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.

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
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! =)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Traveler (Day TWENTY FOUR-30 Day Challenge)

Your bags are packed and your shoes are on. You step out in faith because you've accepted the call. You've agreed to go to wherever God leads. For now all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. You are one part nervous and the rest anxious. You have no idea what to expect. You have no idea what you will face. You aren't even sure you can handle it...but you start walking. 

At first, your travels are smooth. You are enjoying the view and the people passing by seem friendly. You are feeling strong and gaining confidence that you are heading the right way. No sooner do you think that, and you notice the weather starting to get a little cooler. You aren't quite as comfortable and people don't seem to be looking around anymore. They seem consumed by their own travels. You reach out to them to offer them a drink and they gladly accept. You offer them words of encouragement and they perk up. They smile with sincerity and walk on with their heads looking forward to what is to come. 

You keep walking, still strong, still confident. The wind picks up. The dust from the road is making it increasingly more difficult to see. You can tell that this is a storm you are walking into and you want desperately to turn around. But you weren't happy there. Why in the world would you go back to stagnant? Why would you return to what wasn't effective? To what wasn't moving you or those around you? But, wait, how do you know if this storm is a sign?

The wind increases even more. Now your eyes are barely open. You can't see anyone on the road anymore because the dust is so thick. A sudden shot of regret fills your head...but your heart and your feet are still moving forward. You begin to wonder...how will I ever know if I am heading where God is leading?

A kind voice is heard beside you. It is a fellow traveler. They stand still beside the path and seem unaffected by the dusty wind. You recognize what you can see of their face. You saw them earlier on your path. You encouraged them. You gave them a drink of living water so that they might not thirst again. They are standing in the storm and they say, 'I am proof. You are going the right way. My path was headed toward darkness until you met me on my journey. This storm will pass. But now, remember me when you doubt.'  

You press on. Determined and courageous. All fear and doubt must leave because it has no place to reside in you. This same thing happens over and over again. Travelers that you met before now stand to cheer you on. 'Keep up the fight!' 'You are doing great!' 'I am praying for you!' One by one they come alongside you. Each one making it easier to whether the storm. 

Ministry is hard. I absolutely LOVE it...but boy is it hard some days. Those are the days that I wonder...did I choose the right path? Did I choose the right church? Did God tell us to stay...or was that our own desire? Am I in the right job...or should I give up and start over? Did I choose the right school for my children? Does God really WANT me to live in the snow belt of Pennsylvania? Really...does he? ;-)

Easy is not a foolproof implication that the choice you made is right. The enemy would LOVE for you to believe that. But truth is...if we are going along our daily lives and we aren't being challenged by the enemy...maybe we aren't being effective for the Kingdom either. If you are already headed away from the will of God...the enemy doesn't 'need' to lead you astray. He need only encourage you to stay!

If though...you are boldly living for Christ. If you are defeating the enemy at his game. If you are inviting others to come to church and praying with them to accept Christ...the war is so on. The enemy will hound. he will discourage. he will throw hurtful words at you...usually from people you love. he will distract you from moving forward. And he will get you to doubt if you are going the right way.

So how do you know? Are you making a difference? Who are the people on your path that were headed for eternity in hell...that are now following Jesus because you met them in their darkest hour? Salvation. People that are accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior...those are how you know you are on the same path that Jesus walked. Lives are being transformed...and you get to be a part of it. You give them the only thing that satisfies.

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

If you are struggling today with knowing if you are making a difference...write down the names of people you have encouraged this week/month/year. If you have someone that you led to Christ...write their name in BOLD. If you prayed with someone...write their name down. These are the people you think of when you doubt. When you doubt your call. When you doubt your ministry. When you doubt your position. When you doubt God. Picture the faces attached to the names you wrote down. They are your own personal proof. You are going the right way. Keep walking! The storm will pass...and your faith will be stronger! That is how Romans 8:28 works!

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." 1 Corinthians 3:2-3  In my words, let the effectiveness of your life IN ministry be proven by the lives you have touched. When you help heal hearts broken or lost, by just being available and speaking what God says...you will need no other proof. There is nothing greater than for the spiritually lost to become saved, and the broken to be restored in Jesus Name!

If you are staring at a blank sheet of paper..do not feel condemned. Instead...set your sight on Jesus. Maybe the reason you aren't being effective is because you are walking away from your call instead of towards. Maybe you are being distracted from seeing the people that are struggling along your way. Let today be the day you choose to be inspired by greatness. Not by 'Vanesa the Great'...but by the example set by Jesus. Imitate Him always!

