Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Stress Out, Trust In

This past week as my Summer Book Club met, we were discussing Trust.  Ann VosKamp's DVD lesson was on taking our belief in Christ to the level of trust in Christ.  As I've had time to marinate on some things, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you from this lesson.

James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe.  So what makes a Christian different?  Trust.

Trust is used synonymously with faith many times by Christians. But here's how I separate the two.  Trust is an action word, a verb, and faith is a thing, a noun.  Having a thing called faith produces an action called trust.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)

What does the writer of Proverbs tell us to do at the beginning of these verses?

 "Trust."  Trust in.  Trust in the Lord.

Trust is the vehicle to crossing the bridges in life when we encounter something difficult. As our minds are reeling from a hard slap of reality, we stop in our tracks, hesitate to take the next step forward because of fear; fear of the unknown.  This is when we especially need to not lean on what we understand, but lean on what God knows is best. As the old song says, "When we can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

We are told also in these verses to acknowledge the times we can see where God has been faithful to walk with us over the bridges already behind us on our journey, and TRUST Him to walk with us again through this event that seems impossible to deal with.

One of my favorite word pictures that Ann paints in the book is through the words "planks of thanks." When we begin to give thanks for the past, we lay down another plank to walk across on.  As we give more thanks, we walk more planks.  Before you know it, we've crossed over to the other side of the hard with joy in our hearts.  All we need to do is walk one thank-plank at a time.

When we're stressed, we're not trusting.  When we're trusting, we're not stressed. 

So I say, "Don't stress OUT, trust IN... the Lord.

Thank. Plank. Walk.  The bridge to joy is trust.

(Thanks Ann VosKamp for the lesson this week!)

My Pleasure,

Monday, July 22, 2013

Think it On Sunday: Stake and Claim

Jonah:  a man who knew the voice of God; a run-a-way prophet; put the lives of others at risk; lived three days in complete misery in the belly of a great fish; given a second chance; reclaimed his God-given territory through repentance and obedience; learned about the heart of God in the process.

How many times have we heard the voice of God speak an assignment to us and we ran because the assignment didn't look like what we thought it should look like?  Many times, I'm sure, if we're honest. 

If the assignment isn't suited to meet our expectations, we get angry, we pout, we whine, and we run the other way. Why? We run because our hearts don't look like His.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD."
                                                               (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV)

Sunday's message from the book of Jonah steered me on a little side trip, chauffeured by the Holy Spirit.  I was led to examine my territory; my God-given, just for Melanie, territory which He has entrusted me with to proclaim Him, to lead people to the cross, and to disciple.  I've been given a portion of territory to stake out and claim for Jesus Christ. At this time, and in this place, I've been given a sphere of influence, a place of ministry, and I'm divinely equipped.

Here are some questions I was led to ask myself: What am I doing with the territory that God has called me to work?  Am I being faithful and staking out every opportunity to claim another soul for Christ?  Do I have feelings of anger or jealousy because I don't like the territory, or the assignment I've been given? Am I comparing territories? Am I wasting time wishing I had someone else's territory to work? Do I consider my assignment important to the Kingdom as a whole?

Not as much as I used to, but I have answered "yes" to some of those questions.

I know what it feels like to compare territories.  I've been there.  We all wish at one time or another that we could do what someone else does, or have someone else's ministry. 

Someone may appear to be doing more for the glory of God and seeing real results, while we may not see results as quickly, or not at all.
Someone may have a bigger platform from which to stake and claim their territory and ours may seem small, uneventful, or insignificant.

Comparison is a crafty technique Satan has used for all of history to discourage God's people from focusing on their own territory and assignments.

How about this response? "I don't really like this place of ministry or the people I've been given to work with."

Just because we don't like the surroundings or the people doesn't mean we are not called to stake and claim it.  Wasn't that Jonah's issue?  He wanted the wicked people of Nineveh to be wiped out; not saved!  He wanted to preach a message of destruction, not the message of salvation. 

Jonah's thoughts were not God's thoughts, nor his ways God's ways.

There can be a number of reasons that we allow Satan to discourage us from doing what God has assigned us to do.  When we allow his lies to permeate our attitudes and minds, we accomplish little or nothing for the Kingdom of Christ. This is a miserable place to be.

In the eyes of God, there are no insignificant territories. 

All territories are filled with people (souls) and people are the heartbeat of God.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
(2 Peter 3:9 NKJV, emphasis mine)

So how should we perceive our territory and not run or whine about it?

