Monday, March 30, 2009

My Aha Moment

For those of you who have followed or know me personally, you know that the past few months have been quite challenging. And in the midst of difficult circumstances, I imagine that few of us understand or can grasp the long term ramifications of the trials that befall us. And yet, we serve a God of the big picture. He sees the end from the beginning and declares, "It is good!"

It's three and a half months from the passing of the eye of the storm. I've been doing all I can to make sense of the debris that was left from the destruction of what I knew to be true for my life. Piles of wood, hay and stubble lay everywhere, and all I was left with were memories.
(1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

During the past week, I've re-consecrated my life to the Lord. I've been determined to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) It's so easy during the dark times to allow your mind to take over, have it's fleshy way, and wallow in anguish, pain, frustration, hurt, offense, resentment and bitterness. I know that I know that there is absolutely, positively no good fruit born of these feelings. In fact, they are utterly destructive.

And I'm not going to tell you its easy to get these emotions under control because it's downright hard work. But ultimately, if they are not taken captive, they will take over. They will cause depression and despair that will kill, rob and destroy every good thing that God has planned for our lives, and we just don't have time to wallow here!!! Jesus came to bring us abundant life, and I believe with all my heart that this means He desires to see the plans He created us for come to fruition in our lives. Yes, I'm talking about those dreams again! The desires of your heart that you may have put up on a high shelf because you feel that you will never attain them.

I believe that "life more abundantly" has little to do with the procurement of material stuff. I believe that it is working toward and living out what our goals, dreams, hopes, and visions are as they line up with the plan and purpose God has for us. Think about it. John 10:10 says that the thief (the enemy of our souls) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. What does he want to steal? Our hope, dreams, and visions. What does he want to kill? You and me! What does he want to destroy? Anything that has to do with building the Kingdom of God. The more of US he can take out, the more successful he is in keeping the Kingdom of God from going forward.

And Jesus came to give life, and that more abundantly. What more abundance can I have but to know that what I'm doing is building the Kingdom of my Lord? Is there anything more joyous than knowing my life has purpose and that He will say to me one day, "Well done, my beloved?"

In Acts 3:1-8 Peter declared to the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” If Peter had possessed and had given the lame man silver and gold, it would NOT have changed his circumstances. Peter gave the man what God had given him in abundance, and of how much more worth was that?! The man's life was forever changed, and he praised God for it!
When we receive that abundant life, friends, it ain't for us! It is for the benefit of someone else! When we think of it that way, how selfish of us NOT to live this kind of abundant life!

Well, I just have to encourage you today. So let me continue with my own testimony. As some of you know, I've just begun a job working with a very abused population of adolescent girls. The training that we had was top of the line. It has completely changed my thinking about sexually exploited youth, and my new co-workers would totally agree with me. If you have the opportunity, check out http://www.gems-girls.org/ . The woman who began GEMS was our trainer. If you can, watch the documentary about the program called, "Very Young Girls." It'll rock your world and get your head out of the sand! But I digress...

As we were in this intensive training, God reminded me of something. Several years ago, I attended a Women of Faith Conference. During the conference, a woman came forward and presented a ministry to hurting teenagers. Several teenagers then gave their testimonies of having been runaways, sexually exploited, drug or alcohol abusers and/or estranged from their families. Because of this ministry, they had been totally transformed and gave their lives to Christ. I was so moved that I prayed repeatedly that weekend, "Lord, is this what you want me to do? Because if it is, I'll do it!" I even came home and told my family about it.

As I was suddenly reminded about this prayer during the training, it was the ultimate AHA moment of my life thus far! Here I was, several years later training for a job that was with troubled adolescents! A coincidence? I sincerely think NOT! But I couldn't remember the name of that ministry. After googling and several phone calls, I finally found it--House of Hope. http://www.nationalhouseofhope.org/ I then made phone calls and sent emails, and to make a long story short, I will be attending a training in October for those who are interested in starting a House of Hope! I've also just registered to begin my Master's in Counseling at Liberty University so that I will be well equipped for this adventure!

Perspective (hind-sight) really is 20/20. Had I not been laid off, had I not gone through what I did in ministry, I would have never had the job that I do now. It is because I am on this path that the Lord brought to my remembrance the prayer I prayed the weekend I was first introduced to House of Hope.

