Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Prayer Changes Things

Lately the power of prayer has been a constant reminder. I have been reminded that God sees me....He hears me...He bends down to listen...He cares. I've been brought up short as I'm reminded that my prayers are not a to-do list for God, but rather a heart surrendering to His will as I humbly reveal the deepest parts of me to the Only One Who can really do anything about it. When I've prayed and not seen immediate results I've been reminded that patience is a virtue - a character trait not ingrained, but learned. Finally, when I have seen the joy of prayers affirmed and answered only to be sent back to square two a couple days later I've been reminded that life is a journey and just because I pray and He answers doesn't mean it's all going to be A-Okay from then on. 

What it does mean is that He still sees me. He stills hears me. He still bends down to listen, and, no matter what, He still cares. 

About every little detail. 





This excerpt from a devotional on prayer by Jack Graham speaks directly to what I have been experiencing and thinking recently. 

"When you and I arrive at heaven's gate someday, no doubt we will be shocked by our lack of faithfulness as it relates to prayer. We will see firsthand the vast storehouse of blessing God had reserved for us, if only we had asked for His intervention in our lives. "You do not have because you do not ask." James 4:2 reads. What a fitting reminder to pray while we still have life left to live! Indeed, nothing good, nothing great, nothing lasting, nothing holy can ever happen apart from prayer.

That is why prayer should never be a sideline habit for believers. Prayer should not just be a ritual performed at the beginning of a family meal. We are to pray, persistently and passionately in dependence and in obedience. And let me be clear, if you are not praying, there is no way you can ever grow as a Christian. Without prayer, there is no way you will ever truly know God intimately. Prayer flows out of a life connected to Christ. And prayer also connects our life to Christ."

taken from "Lord, Hear Our Cry: A 30-Day Prayer Challenge" by Dr. Jack Graham
(you can also do this plan on the Bible )

Those last couple of sentences in the second paragraph were like arrows between the eyes for me. "without prayer, there is no way you will ever truly know God intimately. Prayer flows out of a life connected to Christ. And prayer also connects our life to Christ." To know God intimately requires getting together with Him and connecting not just at the head level, but on a heart level. 

For example...I listen to a few different Bible teachers as I prepare for my day. I may listen to Dr. Charles Swindoll one day, and Andy Stanley the next...or I might listen to a podcast from my own church or our previous church's teaching. Although the last two pastors I do know personally, I cannot say I know them intimately. Because I have listened to Dr. Swindoll for so many years and read so many of his books I can say I sometimes feel as if I know him. My own pastors I can even say I know pretty well.....but intimately? Uh. No. 

However, I can say I know my husband and children intimately. I can also say I have intimate friends. The difference between them and the people I mentioned in the previous paragraph? Easy answer....time spent together getting real with each other. 

It is not a one way relationship. I do not read God's word and think I know Him intimately. I do not only pray and think I know Him intimately. One without the other leaves one of us out in the cold. 

Reading God's Word gives us an intimate knowledge of Who He is - we get to know Who He is throughout His interactions with others. We don't, however, fully grasp the magnitude of who He is if we only know Him intellectually. 

There is a current movement to seek the Holy Spirit and to consistently let Him guide through prayer and fervent times of seeking His voice. Not a bad thing....unless the voices in our heads that we think are the Holy Spirit are actually not of God at all. The voice we hear goes against what the Word of God says, but because we aren't reading the Bible we aren't aware of it....and we are led astray under the guise of "following the Spirit's leading." 

Praying alone gives us, at times, an emotional heart-level understanding of Who He is, but not knowing the truth of Who He is as we read in His Word leaves us wanting intellectually. 

Then there's our side. If we spend time reading His Word - studying, digging in, getting to know Him - we know His character. If we spend time praying for others in accordance with His Word we trust what we know of Him. Sounds pretty well-rounded, huh? Pretty full? We know, love and trust Him, so we're good? 

Not quite. 

WE know HIM...and HE knows US....but do we *intimately* trust Him with our most intimate selves? Our deepest hurts? Our most fervent desires? Our greatest doubts? Our rage and frustration over the injustices in our lives and the world around us? 


If we aren't willing to spend time getting real with God our Christian life, as Dr. Graham stated, is stunted. We don't grow in Him. We don't thrive. We don't grasp the power available to us through Him. 

Today I am in that place of frustration over the answers to my prayers being ping-ponged back and forth between "Passing Go" and "Going directly to Jail" (we'll use Monopoly as a tangible example of what the prayers - answered - seeing - positive - results - while - in - the - next - moment - human - nature - takes - over - and - pulls - it - back - again feels like). I hate it. I want to do some major brain surgery on a certain young person in my life who keeps being offered grace, celebrates and jumps in, freaks out and jumps back out again where he can be comfortable. 

I am reminded life is a journey. Reminded that, just because one day seems like my prayers are answered and life is going to be beautiful all the time from here on out, I still live in a broken world where the only hope I have is knowing the One Who created all things and in Whom all things hold together. 

So today I pray again....for the very same thing I've been praying for over the last few months. I cling the hope found only in Jesus Christ. I trust the fact that God the Father knows exactly what His plan is and I don't. I remind myself (again)....patience is a character trait that is learned, not given. Then I scream and kick my feet because I want patience in the situation......NOW! ......and I start all over again knowing that everyday really does bring a brighter hope, a bit more trust, a lot more patience. 

Because after all.....

Friday, April 3, 2015

What About that Other Guy?

I'm reading this morning in Mark, chapter 15, of the Holy Bible. Mark is retelling the story of Jesus of Nazareth before Pontius Pilate, and the Pharisees, Chief Priests, Sanhedrin and other religious leaders are wanting Pilate to just kill.him.already! But Pilate is listening to this guy standing before him. He's asking questions of Him and wondering why He won't defend Himself. I can't help but think there must have been a peace that oozed from Jesus throughout His life. How can you be GOD sent to earth as MAN and not know tremendous peace (the kind that defies definition)?

