Words have power. Written words provide proof. You can read them, and reread them whenever you want. They can speak life to someone who needs encouragement. They can speak death to someone who is being deceived. The choice lies within you. How is it that you want people to remember you? Encourager...that is the gift that God has laid on my heart. To use my written, spoken, and/or sung words to lift people up. To be one link in their road to healing, restoration, joy. I have been without those things, and I claim them to be mine again. If you want me to seek God on a prayer for a specific situation...that is why I am here. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to pray God's Word of Life over you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Failure

FAILURE


Ugh, that word. Failure. The word in and of itself causes the level of stress to raise in most people. It causes their hearts to sink and their heads to droop. Sometimes just at the mention of the word failure, people seem unable to continue to maintain appropriate eye contact.


Failure. 
I know much about you. 
I've been haunted by you in my darkest days. 
I've been reminded of you while laboring/climbing to my greatest successes. 

Failure. 
I'm onto you. 
I will defeat the shame of remembering you. 
How? 
Because of the Great I Am. 

I forget some days in the struggle, that He is within me!
I don't always live like I believe that He gave His life to defeat you, Failure.
But you, Failure. 
You will never be able to forget it!


Many of you have probably noticed that it has been over a year since I last posted. Last September I did a 30 day challenge on my blog, in which I woke up at 5am every day to write. During those thirty days (and for many months afterwards), my family experienced a very personal attack from the enemy who was disguised as fellow Christians. I am not questioning their salvation. (I am not the judge they'd need to be concerned with anyway.) What I am saying is that they allowed themselves to be deceived and used by the enemy.



Since the finish of that post on September 30th, 2013 I have not written.

I still had words. What I didn't have was drive. I still had a purpose. What I didn't have was focus. I heard the unchanging, unshakable voice of God. What I listened to was the taunt of the enemy.

Failure. It has been with me all along. It was failure that I felt when God told me to write for my brother and I did not listen. It was failure that I felt when God told me write for my niece and I did not even try once. And it was failure that screamed the other night when I was with a friend who was in a pit that she had dug by her own choices.

Today, I am celebrating. Today is a new day. At this season in my life I am busier than ever and yet I am choosing to be obedient. God is asking me to be His hands. My passion to write never left. I am picking myself up...failure and all...and I am diving in. I am getting stubborn in my days. I am making time by sleeping less and planning more.

Why? Because the heart of God must be heard! If not me...then who?

I ignored His request even though He never does mine!
I pushed His will out of my chosen area of focus, knowing that He would never have forsaken me.
And I failed Him above all the others that He had placed before me.

The broken.
The confused.
The hurting.
The lonely.
Even though I failed them...what hurts most is to know that God was choosing me to help heal. And I let myself fail by never trying.

Failure has endless faces. Failure is clearly visible on the faces of millions across this world we live in. And failure holds people back from making choices they know to be right. Today that can end. You don't have to be a failure. You don't have to choose the path of your past. It will still call...but you are stronger than that. Say it out LOUD!

"Love. Must. Be. Sincere. HATE what is evil; CLING to what is good." Romans 12:9

Monday, September 30, 2013

Color Wars (Day THIRTY-30 Day Challenge)

Yesterday morning we had something called Celebration Sunday! We were recognizing all of our church family who have been saved and baptized in our constantly growing little community church. As I was looking on, I could see that almost all of the people who had been baptized were wearing the same bright blue shirt. Each of them carried the same message on the front; 'I Took the Plunge'. As I was taking pictures of the group standing in front of the congregation, God gave me a cool illustration. In the fictional story below, all of those in the blue shirts are going to represent the saved. We are also going to pretend that those that did not have the blue shirts on...represent the unsaved. I'm choosing to write it from the perspective do someone who is lost(unsaved).

The alarm goes off and I wake up. Another monotonous day, sigh, more problems to face. I dress myself all in black because I have little happiness these days. I have nothing to look forward to and everything to fear. I wonder, 'Is this really how everyone feels? Am I missing something?'

I arrive to work and begin the process of waiting for the time that I can leave. I hate being here and I want it to show. I set my stuff down at my station and look up. Here comes the new guy. And WHY is he smiling? What could he possibly have to be happy about this early on a Monday morning. The guy is dressed down like the rest of us but his shirt...it's so bright. Everyone else at work is dressed all in dark, drab colors. It is almost as if our clothes represent our mood. Cold and dark. I find myself annoyed as he walks toward me. I can't handle being/seeing 'chipper' and 'fake' this early on a Monday. I look down as he walks by...hoping he will get the hint.

His feet stop right in front of mine. I can now see his hand stretched out in front of me. I, unwillingly, look up with a face void of expression and shake his hand. For just a moment I feel a warmth radiate through my body. This man's face is kind and gentle. His voice is calming and somehow reassuring. I quickly pull my hand away and cold resumes. I have no idea what he said...I was too distracted. I just knew that it.was.weird.