The rebuilding of my life continues. I have a new hope, a new perspective and vision. Clarity is overtaking the cloudiness that has covered my world. I am determined to find balance and peace with where I've been, and forge ahead into what lies before me. I know that all things ARE working together for good, and my Father has ordered my steps, so all I need to do is walk where He guides. And wherever that is, "It is good!"

And if you have been through the eye of the storm, if your dreams and hopes seemed to have been dashed by circumstances or nay-sayers (there are plenty of those for your penny, believe me!) and if you get nothing else from this post, let me encourage you that you make this your own today:

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Rollover Minutes by Keylon Levine


This "musing" is written by my friend Keylon Levine. Keylon is a man who does whatever he does with abandon. When he was in the world, he played hard and lived hard. Now that he has come into the Kingdom of God, he serves God uncompromisingly. Letting no one despise his youth, Key is clear about his desire to live the life of a disciple. He seeks to always dig deeper into the truths in the Word, and is truly carefree about how he is perceived by men. I love the passion with which Keylon lives his life, and he shares it well in his writings which you can find on his shared blogsite, http://wordabovewater.com/.

No Rollover Minutes

In this cell phone obsessed world that we live in, we should all be familiar with the concept of rollover minutes. If not, let me explain: In signing up for a cell phone plan, one gets allotted a certain amount of minutes that can be used every month. If for whatever reason one doesn’t use up all of their minutes in a particular month, then the unused minutes get carried over into the following month. Cingular actually now has a series of hilarious commercials in which a family is bickering about the fact that the sons’ are using their new rollover minutes while wasting their old ones. Even though the minutes are old they’re still perfectly usable, but the sons continue throw them in the garbage simply because their old. Meanwhile, the mother is constantly fishing the old minutes out of the garbage and rebuking her sons for not appreciating them.

Sadly enough, we as Christians, live our lives like our cell phone plans. We live our lives like we have rollover minutes. We have such a propensity to just go through the motions; wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep without anything really being accomplished. An outsider looking in would think that we were saving up our minutes to be truly productive for the following month. It seems like we walk through this life not understanding that every minute of every day is a minute that needs to be used productively.

Now to be clear, there is certainly a difference between being productive and being busy. Those who are simply going through the motions could most definitely make the case that they are busy. But the question is not, "Are you busy?" The question is, "Are you being productive?"
One of the greatest lies that the devil would get us to believe is that busyness equals productivity. Let me give you Webster’s definition of the word busy: "foolishly or intrusively active." So let me just set the record straight: if we’re not being responsibly active about the Master’s work, then we’re not being productive.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost our sense of urgency in the body of Christ, and it’s evident in our lack of productivity. We are living in the last days, and Christ is waiting for us to have Him truly manifested amongst us, but manifestation won’t come unless we’re living lives that are indicative of us expecting the return of our Master. Jesus put it like this, “So you too must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: if a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”(Matthew 24: 42-44). So it is clear that we need to stop watching life pass us by and start a life that is watching for Him.

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine, and he said something that nearly broke my heart. He said, “I could just kill two weeks, no problem.” In others words, he could waste his minutes without even thinking about it. Comments like this leave me with such anger at the devil; righteous anger, of course. He’s getting God’s people to continually remain paralyzed by their sense of comfort and familiarity. The potential that my friend has to live a powerful life for God is tremendous, and the only thing that is stopping him is the fact that he would have to get out of his comfort zone. And, the worst part about it is that he has acknowledged the fact that he’s not happy in this comfort zone, but the paralysis that has overcome him has left him too numb to make any real steps; he’s paralyzed from the spirit down.

This life plan that God has given us comes with no rollover minutes. The minutes that God has given us need to be used with purpose and productivity; not with frivol and waste; we don’t get any of them back. When we gave our lives to Christ our life plans with rollover minutes expired. The expired rollover minutes, however, were replaced with the non-expiring Kingdom minutes. And if we read the fine print, there is a promise that is attached to these Kingdom minutes: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as the Shepard separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.'"(Matthew 25: 31-33). Let us be sure to revive our sense of urgency so that we are not to be separated with the goats.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Are You a Mucky, Muddy Hand Grabber?

