Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Faithful to Lead

Good Morning! If you hopped over from the Encouragement Cafe', welcome to my site! At the bottom of the page you will see a list of the top ten posts of all time.  If you have no idea what I am talking about because you're a regular reader, visit the Encouragement Cafe and check out my post on holy detours.

Speaking of detours, I have been home from She Speaks for three days now, and am still processing what happened there. I arrived on Thursday, with my agenda clenched tightly in my hand. Girls, I had plans for this conference which, admittedly, were loosely cloaked in the good of the Kingdom, but were mostly for the good of me. My plan was to blow everyone away with my heartfelt, skillfully presented testimony and have women clamoring for me to speak at their events. Somewhere along the way this conference became more about self-promotion than anything else. Now, if you know me, you know that I joke that I tried "humble" once but no one noticed, so I gave up. As I am painfully learning, there is a difference between being confident in the Name of the Lord, and being a glory-hound. (Insert deep sigh here.)

Because God knows what I need better than I myself know, He met me there in the circle of my limelight and filled my heart with a new desire: to sloooooow down, to enjoy my life where it is today, and to let Him tie up a few loose ends. He spoke to me through the words of many presenters, friends I've made along the way, and one on one in prayer this weekend. He showed me areas that still need healing, which took me by surprise. I missed the tsunami siren again, which you can read about here. The sign He didn't hold up, though, was a Dead End  or U-Turn sign. I am on the path I am supposed to be on, to bring hope to the lost, to introduce them to Jesus.

My book, Not Beyond Reach, was not picked up by a publisher because I do not have a large enough marketing platform; one of the editors was extremely encouraging though, telling me it is a necessary and relevant message.  It was, however, held onto by an agent. The next step is to wait until I hear from her. The fun part is that I get to keep working on my passion without the pressure of a publisher telling me how to do it. This is all between me and God right now, and I'm happy to keep it that way until He directs otherwise. I also get to keep working on a fiction book that I started last year but haven't had time to play with. My characters have been developing their story without me and I'm just trying to keep up with them.

After reading the signs this weekend, I have my orders: Slow down. Let God lead. Unclench my hand and see what He pours into it. Sunday morning, I spent some time in Deuteronomy 4. Verse 1 says to heed the directions we have been given so the Lord can lead us into the land He has prepared for us. And I'm good with that. Really good with that.

My prayer for you, as you wander around in the desert, is to look for what God has for you in your meantime.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is God Good (Enough?)

I'm linking to my friend Shelley's post today, as she answers that question in a beautiful message of hope. I promise to write about the amazing weekend at She Speaks later in the week...still processing everything I heard from our amazing God.

Click here to read Shelley's post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Same Kind of Different

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to try on my mom's clothes while she was at work. It was the 1970's, and she had the silkiest blouse with the sunset on the back, white bell-bottom slacks, and Candie's high heels. Being a big-footed girl, they almost fit, even when I was 10. What didn't fit were the bras, which I would wear backwards with the cups hanging off my shoulder blades. They totally looked like they fit from the front, though...
My mom is one of the coolest people I know, even today. Her house is calming to walk into, and she has the decorations that I look at in the magazines but don't buy, like solar-powered wind chimes. My sister and I joke that someday we'll be as hip as our mom.
My mom and I are alike and different in the same way, if that makes any sense. Like two people approaching the center of the road from two different directions. She is a Buddhist, not a Christian, but lives out Christ-like qualities with more compassion than many Christians I know. She brings chili and hot cocoa to homeless men who "live" on the corner near the downtown hospital where she works. She keeps extra gloves on her seat in case she seems someone without a pair. She's even been known to pick up a hitch hiker (gasp!) on frigid nights if she had a good feeling about it. I have a heart for people in need and know that I get that from her.

The best thing about my mom is the way she supports me 100% to pursue and follow what I believe, because she wants me to be happy and fulfilled, whatever that looks like. I can't quite return that sentiment, and believe what I believe to be true.