At lunch I kept my eye on him. In fact, for the next few weeks I did nothing but study him while we worked. I was waiting for the day that he came to work, dark, broken and bitter like the rest of us. It had to come, right? Isn't that what is inevitable in this world? Wait, what is that I just saw? One of my co-workers. The man that works right beside the new guy...now he has the same shirt. His face and his countenance seem different. He seems so...happy. What happened?! We all work the same job, what do they have to be happy about? Instead of asking...I just continue watching. From a distance, hopefully unnoticed, but I am sure watching!

A month or so goes by and I still can't get that first handshake out of my mind. As I mindlessly work I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is my boss telling me that I have a phone call. Instant panic its me like a bus. My gut tells me I don't want to hear what I am about to. My body is numb and drenched with fear as I walk toward the hall phone. It is a familiar voice, but one I had chosen not to hear for a while. I only heard the first few words that came from my mother's mouth. 'Your father is very sick. If you want to see him...today is the day.' I remember the last fight I had with him. And I remember the awful things that I said as I stormed out. I couldn't face him again...

I remember little of how I got to where I now found myself next. I do not remember hanging up the phone or walking. But here I was with tear-filled eyes as I reached out to tap the shoulder of the new guy. I didn't know him in the slightest. I had only ever watched him from a distance. But something from within me was drawing me to him. Something told me that he could help. As he looked into my eyes, his eyes immediately filled with tears and his face showed his evident compassion. Right there, surrounded by a crowd of dark, I poured my heart out to this stranger. 

Several times as I was talking I wondered 'Why am I still talking?!'...but, looking looking at the floor, still I continued. As I finished, he began. He was talking, but his eyes were closed. His hand was on my shoulder and I felt that same warmth I had felt before. He wasn't talking to me at all. He was talking to God about me. I remembered praying with my parents when I was little, so I closed my eyes. My heart felt like it hung on his every word. I clung to them as if my life depended on it. He was praying for my last conversation with my dad. He was praying things that I didn't feel...but that I desperately wanted to. Love. Forgiveness. Joy. Restoration. Peace. A new life.

Just before we parted ways he extended an invitation. Church. Ugh...he was inviting me to church. For some reason, that felt out of my rational control, I agreed. I walked away confused, but a little bit lighter. I didn't feel so lost and dark...and I figured anything was worth a try at this point. In the days leading up to the next Sunday I started to look around as I walked. There it was again and again. That same blue, followed by the same kind smile. It was as if people were being changed. It wasn't just about the color. That was what first caught my eye...but it was far more than that. Something within these people was different than what I had.

Here it was. Sunday. Anxiety almost got the best of me. I thought about going back home, but I was already in the parking lot. I hesitated just a few minutes. I decided to go in late so that I could avoid feeling awkward. They were having some sort of celebration that day. I heard name after name of people coming forward. There was that blue. There was that countenance that I kept seeing. They were all gathered together, proclaiming that they would never be the same. They were making a public statement in hopes that people would keep them accountable? After all of the clapping stopped the people returned to their seats. 


I looked out into the sea of people in that congregation and they were dispersed everywhere. Little pops of color. The people wearing blue stood out over all the rest. You couldn't help but notice them. They were bright and cheery. They looked as though they had something to celebrate. They all had something in common...but what? Do I dare ask them why they are so happy? Do I dare strike up a conversation with one of those 'peculiar' type? Why did they scatter among those who were dark? Why not stay huddled as a happy group? What good are the dark going to bring them?! Wouldn't they be safer to just stay away from those who are not like they are? I have to ask. I have to know...



If we could see each other from the heavenly realm, rather than from our earthly view; I wonder if we each radiate a color? I wonder also if the color could change depending on...our mood. Our faith. Our strength. Our mouth. Our thoughts. Our actions. Our circumstance.

If the darkest colors of the rainbow represented our lives without Christ...and red was an indicator that we were clearly on fire for Him...where would you rate yourself? Not just right this second...but when you first wake up. When you rush around to get out of the house on time. When you see someone you are uncomfortable with. When you are on a mission in Wal-mart and a stranger interrupts and asks you for a favor. When your husband leaves his clothes on the bathroom floor. Lol! (Where did that one come from?!) When someone attacks your character. When someone gossips. When someone hurts your child. When someone proves themselves to be two-faced.

I think this survey is worthy of asking yourself...but I would also encourage you to ask a few people that you confide in. Rate each other. Do not be malicious...but do be honest. If the vibe you are sending is cold and demeaning...wouldn't you want to know? Those feelings that people get when they first see you can help or hurt your witness. Who wants to have Jesus so they can STILL be miserable and void of joy? I can assure you...no one!

If you are on fire though...why and how? What did you have to go through to get to be that red hot mama? ;-)  Why is it so important that you commit to staying that way? Because people are watching! Some with a microscope. Some with binoculars. Some want to be sure they go over you with a metal detector, a fine tooth comb and a little 'religious condemnation' if needed. Others will not get that close to what they don't understand. They will only watch from a distance. Far enough to go unnoticed...but close enough to see. Either way though...when they come to a place where they are out of options; they will know to whom they can turn. They will have seen you be tested and come out stronger. They will see that your color of faith did not fade. It did not waver under pressure. It did change shades, but not how the enemy expected it to. It became even more vibrant and beautiful!