When you think about "attending church," what is it that comes to your mind? What happens at your once or twice weekly meetings, and what changes are wrought in your life on a continual basis as a result? (wrought-produced or shaped by beating with a hammer, as iron or silver articles.) How is your walk with God affected? And perhaps the most important question, is God permitted to attend, or does the business of church effectively leave Him standing at the door hoping to be invited in?

If our gatherings were met with the hardcore Word of God the way Jesus and His disciples taught, and we were continuously challenged to raise our standards to live a God-centered life; if we were without the entertainment factors and the cutsie aberrations we expect from the pulpit, would we still go? (I encourage you to read the book of Acts, and study how the Word was preached with power and anointing, and how the disciples walked upon the earth and what fruit was born of it. Thousands came to the Lord even though there were no studies done, no careful planning and practicing of the how to's of keeping people satisfied, no cushions on the carefully arranged seats, you get my drift...)

If, at each meeting, instead of being an audience waiting to be so entertained by feel good music and charismatic speakers, each one of us was made to step out of our comfort zones to actually participate in the plan and the purpose God had for us, enlarge our tents, and be what God created us to be, would we attend with fervor and expectancy?

What if when we came together, instead of feeling good about ourselves and what we could GET from the hand of God, we were convicted about how we should GIVE, and we were taught to live the principles of true Kingdom building outside the four walls of the church and into the harvest fields around us, would we want to participate?

And to camp here for a moment, the kind of giving I'm talking about transcends the tithe and participating in doings within and around the church building. I'm talking about getting our hands dirty, about sacrificing beyond what may be comfortable. The GOING into all the world that Jesus commanded those who were His disciples to do...

I have this picture in my head...my feet are stuck in the miry clay, and there are many stuck with me. I cannot get myself out, and I can't help anyone else out, although their burdens weigh heavier on my heart than my own. And Jesus comes, grabs my mucky, muddy hands, lifts me out, and sets my feet on a solid rock. I am safe and set free! Instead of gloating about being on the rock, I reach out and grab the mucky and muddy hands of those who are still stuck, and am used of God to help lift them out so that they too can stand on the Solid Rock. This is the sacrificing I'm talking about. Getting beyond ourselves and reaching out, really reaching out and giving out of the blessings we've been given, no matter how difficult or even frightening it may seem.

Did you know that we are ALL called to be missionaries? Mucky, muddy hand grabbers? Right beneath your feet, wherever you go, you are a minister of reconciliation! (2 Corinthians 5:17-19) It's your reasonable service to minister the love, mercy and grace of the Savior to those around you every day! I digress, but not so much...

If instead of coming together and engaging in social pleasantries and chit chat, gossip, backbiting and covert plotting against one another, we met with purpose to join our hearts together in true fellowship, where we would uplift and encourage each other in the Word, foster, nurture, and cultivate the gifts in each other, and made plans to GO and do the greater things Jesus said we would do in His name, how many of us would still be faithful to the meetings?

It's time for the "church" to come out of it's sleepy, comfortable state. The time of lukewarm, feel good, gimme glee club church services are over. Wake up, oh sleeper! The time is short! (1Cor. 7:29-31) Put a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other, and begin to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. (Nehemiah 3:17-18) We only have a few moments left to sow in tears and reap in joy, for the harvest is white NOW. The greatest gift we can give the greatest Giver is to win a soul for His Kingdom. Remember, we are His hands and feet on the earth, not so much to be used by Him as to be useful to Him. It's time to return to the kind of living the disciples lived...going forth in the Spirit's power, unafraid, unashamed, and uncompromisingly proclaiming the truth until He comes...THIS is church!

Matthew 9:36-38 (New King James Version)
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Acts 2:46-47
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Live Your Dreams!


I'd been seeking out a long lost friend from high school for some time now. I'd looked for him online, in local phone books where he used to live, and found nothing. The last time I saw him, it didn't go so well. We didn't have a fight or anything like that, it just didn't go so well. I don't remember ever seeing him after that, but we did talk and write letters, and I kept those because I really did treasure our friendship.

Well, last night, I was able to contact the family of his son, who I never met. He was born after our "incident," but I remember my friend telling me about him and telling me his name. I spoke with my friend's daughter-in-law on the phone, and she graciously told me many things about my friend, including the fact that he had passed away a number of years ago. If only I had found him 10 years ago...