Back to the clothes though...some things never change. I am sitting in a hotel room right now typing this at the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina. Before I left, I did a little shopping in my mom's closet and borrowed an adorable bright pink sweater, which is now lost in the airport in Milwaukee somewhere. If you could pray that the sweater finds its way to the lost and found for me to get Sunday night, I would sure appreciate that.

This post is part of the Third Thursday Blog Hop with Hearts at Home Ministry. Check out some of the other blogs...I'm sure you'll see you and your mom in there somewhere.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Looking Back to She Speaks 2009

I originally posted this in August of 2009, after my first She Speaks conference:

Did you ever need to describe something and couldn't find a word big enough? Fun, inspiring, educational, amazing...I could go on and on. I prayed before I left that I wouldn't just learn to "do ministry" better. I am fairly organized and efficient on my own strength, but I am tired of doing things on my own strength. That just leads to burn-out. I wanted to go and really meet the Lord, to be all consumed with a passion for Him and what He has for me. And that, friends, is what happened.

From the very first session, the focus was on Him. There were technical aspects in each talk, but the out-loud, up-front focus was Christ. If we are not relying on Him and using the gifts He gave us, acknowledging Him as the driving force of all we do, we are not doing it to glorify Him. The minute I decide that if I stopped showing up a ministry would cease or fall into trouble, I need to walk away and get on my knees. God does not need any of us to accomplish His purposes, but He allows us to take part in His awesome story. Definitely humbling to be reminded of this.

I was also reminded that if God has an agenda, nothing will get in its way. You know the song "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part"? It's true. Sometimes I feel like God is calling me to something, but I'm not sure what it is or how to get there. If He has a plan, which He does for each of us (Ephesians 2:10), we need to keep doing the things we are supposed to do.
  • Study the Word.
  • Be a prayer warrior.
  • Love and serve others.
  • Stay on the path we know we are supposed to be on, and it will lead us to His purpopse and plan for us.
I always worry that if I'm not intensely trying to make something happen, to force His hand, that I might miss His call for me. It doesn't work that way. That puts the power on me, and that isn't where it belongs.

The point was also made this weekend, which I am very, very familiar with, that when we are about Kingdom Business, anything done to glorify God, the enemy is watching. Waiting. Whispering. Reminding you that you aren't good enough or smart enough to do something. Telling you that your past disqualifies you from your future. Because of the blood of Christ, this is not true. Read it again: This is not true.

The last biggest thing that I will take with me after this weekend is to live the story God has given me. He has allowed my particular circumstances and mistakes for a reason. Don't cover up certain things, because that doesn't glorify God. He hasn't asked us to be His reporters, speaking generically about what He can do in a life, but to be His witnesses, telling of the transformation He has made in our lives.

If, now that you "have arrived" and have your Super Christian ID card, you are ignoring certain parts of your past, stop. Remember, God is sovereign. He could have stepped in and steered you in another choice than the ones you made, but He didn't. If God allows it, He can use it. Takes guts, and it's scary, but entrust it all to God. Covering up denies His power. This is really enough fodder for a whole new post, so I will close now.

Suffice it to say that God is in control. We belong to Him. He will accomplish His purposes through us, not because He needs us, but because He loves us. Live the life He has called you to. Stop looking at everyone else's race, or you will trip running your own. I could go on, because my heart is so full, but let me close with this: If you do not know the Lord, I would love to help you meet Him. He has a plan for you, and is waiting for you. I am not any more or less special in His eyes than anyone else. We are all prescious in His sight. If you have questions, I would love to help you find the answers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Refreshment Break

I'm sure all of you have heard the saying "You can't pour out if you're not filling up" and similar phrases. That became a reality today as exhaustion stole my ambition...eating this book proposal elephant one bite at a time is working to steal the joy of wanting to write a book for Jesus in the first place. Half of me wonders if I've bitten off more than I can chew, and the other half knows I did, lol.

