INFLUENCE

{This is the first entry of what will be multiple entries dancing around the topic of INFLUENCE. Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.}

Matthew 5:13-16 tells us “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

We find more about who we are called to be in I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

And one of my favorites, 2 Corinthians 5:20 that says “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Each of these scriptures shows us the potential influencer we can be.

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Influence oozes into and out of every part of our lives, daily, minute by minute. I find so often I live most of my life in the mindset that I have nothing to offer those around me yet the truth is that I do. I can offer my influence.

Influence is that weird unseen power that every person has.

INFLUENCE – the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone

Not one person on the face of the earth is exempt from being affected and affecting others through the power of influence, including you. Let’s do a fun little exercise. Think about the first few hours of your day today. Maybe you woke up, made your bed, drank coffee, showered, got dressed, spent time with Jesus, woke others up, prepared breakfast, walked a dog, scrolled Instagram….

What did you do this morning? Think through how you were influenced in making every one of those decisions. How did you pick your coffee, your creamer, even your mug? Did you read or hear about what coffee others say is good and so you tried it, which led you to buy it, brew it and enjoy it today? What about the products you used in the shower, your make-up, and your clothes? Even how you spend time with Jesus is influenced by what we have learned from others regarding “quiet times” and I am sure you were intentional in the tools you used based on someone influencing you to use those tools! We are SO influenced in everything we do!

Now, think about whom you influenced in the process of what you did this morning. Often women set the tone of environments. So what tone did you set in the places you were? Have you ever been with someone that was in a bad mood and it got all on you? Were you that person today? Or were you joyful, humming praise to God under your breath and smiling at every person you saw? And I bet you didn’t stop to think about the people who would look at your outfit today and either decide if they don’t like it or if they will try to find jeans just like the ones you wore (don’t tell me you have never looked at another woman and thought, “I wonder where she got that?”). If you walked your dog this morning you made his day amazing! The list is never-ending to the unseen power of influence.

So what does the Bible say about us as followers of Christ and our influence? It says that we are salt, light, a royal priesthood and ambassadors of Christ! So who are we supposed to be that influence to? There are 3 spheres, or groups of people, that each one of us has in our lives with potential to influence significantly.

  1. Our Family. Blood relatives and those friends that are family by choice.
  2. Our Neighbor. Co-workers, neighbors, and those we see often at church, the gym, the kids sports game, etc…
  3. Our World. The people we run into around our city that we don’t have a relationship with, those that live in other places that we only hear about in the news, a great sermon or a book we are reading.

Think about how many points of contact you have with others throughout your average day. As you ponder the numerous faces your path crosses in a 24 hours period, read the following words…

The slightest breeze that ever blew
Some slender grass has wavered,
The smallest life I ever knew
Some other life has flavored.

We cannot live our lives alone
For other lives we touch
Are either strengthened by our own,
Or weakened just as much. –Author Unknown

When you think of yourself do you see yourself as salt, light, a royal priesthood and ambassadors of Christ like the scriptures you read above call you?

 Ask God in your own words to see yourself and your role in the earth the way he created it to be. You are an INFLUENCER. 

Discouragement Sucks.

 

person-under-bridge_4460x4460“Why so downcast oh my soul, put your hope in God.”

Anyone remember that little diddy?  It was a song found on some christian tape I had, yes I said “tape”, I am old(er). Following the advice of that song is easier said than done. In theory, it should be simple because God is so easy to hope in. The hard part of it is not HIM, the hard part is US!

Every single day I am faced with discouragement. Sometimes it’s the simple, dumb discouragement that doesn’t take long to overcome, just a clear mind and a little space to think. Other times it is the kind of discouragement that leaves me feeling like I have been kicked in the gut with no life line to heal my wounds. These are the moments that I have some choosing to do. Stay on the ground curled up in a little wounded ball, lick my wounds and complain about how bad I hurt OR call on God to fill me with His strength to rise, His healing for my wounds and His power to use my pain. Here’s the thing, laying on the floor seems like such a valid option. WHY?  Because we are human, I am human. I want people to see my pain and remind me that I am justified in feeling all of it! I want people to come lay on the floor with me and tell me that I have every right to feel the way I do. Discouraged.

Discouraged – Having lost confidence or enthusiasm; disheartened.

I have this very human side of me that when I loose confidence or enthusiasm and become disheartened I want people to feel it with me and tell me it is ok that I am human! Here’s the problem with that… if I stay there too long, I begin to really believe it. I begin to let it become who I am. I become a victim of discouragement. And from that place, I have very little to offer because all I can see is my own dreadful need to stand, walk and be whole. So what do I do? I call out to the God who can save me from my discouragement, even if it’s a whisper from the heap on the floor and I can barely muster the words on my breath. I call out. You see, no matter how far down we feel like we have fallen, or how hard we feel like we have hit the ground, or how long we have stayed there, God is who he says he is. He will answer when we call and for that I am thankful. I am thankful for the times it’s so easy to put my hope in him and I am thankful for the times when I have chosen to crumple into a ball on the floor and he hears me anyway.