I have to tell you that somehow, I knew that he was gone. Somewhere on the inside, I'd been forewarned. And although the news made me sad, I wasn't surprised. The sad fact is that I will never have an opportunity on this side of heaven to reconnect with my friend. The good news is that I have made a connection with him through his son, and there is something very sweet about that.

And now to a different story, (hang in there with me for a minute!) For many years, I've been saying, "If only..." about playing the piano. If only my parents fostered the gifts in their children...If only I had taken lessons 25 years ago...If only this, if only that. Well, the Lord blessed me with a beautiful grand piano. It was built in the 1920's, still has its original ivory keys and is a beaut! My "if only" days were over. Time to take lessons! And so, for the past few months, I've been taking piano lessons, and learning to take my first baby steps! It's time consuming, takes discipline, and I'm so glad I'm not sitting at the piano bench repeating my "If only" mantra! I don't expect to be a concert pianist anytime soon, but I do expect to be able to play, at least at a novice level!

And a third story...(just work with me here!) I've had lots of jobs, and have had lots of disappointing experiences. In the past five or so years, I've come to a stark realization why. I'm not the kind of person who can sit behind a computer doing someone else's business. I desperately need to know that what I'm doing makes an actual difference in someone else's life. "If only I knew then what I know now!" but I didn't. And maybe I had to become a stronger, more mature person before I was able to help someone else without climbing into their struggles. And now that I know, I've been given the ultimate opportunity to do just that. My new job will be an incredible challenge to what I believe I'm called to do in life. I will be working with adolescent young ladies whose lives have been virtually devastated by circumstances that you and I could not imagine living through. And if I am called to this, if this is my gift and my anointing, then I will go with God's power, wisdom, understanding, and strength, and lives will be changed because of Him! I'm excited, nervous, scared, and anticipating finding out more about who I am in Christ through this opportunity to serve Him, AND GET PAID FOR IT! :)

So my question to you is, what are YOUR "If only's?" What dreams and visions have you let go of? Have you searched for ways to see them come to pass, but in the waiting, you feel like they've died? Have you mourned their loss before they were even dead? Stop mourning! Didn't God said He would give you the desires of your heart?

Please heed my counsel on this! Don't spend 25 years saying, "If only..." If you need to, dig in, fast and pray and seek His will concerning those things that just don't go away inside your heart.
Remember, your steps are ordered by Him, and if the time isn't just yet, you are probably being prepared for your ultimate goal. But if there is something you can do to get prepared, don't just wait and pray about it, do it! Go to school! (I plan to start my master's in the fall!) Find a job that fulfills your dreams. Volunteer at a place that gives you a good taste of where your heart is, take lessons in something you've wanted to do. Don't just sit on your haunches, but show God you are serious! Pursue those dreams and visions with a fervor. And if you begin and find it's not what you expected, don't get discouraged and don't stress it! Change it! You've just taken a step closer to your true calling by eliminating one thing that didn't work. That's how Edison invented the light bulb! After thousands of failed ideas, he said, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." (CAVEAT: Don't just give up because it's hard...change it only if it's really not working...)

I believe with all my heart that each of us has been given gifts and talents that God is waiting for us to discover and walk into. And that's where we will find the kind of fulfillment in our lives that we've been hoping for. What's your "bent?" What would you do if you could do anything in the world? What do you love? What do other people tell you that you are good at? What do you regret not having done with your life?

Don't give up on those dreams. I don't care if you are 17 or 75. If you are breathing, it's not too late! Another wonderful bit of Edison wisdom, "Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." You can't imagine how close you are!

Discover, hunt, chase your dreams and visions with everything you've got. Don't let ANYONE discourage you from your heart's desire. Go for it with both hands, and watch God lead and guide you right into the plan and the purpose He has had for you since before you were born!

Hebrews 6:10-12 (New King James Version)
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

PS. If you've had a dream come to life, please leave a comment and let's encourage one another!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'd Rather be Alone


I have to admit it, I like being alone. I like not having to interact with other humans. Since being laid off from my job three months ago, I’ve spent much, I daresay, most of my time alone. Some of the interactions I have had during this time have only worked to reinforce my feelings. I really do like being alone. Being alone means that I can avoid the hurt, rejection, altercations and confrontations that seem to be part and parcel of human interaction. And I have to tell you, I’m not good at any of those things, nor getting over them when they do inevitably occur. In fact, I dread having to deal with the negative things. I detest misunderstandings, and even more, I loathe deliberate injustice, cruelty and unkindness. I have no tools in my belt to deal them, and I end up in a destructive whirlwind of emotions that I can’t seem to take captive and make obedient. At least, not for too long a time.