So, imagine with me if you will....Palace court - lots of people because a) the Pharisees are delivering Jesus to Pilate,  and they want to see what's going to happen, but even moreso because b) this is the day that Pilate will release a prisoner from all charges. Really, it's a day of grace. Huh. How appropriate that the very One who offers grace to all would suffer the least amount of grace on this day......Selah (pause, let that sink in...)

The crowd is filled with people from all walks of life.

You have the Pharisees and religious leaders (those RELIGIOUS people we still grow frustrated with in their piety and self-righteous wisdom of what is "supposed" to be done according to the law.) These are men proud of their standing and the praises they receive simply because they are men of Scriptural Knowledge. (that should be said in your head with reverb and feedback to make it more dramatic) They pride themselves not on their humility before God, but on the wisdom people think they have and their superiority to all others.

Then you have those who are followers of those leaders. This guy who calls himself Jesus is actually starting to succeed at changing the world around them. The minions are starting to see the injustice and lack of equality stemming from the teachings of the Pharisees. The scriptures are held only by those who are "worthy" and saying they're open to everyone?! I can almost hear them saying, "We follow you, oh Pharisee! You have the knowledge this simple man can certainly not ever attain! He's one of us! He sucks just like we do! He needs don't need HIM!" So they follow and do whatever those sightless leaders say.

In another area you've got the family and friends (and fellow insurrectionists) of Barabbas, a prisoner, wondering if he will be set free. They're talking amongst themselves wondering if their family member has been behaving well enough to warrant Pilate's favor and release. They may or may not know this Jesus, but what they're all about is whether they'll be able to walk home with their felonous family intact. They're watching the crowd and seeing what's going on with this other guy, but they have one goal in mind.

Then you have Jesus's followers. Those who know and believe He truly is the Son of God come to earth as man. They believed in their hearts that He IS The Messiah Isaiah and the other prophets of old spoke of. Imagine being there...knowing Jesus and His beautiful, compassionate, loving of all people but refusing to tolerate sin heart...and wondering how it would ever be possible that Pontius Pilate would send Him to prison, let alone sentence Him to death!

And standing behind Pilate is the prisoner the people had requested the freedom of, Barabbas. Before him stands this simple carpenter with a peace about Him that makes no sense in the realm of what's going on and what He's being accused of. It is not one of defeat, but one of purpse and understanding. An acknowledgement in His Spirit that He is exactly where He needs to be to fulfill the plan of His Father. I believe Jesus had a tremendous sense of humor and laughed a lot in His 33 years, but I cannot fathom that He was joyful in this moment. Resolved is a word that comes to mind - in human terms it makes me think of a parent who resolves to do whatever needs to be done to save their child from a life of poor choices and ultimate ruin. There is a quiet strength that cannot be budged.

Pilate. It almost makes me laugh to think of what he must have been thinking. First of all..."WHO is this guy whose hands are obviously those of a common worker with callouses and blisters calling himself the KING??!!" Then, as he encounters Him more personally "defend yourself, MAN! I can see You're a true man of this God you speak of, and they're just jealous, but give me a reason to go against them!" He asks Jesus if He really is the King of the Jews and Jesus's response? "It is as you say." Pilate could not possibly have been expecting that answer! Maybe an "OF COURSE I AM YOU FOOL!" or maybe a "HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE IT?? DUH!"  But a humble and forthright, "It is as you say?" So then it's almost as if he tries again..."Do you not see all the charges against you? Why don't you answer?" (again "defend yourself, man!!! come ON!")

But Jesus.

But Jesus stood without defiance, without malice, without chagrine. Jesus stood firm in WHO. HE. IS.

...and Pilate was amazed.

Amazed. To stand in awe of. To lack comprehension of the magnitude of. To see and know this is bigger than one could imagine.

Oh, but don't forget that prisoner! Barabbas was his name. A murderer and insurrectionist. (I had to look this word up. I have a general understanding of someone standing up against government, but wanted to get the full story for the sake of understanding exactly who this guy was.) HE was an anarchist. He wanted no governmental authority ruling his life. He was a rebel and resisted the entirety of this man, Pontius Pilate, who held his future in his hand.

I have never thought about this before. Never thought about the enormity of what the choice going on here! Jesus wasn't up against some petty thief. He was up against a man who despised everything about Pontius Pilate and his court...his rule...his governing body. Do you really think Pilate is ready and willing to let this guy go? Do you really think Pilate was looking between Jesus and Barabbas and saying "yeah. this guy Jesus is obviously the most detrimental to my kingdom. Barabbas, ha! What's he gonna do if I let him go? Plot to kill me? Woop-de-doo! This guy Jesus is So. Much. Worse!" ???  I can't believe that. I would have to think Pontius Pilate is wanting like crazy to keep the crazy anarchist lunatic locked up where he can see him while he continues to rule the land.

Mark even points out that Pilate has seen through the smokescreen of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin. He sees Jesus is here only because they are jealous of him and are out for the purposes of their own selves.

Maybe the Chief Priests noticed the smirk on Pilate's face as he looked at them and asked, "Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?" and they freaked out a bit. So they did what they do best - they stirred the pot. They got the people stirred up and shouted "CRUCIFY HIM!"

Can you see Pilate's inner struggle? Sighing on the inside as he asks, "But WHY? What crime has He committed?"

The Pharisees could not care less. Literally. They have a care bucket where Jesus is concerned and it is E M P T Y....emmmmmm-p-teeeeee.

"CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!!!" They turn to the crowd and swing their arms up in a "louder! louder!" motion and yell "CRU-CI-FY HIM!"

Did Pilate look at Jesus then? Did he look to see if this King of the Jews was showing defeat and a willingness to fight for His life? I don't know and the Bible doesn't say anything more on that, but what it does say speaks volumes of the character of a person who is about themselves and their popularity more than justice and truth.

Mark says, speaking of Pilate, "Wanting to satisfy the crowd.................."

Doesn't that just make you sick to your stomach??? So many instances in today's world of the same injustices and we get all up in arms, rightly so, but this! THIS IS THE SON OF GOD!!!!! And JESUS CHRIST stood there......condemned to die because Pontius Pilate didn't want to be in the bad graces of the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Chief Priests and other people like him.