Discouragement sucks. It just does. On any level, no matter how simple or how deep it runs. But we have a God who is unchanging, so faithful and loves us deeper than we can dream of. So when discouragement comes creeping around the corner like a hairy spider that wants to bite the life out of you (and it will), wether something little or something that leaves you feeling defeated, remember the old school song “why so downcast oh my soul, put your hope in God” and know that you are just a breath away from him rescuing you. He is our hope.

Here are some reminders of how to cling to our HOPE in times of discouragement: 

  • PRAY. Instead of dwelling on your feelings, dwell on the creator of the universe. Call out to him, be honest with him, ask him for his help.
    • Pray Scriptures like this one if you can’t find the words to speak…
      • Psalm 33:20-22 (EX

        20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
            he is our help and our shield.
        21 For our heart is glad in him,
            because we trust in his holy name.
        22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
            even as we hope in you.

  • READ. Open your Bible and read! His word is a lamp unto your feet in the middle of the darkest places. Let his words of truth sink deep into your soul, it will not return void. You are valuable to God and so loved, be reminded! He will never leave you or forsake you. Start with…
    • Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

      10 fear not, for I am with you;
          be not dismayed, for I am your God;
      I will strengthen you, I will help you,
          I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

    • Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

      Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

  • WORSHIP. Put your attention and affection on the Lord. Sing your little heart out even if you don’t feel like it. Every word of adoration for God that you sing welcomes Him into your moment of life. He inhabits the praises of His people. He dwells there and fills us with His presence and where His presence is, discouragement can not linger.
  • SHARE. Everyone has those one or two people in our lives that we can pour our guts out to. People we trust with the most beautiful parts of who we are and the most wretched parts of who we are. Share with someone you trust, someone who will remind you that God is your hope.
  • SERVE. We each were created with the need to help rescue others. It is part of God’s DNA in us to live a life on mission for His glory. Choose to look at someone else’s needs instead of your own and find ways to help them.
    • Great places to serve
      • A Neighbor in Need
      • Church and/or it’s Local Partners in your City
      • Local Shelter or Soup Kitchen
      • Co-Worker in Crisis

Why do we need Women’s Ministry?

 

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WHY DO WE NEED WOMEN’S MINISTRY?

I think in order to really answer this question we have to break it down and define what each part of this question is saying.

Let’s start with the “WE“. Who is the “WE” that needs women’s ministry?

  • Women believers need it. Women who know “about” Jesus and women who know him personally. We will dig into this more in the following paragraph.
  • Men need it. Ministering directly to the complex makeup of women only means a woman walks away knowing Jesus deeper and looking more like him, this is a win for any man.
  • The church needs it. Currently, statistics show there are more women in the world attending church, praying and reading their Bible daily then men (Pew Research Center). It is vital to church health, growth, maturity, and service that women are being discipled in a deep way that grounds them in Christ.
  • The lost need it. If the church is to continue to grow and make God known in the world then equipping women seems like a no-brainer. When a woman grabs hold of her identity in Jesus and what he did for her there is very little that can stop her from sharing that same truth with the world around her.

So now that we know WHO needs Women’s Ministry let’s dig into the next part of the question “Why do we NEED Women’s Ministry?” This part of the question has brought on more debate within the church context than any other part of the question. IS WOMEN’S MINISTRY NEEDED? The typical scripture most point to in answering this question is found in Titus 2:3-5.

Let’s look at 3 different “popular” translations, note the words in bold font.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can URGE the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (New International Version) 

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to TEACH what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word “of God may not be reviled.” (English Standard Version) 

“Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By LOOKING at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior.” (The Message)

The reference of the older women urging or teaching the younger woman, or the younger women looking at the older women showing them, is often what church leaders lean into regarding the approval or need for any type of women’s ministry.

As a woman with 2 daughters and tons of women younger (and older) than me that I have had the humbling privilege of showing, teaching, and urging them to know Jesus in a personal way I can’t help but think that it is common sense that women need women to learn, grow, be challenged, encouraged, held accountable, loved, heard, equipped and empowered. While the men God has placed in my life have definitely played a huge role in developing who I am today, no man can understand a woman like a woman can. If the men in my life were the only ones showing, teaching or urging me in regards to following Jesus I would be left with a gap in understanding how I, as a woman, am to follow Jesus. There are Biblical principles that anyone can teach and we can all learn, there is also the Holy Spirit who can take any words or actions by any person and cause them to change our lives. But I have learned that more often than not God excels the conversation of truth in my life through women. So many times I recognize the Lord doing something in me and he uses the women around me to really drive home what he is saying and doing.  There are certain deep things that God wired women to learn, understand and experience through the voice of another woman.