Wake up early and meet with God, just as Jesus did. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." Mark 1:35

Let the person in front of you be the most important thing at that moment, just as Jesus did. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:21

Pray for healing, just as Jesus did. "The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases." Mark 1:33-34

Pray for salvation among many, just as Jesus did. "Some men brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' " Matthew 9:2

Do not sell yourself short...because the same Jesus that walked this earth...lives within you! Keep walking with Him. Follow His voice...you are finishing the ministry that HE began! =)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Playing to Win (Day TWENTY THREE-30 Day Challenge)

There is one seat left. Slowly you walk towards the table. You are in the mood to play a game and you are hoping to get a clue as to what game is being played and how high the stakes are. The players are silent but eerily intense. They each have a name hanging from a lanyard around their necks, but it is too dark to make them out. You slowly approach hoping to get a better view. Just as you squint your eyes to try to focus...

...the empty chair is pushed your way. Something within you feels uneasy...and yet you are not scared. You sit and glance around the table. The faces of your opponents are covered from the nose down. You still can't make out any of their names as the leader begins to deal the hand. All eyes are on you. Some of them are cold and harsh...some intimidatingly inviting. You begin to realize that maybe this wasn't the friendly game you thought it was. 

You pick up your hand. These cards are far from a normal deck. All of your cards are the same except for one. Your first instinct is to run, but you don't. You desperately want to ask what they are playing, but you don't. You feel almost paralyzed. They seem to be enjoying your apparent discomfort. The first card is played by the man sitting at the head of the table? It contains only one word. 'Gossip.'

The other players laugh. They begin, one by one, laying down a card from their own hand. They are forming a circle around 'gossip'. One card says 'friend'. One said says 'sister'. Another says 'Co-worker'. There was just one more player before it was your turn. He looked straight into your eyes as he pulled his mask down. He smiled and winked as he laid down his card.

There it was in black letters on a white card. The word...'church'. It sent a chill down your spine and a lump to your throat. Your eyes shifted to the now exposed lanyard around the last man's neck. Destroyer. It wasn't a name at all...it was his job title.

Your pulse begins to pick up as you look down at your cards. The man at the head of the table tells you that your card is to be placed directly on top of his. You've got to cover the word gossip with......   Six of your cards have the same word, 'victim'. Only one is different.  You aren't sure when to play it. How will you know what is to come? Should you save it for something that might be worse than gossip?

You close your eyes for a moment and you see your sister. Your friend. Your co-worker. You can actually see specific times when you gossiped about them. And you can now see how they looked when they found out. You feel empty and sick. You know the time is near. The opportunity to gossip about someone in church. Your heart rate picks up even more. The uneasiness is turning to fear.

Shame gets up from his chair and kneels next to you. He is the cause of this guilt trip you are on right now...and he wants to see your anguish up close. Anger is there and he is up next. A tear falls down your check and you whisper a word. A name. Jesus.

You take your only card of hope and place it over 'gossip'. It reads...'victor'. The room gets loud. Shouts are coming from all directions. Joyous praises are heard from angels all around the room. You hadn't seen them before but now you see them as they praise Jesus with excitement because you just CHOSE to defeat gossip. From the table comes many angry sneers that you would dare use that Name in their presence. They know the significance of that victory. It will be just one of many!

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Peace surrounds you. You open your eyes now with confidence. You look at your hand and now all but one of the cards, say victor. You gained strength in your faith in Jesus with that decision. And your hand is now stacked in your favor. Sure you still have free will. You will always still have the choice to fall into temptation...but NOW it is outnumbered by victory!!

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37

It is your choice. It always was. Victory was yours the moment you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. You were not meant to live a defeated life. You were not designed to be overcome by evil at every opportunity. God has victory for you...always. It may be a little messy to get to it...but it will be worth it.

The enemy knows that each time you accept defeat that you are more likely to do it again. he ALSO knows that when you choose victory, even if it goes against every natural desire you have; that you are more likely to choose it again! "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." John 3:6

The attacks of the enemy will continue. But the strength of his opponent...only grows. The more you allow Christ to break you free from the love of sin...the stronger you become in Him. You will always remember where you were...but you will no longer live in the death and destruction of it.