Did you catch that? "...other people like him." Birds of a feather flock together. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, and all those other cheap cliche's that put my Savior to death.

So Barabbas went free.

And Jesus went to the blood-thirsty hounds called Pilate's henchmen.

And if this was all the story there was this would NOT be a Good Friday in the least.

The Pharisees and their cronies walked away self-satisfied and self-righteous.

The family of Barabbas cheered and hugged and went on their merry way.

The crowd of Jesus lovers wept and fell to their feet in disbelief.

THIS was NOT how it was supposed to happen!!

Just the Sunday before He experienced this:

Today, though. Today brings this:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are My ways your ways." declares the Lord." -Isaiah 55:8

In our minds THIS is NOT how it was supposed to happen. 

I have one final question for you....

Do you think Barabbas was amazed by grace that day?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The War For Our Kids

Okay, my praying friends...I have some serious prayer requests for you this morning. .They're prayer requests that break my heart with the full-on attack they are, and I often don't have words to convey the magnitude of fight I want for these. However, as I read in my devotional "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan this morning, I know the Holy Spirit prays for us when we have no words...when we don't know what to do...when we.......can't. I cling to that this morning.

I have several people close to me who are dealing with the pain of kids being attacked by the enemy. They're being told they are worthless, they have no purpose, they don't belong, they just need to end it all. Not by people around them - but by "voices". If you're not a Christian, or you don't believe there is spiritual warfare going on, you'll just think they're crazy. I, however, fully believe these kids are being attacked because there are plans for them to reach their generation for Christ and the enemy wants to stop them before they have the chance. One little girl is in an emergency situation right now, and others fight this battle while at school....while at home...when they least expect it. I will not get in a debate or discussion about how these are the kids who cause problems because they are not. These are the kids you would not suspect if you knew them. These are kids who are cutting their skin so they have something to blame the pain on...these are kids who are laughing with their friends at school, smiling on the outside and hurting like crazy on the inside. These are the kids you'd never suspect. Sometimes, the ones who are outwardly showing the same issues are the ones who will be okay because someone sees them (pray that if you run into someone like that you SEE them...), but the ones who don't show it? PRAY! Pray for the suicidal young girl who told her friends goodbye yesterday and today is fighting a fight with her mom by her side in a hospital. Pray for the young girl who is dealing with depression so severe she can't sleep....Pray for the young boy who is feeling lost and hopeless because he feels like he's failed and can't see a way out. Pray for the boy who is being told he's something he's not. Pray for the girl who stands out and isn't afraid to be different, but is told she's weird and doesn't belong because of it. Pray for the kids who are looking for acceptance, worth, and hope....that they will find the true peace that passes all understanding (and in doing so, find all those things and more).

Pray, too, for the parents of these kids. It's easy to ask for prayer when your child is sick, or facing something at school or wherever, but it's an entirely different thing to put up a Facebook post that says, "hey, will you pray for you my child? They are on suicide watch and I've had to take all razors away so they can't hurt themselves. Thanks." Pray that they would reach out to someone who can walk beside them and help them cling to the truth - if God is for us, who can be against us? The fact - He created all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. The promise - He will never leave you nor forsake you. The hope - He will work all things out for good for those whose hope is found in Him.

I have a running list of students I pray for....if you have someone you'd like added, please inbox me and let me know.

I fully believe, folks, that this generation is going to do mighty things, and our prayers are going to make a huge difference! Thanks for praying!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Let's Get Ready to Rum-bulllll!

The other day I wrote about punching the devil in the face.

Evidently that ticks him off.

Enough to fight back.

Although it sucks, I'm not afraid.

But I am tired.

And he knows it.

But that doesn't take the fight out of me.

I cling to the promise that if God is for me, who can be against me?

And the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

And the fact that He created everything and IN HIM all things hold together.

I also cling to Psalm 139, Psalm 103 and THIS:

"Psalms 34:4-7 NLT

I prayed to the lord , and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him."!!!!!!

Tonight may I ask that we spend some tiem praying for families? For those who are fighting battles meant to pull them apart...for those who are facing death of any sort... for those who are struggling to keep on the path God has for them when the enemy simply wants to fill them with doubt and pull them away from The One Who loves them like no other. Prayer changes things....Thank you for praying. God has this!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Punching the Devil in the face

There's this song we used to sing when I'd lead worship for the kid's ministry at our church. I have no idea what the official title is, but we called it "Little Boxes." It goes like this:

If I had a little white box
To keep my Jesus in
I'd take him out and kiss His face
and share Him with my friends!

If I had a little black box
To keep the devil in
I'd take him out and punch his face (this part has to be yelled with actions!)
and put him back again!

Now, before you get on me about the theology of keeping Jesus in a box and whatever else, let's move on.... :) The reason I feel the need to write this today is because it seems like the number of Christians afraid to offend others with their beliefs, afraid to take a stand against the devil, afraid to be what God has called them to be is outrageously huge. And, if I may quote that great man of God, Paul, "I am the worst of them all."

The only way I know to speak to this is to speak of my own journey and pray for those of you reading to understand, relate and respond to what God is speaking to us all through what He's doing in my life. So forgive me if this seems self-focused. I do not mean for it to's just that He's doing so much in me in this area I can't believe it's NOT to be shared. Here we go...

Last November I went through a Heart Change Workshop where I was able to confront some of the lies in my life. Lies that had burrowed down into my soul much like a tick burrows in and infects a life - wordlessly, stealthily, continually.

One of those lies I had believed and not known how to fight against is that I only wanted to be on stage because I like being the center of attention; I enjoyed singing in front of crowds because I liked the applause.

This didn't take into account the fact of horrible nerves I got every time I went on stage. It didn't take into account the discomfort I experienced when people would praise me and tell me how much they enjoyed what I did. It also didn't take into consideration my motives for being on stage.

My motives.


What are motives, anyway?

Here's what Webster's 1828 online dictionary defines motive as:

MO'TIVE, adjective [See the Noun.] Causing motion; having power to move or tending to move; as a motive argument; motive power.