Men, imagine with me for a moment that you are in a church where there are only female preachers and teachers. They are speaking truth, full of scripture, Gospel-centered, and God-glorifying messages. Week after week you hear the Gospel taught and it molds your daily life but the conversation from the stage is from a very female viewpoint. The life stories in between scriptures and points, the jokes thrown in to make you laugh, the life lessons shared… they are all from a woman’s point of view. While they make a great sermon and you actually enjoy it, you begin to feel like your missing something, you’re missing the male point of view. You start to hunger to know how a man walks out some of these truths and what their life stories might look like. What would a man say about these same unshakable truths and how would he apply them to the parts of a man that women just can’t seem to wrap their heads around. Would you sit idly by and just continue to only learn from females? Or would you begin to seek opportunities where older, wiser men could show, teach and urge you closer to Jesus?  Men who understand how you’re wired as a man, men who could speak into your male makeup. Finding those opportunities could be challenging, intimidating and possibly not even exist around you.

Welcome to the life of a woman.

Which leads us to address the next part of our question “Why do we need WOMEN’S MINISTRY?” What in the world is Women’s Ministry? “Women” is a pretty obvious term that all of us understand, so let’s break down “Ministry”.  Webster Dictionary definition of MINISTER – to give aid, service.  The Oxford Dictionary definition of MINISTER – to give help or care. Based on these relative definitions we could say that Ministry is simply creating an environment and/or opportunities for someone to receive help, care, aid or service. In our context that help, care, aid or service refers to helping them understand scripture and how to apply it, caring for their needs while pointing them to Jesus, aiding them in maturing in Christ and serving them in any way we can so they can be equipped and empowered to walk out a life of knowing God and making Him known. 

For the vast majority of women, the average church experience is predominately a male-driven environment. A place where men fill the stages. A place where mostly male leadership teams meet and plan out the discipleship of the members and attendees. This creates a gap for women that so desperately need to be shown, taught and urged by women.

So what is WOMEN’S MINISTRY? It is the intentional discipleship of women by women. It is a tool in which is needed for the growth, maturing, equipping and empowering of women to know God and make Him known. It is the gap filler that is needed in our current church models that are mostly led and driven by men. It comes in many shapes and forms but is missing from so many of our local church contexts.

Women, just like men, have a call on each of their lives to make God known in the earth. They have a purpose. There is a distinct plan God has for their lives to use the gifts, talents, strengths, experiences and even their weaknesses to make Him known in a way that quite possibly no man can. Women’s Ministry is a vital part of giving intentional space for women to receive help, care, aid, or service from other women.

Women’s Ministry is not secondary in the vision God has for his people. It is not a weird dangly part of the body that functions separately in its own little corner. It is valuable. It is vital. And it is NEEDED. 

 

Created to Create.

In the beginning God created… (Genesis 1:1)

God, by nature, is creative.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

We are all created in the image of God.

IMAGE – exact likeness

We are created in the likeness of God. When you open a Bible one of the very first things the word teaches us is that God is a creator. When I sit back and think about who I am and how I am wired, I have to include the fact that we are created in the image of God in the conversation. God is a creator…and being made in his likeness we have to assume that means we too are designed to be creators also. Each one of us has the ability and DNA to create by the very nature of how God made us. So only one question remains, what are we supposed to create and how do we do it?

Some of us are the obvious “creative” types. Ideas, concepts and artistic value ooze out of every pore. But just because you don’t fall into that stereotyped category doesn’t mean you’re not creative.

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CREATIVE – marked by the ability or power to create

This ability you’re marked by is embedded in your very nature. It is one of the defining marks from your creator that remind you where you come from, whose you are and who HE is. It isn’t a special gift you possess or a sudden feeling that comes upon you. You create every day, even in the mundane routine of life. You create your own daily patterns, schedule, habits, and behaviors. You have the power to create!!! It is just a matter of recognizing it and intentionally using it.

So, back to our question that we need answered. What are we supposed to create and how do we do it? The answer is found in Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We are to create good works that give glory to God. This can be as simple as creating a meal as a sign of hospitality to a neighbor… all the way to creating an entire ministry that helps those in need have self-sustaining food for the rest of their lives. It is not a matter of scale that counts, it is a matter of using the creativity that God has placed deep within each one us to show him to the world around us.

