Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days: Reach Your World!

`Quick...make a list of everything in the world that needs fixing. Now write a solution next to each one of those things.

What? You gave up?

It's overwhelming, isn't it? We are bombarded, thanks to modern technology, with monumental issues that assault our world on a daily basis, minute by minute, even, if we are connected to any sort of social media.

So what's a regular person to do? We are all busy, whether we are raising kids, working in our careers, struggling to make ends meet...few of us have time to jump in and save the world. Instead, we close our eyes and do what we can to appease our guilt at not doing enough.

Sound familiar? Hang with me for the next 31 Days and let's see what we can do to make a difference. This isn't about trying to cram more in to our over-loaded lives, but figuring out how to make service and connection part of our regular, daily interactions using the resources, gifts, and talents we already have at our fingertips.

Over the next 31 Days, I'll share some of the books and songs that have inspired me, highlight some people I've come across that inspire me to live bigger, and spill some stories of times I have been stretched past my comfort zone.

Believe me, I don't have it all figured out. I struggle with feeling like I can't possibly make a difference. I struggle with the fact that I'm more willing to work hard to make a car payment than I am to provide clean drinking water in third world countries. I struggle with the fact that all of my problems are first world problems. But occasionally I remember that I have been born in this place, in this time, in these circumstances, for a higher purpose than my own. And it's to that end that I will journey.

A little about me...
  • I'm the Community Outreach Volunteer Coordinator for Women's Ministry at Fox River Christian Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
  • I published my first novel this summer called He Knows Your Name.
  • I am a follower of Jesus and try every day to bring glory to His name without annoying the people I do life with.
  • I've made almost every mistake there is to make and lived to tell.
  • My number one desire: to bring hope to those who need it.
Who's ready to take that next step, a step that will bring a world in need a little closer? Follow along for the next month and let's see what we can figure out together. Perfection and pretense not required. Just real people wanting to make a dent. On your marks, get set...let's do this thing!
"And the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)"

I will add the link of each new blog post when it goes live right here, so at the end of 31 days, there will be 30 additional posts on how to reach your world. Stay tuned...

October 2: First Things First
October 3: Common Courtesy Revisited
October 4: Love Does: A Book Review
October 5: Be Nice, Anyway
October 6: My Own Little World
October 7: Won't You Be...My Neighbor?
October 8: It's All About...Who??
October 9: What's Your Budget?
October 10: Stepping Out
October 11: A Book Review and a Giveaway
October 12: An Esther Sort of Day
October 13: Sunday Songs: Believer
October 14: Honey, What's for Dinner?
October 15: Praying for a Warrior
October 16: The Adventure
October 17 (posted on the 18th): A Little Catching Up
October 18: Book Review: A Cup of Cold Water in His Name
October 19: Into The City
October 20: Sunday Songs: God of This City and Break Every Chain
October 21: Panda Wisdom
October 22: Missing Out on Dessert
October 23: Finding the Fire
October 24: Going Global
October 25: Global Justice and Stewardship
October 26: A Little Effort Beats None At All
October 27: Sunday Songs: Hands and Feet by Audio Adrenaline
October 28: Torch Bearer or Light Shiner?
October 29: How Much Is Too Much?
October 30: Ministry Isn't Just for Church Folks
October 31: 31 Days Wrapping It Up

Need a New Direction?

I won't lie . . .I have a few someone's on my heart today. People in need of a new direction. Some of them know it and some of them don't. But I watch the struggles of each and know the pain they are in, even as they flounder, lash out, and lay blame.

Maybe that's you today. Maybe you are searching for a new direction, tired of the charade, tired of trying to figure things out on your own. Tired of being kicked back to the curb with every new step you take. Just. Tired.

I have a question...what makes you try something new? The promise of an easy fix? The lure of the unknown? The insatiable need to run away? Most of the time, and I speak from experience here, chasing after those kinds of changes only leads to a deeper hole, a darker place.

I've found my answer to the emptiness and it comes in one word: JESUS. He wasn't an easy fix, and sometimes I still fight the desire to just run, but then the words of Peter, a follower of Christ from the Bible come back to me:

"Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69)"

I take a deep breath and remember that Jesus alone is the answer. I, too, have come to believe and to know that He is the Holy One of God. He alone is the Life Changer and Life Giver. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Anything the world offers pales in comparison to the peace and hope that are found in Christ.

Maybe you find yourself at the end of your rope. You are tired of the same old same old. Here's my advice: don't run away, unless it is in to the arms of Jesus. No one else's arms will suffice.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Joy Ride Anyone?