  • Be thankful that God saved us through the obedience of someone else staking and claiming their territory. Next, be thankful that he has entrusted us with an assignment. Be thankful that we know and hear the voice of God and have the honor and the freedom to obey His voice.  If we're miserable, chances are we've lost our heart of gratefulness.  Repent of the lack of gratefulness and begin viewing people as the heartbeat of God. This will produce a renewed and thankful heart. 

  • Be obedient. Stake and claim the territory that God has entrusted us with and rejoice over the victories He gives us. 

  • Be content with where God has assigned us because He created us for certain assignments which He has divinely equipped us to do.

  • Be faithful to complete our assignments. God will expand our territory if we are faithful with what He has already entrusted us with.  

  • Be alert! Listen intently to His voice. With each assignment comes the challenge to know God's heart a little more and to mature in our faith; moving us from glory to glory.  

As we walk in obedience, we will be filled with indescribable joy wherever He takes us... 
even if it was the exact place we ran from the first time.

"Help me Lord, to stake and claim the territory that you have designed just for me.  Forgive my disobedience and not receiving my assignments with a grateful heart. Change my perspective to see people as you see them, and jolt my heart's rhythm to be in sync with Yours.  Amen."

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String..."


(To the tune of "My Favorite Things")

Kisses from husband, boat rides on lake,
Soft blankets, thunderstorms, candles and cake,
Football and coffee, flip-flops and jeans,
these are a few of my favorite things!

Of course the list could go on and on and on...,
but I wanted to share with you a little of what I was able to share with some beautiful women last evening at Trinity Baptist Church for their Women's Ministry summer event called "Take-Away-Tuesday".

The icebreaker kicked off the theme of the evening. Each lady was given a small bag with a small piece of paper tucked inside.
They were asked to write 5 of their favorite things on the small piece of paper and then tuck it back inside the small bag. 
Next, they were asked to place their bag into the brown paper package tied up with string, which served as the centerpiece for the table.

As each table's designated "Bag Lady" pulled out one small envelope at a time, the ladies were to guess who belonged to the "List of 5" after it was read aloud.  Laughter filled the room as friends, old and new, became better acquainted.

My goal of the evening was to lead the women from their favorite things to helping them discover some of God's favorite things.  Through some personal stories about me and my dad, I shared how my dad was my earthly visual of my Heavenly Father; a loving father, a forgiving father, a just father, a singing father, a fun father, etc..., all characteristics of God, the Father.

Just as my dad considered his girls (his wife and two adopted daughters) among his favorite things, God has us, His "adopted" daughters, on His list of favorites.  How awesome is that?

I love weaving my physical adoption story into the teaching about our spiritual adoption into the greatest family ever- God's! Because of the blood sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, we're grafted into the family tree of Christ.  He is the Vine and we are the branches. (John 15) His life blood runs through our veins.

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (Romans 8:15-17 NKJV, emphasis mine)

All Christians have a story of adoption they can share.  But the point of adoption is not the end of your  story. Your story continues as the details unfold revealing how you live out your faith in Christ. It's our response to the daily grind of real life that entices people to read more of the story;
His story.

What a fun evening we had!  A little "Sound of Music", brown paper packages tied up with string, celebrating our favorite things, and the best thing of all...

 Giving God Glory; His MOST favorite thing!

My Pleasure,


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Silly Frog Follies

I had just finished some work on the computer around 10:30 pm when I turned towards the kitchen window.  It had been raining all evening as it has been most of the summer here in the Palmetto State.

The hot and humid conditions are perfect for tree frogs.  They love to attach themselves to glass doors or windows.  If you're not careful, they'll jump off the door and into the house when you least expect it. 

I looked out the window and attached to the screen was a tiny tree frog and his small lizard friend. As I was moving in to get a closer look, the lizard quickly scurried away.

I eased away to get my camera and thought the little green frog would probably make his escape before I could get back.  WRONG!  Not only was he there, but after the first flash he must have thought this was going to be a photography shoot and he began posing for me.  Every time the flash went off, he struck another pose. It was hysterical!

Well, he's double-waving goodbye.  Show's over! 
Thank you, Jesus, for the crazy, simple things in life that make us laugh out loud.
My Pleasure,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Empty Nesters? Never!

The hour glass of summer is quickly running out of sand! I cannot believe that just a mere six weeks ago we were anticipating high school graduation for our baby girl, Madison.  Now we are roughly six weeks out from starting college!

Slow down, summer! I need to catch up!

Life seasons are designed by God to teach us, to grow us, and to transfigure us into the likeness of His Son. As our family transitions into this next season, our prayer is that we will look more like Jesus than we did last season. That we will build upon the foundation of faith laid long ago, and that we will apply the truths and principles we have learned in this life to bring more glory to our God than ever before!

With our oldest child, Turner, having been out of college for a year (and yes, he has a job, praise the Lord!), and our youngest preparing to enter college this fall, Rick and I are already being referred to as Empty Nesters.  I don't know about you, but I cringe every time I hear that term. What a depressing and sad label to attach to ourselves just because our last child has almost learned to fly on her own.  Sure it's bittersweet, but does it have to sound so final?  So...empty?

Well, I've made an executive decision for Rick and I not to accept this assumed label of emptiness, but we will be wearing a new label instead; "Joy-full Nesters." Doesn't that sound much more exciting? It sounds like there's more to come instead of settling for a nest of nothing.

Our nest is full of joy because we have persevered and sought to stay the course to raise our children with the strength and wisdom of Jesus Christ. We have been given the privilege of parenting for 23+ years, and we have many memories to reflect on as well as new memories still to make. 

With the privilege of parenting comes great responsibility; praying for our children, teaching them the truths of God, reading and studying His Word with them, and leading them to develop a deep love for God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Helping them discover their God-given gifts, as well as watching them hone in on their talents has been so exciting!  Now we get to watch them do life and continue to pray that they do it well.  Isn't that what we've trained them to do?

We give God praise for seeing us through their childhood and adolescent years, for transitioning them into adulthood, and us into a different aspect of parenting; from parent to even more...a true friend!  What a priceless treasure; to be our child's friend.  We couldn't do that while we were parenting children, but hopefully, we've set the stage well to become a trusted and valued friend to our adult children.

AND... of course, we're joy-full because we have more time for nurturing our marriage! Time to rediscover why we fell in love in the first place, the God-ordained love that was blessed with children. Time for more date nights, more weekend get-a-ways, more candlelight dinners for two, and of course, continuing to grow in Christ together; all brings that youthful spirit back into the nest. 

This nest is not empty and there's no plan to be empty... EVER!  We are just moving further into our happily-ever-after! Because there is life after parenting.

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Run to the Quiet

Seated in the salon chair anxiously awaiting much needed root attention, I was enjoying the quiet.  No other hair dressers or clients had arrived at this point.  Just my hairdresser and me.  She said, "Isn't it quiet?"  We like the quiet in the salon before anyone else arrives.  No radio, no chattering, no hairdryers, no gossip. Just quiet.

The timer was set as my roots received their last brush of color. I was just starting to read and drink my coffee when  another hair dresser arrived and said to mine, "It's so quiet in here.  I don't know how you stand it." 

Totally opposite response to the quiet.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my TV noise sometimes when I'm in the house alone, but there is nothing like a quiet morning to place your thoughts on the right things.  It's difficult to think when the airwaves are smothered with music, talking, and many other distractions.

We need the quiet to think on the things of God; to clear our minds and really listen to His still small voice.  When we turn on the sound clutter and listen to it non stop, we are no longer in control of what we hear.  Even listening to Christian radio all the time can clutter our minds. 

Our minds can become addicted to noise.  We think we need it to function throughout the day.  The radio/alarm wakes us up. We shower to music. We dress to music.  We ride to work or school to music. We exercise to music.  We work to music. We eat to music. We watch TV 'til time to go to bed and sometimes we even fall asleep to noise. 

Quiet. We tend to run from it instead of in to it.

But God wants to meet with us in the stillness, the quiet.  He wants us to know Him.

"Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10 NIV

God isn't limited to speaking only in the quiet, but our hearts need to learn to listen to His voice without distractions. We can't expect to know His voice if we don't know what His voice sounds like.  And learning anything well requires practice.

Even in our worship services we think the entire hour (or longer) has to be filled with noise, music, speaking..., but I believe God would be glorified and honored if we carved out some quiet time in our corporate gatherings to just be still and listen in the quiet.  Our minds need to be trained to handle the quiet. Is there a better place for the Body of Christ to learn the discipline of quiet and then encourage families to practice that discipline during the week than together in worship?

How do you handle the quiet?  Do you rush to fill it with noise so you don't have to listen to the quiet?  Want some real calm in your life? Discipline yourself to run to the quiet, not away from it.

"He will quiet me with His love..." (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
 He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:2-3a NIV)

My Pleasure,