MO'TIVE, noun
1. That which incites to action; that which determines the choice, or moves the will. Thus we speak of good motives, and bad motives; strong and weak motives. The motive to continue at rest is ease or satisfaction; the motive to change is uneasiness, or the prospect of good.

2. That which may or ought to incite to action; reason; cause.

3. A mover. [Not in use.]

Here is the 2nd definition from Webster's 1913 online dictionary:

2. That which incites to action; anything prompting or exciting to choise, or moving the will; cause; reason; inducement; object.

By motive, I mean the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctively. J. Edwards.

Finally, as is the case in our modern world, here is the succinct, simplified definition from Webster's 2014 online Dictionary

  noun mo·tive \ˈmō-tiv,
: a reason for doing something

(pardon my "squirrel!" moment, but if you're a pathological learner it would not be a good idea to start looking up words online for historical definitions and/or origins. ....not that I know any good reason not to, but it will require a great deal of determination to bring yourself back to the task at hand if you do so......jus' sayin'.)

So, back to that lie. It did not take into consideration any of who I am. 
Notice this little graphic I made up to show how a lie works. Notice that first word in the 'L'?


Isn't that the way a lie works? It grabs onto a mustard seed size of truth and plants it, but then it starts chipping away at the branches of the truth to skew and warp what the original motive was. Have you ever heard the phrase, "there's a grain of truth in every lie?" Well, in the lie I believed there certainly was a grain of truth to the lie. 

I DID enjoy being on stage - but not because I liked being the center of attention. 

I enjoyed being on stage because in being there - whether singing or speaking by myself, or dancing and singing with a group or choir - I could see the lives of others being made better. 

HA! TAKE THAT YOU STINKIN' LIE!!! *karate chop to the throat!*

Whew! That felt good! HAHA!

So, let's take the focus off myself (because, really, why do you think I sit behind a computer screen where I can encourage you to be who you were created to be? I really do NOT like being the center of attention. I may like to be noticed (who doesn't?) but I HATE being the center of attention!)

What lie are you believing? Who is telling you  your dreams are about something other than what they are? 

I've worked through my lie stash bit by bit over the past few years. Another lie I believed was that people don't want to hear me sing. This was said by an older sibling innocently frustrated by her little sister who, seriously, did NOT know how to sing quietly and did so All. The. Time. It was not my sister's fault that the enemy took that along with that lie I mentioned above and wove a horrible chain of bondage over my life. I do not blame her nor hold it against her. I can't. She was my older sister and I was the annoying little sister and what she said was not meant to harm or cripple me, it was said because walking across the street to the neighbor's house with a little sister singing some silly song (Probably "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue") at the top of my lungs was the most embarrassing and annoying thing ever! But the enemy, knowing that God had a plan for me, covered the enjoyable gift of being given a stage to share hope and love with others with a lie. 

So what are you believing? Are you believing any of these:

*You can't shine for Jesus with the horrible past you've had!
*You really think people will believe you when you've lived your whole life covering up who you are?
*You are not worth anyone's time, so why even bother?
*You're beyond help!
*You don't have what it takes to achieve the dream you've held in your heart for years. There are simply too many reasons holding you back and they'll always be there, so just give up.
*By the time you can focus on your own dreams you'll be too old. 

The list can go on. 

and on.

and on. 

and on. 

can't it?

Well, y'know what?

*Maybe you do have a horrible past, but you can still shine for Jesus! I mean, honestly! What better way to show His amazing grace than by acknowledging how He's redeemed you??

*Maybe you have lived your entire life covering up who you really are. How beautiful a life that is no longer needing to hide!

*There may be people who have given up on you, but God never has. For you to have compassion for others who may feel that way, too, and share the truth of God's never-ending, faithful mercy and grace with them is a gift straight from Heaven.

*There may be a whole host of things in your life holding you back. So start by bringing them to the foot of the cross. Lay them down and ask God what He wants you to do with what you have, where you are...right now.

*Grandma Moses didn't put paint to her first canvas until she was in her 80's! Colonel Sanders started to market a little recipe for chicken at the age of 66 and so began the chicken chain now known as KFC. Julia Child didn't start cooking until she was in her 40's and her tv show didn't launch until she was 50. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't write the "Little House on the Prairie" books when she was young. She was well into her 60's before she wrote those sweet volumes of history. You're never too old if God has a dream for you.
There are two songs that come to mind when I think of lies and truth. The first one is a song that kind of became my theme-song during a very hard and dark time in my life. I still sing it today when I'm having that "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms" kind of day. It's a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "Treasure of You." Here are the lyrics, and below I'm sharing the video..

"Treasure Of You"

Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice
That heartsick look in your eyes
You hide it very well, but I've got the same disguise
I know from all you see around you
You feel worth a very small price
So plain and ordinary, but there's a pearl inside

And if you look in the mirror in the light of the truth
You'll see there's really nothing you could say or do
To make you worth more to the One who made you

Your are a treasure
Worth more than anything under the sun or the moon
God's greatest treasure
Is the treasure of you

The rich man treasures gold and silver
The wise man, his knowledge of truth
Some will hold to memories and some will cling to youth
But the one who carved out the oceans
And painted the stars in the sky
You are His prized creation, the apple of His eye
There's no one else in the world who could take your place
Just the thought of you brings a smile to His face
God loves you with amazing grace


So take a look in the mirror in the light of the truth
Oh, yes it's true
See there's nothing more you can say or do
God loves the way He created you


From the T to the R to the E to the A to the S to the U to the R to the E
God made everything and everything He made
More than anything He treasures you and me
Check in in the mirror in the light of the truth
There is nothing you will ever say and nothing you will do
The will ever make God care more than He does for the treasure
God's treasure is you

Those lies? Send them packing! Actually, send them back to the foot of the cross where they belong! The truth is, you are a treasure, and maybe some dreams aren't good for you, but if you've got a dream to share Jesus and His Word with the world it is a dream placed in you by the Very One Who created you! Banish it with the truth of scripture. 

What? You don't know where to look? How about if you start right here with this passage from Isaiah:

Isaiah 43:1-3New Living Translation (NLT)

The Savior of Israel
43 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;

    I gave Ethiopia[a] and Seba in your place.