I recently switched from driving a stick shift car to an automatic. I thought it would just come naturally because technically it's the easier of the two to drive, except that every morning when I get in the car I almost drive through the back of the garage.

In my other car, reverse was the gear farthest back. In this vehicle, reverse is just past park. But, in the foggy drive to school, I am on autopilot and I just do what I always did. I put my foot hard on the floor, because I forget there's no clutch, throw it in drive and gas on.

Then I step hard on the brake and remember that I'm driving a different vehicle.

Changing gears spiritually is much like that. When we become Christians, we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), but how many of us continue to operate as though we were the same old person?

Beth Moore speaks of dragging the ugly old dead man around with us. Deep down, our spirits know that something is different. Yet we fight to hang on to the old life. We fight the same battles, carry the same sorrows, and react to the day to day operations  the same way. To the watching world, and ourselves, nothing about us has changed. Our shiny new vehicle might as well be a demolition derby jalopy.

Choosing a different way needs to be intentional. Jesus won't stop me from throwing the car in drive and driving through the garage wall, but He'll be there encouraging and directing if I seek His response to a situation instead of just doing the same old thing.

If you find that you've accidentally driven out the back of your garage, metaphorically speaking of course, take heart. Jesus is in the business of restoration. Confess your sin and seek forgiveness. Spend some time in the Word; Galatians 5:16-22 and Colossians 3 are good places to camp. Adjust your mirrors, look around, and remember which vehicle you are driving these days.

It's time for a joy ride!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Struggling? Come for the Coffee

If I'm totally honest with myself, today is one of those days I am going to church for the coffee. I am exhausted, overwhelmed by all good things, slightly irritated with some key players in my life, and my feet feel like they are encased in lead boots. I'm dragging.

God can work with that.

My job is to sit, waiting, focusing on Him alone, and He will do the rest. But that, sometimes is exactly the problem. (Can I get an amen?)

It is in these times that we are so vulnerable to the enemy. Irritation leads to bitterness which leads to resentment which leads to nothing good. I keep reminding myself that love covers a multitude of sins and that we are to forgive others of their shortcomings because of our great love, and right now I am keenly aware that this sort of love does not come from my human side. It has to come from God.

Being overwhelmed, even by good things, breeds fear of failure, and we know that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Fear of failure does not come from God, it comes from inside us, from ego and seeds planted by the enemy. But if God has a plan and has put these opportunities in front of me, then He is more than capable of working things out. Even when I feel like I have nothing to give, He is my strength and my song. He's got this.

So here's my challenge, to me and you: make time to sit at the feet of the One who lifts our heads, who brings peace to our souls, who soothes the hurts and holds us close. Stop flailing and planning, blaming and preaching. Just stop.

I'm heading to church in a few minutes where I will consume a gallon of coffee along with the worship and words, hang my head in dogged recognition of the fact that try as I might, I can't do anything without Him. I could waste time feeling bad that coffee is the driving factor, but again, God can work with that. I just need to show up. Meet you there?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Are You Harvesting?

I stared in disbelief at the harvest of beans in my garden. I looked from the seed packet I began with to the rows upon rows of green beans dangling from their stems. Stamping my foot in frustration, I said, "I was really hoping for carrots."

Now clearly this is a fictional account of what happened in my garden, on so many levels. I have never had rows upon rows of anything, sadly enough, but I did accidentally grow some giant inedible gourds this year. I thought they were yellow squash. And I did stamp my foot in frustration when they took over the pea and bean patch and blocked the sun from producing anything at all. Except, of course, the giant inedible gourds.

Seriously though, we would never plant bean seeds and expect carrots in our gardens, but we do sow seeds all the time without any thought to what we are going to harvest and then stamp our feet when what we were hoping to see doesn't materialize.

I was really hoping that the jeans I hung in my closet back in June would still fit when the weather turned chilly. But that harvest does not come with a steady diet of Pub Mix and ice cream. Not even Pub Mix and fro yo could pull that off. But I stamped my foot a little in frustration.

I was really hoping to log into my blog and see post after witty post filling my cyber audience with glee and wonder, except that every time I get an urge to write I sit down and check Facebook first. Next thing I know hours have passed and I don't feel like writing anymore. I'm guilty of having two windows open right now, even as I type and know better...Too comfy to stamp my foot but I am hanging my head a little.