And when those who have been watching you come...you will welcome them with a heart of compassion. You will pray and rejoice with them, because that is the heart that strives to be like Jesus. Your color does not go unnoticed. Your passion is seen and heard. And when people come to their appointed time of a new beginning...they will reach out to someone who has been standing solid and firm within their view. They will spill their life into your path in hopes that they will be like those who are forever changed.

My crowd at work is FULL of color now. I could.not.would.not.shut.up about how that day at church changed me. To be among people of influence with The Answer to joy and life everlasting was what first inspired me. I now boldly proclaim why I have joy. I live what I know to the best of my ability because I see those without hope. I see them watching. And I can't wait for the day that I see them walking lighter and looking more like Jesus. I am redeemed. I am free. I am a blue-shirt wearin' fool...because I now understand the cost. The cross gives me hope and every reason to live like I have something to celebrate.

What about you? In these last 30 days...how has God revealed your true color to you? If you aren't where you thought you were...or are not where you want to be...what will you do? Today I would love for you to pray about finding a partner to war with you. Find a confidant to help you discern. Find a fellow Christian who will commit to pray for you to have contagious joy. Bold faith. Extravagant generosity. Complete humility. And passionate convictions.

And I, my friends, I pray for new ministry opportunities for you all. I want this world, your household, your workplace, your communities to be set ablaze. I want the many traits of Christ to be evident and free flowing! I'm praying for you because my ministry has me right smack in the middle of it all. I see lost. I see broken. I see deceived. But I believe for faith, restoration and healing to come soon. I proclaim it!

I LOVE YOU ALL! Thank you for your support during this challenge. I definitely picked the right word. Thirty day CHALLENGE! Wowza! Oh, there were trials. There were bumps. There were bruises. The enemy tried hard to quiet my voice...but I will not be silenced. Will you?!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Aborted Vision (Day TWENTY NINE-30 Day Challenge)

I want you to think right now of a vision that God gave you at some point in your life. I'm talking the type of vision that was maybe a bit intimidating to you. Or maybe it even scared you a little to think of what God would require of you. Or maybe it just seemed too far fetched to ever really happen. When you had one of those types of visions...what did you do with it? Did you pray and wait on God...or did you immediately abort it?

Do we tend to accept or abort these visions? Do we pray or play God on our own? 
A man that I know had this option when someone else cast a vision into his path. The pastor of the church he attended at the time, asked him to pray about doing a church plant. There was a little community church that needed some life and passion brought back into it. His immediate response was to abort the vision. He hadn't been saved for as many years as some and I'm sure there was a sense of inadequacy. I'm sure fear was involved. I'm sure the enemy had his whisper behind every doubtful thought that entered his head. But he agreed to pray about it.

That man is my Pastor. I'm so thankful that he did not abort God's vision for him. This community needs a man just like he is. Passionate about the lost. Stubborn for convictions he believes in. Feisty when he needs to be. Humble enough to say he doesn't know...and then to figure it out. Willing to believe for big things...even in small communities. Willing to cast God's vision for others to see and get excited about. 

Who would have missed out if he had aborted this vision without genuinely praying?



-The 86 people that got baptized on August 18th of this year. (Two of which were my own children, one grandma-in-law, and two of my husband's cousin's children!) =)
-The many many salvations that he has been a part of personally...but also the ones that happened through other ministries within the church that he committed to bringing back to life.
-The man who was delivered from being demon possessed.
-The people who have been healed from sickness, disease, infection, virus, bacteria, illness, pain, depression, etc.
-The lukewarm who decided not to stay that way and became fired up because of his evident flame of faith.
-The people who come every week. The broken and bruised. The tired and weak. Those lost and without hope. Who leave encouraged. Inspired. Joyful. Secure. Filled with new hope. 

-My own family would have missed out on new ministry opportunities, new friendships, new salvation, a new body of believers to war with and for, and blessings ga-lore! =)
-Last, he would have missed out on the greatest, most difficult and most fulfilling ride of his lifetime. 

I am so thankful that he prayed. I am so thankful that he was willing to be stretched and strengthened in his faith. Because every area that he is weak, God is strong! Where he lacks...God was already preparing him warriors/friends to fill in and help him uphold and feed the flock. I am so thankful to be a part of a team that pursues God's vision no matter what! The enemy can whisper. The enemy can scream and slander even. But God! God's vision is still clear in my pastor's mind...and he will relentlessly cling to and pursue it. And we have committed to do whatever God asks to make vision...reality. We easily follow a man with such audacious faith. We follow because we pray for his steps, and we trust the Heart that guides his.

Back in August, the leadership team of our church was blessed to be able to go to 'The Global Leadership Summit'. It was an amazing two days of intense leadership-oriented knowledge and challenges. The application...ugh...not as easy as the note taking. Bill Hybels was the first speaker and boy he just dove right in. His message was by far one of my favorites! I found it interesting that without knowing before hand; my favorite speakers from that summit where all pastors. I learned the most about the type of leader I aspire to be from them! 