Now go back and read that first verse again. 

"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you! I have called you by name; YOU. ARE. MINE."
(emphasis and exclamations mine to send that message home)

Lies have no place in a Christian's life, let alone our soul. 

The other song is my current favorite song. No introductions. All you need to do is crank up those speakers and bask in the glory of the One Who IS Greater!

Spend some time today at the Throne of Grace peeling back the layers of the lies to see what dream it is He has planted for you. ask God to reveal what that grain of truth in your dreams is. If you are planted IN HIM your dream is real and the only reason there are doubts are because the enemy wants to keep you from living out loud for Jesus Christ. He has a great adventure for you and promises are promises and facts are facts! He won't let you go! Burn the ships full of lies and Dive in! For the sake of the call just take another step and trust that our Redeemer is Faithful and True! (excuse me, I've started a Steven Curtis Chapman song title ferris wheel in my mind. I think I'm done now.....)


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Middle Schooler, Mark Twain, and The Seahawks walk into a weekend....

Things I've learneed from hanging out with middle school girls, Mark Twain, and Russell Wilson:

1) Middle School Girls are very different from middle school boys, but they still have the middle school sense of humor (aka: potty humor)

2) When planning a camp it's always a good idea to know the complete outline of what your speaker will be speaking on. If you don't, you'll end up playing defense instead of rejoicing in the victory. 

3) If you start to feel a cold coming on as you head up the mountain it will surely turn into a full-fledged chest and head cold by the end of the late-night/early-morning and go-go-go weekend. 

3a) Said cold will linger until you are able to catch up on sleep..........six weeks later. 

4) No matter what my brain thinks, I am NOT a 20-something any longer! 

5) Mark Twain has a wicked funny sense of humor, but he really missed the mark on getting to know God. 

6) Hal Holbrook must really have a hard time in the mornings when he's getting ready to go. I mean, he's played Mark Twain for 60 years! When he looks in the mirror I wonder if he has to look at the calendar to figure out which one he is at that time. 

7) No matter how many times the director says it wouldn't be a bad thing for you to leave camp in the middle and run back into town to see Mark Twain (a bucket list item for YEARS), it is never a good idea to leave camp in the middle and come back. (see item #2)

8) Being the parent of a 6th grader is really hard when 8th grade lives intersect. There's a lot of difference between 10/11 and 13/14!

9) Prayer changes things.

10) God is never surprised, but we sure are!

11) Innocence is a beautiful character trait.

12) My husband is a really great guy to hang out with, and sitting at a sushi bar is the best. 

13) Middle Schoolers in general have a lot more hurt than my generation did at the same age. There's something seriously wrong with that. 

14) There are legions of thoughts running around in my head about the reasons why we have failed our children, but, like the demons in the man Jesus healed, they aren't really doing much good or making much sense right now. 

15) If you ever have the opportunity to attend a show in a really old theater, do it. The architecture is to be admired and appreciated just as much as the show. 

16) My love for the Word of God, and desire to share it with (and ignite a spark for) people of all ages is bigger than ever. (see #13)

17) Christian athletes are cool. 

18) Adults who are willing to work with Middle Schoolers and share Christ with them are even cooler. 

19) Watching the Super Bowl with friends who like the same team is great - much more fun than last year when we were cheering against each other. 

20) No matter what play the Seahawks call in the last two minutes to lose the game....I will always be a proud Seahawks 12th Woman!

Monday, February 9, 2015

In The Heart of the FREE

"...come to me when you're weary and I'll give you hope when you're hurting."
Jamie Grace sings this in my ear as I sit in Starbucks sipping on my venti single shot honey latte', and it's exactly what I needed to hear! My oldest son is at a Heart Change Workshop right now  (you may remember I wrote about my youngest son's Heart Change experience HERE), and it is day 2 of the workshop. We look at Freedom today... 

The problem with freedom? It doesn't come easy, and it's not handed over without giving up what we cling to. We cling to our ideas of who we should be, how we should act, what we should think and what others will think of us. In doing "all the right things" we find that we are put into more and more bondage and pain. We don't find freedom to be ourselves by trying to act differently or by dressing differently. We won't find freedom in doing it "the way it's supposed to be done" according to some self-help guru looking to gain fame and fortune with their bestseller. We won't find freedom until we realize that freedom isn't free. Freedom requires something of us.

Freedom requires us to take our eyes off ourselves.

Freedom requires us to realize what freedom is and what freedom isn't. 

Freedom is not the ability to say whatever I want under the guise of free speech.
Freedom is not the ability to make a choice as to where I live or what work I do.
Freedom is not the ability to vote for whomever it is I want to lead our city, county, state or country.
Freedom is not the ability to marry whomever I want to marry and raise my children the way we want to raise them.

You may be shaking your head....yes, those things are all the outcomes of national freedoms and the laws we live under. However, do you really understand TRUE freedom?

True freedom is knowing you are exactly who you are supposed to be because you know the very One Who created you.
True freedom is knowing you are not the sum of what you do or what you have done, but that you ARE...because the Creator loves you.
True freedom is knowing you don't have to fit in to be accepted.
True freedom is knowing those people who call you names, refuse to listen to your heart, or put you down because you're not like them are the very same people you were put on earth to love and lead to true freedom.
True freedom is knowing you don't have to fight for your have to accept it.

Accepting it. Man! Isn't that the hardest part? Yesterday I wrote about accepting the blessings of someone else (you can read there HERE ). Today I'm faced with accepting freedom. I think there's a theme here, and I see the need to encourage all of us to get to know the heart of our Savior so we can learn to understand the need to accept HIS gift to us - complete and utter freedom.

Throughout this workshop my son will be fighting for his personal freedom...his changed heart...and many will be standing in the gap praying for him and the others who will be walking into battle for their own hearts. Is that what's missing in our relationships? The people who are standing in the gap for us? Are you standing in the gap for anyone?