I know I write this a lot...but I truly mean it. It's not too late. If you have been caught up in sin...it's not too late for faith to gain strength in the Name of Jesus! It's not too late to choose victory, over victim. YOU allow yourself to be the victim of the enemy. YOU sometimes put others in the position of being the victim. It is always your choice. And even if you haven't been making the right ones...it's not too late. Never too late!

Say the name of Jesus right now. Scream it if you must. Know that there is POWER in that Name! Flee from sin. Flee from the places that draw you into sin. Flee from the people that encourage you to sin. Run to find a place where Jesus is welcome, living and active in the hearts of the people there. You choose. It's your life. And it will be only you on the day of judgement. It's not too late. It's never too late for you!

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Call of Grace (Day TWENTY TWO-30 Day Challenge)

Have you ever had one of those weeks that you would so NOT want to repeat?! Ugh...this was a week like that. I can't remember the last time I was that exhausted. I can't remember the last time when the battle of darkness vs light was so clearly evident. I can't remember the last time I had to refocus my emotions (sometimes moment after moment) to line up with Christ. I had to give up what I felt for what I knew. And.It.was.hard! I would feel joy...then sadness. Anger...then forgiveness. Turmoil...then peace. It truly was a battle!

So what was God doing while this battle raged? He was speaking to women in my life who had no idea what I was facing. And one by one, in their own battle of obedience, they spoke life and encouragement into me. Tears of joy and thankfulness were what I needed to cover over a heart that was wounded. Healing tears ran down my face because I knew that God was taking care of me. I didn't need to avenge anything. I only needed to be still and know that He is God!

"The righteous cry out, and The Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but The Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." Psalm 34:17-20

What does grace look like? If God's grace where anything like what you show to people when you 'feel entitled' to your emotions...would anyone want what you have? Are you drawing people towards...or pushing people away from grace? In the words of Beth Moore, "Are you trying to make people earn what you freely received?"

I have great news for you today!! It is not too late to learn how to be a person of grace. And it's not too late to realize that..."God doesn't call you because of your past." -Holly Wagner, 2013 WOF Tour

I had no idea how much I would need that reminder today. I was reviewing my notes from last weekend and that one stuck out like it was blinking in neon lights. "God didn't call you (or I) because of our past. He called us because of His future!" If any of us live in, or throw others into the shadows of past mistakes...we're choosing to live in the dark. When we ask, instead, for forgiveness from our sin, both from God and man, it.is.finished. The burden is lifted and freedom is your future.

How many of you have some things that you've done that you aren't proud of? How many of you let those things keep you from diving (diving as in all in, fully submersed) into ministry? How many of you feel unworthy to pray out loud over someone? Or how many of you are too ashamed to open up and talk about these things that hold you bound at your church's alter? Maybe you fear judgement from people. Maybe it is rejection that keeps you at a distance. 

Whatever it is...please know that God intended for you to move past these things. God will not always remove the consequence...but He will use everything for your good. I know I am not going to convince you with just one verse. I've quoted my life verse before because it states it just sooo perfectly. Romans 8:28. 

Someone who is stuck in the past, though, isn't looking forward. They aren't seeing the blessings that they are passing by until they are now part of the past. More anger and bitterness will soon follow because of the blessings in their rear view mirror that they missed. Someone will take that blame. Someone will receive their outburst of anger. It must be someone's fault!!!! 

I have to say that I am INCREDIBLY thankful that God doesn't choose us or pass us by because of our junk. You can let out a sigh of relief. Go ahead...I just did. =) You must also realize that the same is true for your neighbor. Your co-worker. Your Pastor. Your friends and family. The same sacrifice will set us all free from our past, if we believe and allow it.

God calls us because of His future for us. Ahhhh...that is grace. Grace covers and opens up the floodgates for a world of opportunities. If God left me in the shadow of my mistakes and failures I would have no purpose to write. I would have no reason to sing praises. I would have no voice to encourage. I would be wailing and wallowing in shameful defeat.

But God.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3

God gets through our clouded mind, distorted view and sometimes thick skull. He speaks with a voice that can cut right through all the junk. His voice is clear. Not muffled. Not distant. It is close and familiar. He says simple words that pack a powerful gut punch. "Let go."

You stop for a moment. Unsure if you heard Him correctly. Let go?! Let go? That can't be right. 'Justice has my name on it. I can't let go...because then who will seek it? God, I need to cling to something and this is all I have right now. All my energy is going into...vengeance?'