Pastor Hybels was talking about this idea of aborting vision. He charged us to NOT be the type of leaders that Fed-Ex our God-given visions back to heaven with a cowardly note that says...return to sender. Or no thanks. Or send someone else. Instead he challenged us to be willing to pray Joshua 1:9. He said to pray it AS MANY TIMES AS IT TAKES! 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Can you boldly proclaim that verse, as often and as many times as it takes, to move forward toward the vision God has given you? My challenge to you this week is to pray, fervently and passionately, about a vision that God has given you at some point in your lifetime. Pray if it is still His will for you to complete? AND tell someone that you trust to pray with you. 

The following questions from Pastor Hybels, were a couple of the hardest for me to answer. I want you to answer them right now. Please don't just think about them. Don't just move past and forget. Give God a few minutes and answer so that you won't be content with just knowing. I want you to admit where you are and be passionate about NOT STAYING THERE!

Read these questions with a heart soft and willing to admit. Answer them with a heart plyable. Mold able. Changeable. 
 "Just because no one knows, or ever knew, about a vision you aborted...is it okay? What if your vision/your new ministry...is someone's ONLY hope? And when you stand before God and give an account for these things He asked you to do...what will be your excuse? What could you say to Him?!"

Be courageous my friend. Stand up and fight for  these dreams God has given you. They are not silly. They are not too far fetched. God says..."I have immeasurably more for you! You can not measure what I have because your scale is not mine. Trust MY vision above what you imagine. I am God. You are man."

Today...begin to dare to dream big. Tell people your vision. And do not be a squelcher of other believers visions! Just believe God is God and He knows better than you. Let Him to His job...He is MUCH better at it!! =)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's My Promise, is it Yours?! (Day TWENTY EIGHT-30 Day Challenge)

Do you ever have a day when you wake up and just aren't feelin' it? You feel unsure about most areas of life. You doubt if you are in the right job. If you are doing enough. If you are sleeping enough. If you are giving enough of yourself..or maybe too much. Maybe you should quit everything and start over! Yeah that's it! Clearly the most 'rational' 'thing' 'to' 'do' would be to run away from ALL that you've poured yourself into. (Vanesa presses huge, oversized sarcasm button a few (hundred) times!!!!!!)

What could you do on days like those? (Besides give up and give in?) What do you need on days like those? Maybe all it would take is just a voice of encouragement! Maybe just a kind word to help you see how loved and appreciated you are. "The lips of the righteous nourish many..." Proverbs 10:21

Or maybe...that verse is for you to live out FOR others? Are you tired of giving of yourself to bless others? Do you feel as though you don't have an ounce to give some days? It's okay to admit. Our feelings are something we feel entitled to...but that doesn't always make them right. On the days that you are focusing on how exhausted you are. On the days that you start out by saying you have nothing left to give...who are you passing by? Who was in your path that day that was also on the verge of giving up? Did you even notice them? If not you...then who?!

"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25 There you go...that verse should cause you to sigh with relief? Are you in children's ministry? Are you part of a worship team? Are you part of a small group? Are you a parent? Are you a prayer warrior? Keep refreshing those around you with acts of kindness and words of encouragement because God will send someone to refresh you! =) It is written in black and white in The Book inspired by God. 

The Bible has PLENTY of promises that we don't see active in our lives. Does that make them untrue? NOPE!! It could mean, though, that we aren't standing on God's promises. It could mean that we aren't believing that they are for us, in this day. It could mean that we aren't living as though they are true. It could mean that we aren't expecting God to fulfill them. Or it could mean that we don't even KNOW them. That we aren't searching His Word for promises that we can proclaim. Start...today! Find a promise in God's Word and underline it. Date it. Write it on a postcard. Speak it boldly. Look at it often! Then let someone know. It doesn't have to be me...but it can be! Ask someone to keep you accountable to believing what God has for you.

"God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; He has blessed and I cannot change it." Numbers 23:19-20

How refreshing it is to know that God fulfills His promises! Sometimes I willingly but unknowingly put God on my ridiculous little scale of knowledge. I compare Him to what I see. What I have seen. Or what I know to be true because of my three decades of 'experience' here on earth. If I have never seen a person healed...I guess it isn't for us. If I have never seen a man delivered of demons...I guess he will just have to suffer. If I have never seen a once barren woman holding her child...I suppose her dreams will die with her empty, aching heart.

THAT IS WHY GOD REPEATS HIMSELF! (For the thick skulled!) That is why God gives us soooo many promises to stand on! That is why He says meet with one another. Commune with like-minded. Love as He loves. Praise Him no matter what you see. Because His promises ARE for us to cling to! They are for us to proclaim and not waver from. God knew how we would be. He knew we would doubt. So He FILLED the Bible with repeated promises. I double-dog-dare you to find one that speaks straight to your core...and to live like it is yours. ;-)

Here are a couple of promises that will not only help inspire your days...but also will overflow onto those around you. Don't you want to be the bright point in a person's day? Wouldn't it be fulfilling to meet someone who's heart is heavy and leave them uplifted because you have the key to all joy and life?! Let's stop accepting drama in our days...but instead live like we have a reason to. 

