of blessing in disguise, called my “Survivor Experience”.  I had the ability to look at my life on a big screen and see me for who I really was.  Not many people get this experience.  Not many people get the understanding to see what others see when they see them.  I got to take a look from the outside and look at my actions objectively instead of subjectively.
So often, so many of us think we are projecting a specific image of ourselves out onto the world while we are actually completely missing our mark.  I’m not talking about pleasing others here.  I’m talking about doing what we intend to do.  I’m talking about living intentionally instead of by accident.  I’m talking about living in the Light instead of wandering around in the darkness.  I’m talking about living on purpose and with purpose instead of just letting the chips fall where they may. 
If you want to tumble through life, then be tumbleweed.  If you want to drift through life then be driftwood.  If you want to be successful, no matter how you define it, you have got to live intentionally, on purpose and with purpose.  We cannot do this if the self we think we are projecting to the world is not the self we are actually projecting. 
Now, four years later, I can honestly say that this is how Survivor changed my life.


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