Truly, as I explained to my husband today, I am confident that God has told me to proceed in this direction, so for the sake of obedience alone, I plod along. Obedience needs to be its own reward sometimes, and I would psych myself out if I really thought that victory was in my hands. I was thinking about Gideon today, when God kept telling him to pare down his army, and he won the battle with 300 soldiers and some cooking utensils.


Anyway, at the urging of a friend, I took my ipod for a walk today to get some refueling for this endeavor. Because the mosquitoes were eating me alive and I was afraid to walk the wooded trail alone, I started jogging. Water bottle sloshing, keys jiggling, phone and ipod weighing me down, in my street clothes, jogging. I was thirsty but didn't want to slow down to grab a drink.

The irony of the whole situation hit me...I was on a walk to get some Living Water refreshment, which I hadn't wanted to slow down to do...and was too into the jog to take a drink of real water either.

I think I just need to see things in real life sometimes before I get it.

Update: Woke this morning to read my daily devo from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which was proof to me, again, that God knows where I'm at and that I am heading the right direction. Here it is, in case you are needing the same encouragement:
Keep walking with me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance lightfooted on the high peaks; but for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery is dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of life.

PS: Just found out that I am "the friend" refered to in #10 on this blog on how to maintain order in your life during crazy times.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Confession Time

I'm going to admit something to you; have the courtesy to act surprised. Here it is: every tiny once in a while, I might occasionally get a little preoccupied with myself. There's a small chance that I am my own biggest fan.


 There it is, out in the open now.
To be honest, I do have alot going on. This whole writing a book business is a big deal to me. Going to She Speaks is a big deal to me. Trying to launch a speaking ministry to reach women who don't feel like God would want them is a big deal to me. And the higher the stakes get, the more into "me" I get. That is not a good thing, because then I start looking at you to see how I measure up.

What if there are better speakers out there? (I know there are.)

What if there are better writers out there? (I know there are.)

What if someone else has the same burden for the lost that I do? (Ok, well, that's cool.)

I'm not saying that any of these thoughts are right, but that's where I'm at. Or was at, until yesterday. I started thinking about all of this stuff from God's perspective, and I got really excited. I imagined all these women coming together at this conference to be equipped and led to share His word. You can't turn on the news or leave your house without seeing just how badly this world needs the hope that God alone gives. This is a broken world seriously in need of some Jesus.

 As I was praying for guidance, and frankly, a talking to from God, I pictured myself standing in a circle of light. I am the only one who can stand in that particular circle. Then I saw all these other women standing in their own circles. Circles of Light....the Holy Fire of a HOLY GOD. I could so clearly see the spiritual warfare at work...if the enemy can flood me with my own sense of pride, intimidate with thoughts of inadequacy, plant feelings of resentment towards those also called, he thwarts God's plan for me. But those words...but God says that His word will not return to Him empty but accomplish what He purposes. And I am HIS. I confessed my sin of turning the ministry and calling He has given me into its own god, and felt immediately clean, free of the mind games that I've been playing. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

I've read a couple of encouraging words lately that I would like to share with you. You may not be called in the same direction I am, but God has a plan for your life, too. Listen to Him and see what direction He is pointing you towards, and head there with these words in your head:
  • You are wondering if you have what it takes to do this. And I want you to know that you do. Because God has created you to do this. He picked you exactly because you have the personality, gifting, the emotional makeup, etc. to reach who He wants you to reach. You won't reach the women that I reach - and that's exactly His plan. So trust Him. He knows what He's doing. Show up and be open to His leading ... learn everything you can. You are being equipped this weekend to do what God wants only you to do. (Glynnis Whitwer's words to She Speaks attendees, but applicable to all of us.)
  • It was the original Palm Sunday weekend, and Jesus was riding into town on the donkey. As the donkey saw people waving palm fronds, shouting "Hosanna!" and laying coats down for him to walk across, he thought to himself, "It's about time they realized how special I am." He didn't know he was just the one carrying Jesus to the people.
Oh Lord, help me to remember that I am just the donkey. It's all about You.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Simple Question

The bomb sat directly in front of me, the ticking getting louder. I chose my tool carefully for the delicate operation of diffusing the situation...