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25

"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:4

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

Your choice, be a weight or a weight-lifter. Be a crusher of spirits or a healing nurturer. Do you want to look like Jesus? And I don't mean with the amount of hair you can grow. (Ahem...that may or may not be, but definitely is, a slight slam on my husband's current hairy nature.) If you really want to look like Jesus you will speak as He spoke. With passion. With life. With hope. With promise. With conviction. With truth. With love. With power. With tact. With compassion. With purpose. With promise.

Talk as He talked. Believe as He believed. Live as He lives. He is not dead. Be alive as He is alive!




Friday, September 27, 2013

Get Your Praise On (Day TWENTY SEVEN-30 Day Challenge)

Every time my kids and I drive anywhere together...music is almost always on. As of recently...we are usually rocking bands such as LaCrae, Toby Mack and Capital Kings. They are all super upbeat and fun. To some who hear us drive by, it might seem a little odd to hear Christian dance, hip hop or rap coming from my sweet minivan; but  I can assure you that my kids don't care at all. Lol! The smiles on their faces...and the lyrics they are singing makes it worth a few eye rolls. ;-)



Even though lately we've been listening to a lot of music that makes us all want to dance...I love that my kids can still appreciate true worship. I know that I've mentioned one of my favorite songs before...but I am going to again. It became clear to me in the last few weeks that maybe my kids aren't 'the norm'.  Haha!! I mean they really aren't normal, but I'm thinking maybe they are more 'peculiar' than I realize. 

I'm going to go King James on you for a moment. Stay with me. ;-) "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9 ( Just so we are clear...because I wasn't...'shew forth' means show out into view.)

What does it mean to be peculiar? By definition it can have several meanings. Some of them include; special, unique, eccentric, uncommon, unusual or odd. What does it mean for us, as Christians, to be peculiar? The definitions that I believe the author is referring to in the passage above are; 'distinct from all others', 'distinctive in nature or character from others'. 

WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE THE WORLD!! (All caps means I am screaming it right?! Lol! There is a difference between screaming in anger and screaming with passion. I am passionate about that one...not bitter! I just want to be sure you got my point.) We aren't supposed to talk like them!  We aren't supposed to live like them! We are supposed to be peculiar! We are supposed to show, so the world can see, ourselves praising Him who has given us freedom from eternal death and suffering! You  have something to celebrate. It is not just your day...but your forever! We are not above the lost, as in high and mighty, but we are different. Or at least we should be!

My oldest son has gotten the chance to play DJ with my MP3 player a few times over the last couple of weeks, while we had some friends of his in the car with us. He deemed himself in charge of finding music suitable for everyone. He played a few silly dance-type songs, a little rap and then.... (Here is where it got peculiar, in a good way.) Aiden turned to his friend and said in an excited voice...'Do you want to hear an awesome song? It is so so good! It is one of my favorites!' Of course they did...his song selection had been slammin'! His DJ skills were clearly right on track.

If you haven't ever heard the song that he played next...take the time now to watch the video. It is so so good, in my opinion as well. So good! The song is called, 'The Great I Am'. It starts off quiet and slow...and it builds. I remember well the first time my children and I ever heard it. We were driving home at night and I turned it way up. (Probably to try to hear over their loudness!) Everyone.got.silent. (In a van with four young children, I gotta tell you, THAT NEVER HAPPENS! <-- Passionate about that one too? Haha!) Seriously, my kids and I couldn't help it though. The words of this song brought a hush over us all. We worshiped God that night, in my minivan, in complete silence. We didn't have to say or sing a word. We were there in His Presence...and I will never forget it. We couldn't help but to just listen in awe of the lyrics. As I listened for the first time, I had tears falling down onto my cheeks. The song ended and my oldest son, who was probably around the age of 6 or 7 at the time, says to me, 'Wow, THAT is a powerful song Mom. I cried a little when I was listening to it.' Peculiar! (But also totally amazing that he can discern the power of God put to music!)

Or how about the week that my middle son, Titus was in the nursery at our old church. To help time pass the nursery workers were asking for song requests that the group could sing together. One child asked to sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Another wanted Mary Had a Little Lamb. Titus though, at the age of 3, he asked for The Great I Am. Peculiar!(And also amazing to me! They are listening...no matter their age...they hear you!) And when the woman who was working in the nursery that day told me that story, she ended by saying, 'You can tell which child is the worship leader's son!' Haha! I absolutely LOVE IT!

Why are my kids peculiar? I'd say it is a double whammy. Yep...that's what I said. A.double.whammy. Lol! You see, my husband is not only the Worship Pastor of our church; I am also one of the lead worshipers. That is not at all a prideful statement. Please please please know that. I am simply saying that I am not up there performing. I am not just trying to be a singer leading songs. I am a worshiper who leads BY worshiping. I am not above. I am not exalted. I am someone who has gone through times where I didn't want to sing...and now I must worship whenever I can. I owe Him that at the very least! I know what God has given me victory over. I worship because I can not forget how faithful He has been to me! I will never forget!

"Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty Heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."  Psalm 150

Do you have breath? Then you know what to do! You must set the example. The world is watching...begging someone to live what they know. Your kids are learning from you. It matters not so much what you say...but what they see you do. In your home do they see you worship? In your car do they hear you pray and praise? Is worship kept sacred for Sunday mornings? Because we can't handle that type of pressure. Your church can.not.be your only source of worship! When you have gone allllll week without singing praises to your King, who is responsible? When you come empty and leave disappointed, who is to blame? It surely is NOT your church. Do you know that 'worship is a lifestyle...not an event'? Is that what your life proves to be true?

God gave us a pretty HUGE miracle this week in our family. **Disclaimer...The following should not in any way give any one the impression that my husband is anything other than invincible as he believes he is. Haha! (Kind of like when Mario gets a star on any of the Mario video games) It proves only that God's protection is over him...and NOT that he is a weakling. End of disclaimer** ;-)

Wednesday my husband came home from work and I went out to give him a hug. Immediately I could tell by his face that something was wrong. Keep in mind that he has a extremely dangerous job. There isn't a day that goes by that my kids and I don't pray for the safety of he and his dad in the woods. Our team of horses was pulling a log as Eric had instructed them to do. He was beside the cart watching as the log they were pulling t-boned a tree that was laying in their path. Eric, thinking it was just a log that would move out of the way, gave another command for them to continue on through the obstacle. They began pulling the entire tree with them which knocked Eric over. He was then dragged along, with the tree eventually ending up on top of him.

What stopped it? Finally the tree that was dragging him ran into a tree that was still standing. He had a close view of this tree. The sound that it made when it stopped all motion was not only heard but felt. Less than a foot away from getting his head crushed...Eric lay unable to move. He was unsure if anything was broken. He had no function in either of his legs. BUT GOD!

In August of 2011 God gave me this scripture for Eric. "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects His bones, not one of them will be broken." Psalm 34:19-20 I showed the verse to Eric and he still holds on to that promise.

Eric is sore...but he is blessed! That first night was a rough one for him pain-wise...but he can feel. The feeling in his legs was quickly restored. The nausea from the intense pain left as he slept that Wednesday night. I praise God that He gave me the promise of protection over my husband. I praise God that He reminded him of it when he hobbled into our house that afternoon. And I praise God that He was faithful to that promise. No bones broken. Not even a bruise or scratch.

I laughed as I responded to this question posed by one of the men from our worship team, "When a worship leader falls in the forest and nobody else is around to hear, just what kind of sound does he make?" My answer..."The worship leader still praises God because his head was not smashed between the trees less than a foot from it! =) God is good!"

NO matter your circumstance...you have reason to praise. Set the example for the world around you...and set the bar high! Imitate Christ always...and watch how it changes your view of God's faithfulness. Watch how it strengthens your faith. Let it mold you to be a more noticeable and effective warrior. Heaven will be an eternity all about praising and worshiping our Creator...I suggest you learn to love it now! ;-)

"May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me Your decrees. May my tongue sing of your Word, for all Your commands are righteous." Psalm 119:171-172 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sunday Expectations (Day TWENTY SIX-30 Day Challenge)

What a week you have had! A week full of disappointment and heartache that left you in a state of absolute exhaustion. You were so overwhelmed by circumstances in life that you barely even noticed that you hadn't taken much time to be still and meet with God. And you definitely didn't take the time to worship Him. You sent up no praises to reach to the Heart of Heaven...only requests and questions. 'God please help me. Take this burden from me. Why? Explain Yourself God. Why would you allow that? How could you?!'

After a week like that you walk into church empty. You have nothing to give. If you showed with your body language how your heart felt, you would have your head down and your hand out. You aren't looking to give of yourself. You are only looking for your own expectations to be met. The prayers that day seem boring. You can't get into worship because you can think of nothing to be happy about. And the message...that has to speak to you right? *sigh* What a waste of time. You leave more disappointed. You expected more!

What do you expect when you walk in to church on a Sunday morning? Do you expect to get something amazing? Do you expect your pastors to move you? Do you expect the worship team to bring you into the presence of God?

Maybe the more important question is what do you do when your silent expectations are not met? How many people hear about when you walk in and then back out of church on a Sunday morning without being inspired or moved? What is your first reaction? Is it to attack...or is it to uphold your leadership in prayer? Is it to look for reason to complain...or is it to look for a way to help? Is your church more effective because you are an active part of it...or you a wall flower that likes to put off a foul odor when your needs are not met?

" 'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Look again at the series of questions, just after the italicized section, at the top of this post. Do you see the common denominator? I'm sure you picked up on it already because of your advanced nature, but who is the obvious focus on your Sunday mornings? It appears to me that it is you. Don't you worry though. You are sooo not alone. I'm guilty of this mentality at times too. I've gone to a special speaker or Sunday morning service and left disappointed. And it was not because the preaching was bad...or because the worship was boring. It was my own personal heart issue. I chose to make the focus about me. And I can now CHOOSE to remedy that problem by making it only about God!