I have found that when I go through seasons where I am not being “intentionally creative” I become stale, sour and bored I become anxiously unfulfilled. I believe it is because we are made in the image of God and are intended to create as he creates to display his glory to the world around us! So next time your feeling unsettled in your life, bored, or just plain unsatisfied, seek God and ask him what he would have you create. Then don’t hold back, don’t hesitate, just get busy doing it.

Stubborn Feet

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I am, by nature, stubborn.

stubborn- justifiably unyielding

This is my favorite definition of the word. We live in a time when our ever-changing culture tries to cram all kinds of things down our throats. From how we should parade our lives around on social media to how we should live every facet of our day…. The constant influence is trying to mold our minds how to think. But I am stubborn.

I find myself wrestling with the status quo on so many levels. I have never really “fit” into any box or the typical tags that are pinned on most people. I often see things so differently than what I perceive the world around me seems to be seeing. And I believe you do too… Why? Because while we may live in this world, as a follower of Jesus we are not of this world. You were born for such a time as this to bare his image and make him known.

You are uniquely created, every bit of who you are was planned. What makes you laugh, what moves you to tears….all of it was specifically designed. Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Not one bit of who you are was a mistake or just by chance “happened”. The way you see the world is your very own perspective, breathed upon you when you were created and continuously molded by the life you have walked.

I have a hard time with this fact sometimes. You see my stubbornness is not always a good thing. There are parts of my personality tucked inside me that rather than being a strength it is flipped into my greatest weaknesses. I can really hurt the people around me. My stubbornness can steamroll right over people and leave wounds that I don’t even know I caused. I am stubborn and more often than not it is justified and unyielding, just as the definition states. In my justification of action, word or behavior I have to be extremely intentional to put people first. This is not easy for a task-driven, type A person.  And so, I lean back into my creator and have conversations with him about why in the world he decided to create me this way…..and how in the world do I walk it out in love and in a way that highly values others while still being justifiably unyielding for the things God has caused my heart and life to leap for. I am learning to express the love I have for others even in the midst of wrestling with my weaknesses.

You too have facets of who you are that rub against the grain of everyday life. Those parts that sometimes lay dormant because it’s just easier for you to ignore them… but what if rather than putting part of who God made you to be on the shelf collecting dust, instead you learn how to master those areas in a way that brings God glory and allows you to be fully who he made you to be?

While the world says conform to the patterns of culture, God says transform the culture by following Jesus and being fully who he created you to be.

What parts of “you” do you wrestle with? Struggle with? Don’t like? Are you loud? Shy? Bossy? Cautious? A people pleaser? Flighty? A thinker? The list goes on and on…. We all have areas that one moment can be our biggest strength and then the next moment our biggest weakness. God wants us to walk in the freedom of being ourselves, simply being who he created us to be while pouring his love into the lives of the people around us.

I have not mastered this at all…but I have plenty of experience trying to figure it all out. Below are some of the most helpful steps I have taken in my life on the road to self-discovery.

  1. Take a Personality Test (if you haven’t already). I have taken many tests and read lots of books about how I am wired. It has been the single most helpful thing in realizing what makes me tick and how to interact with others! A friend of mine, Dr. Charles Coker, has helped me walk through so many dimensions of who I am. He has a free test on his website: http://lifethrive.com/ (click on the “Free Assessment” link and take the Behavior and Value test). This test will walk you through your wiring! Be honest in your answers, the more honest you are the more you will learn about yourself.
  2. Learn more about how to better manage the areas the test lists to improve. Read books and articles on the areas. Ask a few people closest to you to be honest about these areas of your personality and give you real feedback into your behaviors. Just so you know, this one can hurt. Hearing about your weaknesses is hard and painful, but it is also amazing motivation to improve how you walk out these parts of your make up. Embrace it and don’t be defensive, listen and learn….
  3. Write out a plan of action to intentionally improve and grow in each area. For me, this was the hardest part…. Because it meant working at it. It meant growing pains. It meant failing. And fyi, I still jack it up and get it wrong. My default button is always just a click away and it is so easy to go there instead of having self-control!
  4. Now that you’re seeing yourself clearer, take the next step. Read “Next Generation Leader” by Andy Stanley and do all the steps it instructs you to do! This is a fun one!!!! Enjoy the process.
  5. Did you know that your passion defines your calling? So often I talk with people who ask God the question “what am I supposed to do with my life?” While all along he has already instilled in them the answer. The things that stir you are the things you’re supposed to spend your life on!   Write out what you’re passionate about. Make a list and put everything that comes to mind that you love on that page! Mine included simple things like camping, all the way to things like helping others discover their God given call on this earth.   Over the years my list has gotten clearer and more specific and I am fully walking out the call of God on my life…. And I love it.
  6. As you walk down the road of self-discovery be gracious with yourself. You are not perfect and God does not expect that of you. You will screw up. You will get it wrong from time to time….and in some seasons, it may feel like you’re getting it wrong all the time. The point is not to be perfect and walk on eggshells, the point is to fully embrace who God made you to be and have the self-discipline to allow him to make each of those areas holy as he is holy. And in the process of becoming more and more like him…. He will use you to draw others to himself.