Finally the mask has been lifted. Your view is no longer clouded. Clarity has been restored. You now see the enemy before you. he is holding out a beautiful gift box that is addressed to the one you accuse, or the one who wrongfully accused you. It has their name on it. But who is this gift of vengeance from? You read carefully and see that your name is first...but what is it that it says underneath? 

destroyer. author of lies. deceiver. darkness. shame. death. Love...satan and the gang.

Your mouth drops open, you step back and gasp. Why does that gift have your name on it!? You would never give a gift like that to anyone would you? Would you? You start to feel sick. How could I? Where can I hide? You turn to run. You turn to flee from this evil and...

God is right there. He was right behind you and He saw what you just saw. What is He holding? A golden box. He hands it to you with a reassuring smile. You trust Him so you open it and see what you hoped you never would. Tears begin to fill your eyes as you realize these nails you see have significance. They are what held Jesus on the cross. They are covered with His blood. You close your eyes in shame. Knowing what your heart could have easily just committed against another.

God lifts your chin. He looks into your tear filled eyes and says..."My child. The price has been paid."

The price for your past. The price for my past...it has been paid. I say we celebrate!!! Turn from any sins of your past and run into the arms of Christ. He was your sacrifice...and He wants to free you from anything that dares hold you bound. 

Jesus' grace is sufficient for me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Is it for you?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Aggressive Praising (Day TWENTY ONE-30 Day Challenge)

Aggressive praise. I'd never heard it stated like that before. I would have never seen the importance of it, if not for a speaker I heard recently. I hung in her every word. She was clearly speaking only to me. Lol. Have you ever felt like that? I was in an arena (at the Women of Faith Conference) with I believe somewhere between 7,000 & 8,000 women...and if felt like Sheryl Brady was speaking just to me. She was feisty and passionate. And when she spoke I could relate to where she once was. At the age of 32...which, incidentally, happens to be my current age...God woke up a passion in her that had always been inside. She just didn't know it was there. Her example..."Adam had Eve within him...and he had no idea!" :-)

Let's look at someone who aggressively praised the name of Jesus while waiting for his miracle.

"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus Son of David, have mercy in me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'

Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'

So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 

'What do you want Me to do for you?' Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'

'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road." Mark 10:46-52

Bartimaeus was calling out. I'm sure he was annoying. But you have to remembers that he couldn't see who was walking by. He relentlessly called out, not knowing when the footsteps that he heard shuffling by, would be those of Jesus. He was not willing to give up his healing because he was bothering someone along the way. He aggressively praised the Name above all names...Jesus! And what happened when people got annoyed? Opposition.

The people walking by rebuked him. They tried to shut him up. And what IF he had listened? How close was his breakthrough miracle from Jesus when the opposition got really bad? I remember this part of Sheryl's teaching very well. These words landed right on my heart and left me gratefully smiling. She said, "When opposition came, Bartimaeus knew that his miracle was closer than it had been all day."

How about the people who rebuked him for his annoyance? Do you picture them saying their words to him drenched with sarcasm? Haha...I sure do. They'd heard him calling out for a while now as they walked on their journey and now, at Jesus' request, they had to call out to him! 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.' Bartimaeus could've cared less how they spoke to him. He wasn't praising them. He wasn't looking for their approval. He knew what was on the horizon...and he jumped at the invitation!

What is it today that you are asking God for? What are you believing for, in waiting? Are you close to giving up? Don't! Keep praising the name of Jesus. Your miracle is about to come near...and it will pass you by if you don't call out. You can stop Jesus in His tracks with your words of aggressive praise! :-)

Anyone out there facing opposition?!? If you are actively pursuing Christ and following the will of God...I can guarantee you are facing opposition from some angle. If you are right smack in the middle of ministry...you might have even laughed at that question...because it seems to come from ALL angles.

'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.'

What was your response? Did you jump up?! When Bartimaeus jumped up at the request of his Savior's voice...he was immediately given his miracle. I don't care how tired you are. Jump! I don't care how many times you've stood before. Jump up! I don't care how many people are trying to silence you. Keep praising...your miracle is close my friend!