Alone is safe. It is comfortable. Responsibility and expectation are what I make them, and there’s no one looking over my shoulder, judging, criticizing, or being offended by what I do or don’t do. Safe. Safe is nice. So nice, that I can see how a person can become a veritable recluse. Alone in a bubble of a world. And outside the bubble can be so disconcerting that fear can take over, making a person believe that there is nothing worse than having to face the dangers of being with other humans. It can become paralyzing.

Not to worry, it hasn’t gotten THAT bad for me. Not yet. And thankfully, beginning next week, I will be entrenched in a new position, and with that, I will have to face all the fears that come with being with many strangers who will need to learn to work together in a very intimate setting under circumstances that may be stressful and difficult. But I’m more than willing to walk right into this new experience, and count it to be the next assignment that God has for me on this life’s journey.

Still, I do like being alone. I like not being in the potential line of fire that comes with being with other people. I really like avoiding hurt, rejection, altercations, and confrontations. But in avoiding those things, I inadvertently avoid other things as well…among them, fellowship, growth, love and the ability to touch others in ways that may change their worlds for the better. And honestly, I love that more than I love to be alone.

God puts people in our path that sharpen us, encourage us, exhort and uplift us. They are the people who stay firmly planted by our sides when the wind of adversity blows our worlds apart. They are the friends that stick closer than a brother. They are easy to talk to, to share laughter and tears with, they don’t get offended easily, and they don’t mind telling the truth IN LOVE. They are a joy and a gift that God brings into our lives. Proverbs 12:26 tells us that we should, “choose our friends carefully.” Not everyone can be a friend to everyone, and not everyone can be a friend. Webster’s dictionary calls a friend, “A person you know well and regard with affection and trust.” Affection and TRUST. I can trust my friends, and put away my fears that I might get hurt. But I am learning to choose them carefully. To step into relationships one foot at a time. I'd rather proceed cautiously than realize later that I threw that caution to the wind and have the wind blow the bitter failure of the relationship back into my face. I believe it behooves all of us to use godly wisdom when establishing relationships with others. And with that, understand that relationships with humans come and go like seasons. It’s okay for a season to end and another to begin. It’s natural, and even healthy and a necessary part of growth.
Those with whom we can have that true God-ordained fellowship are rare and precious. I’m blessed to have several amazing brothers and sisters in the Lord that I can genuinely call FRIEND. One thing is certain. Only Jesus will ever get the honor of being my best friend. He is the only one who will never leave nor forsake me, knows my heart, and will always have my best at heart. He has proven Himself over and over again as the one who deserves the title of Best Friend in my life.

We really cannot grow as men and women of God if we draw into ourselves. Helen Keller stated, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Sometimes, being with others is like, oh, carrying our cross and sharing the fellowship of His suffering! Sometimes, no matter how cautiously we may proceed with people, we may find ourselves in a position of pain, mistrust or misunderstanding. Hey listen. If Jesus went through it, we will too. It’s not fun or pretty, but keeping Him in mind, we can always forgive and love, and move on if necessary. These are opportunities to learn and grow, and be better people for each circumstance we live through. It is by our trials and forging into the victory that we are able to understand with compassion what someone else is enduring and thereby intercede for them and minister to them.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Isn’t this the truth of the Gospel? To be instant in season and out, ready to show forth the Father’s love to someone in need? And if I must suffer trials, pain, rejection, and the rest in order to be of use to my Father that His Kingdom may be glorified by one whom He may be able to love through me, then so be it.

So Lord, fall like fire, soak like rain. Burn away the chaff, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me that there might be something useful in me for Your glory. Teach me your ways, show me your paths, and help me to learn my lessons without so much grumbling, complaining and whining. Help me to get to that place where I learn my lessons well, that I might be rewarded with the tools of the trade that help me to build Your Kingdom so that You might be glorified! Thank You that Your perfect love casts out all the fears that tempt me to retreat from the hard things. Thank you for Your courage and strength to move forward into the next assignment with the confidence I have in YOU!