Thursday, September 18, 2014

Filled to the Brim

My family knows that I don't talk much first thing in the morning, and that I love quiet as I start my day.

"Shhh...don't be so loud," I sometimes whisper to my perky husband if he attempts to share his perkiness with me before I've had my first cup of coffee.

You see, a perfect morning for me begins with the push of a button on our Keurig coffee maker. I love the sound as it begins filling my favorite red, pottery mug with hot, Caribou coffee. Next, I swirl the cream and sweetener until just the right shade of khaki appears.  Then, holding my mug oh so carefully, I sip slowly and deliberately, to awaken my taste buds, and stir my senses with the rich aroma. Mmm...delightful.

I'm cracking myself up just thinking about what I do to wake up in the mornings! 

In our Stronger Bible study, Angela Thomas talks about how our natural nature (the one we're born with, you know, the sin nature?) battles our new nature (the supernatural one we're re-born with in Christ). The two natures are constantly battling one another because we still live in our fleshly bodies.  Her coffee analogy really hit home with me.

So if I say, "Oh, that's just how I am in the mornings," and my family is thinking, "She's grumpy, unkind, and she'll bite your head off if you speak to her before she's had her coffee", then I'm not revealing my new nature in Christ. In fact, with that attitude, I've already allowed the enemy to defeat me before my day even gets started.

When did I begin allowing a cup of coffee to dictate my attitude? 

It's imperative that we are deliberate in giving Jesus complete control of everything about our lives, including our mama bear-like growls in the mornings. If we just chalk it up to, "Hey, that's just the way I am," then what we're really saying is, " Lord, I don't believe You can make me a new creation." 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"             (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

However we start our day, our minds and our eyes must go straight to Jesus. We need to think about Him, and talk to Him, even if we don't feel like it. Our spiritual mugs need to be filled to the brim with the attitude of Christ, so as we begin spilling out onto people, we spill out Jesus and not growls.

Our families are usually the first ones to receive what spills out of us first thing in the morning. That's why we must allow Christ to renew our minds and acknowledge Him before our feet hit the floor.

We need to be filled to the brim with a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit each morning. We need to be filled with the sweet aroma of Christ. So, when we're tipped over during the day, we will spill out Jesus instead of spoiled milk.

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV)

Lord, fill me with Your rich aroma. May I be a sweet fragrance to You and to those around me today.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Deep Do My Trust Roots Run?

God gave me a big test on the Tuesday after Labor Day. It was a trust test, and I can say with full assurance that I trust my Jesus with my whole heart - way down deep in my soul.

Over the Labor Day weekend I developed an infection. I ran a low-grade fever for a few days, was experiencing some severe pain, and by Tuesday morning, I was in Women's Imaging before lunch having a couple of scans done. (Thanks to a very good friend.)

Without going into details, I knew this could result in bad news, but I was not going into this with out having a heart to heart with Jesus. The night before my tests, I crawled slowly into the bed. I picked up my Bible and began praying through Psalm 84. This is the chapter where I was preparing to take a group of ladies in our "Stronger" Bible study on the following Thursday morning. My thought process and prayer went something like this: If I truly trust You, Jesus, like I say I do, then how will I handle good or bad news?

Praying through Scripture helps us to see where our hearts really are and uncover what we truly believe. It's great therapy for the soul. It helps to identify our sins, our strengths and our weaknesses. The words, I trust Jesus, are not just three trite little words that roll off the Christian's tongue in convenient, non-threatening conversations about faith. They are serious, intentional words we hold onto every single day, and especially when our grace journey takes us through a real valley.

As I prayed and anticipated the outcome of the next day, a particular song from a youth musical I sang in back in the 80's kept playing over in my mind. A couple of the lines are:

"He didn't bring us this far to leave us. 
He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown." 
(Not sure who the composer is.)

God tests our faith as we walk through the deep waters, the scorching flames of fire, and everything in between. As we exit the waters or fires, we discover how deep our roots really run. God's trust tests are the evidence that He is refining us, making us stronger in our faith, and deepening our roots as He moves us from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7), and from glory to glory.

My favorite verse became my favorite verse when I had to be on bed rest for 8 weeks during my pregnancy with Madison, our second child. It reads,

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, 
(Isaiah 43:2-3a NKJV)

Madison was born via C-section one month early. Not only had she made it to the 5 lbs. we were praying for, but she was the biggest baby in the NIC-U at 6 lb. 14 oz. 