I can't tell you how many things I wish I'd done differently as a wife and mother. I've stood in confusion and dismay, but when I look down at the seed packet and look at what was harvested, the seeds don't lie.

Unless we are intentional to plant what we want to see in our lives, all the foot stamping and head hanging won't do a bit of good. Look carefully at your life and the activities you engage in. Keep an eye that the quality time/quantity of time is in balance with your kiddoes. They need both. Husbands too, for that matter.

How about you? Done any foot stamping or head hanging lately? Is the harvest what you meant to plant? Or, are you stuck with a garden full of giant inedible gourds? Don't lose hope...there's always another season around the corner.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Need A Billboard?

While God probably won't put up a billboard with your next steps on it, He does give clues. Read my blog at the Encouragement Café website today...

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hearing Voices?

She spun around and, confronting the person who called her, said, " Why did you call me that? That's not my name anymore!"

"Then why did you turn around?"

Good question. If we are not going to identify ourselves by a name, by a label, then we have to learn not to respond when we hear it. The very act of turning, even to confront, says that the word still carries power.

What names turn your head?




Words I can't put on a blog like this without getting flagged?

Why do you turn when you hear them? Don't you know who you are? Do your ears perk up when God calls you precious and holy? The apple of His eye? His chosen one?

Why is the voice of the enemy so much easier to hear? I hear the hiss, even today. "They think you're a joke." "Nobody really likes you." "You have nothing to say."

Here's the thing: the enemy will never stop taunting. He never wants you to move ahead. He doesn't want you to live in the truth, that God alone defines you, because he is the father of lies. Stop giving him rent in your head, because he doesn't belong there and he knows it. He's a squatter, and as long as you turn your head when he calls, he still has the control.

So how do we fight back? We get in the Word. We read our Bibles. We memorize scripture to deflect the barrage of the enemy. (Yeah, I said memorize. You can do it.) At the very least. we begin to recognize who God says we are and when we look in the mirror, we see what He sees.

You are created in His image. You are unique and beautiful, perfect in His sight. (Psalm 139)

You are planned for and purposed. You are not random. (Ephesians 2:10).

You are not bound by your own weaknesses, but made to live in His victory. (John 16:33)

Next time you hear something ugly, consider the source. Tearing you down? That's not God. Stop listening.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Humming Along

I scribbled this note during the briefest of respites over the last while.

Feel like I can't get a breath or a firm foot on where I want to be, like
the waves keep crashing over my head while I'm trying to breathe, to gain a foothold. I want a break, some time, to connect with you Lord, without needing
to rush or be distracted. Is it possible that I'm looking in the wrong place to
find you, trying to set conditions that you don't need to meet with me? Am I

Don't take this to be whining. Ok, maybe a little whining. This is mostly frustration. I want what God wants, but He doesn't arrange it like I think He should, so then I miss what He has been arranging.

Does that make any sense?

We get an idea of what spending time with Him should look like, and then circumstances beyond our control, or at least not entirely within our control, hose up our plans. Does this sound familiar? I get up early, fix my coffee, bring my Bible to my favorite room, just in time to hear kids who should be asleep wrestling and fighting.

Or, I get the perfect thought in my head just begging to be written out, and something comes up. I scribble the thought down, hoping to get back to it, hoping it doesn't fall in to one of the black holes in my brain, but when I do have time, it seems to have lost its intensity. I feel like I have lost control of my life.

Ever feel like that?

Take heart, my friend. This may be the very way the Lord wants to grow you. And me. Just because I have lost control of my life doesn't mean He has. For me to assume I have control is just a farce anyway, right?

Even though I sometimes find this life to be like a game that I don't quite get the rules for, I know I have the playbook in my hand. The bible promises that nothing, "neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."

And since nothing can separate me from Him, I just need to tune my ear to hear Him differently. It's like when you hear the first note of a song, and you think it will be one song, but it turns out to be something entirely different, but you can't get the other one out of your head. You don't fully enjoy the one that is playing because you can't stop "hearing" the other one. A whacked Name That Tune, perhaps.

I'm going to listen for the tune He is singing, even if it doesn't sound the way I thought it would. And if I don't know the words, I'll just hum along.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Creating Little Monsters?

Hey there! Happy Labor Day! Today I have a devotion featured over at the Encouragement Café and I would love it if you'd pop by and check it out. If you're not familiar with the Encouragement Café, it is a site devoted to encouraging women in all seasons through daily devotions and a radio show. I pray that you will find yourselves refreshed over at the Café.

Here's a link to my devo: