Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joy In A Glimpse

I witnessed a God-moment this past Sunday - and it was beautiful.

I was scheduled to speak at the eleven o'clock Sunday morning worship service at a church hosting a Women's Day Celebration. Even though it was a "women's day", there were men, women and children in the congregation, just like any other Sunday.

I have to admit that even though I love being a speaker, the thought of preaching at Sunday morning worship seemed a step out of my comfort zone. I felt the enemy lurking, trying to trip me up, and cause me to stumble in my delivery or my words.

You see, I had been struggling with a cough and cold for two weeks, and wondered if I would be able to get through my message without having an uncontrollable coughing fit. The fear of that happening left me feeling apprehensive, concerned, and unfocused.

I tried not to listen to the faint lies that he was pouring into my head - telling me, reminding me, confirming my worries - that I had absolutely no business standing in the pulpit on Sunday morning.

After all, that is the preacher's spot - you know, the one who spent years earning master's degrees, graduating from seminary, and learning the Bible like the back of their hand. The one who is more qualified than I will ever be.

I even secretly wondered why I had been asked to speak at this special service - and for a brief moment, secretly regretted accepting the invitation. Was I qualified? Was I good enough? Was I worthy? My head resounded the answers - no, no, and no.

So I prayed. I asked God to smooth my throat and heal my cough. I prayed for him to calm my fears and remove my apprehension; to drown out the voice of the destroyer who wanted to keep me from sharing the message God had given me; and to simply use me to make a difference in some small way.

As I walked on stage, and began speaking, I immediately felt His presence fill my spirit. I stood in front of all those peering faces, with a renewed purpose, and allowed Him to lead my words until the message came to a close - without a single cough. Then I closed in prayer, and returned to my seat.

A few moments later, I saw a young man walk down the aisle, talk to the preacher at the alter and exchange some hugs as we prepared to sing a closing hymn.

After the service was over, I received many kinds words and hugs, all of which were much appreciated - but nothing compared to the words shared by that one young man.

One young man who had been dealing with difficult circumstances and addictions in his life, but had recently come to a place of healing. He had overcome his problems, and although he still felt broken and unusable, he also felt God was calling him to be a youth minister.

The story began to unfold as his fiance came up and introduced herself, with eyes flooded with tears. She thanked me for the message I had shared, and said it was exactly what her fiance needed to hear. Then the father of that young man approached me, tears flowing, sharing how God had spoken to him and his son that day; and his mother followed suit.

Then, I came to face to face with the young man everyone was talking about. A handsome, clean cut, young man, who felt broken, unworthy, unqualified, and not good enough to serve a Sovereign God.

A young man who had listened to the discouraging lies of the enemy for so long, that he had come to believe that he was nothing more than damaged goods, and as a result, had been afraid to say yes to God's call. He had allowed his past to define him, and had hesitated to believe that God could ever use him - until now.

My heart was so full. Overflowing with excitement, yet stifled with humility. Apparently, the words that God put in my mouth that day were exactly what that young man needed to hear. We were both at the right place at the right time - just as God had planned.

God had been preparing us both for such a time as this.

God did not need me to get that specific message across to that man, but He allowed me the privilege of being a part of His plan, and the blessing of seeing His divine intervention.

What an awesome reminder that God orchestrates every detail of the lives of His children. He meant what He said in Jeremiah 29:11, when He promised us all a future and a hope, and a plan for our life that He destined just for us.

What we think is a small step of faith, could end up being an opportunity for life change - for us, or possibly for someone we touch. We just have to say yes, and leave the rest to God.

Oh how I pray that when I feel God speaking to my heart, that I will listen to His voice, and drown out the enemy's voice with a loud, booming faith.

How I long to follow Him, without worry, without question, and without hesitation.

We just never know what amazing miracles God may be orchestrating behind the scenes and in the hearts of others. If we trust Him, He just might let us get a tiny glimpse of Him at work - and it will always be a beautiful sight.

Joy In A GlimpseSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, February 21, 2011

Living The Photographs

I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary when it happened, but it stopped me in my tracks.

I had gone upstairs to kiss Kaitlyn goodnight before she dozed off to sleep. Even though she is fourteen years old now, this is still our nightly routine. We laughed for a few minutes, and then I reached over and began tickling her softly under her neck, just like I used to do when she was little.

She giggled and tucked her chin into her chest, squinting her eyes and laughing, and trying to nudge herself deeper into her pillow, away from my hand.

It was in that instant, that I had the flash of a photograph pop into my mind. It was if I had seen this image blink across a television screen for just a split second, in vivid color, and full of life.

In that moment, I had a flashback of Kaitlyn's face when she was just a little girl. Her full, little cheeks, all rosy from playing; her big blue eyes sparkling with laugh wrinkles; her bouncy blond hair stacked on top of her head.

It nearly took my breath away. It was almost like I had a vision, of something that once seemed ordinary, but now is gone.

Being the sentimental girl that I am, I felt a few tears begin to sting my eyes. Tears that formed not because I was sad that she is nearly all grown up, but because I believe it was God's way of reminding me that in many ways, she is still that same little girl that I see in pictures taken years ago.

Despite the fact that she is now a beautiful, maturing, 5'8", young lady - deep inside, she is still that little girl that I once held in my lap and snuggled.

Despite the fact that her life now revolves around school, cheerleading, clothes and friends, instead of Barbie jeeps, stuffed animals and babydolls.... she is still that same little girl that needs to know she is loved.

And even though there are days when we just do not see eye to eye - she is still my little girl.

This moment, as silly as it may sound, was priceless to me. It was as if God allowed me to relive, for just a split second, not only what Kaitlyn used to look like, but what she still looks like on the inside, despite the all-grown-up exterior.

I will admit that I am one of "those moms" who is obsessive about picture taking. I always have been, and assume I always will be. Our house is filled with pictures of every one of my children in all stages of life, every vacation, every holiday and even just everyday moments.

As I look back through all of those photos, I am reminded of how life was then. As I peer at the little faces, staring at me from the old photographs, I try to relive how I was feeling, and allow my thoughts to be drenched with sweet memories.

God has really spoken to my heart this week, and helped me to be aware that I am now living the photographs of the future, and that every moment of every day, needs to be treasured in my heart, not just captured on film.

I think that as our kids get older, taller, and bigger, we can get pulled into the mindset that they are just small adults, instead of bigger kids.

As a result, it is easy to forget that although they seem big, they are still young at heart. They still desperately need all those things we easily and frequently offered when they were small - like affection, compassion, tenderness, patience, gentleness, and self control.

Those fruits of the spirit that seem to easily blossom when children are small and cute, sometimes seem harder to ripen when teenage hormones and differences of opinions kick in. But the little girl or boy still lives inside them, longing to be filled with the love that God created us all to crave.

Today, I want to remember to live the photographs that God is allowing me to experience; and to not only take physical photographs with my camera, but mental photographs with my heart.

I pray that God continues to prick my mind with images of things past, and to help me treasure the moments that are building the photographs of tomorrow.

Living The PhotographsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Power To Change

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Each morning, as soon as my children leave for school, I lace up my tennis shoes and get to work - I mean exercise. But on some days it feels like work!

About three years ago,I began doing the most impactful workout program. In my opinion, it is heads above any other home workout program that I have ever done. And trust me, I have fallen prey to many a infomercial for exercise DVD's, only to discover that they were too mind-numbing or monotonous to continue for more than two or three weeks.

But P90X is different, and I love it! My man Tony (the main guy that instructs you on what to do on all twelve videos) is very motivating, and during the videos, he talks....a lot.

On most days, I tune him out, or have the TV on, because I have heard his instructions dozens upon dozens of times. But one day this week, as I was jumping, lifting and sweating, something Tony said caught my attention.

I know I have heard him say this statement countless times, but it never quite stuck in my mind like it did on this particular day.

Tony simply said "Information is power. With power there is change. And change is good."

Of course, Tony is referring to knowing what exercise routines work best for us, and how that knowledge gives us the motivation and power to keep moving forward. However, I could not help but consider how relevant that statement is when it comes to our faith, and how we live our lives.

On that same day, one of my daughters shared with me a challenging situation she was having with another girl at school. This girl breaks all the rules, disrespects the teachers, demeans other students, and is dishonest with adults, yet never seems to be held accountable for her actions.

My daughter could not help but be angry, and frustrated beyond belief. I reassured her that those emotions are normal, when we see injustice or unfairness taking place around us, but we always have the power through faith to control our reactions.

The comment I had heard on the exercise video immediately popped into my mind. It was as if God affirmed the reason that I had remembered that comment, on that particular day.

You see, my daughter needed information and motivation, about how to deal with this situation. She needed to understand that she had the power within herself, through her faith, to forgive that person even though they may not deserve it.

I wanted her to understand that if she held on to that resentment, she was only hurting herself, not the other person.

And most importantly, I wanted her to see that by continuing to hold onto anger, she was allowing this other person to have power over her life, and her emotions, and ultimately, her happiness.

She needed to be reminded that we cannot change other people, no matter how badly we wish we could. However, we do have the power to change ourselves, if we ask God to infuse that power into our hearts.

And that kind of change is good.

I prayed with my daughter when she went to bed that night. We prayed that the Lord would fill her heart with peace, and the capacity to remember that He is still sitting on His throne, even when life seems unfair.

We prayed that she would have self-control, through God's power within her, and that she would be able to change her reactions to this other person's actions.

Just like my daughter, I have often wished I could change someone else, but I know that it is not within my power - and that no amount of anger, frustration, criticism, or buried resentment is going to make someone else change.

But I do have the power through God, to change myself, when I rely on Him to help me orchestrate those changes in my heart and my life.

I cannot control another persons behavior, but I do have God's power to help me change my reactions to their behaviors.

I cannot change another persons heart, but I do have God's power to change my heart towards them.

And most importantly, I certainly do not want to grant power over my life to anyone, except God Almighty.

Whether we need to change our eating habits, our exercise regimen, our actions, or our reactions, we do have the power to change, if we tap into the information found in God's Word that will help us achieve our goals.

Information that infuses us with power to change into the person that we know God created us to be.

And when we are changing to become more like Christ, change is definitely good.

"Information is power. With power there is change. And change is good."

The Power To ChangeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Virtual Blindness Epidemic

I was sitting quietly on the couch, working diligently on my laptop. The television was on, for no other reason except some background noise in the house.

Although I was focused on the task at hand, the words of a commercial caught my attention.

The spokeswoman for the commerical is advertising a new beauty product, and the first words that come out of her mouth are "Inner beauty is important, but not nearly as important as outer beauty."

I actually hit rewind on my cable remote to see if that is what was actually said, and to my dismay, it was.

Maybe I am just making more of this than needs to be made, and I imagine the comment is meant to be one of a facetious nature. However, I wonder how many girls, and women, will take this to heart.

If you ask me, this statement is indicative of how our culture actually thinks, and part of the reason why so many of us think we have to be beautiful, to be beautiful.

The topic of beauty is nothing new. There have been plenty of articles, talk show hosts, and news anchors talking about the impact that the quest for physical beauty has on the hearts of women, young and old.

But that does not stop the retailers and media from trying to make us believe that.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I actually do use the product that is advertised in this commercial (purchased before I heard the tag line, of course).... and you know what... I do not look any different!

More importantly, I do not feel any different. Granted, I do actually like this product, but it did not change who I was, improve my life, or even remove those little lines on my face that I would love to see disappear forever.

It was all a lie.

A lie that we so often believe, as we get caught up the mindset that we have to look perfectly thin, perfectly put together, perfectly fashioned and perfectly perfect - in order to measure up. In order to be good enough.

The question is.... who are we trying to measure up to? Our friends? Our co-workers? Our neighbors? Our family members? Celebrities? That retouched body on the front of the magazine? The covergirls face?

The truth is, we probably will never measure up, according to the world's standards; and even if we do, we will not feel that we do. There will always be something new that we want to change, or an insecurity of some sort that hangs in our hearts, keeping us flailing in a pool of inferiority.

The comparison trap that we get so tangled up in, not only puts on the fast track to discouragement, but also causes a state of virtual blindness - a disease of the mind that has become an epidemic in our country.

Definition of virtual: Simulated; performing the functions of something that isn't really there. Opposite of real or physical.

Definition of blindness: the inability to see

So - virtual blindess is the inability see what is real.

Real - is what God created, in His image.
Not real - is what we try to create with products, diets and career goals.

Real - is who we are in Him.
Not real - is who we are according to society's standards, or other's opinions.

Real - is the beauty that we exude from the inside out
Not real - is the definition of beauty according to the media

Real - is living up to God's measuring stick, and no one elses.
Not real - thinking that we can do anything to make us more valuable in God's eyes

Are you able to see the beautiful person that God created you to be, or have you been searching for ways to measure up to those around you?

Does your opinion of the person you see looking back at you in the mirror, line up with what God's Word says about that person?

Psalm 45:11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

Deuteronomy 14:2 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

We have the power within us to fight off even the worst case of virtual blindness.

Take a moment today to embrace the real you. The 'you' that God sees. The treasure that God loves, and is enthralled by.

The unique you that God knit together in your mother's womb.

The real you.

(Watch this video below. Shows the process of a real woman, being turned into something that is not real. Which one do you find yourself trying to measure up to? Hmmmm. Something to think about.)

*email sumbscribers click here if you cannot see the video.

A Virtual Blindness EpidemicSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, February 7, 2011

Your Thoughts Have Wheels

I remember it well. Confusion. Panic. Tears.

As a timid middle schooler, I sat on the school bus, anxious to be home after a long day of school.

I was sitting quietly in my seat, when I began to have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Although my surroundings appeared to be the same, something was not right.

The bus was the usual color of sunshine yellow. The seats were in the standard black vinyl, displaying rips and tears from years of students. The floor was littered with the usual misplaced pencils, erasers and wadded up papers. Yet, it felt wrong.

Then I began to notice how I did not recognize any of the faces of the children sitting around me. I frantically began searching for glimpses of anything familiar. The entire atmosphere of the bus ride seemed foreign and unknown, and my face began to feel hot as my heart raced.

I soon realized that somehow, I had boarded the wrong bus, and although I WAS headed somewhere, it was NOT where I had wanted to go.

(Keep in mind, these were the days before the convenience of cell phones, so it was not until after all the other kids had been dropped off at their homes, that I could be returned to school, and have my parents contacted!)

I suppose that prior to my getting on the wrong bus, I was distracted by conversations with friends, thoughts about sleepovers, or pondering how long my homework was going to take.

Obviously, my thoughts were not focused on getting on the right bus, and ending up at my desired destination. As a result, the actions that followed caused me to end up somewhere that I did not want to be.

Our thoughts have greater power in the direction of our lives than we often realize.

For example, when we think about things silently - it seems safe. Nobody can hear our thoughts, unless we choose to speak them aloud. So even if we are thinking something negative, judgemental, or even sinful, it's okay, because nobody else knows....right?

Wrong. Our thoughts are just like a bus... they will always take you somewhere.. and it may not be somewhere you want to end up.

If we spend an entire day fuming over something that our husband did, and thinking about all the harsh and critical things we are going to say to him when he walks in the door, those thoughts will take us to heated arguments, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships.

If we spend time thinking about how our boss does not appreciate us and how we are underpaid, our thoughts will take us straight to an overall bad attitude at work, and maybe a pit of low performance.

If we focus on how much we do for our children, with little to no thanks from them, our thoughts will take us to a place of resentment and a lack of patience and love.

If we dwell on all the things that we wish were different in our life, and wonder why God has allowed certain problems and trials, we will transport ourselves right into the state of unhappiness and discontentment.

If we focus all of our thoughts on money, career, success and pleasure, we will find ourselves in the land of the lost - disconnected from God, and wondering why we are no longer feeling close to Him or hearing Him speak.

Our thought life is powerful, and requires great self control.

If we allow our thoughts to run rampant, focusing on negativity, self-centeredness, defeat, discouragement, or sinful pleasures, then we are sure to eventually wind up at a destination that is unknown and uncomfortable - a destination that we would never have deliberately chosen.

Proverbs 23:7a says "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:"

We have all known people who are upbeat and positive, regardless of the circumstances in their life. On the other hand, we have also known people who are negative and pessimistic, regardless of what is going in their life, good or bad.

The difference is their thought life, and where their thoughts are taking them. They are living in the destination place of their thoughts.

In Proverbs 23:7, the Bible is clearly conveying that we can choose what we think about, and we can choose to have a positive thought life - regardless of what life brings.

Our thoughts do not control us, we control them! So it all boils down to a personal decision of where we want our thoughts to take us - and whether we allow God to help us move into a better, more positive, biblical and healthier line of thinking.