First, let's figure out where that phrase came from - to "stand in the gap." It comes from Ezekiel 22:30 where it says, "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one." God was looking for someone righteous. He was looking about the land and searching for someone who was crying out to HIM in the midst of a society that sounds, terrifyingly, much like ours. He was looking....seeking...searching for anyone who was willing to stand up to the injustices of their time.

He found no one.

Matthew Henry says in his full commentary, "Sin makes a gap in the hedge of protection that is about (around) a people at which good things run out from them and evil things pour in upon them, a gap by which God enters to destroy them...When God is coming forth against a sinful people to destroy them He expects some to intercede for them (to stand in the gap) and enquires if there is but one that does; so much is it His desire and delight to show mercy. If there be but a man that stands in the gap, as Abraham for Sodom, He will discover him and be pleased with him." (parentheses mine)

So today, I stand in the gap for those fighting for their freedom - their true freedom. Will you join me? Who needs you to stand in the gap for them? Who needs you to cry out to God in their favor and pray His mercy and redemption on them? Martin Luther has this great quote that cuts me to the quick when I think about praying. He said, "I have so much to do today I must spend three hours in prayer."  Dr. Chuck Swindoll shared the story in a recent broadcast of his daily message on "Insight for Living" of a man he knew who set aside the best three hours of his day to spend in prayer. I remember, too, hearing a well-respected Bible leader back in my days of working in radio (I can't even try to remember who it was who said it - some days the teaching ran together and the voices all sounded the same to me,,  if you made me guess I'd say it was Bill Bright) who said, when asked how he could possibly pray for so many people each day (his prayer list was substantial and prayed over daily) that he remembered WHO he was praying to. He knew God knew all going on with each person just by name. So, he said that throughout the day as a person came to mind he simply lifted them up to God as he went about his duties. In doing so he prayed without ceasing and stood in the gap for many, many people who needed those prayers. Just this past weekend a friend and fellow middle school small group leader shared with me how one night he was really struggling with *what* to pray for a certain person. As he struggled he heard God say, "stop talking. Just say the name and rest in Me." (I've paraphrased) That very night, after he shared this with me, I had the opportunity to put this prayer tactic to the test, so to speak. One of my girls was such a burden on my heart and I had no idea how to pray for her. I simply laid in bed and said her name....and held her up to the throne of grace with confidence. The peace that came was immediate. 

There's so much more that could be said for standing in the gap! From the honor found in the Jewish community when they say, "I'll say your name." They are meaning that they won't forget - they will bring honor to the person and say their name. 

What a beautiful option we have to stand in the gap for those who are fighting for their freedom! Stand in the gap today....pray without ceasing...say their name...and rest in this: 

Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Psalm 116:2

True Freedom.....who do you know who needs you to stand in their gap so they will find it? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

To Serve or To Be Served....that is the question

In the forty-five years I've been alive I have had multiple (as in hundreds if not thousands) of opportunities to serve others. When I was younger it was often on a stage with a choir, a microphone or a dance partner singing our hearts out and giving our audience a respite from their current state of affairs. I would look out and see the wrinkles of aged faces dissolve away as their eyes would take on that misty, far-away look of a bygone era living only in the recesses of their memory. I would see couples reach for their partner's hand as we struck our single pose and sang a love-song. They would smile at each other and it didn't take a brain surgeon to see the memories flitting between them.

As I got older and began to mature i had the opportunity to expand my horizons. It would be in helping my mom with meals on wheels and listening to the fascinating stories of the people we were serving. It woud come in the shape of a note handwritten and delivered to someone needing encouragement to get through a rough patch. Another opportunity morphed into the hearts and voices of a choir or a congregation raised in praise and adoration to our God and Savior. Yet another would come in the decision to spare a new mom the frustration of having to make a meal while delivering love and nourishment to her family. (caveat: I am not the world's greatest cook. In fact, when it comes to meals I am the three basics kind of gal - protein, veggie and side. So, my delivered meals were often store bought lasagna with garlic bread and a salad. No one ever complained about getting a free matter where it came from! :D )

So, I've had lots of experience in blessing others. It's easy - I bless, I help, I encourage, and I feel good. Really good. I like blessing others.

I've begun to realize something, though, and it's the darkside of being a blessing.

To Bless or to Be Blessed....

The darkside is that "or be blessed" part. It's hard to allow others to bless me. 

I don't like to be needy. (got over that thanks to a self help book or two - or a broken relationship or two - in college thankyaverymuch!)

I don't like to have to rely on other people to get by. 

I don't like to be at the mercy of someone else doing things I know I can and should be able to do myself. 

And therein lies the problem. 

*I* Want To Be the Blessing!

*I* Want To Be The One On The Pedestal

*I* Want To Be the One People LAUD as "Such a Helper!"

Am I the only one? 

I think not. 

IN fact, I know not. 

We all do that. How hard it is to accept the help of a stranger when they see us struggling with a door and hands full. How hard it is to accept the help of a friend who knows we just can't get to _____________ right now and they step in to do that for us so we can mark it off our list. How hard it is to ASK someone to give an encouraging word because we're just so down we can't see up. 

I figured something out tonight regarding this phenomena....

In digging down to the heart of serving, I am beginning to realize the blessing that comes from letting others bless me. That sounds crazy and selfish, but in fact it is the opposite. 

If I'm always rushing to bless others and never allowing them to bless me (ie: help me) I'm really saying that I don't need  people, but people need me. I'm putting myself on the pedestal in the name of serving others. 

Living this way perpetuates a spirit of unworthiness in others instead of instilling in them a knowledge that they matter - they have worth - they are a necessary part of this equation called life. If we always step up to prove we don't need help with such-and-such ("Oh! Thank You, but I can get that!) we are robbing someone of the blessing to be a blessing. 

Think about the last person you witnessed helping someone. Think of the person serving, and then think of the person being served. BOTH of them were given a gift, right? The server was filling a need - realizing they were doing something good - and it made them feel good about themselves, right? The servee was made to feel worthy of service and being seen. 

Now think about that same scene a hundred times over. If the person serving only serves and the person being served only receives what happens? 


On both parts. 

The Server gets tired of always having to serve and they begin to see the people they are serving as greedy curmudgeons only grabbing and nabbing what others will give. 