On Tuesday, September 3, my scans were normal and my diagnosis was good. Yes, I was relieved to hear the Dr. say, "No masses or malignancies. Antibiotics should do the trick."

You may be thinking, "But what if you had received a different diagnosis?" I had already settled it with Jesus the night before, that no matter what, good news or bad news, I would praise Him all the day long.  Can you hear me? I'm still praising my Savior all the day long! Why? Because I trust Him with my whole heart.

Jesus is my Savior, Redeemer, Strong Tower, Protector, Healer, Defender, etc., and there's power in the name of Jesus.

He doesn't become less when life gets hard. He never changes! He's ubiquitous! (One of our "Stronger" Bible study words.) He's our everything every moment of every day.

Are you in the midst of a trust test now? How deep do your trust roots run?
I pray they run all the way to Jesus.

My Pleasure,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Intentional Grounding - Learning to Trust

Counting down the days until football season began, I found myself excited with every Facebook post about the Dallas Cowboys, or the South Carolina Gamecocks.  It just gets my blood pumping! Yes, some women really do love football.

I give my dad the credit for my fetish with the pigskin. He loved the game and began teaching me about it before I could even walk.  To make watching the games more fun, we pulled against each other. He always let me choose first for the team I wanted to win. I chose my team according to the color of their uniforms. Hey, that's what preschoolers do. And it must have been a skilled strategy, because dad said my team won most of the time. Genius, don't you think?

I learned all of the referee signals via a World Book Encyclopedia apparatus. I knew touchdownillegal man down field, off-sides, personal foul, first down, roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, intentional grounding, incomplete pass, and more before I started to school. Today, I surprise many men sitting around me at the USC games when I make a call before the refs do.

I miss my dad and our TV game days together. I miss the halftimes where we would go outside and throw the football to each other.

I. Miss. My. Dad.

Not only does my dad receive the credit for my pigskin fetish, but I also attribute my ability to trust to him as well.

One of the first ways my dad taught me to trust was teaching me not to fear water. At 7 or 8 months old, he had me swimming off the palm of his hand into Lake Murray where my family spent much of our free time.

Continuing my lessons on trust, as a toddler, my dad would hold me up in the air by my ankles, tell me not to bend my knees, and I could stand up there forever. Because I trusted him, I never thought about falling. Learning to trust my dad was helping me learn how to trust my heavenly Father as well.

As I grew older, I trusted my dad to teach me to water ski. I was skiing by age 5, and slaloming (skiing on one ski) by age 8. I would listen to his instructions intently, as he shouted them over the sound of the boat motor, and then I did exactly what he told me. As the boat took off, I got straight up. He would pull me all over the lake, under bridges, around in circles, and to bring me back in for a smooth landing.

Did I ever fall? Sure, many times. But, I always got back in the water, returned to my place of trust, put on my game face, and began again; all because I knew my dad was there.

I know that trusting my dad led me to an early trusting in Jesus. For that, I am forever grateful. I solidified my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior the summer before I entered first grade, and I was baptized later that summer. Trusting Jesus has always come easy for me.

Do I ever sin, fall short in my faith, or doubt my Lord? Of course. But I repent, allow Jesus to help me up, dust me off, and put me back in the game. I know in Whom I trust. Jesus is always there for me and will never leave me.

Making the decision to trust in Christ is intentionally choosing to believe and trust in the Savior who loves us unconditionally and is always there. The Savior who will never leave us or forsake us. It's being grounded in faith, putting down roots, and then allowing them to grow deep and strong through the pitfalls and failures in life.  I guess I was called for Intentional Grounding early in the game of life. Undisputedly, it was a good call.

...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 
                                                                                                                           1 Peter 3:15 NASB 

I have sanctified (set apart) Christ as Lord in my heart. I am always ready to make a defense to any and everyone who asks me to give an account for the hope that is in me. I pray I always deliver that account with gentleness and reverence, just like I watched my dad do many, many, times.

I'm very aware that there are those who struggle with a simple faith that I hope in so easily.  There are a myriad of reasons for their cautiousness and timidness to step all in and just believe.  We have to be patient with those who struggle with trust. But for me, my soul's rest is in Jesus Christ, Who not only paid the debt for my sin, but Who also rescued me from the power of sin when He died on the cross. I daily confess with my mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of the living God, the resurrected King of kings and Lord of Lords.