"Justin, what can Mommy do for you right now?" His fury expelling in one long breath, he leaned in against me and began to cry. With carefully chosen words, I avoided what surely would have been a tantrum of epic proportion. What he really needed to know in that minute was that he mattered, that his needs would be met somehow. "What can I do for you right now?" goes a lot further than "What do you want?" through jaws clenched so tightly my lips barely move.

Now, don't read this and think that I gave in to an unreasonable list of demands. I try not to reward annoying behavior just to maintain a certain level of peace and quiet. But overreacting and yelling because they are disturbing my peace and quiet is not a productive response either.

Long summer days filled with nothing but fun begin to take their toll at about this point of the summer. At least at my house. It's a fine line between enjoying life to the full when school is out and creating an atmosphere of entitlement. "I deserve to have fun" is different than "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Exhausted kiddoes and worn-out moms are a tough combination, especially when tempers and temperatures are soaring. Remembering who is the adult in the situation will go a long way to keep things cool, though. I know that for me, when I'm feeling cranky and irritable, I have to ask myself why I'm feeling that way. Not enough sleep? Too much on my plate? I just really want my own way too? None of these are excuses to be ugly, but contributing factors.

I find that putting the spotlight on someone else's deal is a good remedy. "What can I do for you?" is the question that reminds me of the big picture. Christ was a servant-leader, and it is His example I strive to emulate. Asking that particular question helps keep things in perspective for me.

What works for you when the fuse in running short?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Liberty for the Captives

Fireworks, watermelon, small town parades and flags will dominate the day for many of us. These are the symbols we associate with our freedom, although it came with the price of many lives. On this day of celebration, I can't help but think of a different kind of freedom.

The freedom found in Christ also came with a price...that of one life. One of my favorite passages is found in two places in the Bible, Isaiah 61 and Luke 4. In Isaiah 61, the hope and the promise is given. In Luke 4, Jesus claims it in Himself. I get the holy goosebumps when I imagine being in the synagogue, listening to the familiar text being read by that guy from Galilee, and hearing Him say that He was the fulfillment of that promise. He had come to bring good news to the oppressed, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. We know exactly who Jesus is and was, but the people in the synagogue did not. I imagine a flutter of confusion mingled with hope in their hearts. Could He really be the long-prophesied Deliverer standing before them?

When someone hears these words today, that same confusion and hope flutters. Can Jesus really free me from my addictions? From my life of shame, fear, sin...fill in your own blank. His invitation is simple and sincere...Come to Me.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28)"

In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. John 14:6 tells us that He is the truth. I could go on with verse after verse pointing to the freedom that only comes through Christ; He came for you and the Bible is His love story to you. But I can't phone this have to answer this one call personally. I can add my voice to all those who proclaim His truth and faithfulness in His promise, but you have to experience it for yourself before you can fully believe.

In keeping with the spirit of the day, I thank God that I live in a country where this is even a choice. I can imagine standing in Philadelphia, hearing the Declaration of Independence read by a bunch of frustrated farmers and business men, declaring war on the largest empire in the world, fear and hope mingling in my chest, wondering if they can really deliver on their promise. Looking back, we know they did it. Just like the guy from Galilee reading in the synagogue kept His word. Indeed, He is the Word.

Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Cocoon

Joyful Souls Arising is an after-care ministry for women who have been released from prison that meets in Waukesha. I got a chance to attend their group last night in preparation for speaking to them in the fall. Walking in, I realized I didn't know who the attendees were and who the mentors were. More than that, I realized I didn't care. For the first time, I could appreciate that God sees us all the same, equally covered by the blood of His Son. It wasn't my place to figure out who was who, but to love and serve them equally; that lack of knowledge brought a freedom in our interactions. I learned that the woman next to me played the clarinet in elementary school just like I did, and realized that none of us are that different after all. The thought "There but for the grace of God go I" crossed my mind.

Each Friday they have a different activity or speaker, and last night the children's choir director from a local church played the guitar and we sang worship songs, contemporary and traditional. Mind you, no one has ever asked me to sing on purpose before, but in a gathering of 15 or so people and one guitar, there is no place to hide. We made some serious joyful noise to the Lord, and it was beautiful. Worshiping Him together in this group gave me the holy goosebumps.

I'm excited to be part of their group again. The leader is creating an environment where they can learn to see themselves in a new way. They are learning how to interact with life and each other in a healthy way, and for some, how to just have fun. I never realized what a luxury just having a good time was. Last week they enjoyed a makeover night. Next week is assertiveness training from a licensed therapist because they've never learned to speak up for themselves; most of them don't see themselves as worth speaking up for.

On some level I think that is something we can all relate to. God sees us as His new creation in Christ, like beautiful butterflies, and we continue to look in the mirror and see the caterpillar. This after-care group is like a cocoon, a place of safety and growth, some getting to know Jesus as savior for the first time, and some getting to know themselves through His eyes. It is my prayer for these women, and all of us, that we will learn to see ourselves through the eyes of the Lord, holy, beautiful, and complete in Him.

Friday, July 1, 2011

All-Purpose Tools

What is your favorite all-purpose tool? The one you can grab and use for a variety of jobs? Mine is a butter knife. Besides using it for its intended purpose, cutting and spreading stuff, I’ve been known to use it as a flathead screwdriver, a light hammer, and as a pry bar for Legos and that bedroom door with no key for the lock. My kids must have some secret uses for butter knives, too, because occasionally I find them in the yard. I love having one tool to get a multitude of jobs done.

Satan does too.
His tool is doubt. He is a master of deception, making you wonder if you really understand what you are supposed to be doing. Doubt is the tool he used on Eve that got her kicked out of the garden (Genesis 3:1). Just the planting of a simple question reaped an unintended harvest, at least on her part. He knew exactly what he was doing. The enemy, whose name means “one who separates”, created doubt in Eve’s mind as to the goodness of God, and he does the same to us today.
”Are you sure God said…?” Fill in your own blank here. Where your temptations lie is where that question is waiting. We want what we want when we want it. Anything that interferes with that impulse becomes a power play. We try to mix the words of God or set conditions on them…”I don’t think that applies to this case though” is our feeble defense. God doesn’t stutter when issuing commandments. He didn’t provide the Law so we could find a way around it.
“God wants you to be happy, doesn’t He?” Actually, our happiness is not His priority. Before you get all cranky and stop reading, hear me out. His glory is His priority, and He has wired us to find joy, peace, and contentment when we are living to please Him (Psalm 37:4). Blessings flow through obedience to God, and obedience doesn’t always feel like happiness. Obedience is sometimes just plain hard work, doing something opposite of what we even feel like.
“You deserve better than this…” the enemy whispers as you grow frustrated with a certain situation. The doubt seeps in: if God is good and really in control, why doesn’t He fix this. We make Satan’s job easier when we start making up reasons why God isn’t acting as we think He should. He must not really love me. I’m not good enough. He must be punishing me for something. Recognize where these thoughts come from; they do not come from God. Practice humility and patience, which are two actions that don’t come naturally to most of us (Phil. 2:3-4).
We are not left defenseless. “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)”. He has given us our own all-purpose tool to get a multitude of jobs done. That tool is the Bible, His Word, Jesus. That book sitting on your shelf, or maybe laying open on your kitchen counter, is your weapon.  The battle is on, friends, and we are going to learn how to fight like God’s kids should.