What about the days that I walk into church with expectations from God and only God? Well...at least He can handle me. Lol! He is the only One who can speak to me so intimately, that is leaves me speechless. Can you imagine...an author of many words...with out
a.
single.
word? Haha! 

When you walk in, expecting man to fulfill a God sized hole; man will fall short. Every.Time. Man can not compete. Mankind was not created to be your or my source of God or only link to God. They/we can not handle that responsibility. That weight is too heavy for any man or woman to carry.

What would happen instead if you walked in expecting to give to God? What would happen if you spent the service praying for your pastoral team? Like for real praying for God to use them in a mighty way, to touch someone else? What if you listen to the pastor's words and search for what God is saying to you?

There are a lot of Sundays I write down key points from the sermon. Some of them came from the mouth of my pastor. And some of them were specific things God spoke to my heart while the pastor was preaching. Then during the week, during my own personal devotional time, I expand on my notes. A lot of times I write 1,000 words or more on just one verse or one line that the pastor said. I'm always searching for what God is speaking to ME. If I waited only on the pastor or speaker or worship leader...I could leave disappointed. God. does. not. disappoint...(as long as my heart is right!)

As the wife of the Worship Pastor of my church...let me just tell you...ministry is the most fulfilling job we could do, right next to raising our own four children. But we will still fail you. We are far from perfect and we realize it. We have circumstances that most people will never know about. We often have opportunity for offenses. We have felt deep hurt and pain from people we trusted. And yet...we praise. We praise God for His blessings. We praise God for His faithfulness. We praise God for His protection. When we didn't see His blessings, His faithfulness or His protection...it is only because we weren't looking for it in the right places. It is always there!

Here is my challenge to you. If you are dissatisfied with your church...find out why. I'm not saying put your pastoral staff under a microscope. That is not constructive nor healthy. Instead, look inward. What can you do to change your heart toward who you are expecting to be filled by? How can you actively shift your focus from man to God?

"...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

Maybe you should sit down and talk to your the Lead Pastor. Find out his heart in ministry. Don't assume you know it. And don't make it about your needs and your wants. Make it about his passion in ministry. And then...here is the cool part...pray for that passion! Watch how much more his messages speak to you when you know where his heart is. Watch how easily you enter into worship when you have taken the time to get to know why your leader is so passionate about it. It is not about you. It never was. Change your focus.

When I focus on my pastor's passion for the lost..I couldn't dare leave disappointed. He is speaking to the hearts of the lost. He is challenging the saved. He is touching the broken. He is preaching the heart of Christ in ways that young and old, saved and lost, mature and not so much...can connect to. It is not easy...but it is his called position. Rather than beat him up for what you don't understand...help him become more effective. Help to be the hands and feet of Christ. You are missing out on some amazing blessing by choosing to be a stanky wall flower. ;-) 

Pray this over your Pastor(s) this week.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:2

Devote yourself to pray for those bold enough to speak the Gospel! And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be full of Grace!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Age Smage (Day TWENTY FIVE-30 Day Challenge)

Eric, my husband, got an opportunity to preach in our church this past Sunday. (He did amazing! Although when I tell him he kinda rolls his eyes and says that I 'have' to say that because I am his wife. Lol! For real though, I was so proud of him!!) Having been married to him since 2001...and dating him for quite a few years before that...I've heard all of his stories. Or so I thought. =) One of the stories he told that morning absolutely floored me! 

He recounted a story of when he was a little boy. Somewhere between the ages of 6-8, he had gone to a playground with his father. His dad was talking...and he was off playing with another little boy. The boy had a lot of questions about God. Eric was answering the ones he knew and the ones he didn't, he would run over to his dad, ask the question and run back with the answer. At the end of that conversation Eric prayed and this little boy accepted Jesus. Don't get me wrong, that IS highly impressive at his young age...but what floored me was what Eric said next. "I led this little boy to Christ, and yet I, myself, didn't accept Christ as my Savior until I was TEN!"

God does not make mistakes. He does not work by chance. He knew that Eric was willing. He knew that Eric was bold and unafraid. He equipped Eric (with the help of  his dad) even before Jesus was invited to live in his own heart. 

It is all about being equipped. To be equipped is to have the tools or qualities necessary for performance. When we think of evangelizing, is it scary? When we think of praying with someone to accept Christ, is it terrifying? If you are saying yes you are not alone. I was there at a time in my life. I actually went to a summer seminar to learn to evangelize. And when I got the opportunity to tell my testimony I cried. Not in fear. Not because of nerves. But because this man who literally had NOTHING...was so hungry for our hope. My tears for him were what made him accept Christ that day. God will equip you...I guarantee it takes a lot less than you think. =) You did not have to do the hard part. Our part pales in comparison to what Jesus had to do for that salvation. It's the least we can do!

So, yesterday, morning my oldest son was awake and standing next to my bed, super excited about the trip he was leaving on. How do I know how excited he was? First, it.was.5:13.a.m. Second, he woke up and immediately started doing homework. Haha! He saw the light on in my bedroom, knew that I was already awake and he remembered that he had a couple pages of school work to finish for the days that he was going to miss. Luckily, they weren't math! Whew...they were Bible pages. I can do Bible before six in the morning...math, ugh...not so much. Lol! 