Find the freedom to be “YOU”. I am still on the journey myself… stubborn feet and all. But I am one step ahead of where I once was every time I move toward Jesus. And after all, isn’t that the goal, to be close to him.

From the Streets of Nicaragua

JoyPreach

While on a vision trip to Nicaragua my dear friend Joy Rudbach shared the following words with 300-400 women.  After listening to her words I knew that they were not just for those women, but for all women so I asked her if I could share them with you all.  I pray they fill your soul with hope and remind you that you are known, you are loved and you are valuable. 

Here are Joy’s words…

God sees YOU.

In this very moment of your struggle. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He knows every hurt and need.

My story begins as a little girl full of hopes and dreams for my life. I accepted Christ at the age of 10 – maybe more because my friends were doing it than of an understanding of “who” I was accepting. I was raised to be a “follower”. So I began to follow rules. I believed growing up that if I did not do everything perfectly that God was mad at me. That I wasn’t loved or deserving. I tried to do everything right just to please people. The problem with having rules to follow is that I was completely unable to do it on my own. My will power, my strength, my desire to be good was not enough. But I tried really hard. And got really good at pretending. And while I called myself a Christ follower I couldn’t have been farther from God.

When I was 18 I left home to be “an adult” but I was still very much a child. I was sinful in so many ways. All the things that I had promised God I would never do – became who I was-or how I identified myself. I began to view myself as only valuable when I could turn a mans head. The enemy began to lie to me in ways I wholeheartedly believed. I became highly sexual, I used drugs, I drank and buried myself in the “party scene”. All mechanisms to cope with what I had done. But even during this time I tried to look on the outside like I had it all together when inside I was dying in my sinfulness, shame and regret.

My heart was broken repeatedly by men. I had been raped, devalued, objectified, as well as “willing” to participate in sinful acts. I believed that If I became a willing participant-the aggressor- that I would be in control and therefore unable to be hurt again. I became hardened, bitter, lonely and oh so afraid. Ten long years of destroying myself all for the fear of pleasing men. And an obvious inability to change. All the while God was holding me and guiding me in ways I wouldn’t discover until years later.

When I was 28 I moved away from my past, my sinful surroundings, my constant reminder of my failures. God was wooing me to come back and be set free – but I didn’t know how to find that freedom. Again I “tried” in my own strength to start over, to be “good”, to sin “less” – and I failed. Again and again and again I failed.

3 years later I met my husband and fell in love with a complete façade. I thought “finally” – its my turn to be happy – this is gonna be good. I wish I could say that it was good. I was with this man for 13 years. After the first 2-3 it became the hardest part of my life. What was supposed to be joy filled became more bitter heart break. In a relationship that God intended for both people to find joy and satisfaction in one another became some of the worst years that I would ever know. I was unrecognizable. Invisible. So I felt. I was not seen, I was not heard, my opinions did not matter, my dreams were stupid. My thoughts couldn’t possibly mean what I said or have any real value. My faith was a punching bag for his amusement and ridicule and for pointing out how colossally I failed at it on a daily basis. I was nothing. Noone. Even as a wife. For years I prayed that God would change his heart. I begged, pleaded, bargained – no change. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my head down just to keep the peace. During those years I learned to pray in a different way. I began to ask God to change ME. Help me. Love me. I was emptied of myself year after year. Still no change. At least not for good. My husband began a deeper descent into the darkness as I was steady grasping for any ray of light or hope. Until it became unmanageable and unsafe for my children. The hardest decision I ever had to make was to leave that life – even though it was an unstable and volatile one.

In the months and years to come I would finally discover my true identity.

During this time there had to be an “undoing” in me. Layers upon layers of lies that I had been told about myself that I had believed throughout my whole life.

I’m no one without someone. Its my fault. I deserve this. I didn’t do enough. I didn’t try hard enough. I should have stayed. I gave up too soon. I’m not strong enough. The list is endless……

All lies from the enemy that I had buried deep inside me.

But God!

In his infinite and merciful grace decided at THIS moment in time – face down on the floor, crying out to him, in the most painful days I could have ever imagined – to reveal himself to me in a way that I had never known . A beautiful image in the spirit that I will never forget of Him saying I love you Joy. I’ve got “this” and I’ve got you. You don’t have to be afraid.