If you ever showed up at my church on a Sunday...which, by the way, I would absolutely LOVE...you would see me on the worship team. If you were to watch me...which I don't recommend or desire, lol...you'd see a difference in my worship. Not as in 'different than anyone else'...but that I change according to whether God is speaking to me...or I am praising Him. There are times when I reverently worship and just tell God how much I adore Him. How thankful I am for Him. And how amazing He is to me. Then there are times that I aggressively praise. I might be calling forth things in my life that need to line up with God's Word. Sometimes I might be asking God's warrior angels to war over a stronghold that has been revealed in someone I love. Sometimes it is healing I command in the name of Jesus. And if you ever saw me put my mic down to my side...it might be you I am warring for. I don't care where I am, or who is watching; when God asks me to aggressively praise...I become feisty. That is my new favorite descriptive word! 

Are you willing to get a little feisty with me? Are you willing to aggressively praise your God when asked?! Are you willing to go through the flames of opposition to come out of the fire a more refined version of you? I ABSOLUTELY AM! I do not live in fear. Those days are behind me. I know my God fights for me. And I know everything He touches or speaks, has Victory!

"He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them-men who never change their ways and have no fear of God." Psalm 55:18-19

I will leave you with one final thought from Sheryl. "Stay in pursuit of Him. Stay through the people. Through the church. Through the opposition. Keep praising because the enemy knows as soon as you open your mouth you will have all you need."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Comparing Scars (Day TWENTY-30 Day Challenge)

Growing up, I never really did too many things that could've resulted in a scar. I was the wuss cautious one. Being the youngest AND the only girl amidst 3 older brothers...someone had to throw out a caution flag here and there. A couple of years ago I had surgery to correct an ankle injury from 7 years prior. The incision just after the surgery was absolutely disgusting. The resulting scar is a great reminder that I endured much pain to fix what needed corrected.

Their accusations cut deep. The fresh wounds they've sliced open are now right on top of her old scars. She has felt this pain before. The wounds that were healed are now again open. She hadn't ever forgotten how those scars got there. Forgetting didn't even seem possible. Betrayal from within her circle of trust, those wounds always cut deepest. How will she recover and heal this time? What didn't she learn the first time around? 

She thinks for a moment about telling Jesus how unfair and cruel it all seems. She looks up to Heaven ready to file her complaint and she is immediately brought to silence at what she sees. She can't help it. She wants to...but she can't look away. The Hand that is reaching out to start her healing...has been here before. Accusation is what placed those scars in His hands. She compares her wounds to Jesus' and realizes; His required much endurance. She can do this!
The pain that comes before healing is evident, sometimes doesn't seem worth it when you are in it. Just like the pain from my ankle surgery seemed too much to bear for a mother of four (one of which was only 7 months old). Life just seemed impossible. Everything was difficult. Every aspect of my days seemed like a chore. On day 12 I'm sure if given the option...I would have magically reversed the surgery. I would have said that the pain I was experiencing in that moment wasn't worth the final outcome. How angry I would be now had I given up! Because I promise...day 13 was like a light switch was flipped in my recovery process. Day 12 I was miserable and not able to walk without crutches. Day 13...I was hobbling around like a pro. And now...I am so thankful that I endured. My ankle is stronger. My life is easier. And my perspective on difficult times...is always look toward healing. It's probably closer than you think. If you are about to give up...you are ALMOST THERE!

"Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:13-14

He does not attend to his fresh wounds alone this time around. Many warriors intercede at the leading of the Holy Spirit. Accusation. It may have caught him off guard...but it didn't knock him down like it had before. He knows where to go this time. His healing is close. His heart must first work through the initial 'entitlement to anger'. He gets through that step much more quickly than he did before. God is pleased and his son is released from all accusation. God knows. He remembers that all freedom came with a weighty price.

This man also knows full well that to wallow in his circumstance would only be stripping the Cross of its power and provision. When comparing scars with Jesus...He knows which one was cut and wounded more deeplyHe bows his head and places his burdens at the foot of the cross. Jesus immediately takes those accusations from him. They are no longer his burden to carry. To some, his rapid healing almost seemed as though he had become calloused by his past. But Jesus knows better. He knows what surrender looks like. He rushes to his side. Jesus places His hand over the wounds of this man. The man can see his own blood through Jesus' scars. And for the first time he truly understands...

"Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5

What is your position? When pain is inflicted on you by someone you trust, what is your response? Those first reactions say a lot about your character. Notice I didn't say your initial thoughts. We battle with our thoughts in those first days following betrayal or malicious slander. That process is necessary for weeding out the evil thoughts from ever becoming something you act on.