I was going between writing my blog post, helping him understand what he's supposed to be doing and helping define words like 'equipped'. At one point on his paper there was a scale that ranged from 0-10. Above the scale was written, 'Color in the scale from left to right, stopping at the place that shows how equipped you feel to tell people about Jesus.' I was silent. I so badly wanted to peek, but I left him alone after defining the word equipped. I was minding my own business but I was SOOOO CURIOUS to see what he would pick.

Can you see how far he colored?!?! That is a SEVEN!!!!! I'd say he feels pretty confident in his ability to tell people about Jesus. May I remind you that my son is only eight years old!!! I was so impressed. It brought a huge smile to my face as I raised my hand to high five him. I only pray that his confidence only grows as he matures. I pray that he's just like his daddy in this area. Without fear!

I actually would say that Aiden is already on his way to being just like his dad in many ways. For example, when my husband was in school he was a great swimmer. His event was the 200-yard IM (Individual Medley). It was two lengths of the pool for each stroke; butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Last year was Aiden's first year swimming and one of the swim meets was full of odd events that they didn't normally swim. Aiden, on that day, got to swim the 100-yard IM. It was so cool for me and my husband to get to see. I remember being there...as my husband's then girlfriend...and cheering him on in his own event during our high school days. To do the same for my son was almost surreal. (Incidentally, Aiden won his first competitive IM that day. All of his opponents were disqualified for one reason or another. Haha!)

Another similarity they have, is that Aiden also led someone to Christ at a young age just like his dad. I remember the day. My kids were playing in the dining room. Aiden and Ariel, both a few years younger than they are now, we having a conversation.

"Do you have Jesus in your heart?"-Aiden
"No, what does that mean?"-Ariel

I just stood in the kitchen. Silent. I wanted to see where this conversation would lead. I wanted him to have his own voice of faith. He can't live on mine. He can't live on his dad's. And he understood, that Ariel needed Jesus in her heart too. He explained with child-like faith. And then he asked 'The Question'.

"Do you want to accept Jesus into your heart?"-Aiden
"Yes! I don't want to go to hell!"-Ariel

And so they prayed. My son, led his sister to Christ because he KNEW he could. He has the same power that I do. He has access to the same power that Jesus had. Aiden has a powerful ministry ahead of him. He is a worshiper. He loves easily...and without condition. And he is not afraid. He has seen miracles. He has been a part of the prayers that helped those miracles become reality. I encourage you to live your faith out loud in front of your children...but be sure they have their own. Let them first pray for healing...so that their faith can become stronger. And be willing to learn from them. God has put children in your life for a reason...do not see yourself above. They are simple...and sometimes it cuts through a lot of crap that distorts something you've made complicated.

What about you? Do you ever discount yourself from 'having to witness' because of your age? You think you are too young. Or too old. Or maybe it is your social make-up. You say you are too shy or too abrasive. If, today, you met someone who didn't know Jesus as their Savior...what would you do? Would you feel unworthy to talk and pray with them to receive salvation? Or would you dive right in, knowing that while you might not have the answer to EVERY single question they come up with, the answer to eternal death and suffering is easy. Accept Jesus. Follow His ways. Learn His heart. Worship Him. Flee from sin. Share Him as often as you can!

On a scale of 0-10 where would you rate yourself on how confident you are to share your faith? How can you make an effort to bump that number up? You are equipped. You have Jesus. You have the Holy Spirit. You have the heart of God written in the Words of the Bible. You have family that will pray for your faith to become stronger. I don't care if it is your actual family...or your spiritual family. Ask them to commit to lift you up in prayer in this area specifically! IT is vital. It is valuable.

If ever there was a time when I feel like people should have hung onto Jesus' every word...it was right after He was resurrected. I mean seriously...not one of them should have doubted His true identity and power...but they did. What did Jesus tell them though?

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' " Matthew 28:18-20

The above passage usually titled, 'The Great Commission', is for you. It isn't just for pastors. It isn't just for those with seasoned faith. It isn't just for the young, nor for the old. It isn't just for the disciples of Jesus. It is for every single soul that has accepted Jesus into their heart. That includes you my friend. If you are leaving the job for everyone else....anyone else but yourself...you are missing it. Jesus Himself, was the one speaking those words to us. If He were in front of you now...would it have a greater impact? Would you fight Him on it?

If you have breath...you need to speaking for Jesus. If you have a  heart beat...you need to be loving the lost (and the saved!) If you have sight...you need to be looking for opportunities to be used. If you can hear...listen for the voice of God. He is speaking. He is telling you where your ministry is. He is whispering thoughts of hope that someone needs to cling to. He is reminding you of Scripture so that you can share truth over lies. You are not dead...stop acting like you are. You have hope...share it at all costs. Wouldn't you want it for yourself? What if the person that helped  you to come to know Jesus had been too afraid? Or too old? Or too young? Or too shy? Or too busy? Or too.....

Eternity is a long time! Be a part of changing someone's eternity today! I guarantee you will be blessed...and they will be forever changed! That is a win, win! =)