Your outward life is a reflection of your inner thoughts - if you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

That is how our thoughts really do have wheels. Where are your thoughts taking you today?

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

Ephesians 4:23-24 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (NLT)

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hidden Potential

Practically every night, my eleven year old son begs me to tell him a bed time story as I tuck him into bed. Sometimes I decline because the hour is late, but since we had had a busy day, he was actually hitting the hay a bit earlier than usual.

When he made his nightly request for a bedtime story, looking at me with those big, blue eyes and poking his bottom lip out for sentimental effect, I decided to oblige and agreed to give my creative imagination a workout.

I began skimming the contents of his room, searching for a glimpse of any item that might quickly plant a story idea into my head, and then I glanced down at his little gray sock monkey.

Yes. He has a sock monkey. Go figure. But anyway.....

I began weaving together a tale about a little gray piece of cloth that had lived on a shelf in a fabric store for many years, all the while going unnoticed by shoppers.

The story seemed to easily unfold in my imagination, and my son sat in a wide eyed stare, intently listening to all the details.

As I finished the story, and kissed my son goodnight, I felt a gentle whisper into my spirit..... reminding me... that I was once just like that little gray piece of fabric, but God had transformed me into something new.

You see, I had begun the story by explaining how this little dull, gray piece of fabric would sit quietly on the shelf each day, desperately longing for someone to notice him. But in his heart, he knew that he paled in comparison to all of the other fabrics in the store, and he could never compete with them.

From his place on the dusty old shelf, he had a bird's eye view of all the beautiful fabrics, much unlike him, many of which were made in bold colors of soft, shiny satin that caught the light as people passed by.

He could see the fabrics covered with vibrant orange and pink polkadots that would one day be transformed into a frilly, toddler dress; the fabrics with elegant stripes that would make fine draperies for an beautiful home; many fabrics with fun tassles and shimmering coins dangling from their edges; and a myriad of fun fabrics with colorful cartoon characters adorning their every inch.

But he was just a boring old piece of gray fabric.

Nothing special. Nothing elegant. Nothing valuable. Old. Outdated. Worthless.

Certainly nothing worthy of being transformed into anything wonderful.

But then one day, an older woman wandered into the store. The gray piece of fabric had never seen her there before, but he could tell she was a seamstress by the wrinkled tape measure around her neck and the rusty thimble on her finger.

The old woman meandered around the store for quite some time, while a few strands of scraggly white hair whisped across her face. She appeared to be searching for just the perfect piece of cloth for her masterpiece, when suddenly, her eyes fell upon the little piece of gray fabric tucked away in the corner.

He dared to think that maybe, just maybe, she would see something valuable in him.

But as she walked closer, his heartbeat began to beat faster and faster. She gently picked up the gray fabric, and a few other buttons, fabric scraps, and thread, paid for her purchase and headed home.

To make a long story short - the old lady turned the piece of gray fabric into an adorable little sock monkey, which was hugged and loved by her grandson for years, before being passed down to her great grandchildren as well.

One little piece of gray fabric made a difference in the hearts of children for generations and generations.

One little piece of gray fabric who never knew he had any value, until someone else saw his hidden potential, and helped him to see it as well, through love.

I used to feel much like that little piece of gray fabric, when he was sitting on the shelf feel overlooked and unimportant, paling in comparison to all the people saw around me. In fact, there are many days when I still feel like that.

But I have to wonder, if maybe God helped my imagination soar so that I would remember that I have been transformed, and been made beautiful; and so that I would remember that even though I could not see my own potential for most of my life, God always had a plan for me.

God used a little child's request for a bedtime story, to prick my heart with His love, and remind me of who I am in Christ.

You know, I sort of felt like God had told me a bedtime story, and even kissed me goodnight. I fell asleep with sweet thoughts of how I have been transformed, from my old self, to my new self.

You and I truly are a new creation - just like that little piece of gray fabric who was transformed into a beloved stuffed toy for children to hug for years and years.

Want to have some sweet dreams tonight? Remember that God sees your potential, long before we can see it ourselves, and that in Him, we are made new, so that we can fulfill those plans He destined us for.

How has God opened your eyes to see the plan He had for your life?

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV)

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