What wounds are you still trying to nurse that God is saying..."I long to heal." You keep scraping off your scab because the enemy is causing irritation. Itching. Discomfort. What you don't realize is that you are reopening what was almost a scar of wisdom. Whatever you endure...it will make you stronger. Not calloused. Not hardened...but strong. I declare it in Jesus name!! =)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Work Work Work (Day NINETEEN-30 Day Challenge)

How many hours a day do you spend at work? Take the number and multiply it by the number of days you work in a week...and then how many weeks you work a year. I'm not really asking you to do the math. And I promise, I'm not trying to depress you. Lol! I'm certainly not doing the math, this early in the morning, on my end. (Just for the record...my husband would totally have a number in his head already. No idiot machine (calculator) required. He throws out random numbers that make sense to no one...and comes up with the right answer. Every time. Every. Stinkin. Time!) For me... it is tooooooo early for such things. Speaking of math though. In high school I woke up EARLY to take Calculus, which I understood absolutely NONE of. Oy...who does that!?! *Vanesa shudders*

The point I am trying to make with all the math superstar babble, is that most of us spend a lot of the hours of our day at work. Out of one 24 hour day...many people spend over 1/3 of it at work. That leaves them with 2/3 to do as they please...but sleep has GOT to be almost another 1/3. Do the math...how much is left?!

When you really sit back and think about your day to day...would you say that you invite God to all three 1/3's of each day? Right before you sleep do you talk to God about your previous and upcoming day? Do you thank Him for today and ask for His will for tomorrow? Or do you fall asleep to the needless noise of your television? God longs to hear from you. He would love for you to tell Him all about the day you just had. He saw it...but He loves to see it through your eyes! Invite Him to your night of slumber. Make Him the last thing you think of before you lay that pretty little head down.

Now lets go to the personal/family time portion of your days. Do you make Him a part of those hours? Does He have a leading role...or is He just an extra on the scene? Is He visible but unnoticed. Is He ready and hopeful but in the way and ignored.

God is not meant to be an extra in your life. He is to be the director. The director who allows you to have your own creative inspiration...and who stops you when what your doing isn't working. He sees something different and specific that you can't see on His screen. You are a part of His cast...and He wants to give you opportunity to shine! Invite Him.

He sits down at his desk and let's out a sigh. Not of relief...but of frustration and disgust. He's tried everything he could think of...and he's out.of.options. He wants to help his clients. He wants to further their business and his company...but the outlook is not looking good. One by one he gets rejected. Phone call after phone call...no one is willing to offer help. What now?

Invite Him. Work is such a HUGE part of your day, week, year, life. Why would you think it would be a good idea to leave God out of it?! Or have you really not thought of it? He sees your struggle. He has some stellar ideas for you...just ask and be willing to listen. You would humble yourself before you boss and ask for help...so why not God? Why is He not a huge part of every aspect of your work day?!

This man is well respected and trusted by his clients. At this point, the man who always has something to say...has nothing. He has no idea what he will tell them. He is just sick about it. Then he feels the urgency to pray. God says..."Make one last phone call." He argues that he has already tried that. God says, "Do you trust me?" The man reaches for the phone and prays...'God give me favor so that I might speak of your faithfulness in my workplace.'

How much different would your days be if you invited God...like really asked Him to be IN each meeting, phone conversation, presentation and appointment you had. Every. Single. One! How much would your company flourish? What is stopping you? The answer is simple. The enemy is distracting and frustrating you...and you are following his scheme like a puppy follows anything that moves. Lol!

Do you have an impossible situation that you have no idea how to handle? You know, the type of scenario where no matter what you can come up with, no one wins. Let me give you a few great reasons to invite Him to help......

1. "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares The Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

2. "Now to Him who is able to to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

If you can't come up with an answer...don't doubt that God can. His thoughts are not yours. They are nothing like them. They are far above and way outside of the box you are capable of thinking in. And if you don't ask...how are you ever going to get the 'immeasurably more' than He promises?! It doesn't make sense to not ask does it? It surely isn't the smartest decision you have made...to suffer on your own and be okay with it. Ask. For the sake of your sanity. For the moving forward with your business and for the sake of your clients...invite God to be the head of it. And encourage your employees to do the same.

He sits back and sighs. This time with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye. God blessed him. He had left God out of the entire process...and God still chose to bless Him the moment he asked. His faith gained strength that day. His business would never be the same. And his trust in God...it had to be shared! He picked up the phone to call his client...with an amazing testimony. It all became reality because his heart was soft, his intention was pure and he was willing to extend...a simple invitation.