The Served begins to feel like they can't do anything on their own and they figure they might as well just give up. 

So where am I going with this? What does it mean for those of us, like me, who are in a place of serving a lot and authentically enjoy the occasion to serve others? How do we give that back?

Well, here's what I learned today. 

My son is attending a workshop in a town about 40 minutes from our home. I was there serving in the kitchen when I ran out to my car to get my purse and retrieve some money for his lunch and dinner. The only problem was that my purse was not in my car. It was at home, forty minutes away, sitting in the kitchen where I forgot to grab it on my way out the door. 

The food I had been preparing was for the staff members. My son is a teenaged boy who thinks every food item on earth is not enough to satisfy his hunger. I was facing quite the conundrum. 

I had a choice. 1) I could run home and get my purse and make that trip 6 times in one day because I had to return home to teach and then go back to get him. OR 2) I could share my dilemma with the staff and ask for help. 

I asked for help. 

And I got way more than I deserved. 

And the gal who helped me kept saying over and over, "thank you so much for asking for help! I'm so glad I could help you out this way!" In the midst of the helping I was able to hear a really cool God story about her recent vacation, and we reveled together in the goodness of our Savior. 

If I hadn't asked I wouldn't have received. 

If I hadn't asked, she wouldn't have been given the blessing of being a blessing. 

Asking isn't easy for me. 




My independent streak is strong. My mom, in fact, shares the story of when I was a very young girl and we were standing with a friend of hers. Mom looked at me and said to her friend, "UGH! She is SO independen it drives me crazy!" Her friend laughed and said, "Gee, I wonder where she gets that from?" We all know very well that the apple did not fall very far from the tree!

I'm learning, though. I'm learning to ask for help. 

It's not easy. 

I reallllllllly don't like it. 

But I'm learning to be strong enough to be weak enough to let someone else be strengthened through my neediness. (think that was hard to read? Try to get it to type coherently! LOL!)

In all seriousness, though, read it again...

I'm learning to be strong enough to be weak enough to let someone else be strengthened through my neediness.

Who are you strengthening by letting them serve you? Who needs to know they have what is necessary to help others in this world? Who in your realm of influence needs to have someone say to them, "I honestly can't do this, and I see in you the knowledge and wisdom to get it done.  Could you help me, please?" 

Yes, yes, yes....I know. Some of you are thinking of that person who really is a master at being served. They are willing to ask for EVERYTHING! I'm not talking about that person....I'm talking about those of us who do such a good job of serving we would rather waste an hour and a half of our time and a quarter tank of gas to take care of our needs than ask someone for help. I'm talking about those of us who are really good at jumping in to help out with a need when we're able, but refuse to ask for the same help we gave when the tables are turned. 

There's a word for that. 


EEEK! Are you willing to humble yourself and allow someone to serve you? Wtih no expectation of you serving them back? 

I'm not totally there yet, but I'd love to know there are people willing to walk that trail with me. 

I'd like to bless others....and revel in that joy. 
I'd also like to see the faces of those blessing me light up when they realize how very much their service is appreciated. 

How are you going to start? I'd like to hear your thoughts.....

Friday, January 30, 2015

Middle School Ministry Rocks!

I have the awesome privilege of working with our Middle School group at our church each Sunday and Wednesday. I work with 6th grade girls, and although girls are SO different from my boys I'm raising, I thoroughly enjoy investing in them. 

This weekend we get to do some heavy investing - winter camp! Woo Hoo! Problem is.....I moved away from the snow. I like the look of snow, but I don't like hanging out in the snow. Aaaaaand, we're headed to the snow. 

Would you please pray for us? 

Here's what you can pray: 

* that these 150 middle schoolers will encounter the One True Living God - the UNSEEN One
* that through this weekend their hearts will be spurred on to outbursts of love and good deeds toward their community - at home, at school, at play and at church. 
* that fun will be had and no injuries will occur/ and that we'll all be safe and protected from harm.
* that friendships of accountability and challenge-toward-growth would be the norm and expectation.
* that we'll make it home in time on Sunday to see the Seahawks play the Patriots (due to the fact that I don't know who reads this blog, I will deter from saying "watching the Seahawks beat the Pats" You're welcome. :) )
* most of all - that this would be a God-Centered weekend! He is why we do what we do. May these students KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt that He loves them, sees them, and knows them...and that He wants THEM to KNOW HIM. 

Thank you!!

PS: I've been asking people to pray for my's helping because taking my eyes off the fact that I'm going to be camping out in the snow and will instead be hanging with some pretty fascinating young people is beginning to excite me! So, thanks for praying!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Travelin' Thru

I've started sitting down at the piano randomly this year. Being a piano/voice teacher and a mom who feels guilty doing things I enjoy when I could be cleaning the house or tending to other duties,  I tend to only play when I have to work on a piece for a student or find songs for lessons.  This year I've made the conscious decision to play just for fun whenever I can. I originally said I was going to do it every morning, but let's get real.

That AIN'T gonna happen!

I'm thrilled that I'm playing for fun at all, no matter how often it happens. So....this morning I sat down with my Reader's Digest "Lift Every Voice and Sing" songbook and started playing. Do you have any of those big, oversized Reader's Digest songbooks? I value each and every one I have. They give me more than just music - they give me a theme, a story, a reason behind the songs. I've had them on my shelves for years, and this year I'm pulling them down off the shelf and enjoying the old-fashioned (ahem, vintage) stylings of a great hymn.

Don't get me wrong - I can stand with my hands in the air to Chris Tomlin and Matthew West and Tenth Avenue North worship song, but the hymns! OH! The Hymns! I read an article last week that mentioned the fact of hymns being sung by the stalwart greats throughout history and the melding of our voices in praise and adoration, repentance and redemption...worship and wonder of our Father God. I like that imagery! To think Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Henry and Crosby (to name but a few) are singing along in heaven brings a smile to my face. (no...not theologically anything, but the thought of it being a possibility is cool!)

Aaaaaand, back to this morning. Sitting at the piano I started with Nearer, My God to Thee. My sightreading skills are still strong, thankfully, but I didn't get very far before I had to stop and just sit in wonder of my precious Lord. Here's why....