And so began my freedom in Christ and my journey to healing. A moment that would forever mark me and change me. At 44 years old I finally met Jesus! Not just the bible school Jesus. Or the Jesus loves me this I know Jesus. But the lover of my soul – redeemer of every part of my life – real and tangible and present – Jesus!

Thankfully, I can look back on my life and see how he has used every part of it. Every hurt. Every abuse. Every single thing done to me and every single thing I willingly participated in. And He is using it to draw myself and others unto him.

So my words to you are:

I see you.

God sees you.

You are not invisible.

You are not disposable.

You are not forgotten.

You are seen by your heavenly father that loves you more than you may know in this very moment. And he is calling you unto himself. All you have to do is say “YES LORD”. Fully surrender it all to the only one – Jesus Christ – who has everything you need for this life. I pray that you will say yes and find your freedom too.

Isaiah 61:3  “To grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified.”

Romans 8:1  “There is therefore now NO condemnation in Christ Jesus.”

He has borne our guilt and shame.

His word says that I am:  Redeemed, forgiven, loved, whole, a new creation, righteous, beautiful, a daughter of the king

I AM FREE.  YOU ARE FREE!

Love, Joy

What does HOPE look like?

 

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Today.  Today I woke up, just like you, to the news that someone opened fire on a concert in Vegas.  58 lives taken and over 500 more wounded.  Heavy hearted I began to sort through my own emotions regarding what happened… and true to form my mind began to wonder through all the hard things that continue to hit our nation.  My wondering led me down the road of knowing that somewhere in the chaos God has a redemptive plan.

I think about the day that Jesus was betrayed by a friend, taken away by soldiers hurling lies at him, put before the people to be judged and ultimately found guilty for nothing at all.  He died.  Imagine that day.  Imagine being a friend of Jesus and experiencing that day.  Imagine believing he was the son of God… but he died.  The hope of the world, hanging there naked and dead.  And those who knew him, the feeling of hopelessness setting in as the crowds around Jesus’s tortured body yelled with excitement and anger.  No hope.  It was dead.  All seemed lost, chaotic, unreal and I bet those friends felt equally lost, confused, unsure and hopeless.

BUT GOD…  God took one of the hardest, darkest moments in the history of the world and turned it into the most redeeming moment we have ever known.  His son died so we could have life.  What seemed like loss was actually our gain.  What seemed like chaos was actually God’s plan.  What seemed unreal became the most real thing that could ever happen for mankind.  God wasn’t just bringing hope, he was bringing us the answer to everything!

I have to trust that when God says he is the same yesterday, today and forever that means TODAY there is hope, hope that our nation finds the answer, finds JESUS.  Today in the midst of chaos I trust there is a plan.  Today in the midst of such horrible loss God will bring gain.  I have to trust that God will take all of the hard, dark moments that continue to happen and he will redeem them.  My heart has been crying out for revival in the US.  A revival that brings this nation face to face with a God that loves us, face to face with a God that sent his son to die for our sins, face to face with a God that has redeemed us.  We need revival.  We need a nation that is brought to a place of desperation to realize that we need something more… we need God.  He is GOOD NEWS in a sea of horrible news.

Pain is real, but so is hope. 

History shows that every great move of God that has taken place comes in the midst of some of the hardest, darkest times the world has ever experienced.  Revival comes when people get desperate enough to realize they can’t do this life without God.  Revival comes when people realize that they have replaced the Lordship of Christ with all kinds of idols, sin, comfort and luke-warm living… and they begin to repent.  They begin to fall on their face and ask God to make them like him.  To have less of them and more of him.  They begin to long to be holy as God is holy to show the world that he is good and he is the way.  They begin to fall in love with the people around them and get desperate for them to know the answer, to know the one true God!

2 Chronicles 7:14 says “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

I am taking my turn right now.

I am a sinner.  I daily choose my own preferences over following the spirit of God, from one minute to the next.  I am guilty.  I am guilty of putting my comfort above the voice of God.  The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is selfishness.  When it comes down to it I can sum up my sin in one sentence.  I have chosen selfishness over love.  It manifests in all kinds of ways, but the root of all of it is that I so often choose me over loving.  Today I repent.  Today I beg God to make me more like him.  Today I ask God to purify my heart and show me my wicked ways so that I can surrender them and be changed.  Today I ask God all over again to use my life to show him to the world.  There is more I can do, there is more I can say, there is more of him to be made known.

This is hope guys, simple people surrendering daily to God and his plan.  In pain.  In chaos.  In loss…. there is hope, there is an answer to everything.