He died for me.  He died for you. He loves us so much that He took our place, our punishment. We can trust Him because of His unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. He understands us. He's patient, long-suffering, and is pulling for all to answer His call for Intentional Grounding.

...who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, (2 Timothy 1:9 NASB)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 NASB) 

My Pleasure,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Leadership Lessons From a Football Movie and a Book

When the Game Stands Tall has hit the movie theaters. Opening night, August 22, was our Friday night date, and I couldn't have been more excited. Why? Football is upon us people, and #realwomenlovefootball!

The movie is based on a true story about a Concord, California High School football coach, Bob Ladouceur, of the Del La Salle Spartans, and is played by Jim Caviezel (who also played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, and John, one of the main characters on the hit television show, Person of Interest).  

After the Spartans lost a game which broke their 151game-winning streak, Coach Bob was determined to get his team back on track again, but not with fancy tactics, or by degrading the team. He stayed with his strategy which had worked for 151 games straight. Even after a heart attack and some setbacks in his personal life, from which he learned some lessons, he stayed the course. Love and Brotherhood were the bottom line with God at the center.

It was all about the team being unified and working together toward one common goal, and never about the individual. He was not just a football coach for these boys, he was a life coach as well; encouraging them to rise above whatever hardships they faced. Every. Single. Day.  Life lessons in this movie, as well as leadership lessons, were exuded through the life of this coach, and they easily parallel lessons for Church leadership today.

How we respond to each piece of reality in our lives, good or bad, reveals our character and our convictions - who we really are and what we truly believe deep down to our core. A real leader leads with conviction. He or she doesn't waver on their core beliefs, no matter what. Our core beliefs define who we are.

As Christian leaders, we must know what we believe, communicate it well, and lead with conviction. We need to see our lives through the prism of God's sovereignty. If not, we'll misunderstand many of the truths He desires to teach us in His Word, and how to live out of these truths which build character (His character) in us.

I'm reading a book on Leadership called, The Conviction to Lead; 25 Principles for Leadership That Matter by Dr. Albert Mohler. At age 33, Dr. Mohler was the youngest ever to be called to serve as President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Now, 20 or so years later, he has put into a book what it takes to lead an organization and lead it well with conviction. I would recommend this book to anyone who is in any type of leadership position.

Coach Ladouceur was the epitome of many of these 25 principles. And though he probably never read the book, I watched him, throughout the movie, lead with conviction, and I knew his strategy from the get-go. He never wavered. He knew what worked, what was true, and he led others to believe them too. He led young men into adulthood with values, principles, and conviction. Very impressive.

I, too, want to be this kind of leader.

Our job as Christian leaders, men and women, is to lead others into adulthood in their Christian faith. It's teaching them to know God and to make Him known. This process is called discipleship; helping others to fall deeply in love with the Savior through the teaching/preaching the Word, Biblical principles and values to live by, which lead to deep convictions. Then teach them how to teach others to do the same...all encompassed with Love and Brotherhood (Sisterhood) at the core.

Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, "Love others as much as you love yourself."(Matthew 22:37-39 Contemporary English Version) 

So what really matters? The local churches we're called to lead, or be leaders in, should first be about loving God and loving each other. This is how the world knows that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. Then, growing the fellowship to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ as they reach the masses. God's Word is very clear about what points people to Christ - preaching the Word well and loving one another. This is what Christian leadership should be about; leading well with conviction and love.

Calling all leaders! Go see the movie, and read the book! See what you can learn and apply to your leadership skills, all for the glory of Jesus Christ!

No one can lead with perfection, but we can all lead well with "perfect effort". (adapted from Coach Ladouceur)

My Pleasure,

Winners Announced Today!

What have I been up to?

                        Taking banjo lessons!

I got a banjo when I was 15 or so, took some lessons and was able to play pretty well. Now I'm 51 and I'm trying again.

It's not quite so easy this time, but I'm sticking with it for a while anyway.  Don't ask me to play for you any time soon. I've only had 3 lessons. I've got the grinnin' down, but not the pickin' as well yet.

Congratulations to the winners who guessed correctly what I've been up to:

1st prize: Melissa Hanna, $25 Starbucks Gift Card

2nd prize: Donna Edge, a book, The Waiting by Cathy Lagrow

3rd prize: Joyce Wagster, a Living Real magazine long sleeve t-shirt

Thanks to all who participated! Have a wonderful Labor Day!

My Pleasure,