In the Old rugged cross,
Stained with blood so divine, 
A wondrous beauty I see.
For 'twas on that old cross
Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the Old rugged cross, 
I will ever be true, 
Its shame and reproach gladly bear, 
Then He'll call me some day
To my home far away, 
Where His glory forever I'll share.

My beliefs are not popular, but I can tell you they are trustworthy and real (and you wouldn't like me...and I wouldn't even like you,  if it weren't for the change in me Jesus brought). I will gladly - with joy - bear the shame and reproach it brings because this world is not my home....

Happy Monday, all! Be wonder-filled!

PS: what's your favorite hymn? I'd love to hear!

Friday, January 23, 2015


Last night a friend and I attended a Natalie Grant concert. You may have heard of it - it's her Dare To Be tour with Pastor Charlotte Gambill (who never missed the opportunity to remind us England really is our MOTHER country so we need to listen. :) ) My friend had gotten tickets to the VIP portion so we were there before the show with Charlotte and Natalie and about 50 other women. It was an opportunity to ask questions of Charlotte and Natalie, so there were a few women who did just that. While they were asking questions I noticed one continual thread weaving its way through the women...this was not a conversation to be had, this was a "here's who I am and why I'm needing you to know me...please tell me how I can be like you" time. 

Before I continue let me say something. There is truth in the adage, "It takes one to know one." I know this is true because I have been in that place. I have been the one to stand up and say, "good evening, ladies, it is an honor to be here with you. I am a (singer, writer, worship leader, mom, wife, aspiring speaker) and so my question for you is how do I ___________ to get myself on stage and share my talents with the world?" 

NOTE: I did NOT - EVER - say it like that. It would be couched with Christian friendly phrases like, "I sense God's call to share my talents to glorify His Kingdom, but I'm wondering how to overcome....." The enemy wouldn't have us be so bold in front of humble servants of Christ with our self-centeredness, would he? NO! He wants us to come off as a humble, expectant and simply curious person. 

But I did say it. I would give my resume' before I asked a question. I would share my dream before I asked how they accomplished theirs. I would tell them all the great and wonderful things about me then say I was terrified and didn't know how to get past that fear. "Is there a secret, ladies? You're on stage, and I'm not, so obviously you know the secret and I need to know it because I want to be on stage, too."

I must give Natalie and Charlotte praise here - just as Jesus dealt fairly yet firmly with the Pharisees in His compassionate frustration, those two crazy blondes spoke with friendliness and firmness in what they had to say. With the first resume' given they simply answered the question. However, as the questions continued and it seemed like each new questioner needed to one-up the last, the answers became bolder and clearer that the real problem was not the issue asked about, but the heart. The heart of the person asking "why am I no longer getting asked to speak?" "what do I do with the fear that seems to hold me back?" "how do I do what I do better so God will notice and I will be famous like you?" (that last one was asked in a very different way, but....) was the real problem. 

If the heart lacks wisdom we need to ask GOD Who will give it generously without condemnation. (James 1:5 paraphrase mine)

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise Him forever! (Proverbs 3:7)

It's a heart problem when we long to be famous "so we can share our talents for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven." 

It's a heart problem, not a fear problem, when we are afraid we won't be good enough for so-and-so, or that we won't look the way we think we should, or that we aren't funny/intelligent/as gifted as the other person so we are afraid to step out and DARE TO BE. 





And like I said - I know this because I've been there. I've been that person asking the question but really just wanting to be able to say I told the-person-everyone's-heard-of who I am. I've been that person legitimately wanting to know how to get past my fear but not even realizing that, to those who have learned this hard lesson, I am simply a person who needs to get real with God and let go of the desire to BE something I'm not (yet). 

AAAAAAAAAnnnnnndddd....true confessions: Charlotte's words of God's truth struck down a chain in my own heart regarding the sins that so easily entangle. 

I do struggle with fear. I have lived my life within the stronghold of shame - not of what I had done, but of who I was. I have been made fun of and put down for being myself, so I've tried to fit in by being someone else. I've been there, and, although I no longer live in shame (THANK YOU, JESUS!), I still fall into the pit of comparison (which is probably why I have to write about it so much...I'm preaching to myself!). 

One gal, sitting behind me, asked the question I would have asked, but she asked it much more beautifully than I could have. "How do you deal with the insecurity and stage fright that comes from being a worship leader?" 

Natalie's answer was a balm to my soul. I'll paraphrase, but basically, she said she has learned to celebrate the fear because if she's not nervous or doesn't have a bit of stage fright then, to her, it means she's gotten to the place where "she's got this" and she isn't going to fully rely on God to show up and do what He does. If we really want God to be glorified, we need to be uncomfortable in our own skin so we don't pat ourselves on the back when things go right. 

Charlotte's answer hit me right between the eyes. Again, I'll paraphrase...there is a difference in fears that we sometimes don't realize. To be afraid of something because we want God to be the center of attention and we're afraid we're going to do something to botch it up is a godly fear. It is a fear of the Lord. However, to be afraid we're going to look wrong, be dressed wrong, mess up somehow or not 'do it right' is a fear of man and we need to confess that and deal with it. 

I fight within myself the fear of man. 

I know I'm not alone in that ring. I know there are many, many women who have those boxing gloves made of cement on their hands, too. 

So ladies, instead of trying to be better than the next gal why don't we learn to celebrate the fact that God created us to work together? Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill stood on either side of a woman from our local community and spoke truth - we are sisters in Christ, we will spend eternity with each other, let's celebrate and honor one another instead of pull each other down and pump ourselves up. 

is there someone you'd like to honor today? Please share it in the comments so we can all honor them, too. 

Go today, ladies, and spur one another on to outbursts of love and good deeds!!

(and I'm praying right now that if no one even responds to this that it just won't matter...Lord, I write because You're asking me to write. I surrender and ask forgiveness for my desire to be honored and lifted up for who I am instead of WHOSE I am. May You do whatever it is you want to do with this blog...and may I remain faithful to Your Word no matter the number of people reading.)