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches and glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Christ in us is the hope of God’s glory being made known to the people around us and across the earth.  Let’s refuse to spend any amount of our live’s on being selfish when there are so many people that still haven’t even heard the name of Jesus.  Let’s recognize that we are conduits of God’s hope.  Let’s humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our selfishness.  Let’s embrace the fact that the moment we surrendered our lives to Jesus… his spirit in us became the hope of the world knowing him.  This is what hope looks like.  You have the answer, it is Christ in you. 

WIDE OPEN

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Standing in the sludge that my own tears have created I have realized a hard, but liberating lesson.  I, in my frail humanity, more often than not do not like change that I don’t initiate.  I tend to grip tight to anything that isn’t my choice to adjust.  White knuckles with the circulation cut off creating numbness and eventually some really unhealthy issues that effect every part of who I am.  I grip.  And I don’t let go.  Why?  Why is this my response to others or circumstances or life or God imposing change on me?  The simple answer each one of us would say is “fear”.  But if I dig around a little more and a little deeper into my soul I would say that I like control.  I like things my way.  I like to like everything.  I don’t want to not like anything.  So my real answer as to why I grip is “fear of loosing control and not having it my way”.  So selfish of me, but it is true.  And when I dig even deeper I have discovered that this fear really comes from not trusting my maker to make my life full.  Wow.  Just wow.  That is a hard one to say out loud.  I don’t trust God.

….Because if I did, I would have no problem with any change that comes sweeping me into a whirlwind.  I would instead, throw my hands up and smile while whirling about so unsure of where I will land.  But, sadly, this is not where I start my journey when it comes to change.  Instead I grip.  I grip as the wind blows and I try to stay put.  Stay in my little bubble that somehow feels safe and good for the moment.

And that hard lesson I learned, well, it’s this… if I just let go, if I just trust, if I just enjoy the moment my bubble is popped and the world begins to adjust… I would find freedom.  I would find joy.  I would find the adventure I have been begging for.  I would find that every one of these moments God is moving my life closer to him, deeper into him, fuller than I could ever dream or imagine.  I would find myself, my true honest self.  I would find my dreams alive and my mission clearer than before.  I would find life.

So, I let go.  I choose to approach the winds of change with my hands wide open.  Trusting God.  Enjoying the ride.  No more living in fear.  Loosing control.  Excited for change, any kind of change.  Living life to it’s fullest.  Wide open.

Like David Did.

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My life is full of daily struggle.  Sometimes small, sometimes huge.  Some days I handle these bumps in the road so well and others I just simply suck at gracefully walking them out.  In the midst of making my way daily through life I find comfort and courage in the examples God offers me in His Word.  One of my favorites is David who’s humanity and relationship with God is set on display before us to learn from.

David was a man who was known for his heart after God. When I read about his life on this earth I am hurled into his story of worship, devotion and struggle. David’s plot in life was not an easy one, yet he walked it out in a way worthy of example to us all.

What do we know about David?

  • He was the youngest of 8 boys, the baby if you will. The least thought of to accomplish anything significant.  I can so relate to this feeling of insignificance, can you?
  • He was a shepherd who protected his sheep no matter the cost. He was passionate about where he was placed and did his absolute best while in that place. Where we are placed is not nearly as important as how we thrive in that place!
  • He was a songwriter and musician, a true worshipper of God. At the end of the day he understood that God was his source and he spent hours upon hours communicating his needs, desires and love to God. 
  • Some would call him a warrior poet, a very unlikely combination. Someone who could kill a lion and write poetry seems like an odd man… Embrace your oddness friends, it’s there on purpose!
  • At a young age he killed the giant that no other man would stand against, he knew who he was in God and knew his God well. David understood that his strength was found in a God that would not fail him.
  • He was a king anointed by God. We are all anointed to do something for God while on this earth. We can run from it, ignore it and even deny it but the truth is you and I don’t get to decide. God has already decided for us, we just have to walk it out. 
  • He was not perfect, but regardless of his fear, sin and life he always turned to God when all was said and done. Even in his darkest moments, rather than hiding from God he went to him instead. 

What can we learn from this man? There is one lesson that I have always hung onto regarding David and his life…. Be a person who is after God’s heart, no matter the cost, no matter the mistakes, no matter the struggle, no matter what.  Why?  Because God is worth it.

David wrote….“I waited patiently on the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3

In Psalm 40 David is sharing about WHO God is to him and what he has done for him…. But it doesn’t end there. He tells us how good God is to him, but then he turns the attention to the fact that because of God’s goodness in his life others will “see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord”. David understood one valuable part of who God is… he does not just do good for our personal sake and well being, he does good so that others would see our lives and put their trust in the Lord. Next time your facing something hard and your in a season of struggle, remember that God is about to show his goodness not only to rescue you, but also to rescue others.

Walk On…

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“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

This scripture has been thrown into so many conversations when hard moments hit.  It’s so comforting to think that good will come out of bad.  We want things to be “good” for us, for our little worlds, for our lives and our every day living.  But reality is, this isn’t what this scripture is promising at all….  You see, good to us means all is well in our world.  Good to us means no pain and that everything is going smooth as planned.  Good to us means a friction free life full of happiness.  This scripture isn’t talking about our narrow definition of good it is talking about God’s definition and God’s ways are not like our ways.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

God’s definition of working things for good have to do with the giant picture of eternity.  It’s bigger, greater and more important than anything we could measure in our lives.  And the good he is working will surely matter in the grand plan of God pursuing the hearts of men and women to himself.  Our wrestles, our struggles, our pain, our joy, our surrender, our obedience… all of it is being repurposed for God’s glory in the earth, the best kind of good possible.

This is so much easier to be excited about when it’s not your life getting rocked.  When things are within our definition of “good”.  So how do we lean into these promises and trust all will be well when things seem so bad?

Four days ago a friend died, unexpectedly.  He leaves here on this earth a wife whom I love, daughters whom my heart breaks for and friends who are like family.  Just a few short weeks ago he was in Nicaragua with my husband building a food machine that will bring sustainable living for an entire community.  A machine that will not only give life to those who need it, but will be a light of the Gospel to the hearts of every person that experiences its goodness.  He left more than a mark on this earth, he left “good”… God’s kind of good.  And I have to trust that with this friend leaving this earth that the good that remains will draw the people left behind into the grand picture of eternity that God is always at work on.

So in the mean time, while I try to let this truth settle into my soul, what do I do with the feelings?  The confusion?  The shock?  The pain?  The uncomfortable state that I am living in at this very moment?  Well, I have learned to just simply…

WALK THROUGH IT.  

There are no short cuts here, this road must be walked.  I have tried in my lifetime to avoid walking through these hard moments.  I have tried ignoring, coping, hurrying, avoiding, staying busy, hiding and shutting down.  Nothing works.  Nothing except walking through it.  And eventually, no matter how you start down the road, you have to finish the journey at some point or another.  The timing is up to you.  You can walk now, or you can walk later but you will walk… because it’s the way God created you.  So how do you walk through hard moments?  The kind that you just want everything to be “good” in?  The sucky, horrible, life-altering, painful moments that seem to leave you stranded in a dark and cold pit.

Here is what I have learned…

BE PRESENT.   Being present is hard enough in our daily lives without pain so adding that ingredient in makes being present all the harder.  We live in a culture that pushes us to stuff, hide, avoid and ignore what is really going on inside of us.  A culture that fills every moment with things that keep our brain focused on things that really don’t matter in the light of eternity…  Binge watching show after show, staring blankly at our phones while scrolling through others lives, constant immediate satisfaction for every need we have.  Our culture feeds our desire to be numb to the messiness known as real life.  But being present in real life is where we find actual fulfillment even if it means experiencing horrible pain. To be present is a challenge but it is so worth it.  Pausing, feeling, experiencing brokenness… being present in the pain.

BE HONEST.  Here’s the truth, God knows you… I mean really knows you.  So there is no reason to hide, pretend or feel ashamed of who you are and how you feel.  I find so often it is a challenge to be honest with God, not because of who he is but because of who I am.   Examining my own heart and being honest with where I am and how I feel is just hard.  But the only way for us to ever move from broken moments is to be honest with ourselves and honest with the one who can heal us.  You never have to fake it with God, he already knows.  His love is unconditional, so no matter how dark, how confused, how angry, how hurt you are, he still says come to me.  He is the safest place in the world to be completely yourself, a place where you don’t have to hold anything back.  A place to be honest.

TRUST.  When life is hard I tend to want to shut down and self preserve.  Trusting anyone into my brokenness is not my first choice.  And how do you trust a God that you don’t fully understand?  So many questions dance around in our heads while our hearts ache and our lives come to a screeching holt.  When it is hard to trust there is one thing that remains the same despite our feelings, God.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Our history with him proves to us who he is even if in this moment we can’t see him clearly.  He is God and he is faithful.  He has shown that to us over and over again in our lives and this moment will be no exception.  He will once again reveal that he is working all things for “good”, for the eternal kinda good that our souls long for.  The kinda good that makes our lives FULL even when we are suffering with pain and struggle.

God’s ways are not like ours and we don’t always understand what in the world is happening.  But I would rather follow hard after God who works all things for good than live a life with the same pain and no God.  He is worth following, even in the struggle.  And on the other side of the struggle comes life, and life to its fullest.  The kind of life our souls crave.  So no matter how hard it becomes we must choose to just simply WALK ON.