Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not Just Grown Ups, but Messengers

Thanks for dropping by today! If you read todays Proverbs 31 devotion, you already know how important it is to reach todays teens with the Word of God.

With two teen daughters of my own, I come in contact with so many girls who need Jesus. From beautiful girls dressed in the trendiest clothes, to girls who favor the look of the dark side. From Student Council members to students barely getting by. From cheerleaders, to the unpopular. From star athletes, to those sitting on the bleachers. Girls of every color, size, shape, ethnicity and culture.

But no matter what type of the girl they are, they are a girl who needs Jesus. The hard part is figuring out how to build a relationship with them that will foster opportunities to share Christ.

As I mentioned in the devotion, we have a small window of opportunity to reach teens with the love of Christ, whether it be middle school, high school, or college age girls.

Do you remember what you were like in high school? I certainly do, and since during that time of life I was smarter than my parents and anyone else I knew (ha ha!), I may not have been receptive to preaching and teaching about Jesus had I not grown up in a Christian home. So, it is not hard to see why kids who have never been exposed to Jesus, and never had a loving adult help them see the importance of a Savior in their heart, would tend to be turned off by religion. Its not their fault, they are just a victim of circumstance who never got the message.

My heart actually breaks for teens who are so lost, so unaware, and dont even know it. If only they could seek Gods wisdom in prayer, instead of seeking attention and popularity, at all costs. If only they could feel the love of a devoted Father, instead of sacrificing their purity in an attempt to gain an empty love. If only they could see themselves through Gods eyes, instead of just what they see in the mirror. I wish I could just put my arms around them and tell them all these things, but I know they would look at me like I had two heads.

I am the first to admit, it is hard to reach girls in this age group. For one, we dont want to mortally embarrass our own teen daughters by acting like religious fanatics, or so they would say. Secondly, it is not always comfortable to approach someone who you dont know all that well. And thirdly, nobody likes rejection! We often fear that reaching out to the younger generation is beyond our capability, that we are not equipped, or that they wont be interested in what we have to say simply because we are a grown up.

Many teens may react that way, but it could be simply because they have not ever experienced Gods grace. They have never known that peace is attainable, because they grew up in an home full of turmoil. They have never seen the power of prayer. They have never had anyone share their testimony with them. They have never known that Jesus saves. They are simply unaware.

As Christian adults, we are not just grown ups, we are messengers. Messengers with a message that can change the lives of those who receive it. Messengers who are equipped through our faith and commitment to Christ to get the message out to those who need to hear it. Messengers who dont need to be biblical scholars or trained counselors, but who simply need to use the voice God provided them to relay The Message.

A message of hope and love that can turn someones life around forever.

Think about the young girls, from 12 years old to college age, who God has placed in your life. Those girls did not just happen to cross your path, they were divinely placed there for such a time as this. Are you taking advantage of your open window?

If you have ever felt God calling you to reach out to young girls in your neighborhood, school, or community, then Proverbs 31 offers a great way to help you get started, called Gather and Grow groups.

Gather and Grow groups are membership-based groups that meet locally on a regular basis all over the country. Proverbs 31 provides the group leader with spiritually encouraging materials from the Proverbs 31 Ministries Resource Center, that are designed to lead discussions that will offer godly perspectives to the issues facing today’s teens. The goal is to provide a setting for girls to talk about their feelings and learn about Jesus in an atmosphere that they are comfortable with.

Groups can meet anywhere, anytime, and as often as you would like. For more information on Gather and Grow groups, visit the P31 blog for teen girls, at http://www.radrevolution.blogspot.com/, and click on the "get connected" tab. You can also email Lynn Cowell with any questions, at Lynn@proverbs31.org .

But whether you feel called to take on a leadership role to organize a group, or you just want to reach out to a teen that God has placed in your life, I urge you today to pray for Gods wisdom, strength and courage to take that first step. With each day that passes, our window of opportunity gets just a little smaller, and you never know what the future holds.

Several years ago my daughter knew a young boy who was killed in a tragic accident. The loss was very sad, but her heart also broke because she wasnt sure if he knew Jesus before he died. A tear came to her eye as she said, "I wish I had shared Jesus with him when I had the chance". A message from God out of the lips of a child, straight to the heart of a grown up.

One life can change countless lives, and procrastination sometimes closes the window altogether. So many young girls are unaware, and the urgency is now.

Our willingness to step out of comfort zones and share Gods love with those who need it, even it feels a little uncomfortable, could impact the Kingdom of God for generations to come.

*Click on the Next Generation tab above to view my youth event speaking topics. If you would to check my availability for your upcoming church event, please email Barb@proverbs31.org.

*Your prayers would be coveted for the sweet boy injured in the accident mentioned in todays devotion. You can visit his website at www.prestonloyd.com

Not Just Grown Ups, but MessengersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cartwheels in Heaven

Well, I guess it seems that I was missing in action last week! Me and little Michael stayed so busy every day while the rest of the family was on the mission trip, that we both collapsed into bed each night, leaving no time for blogging!

But even though I wasnt writing with my fingers, I was writing in my heart. All week long I seemed to keep thinking of things I could post, but nothing just felt right. It was like I couldnt focus on anything in depth. My mind would race from one subject to the next, never landing on anything for any length of time.

The reason for that, apparently, was because my heart was missing something. My heart was void of something very very important, that gives me the motivation to write, speak and worship.

What was missing, was hope.

God has been talking to me all week about it, gently and very subtly. I dont know if it is for your benefit, or for my own comfort and reassurance, but today God has prompted me to write about hope.

There are a lot of things we are hopeful about, in fact we use the word "hope" quite flagrantly - "I hope I get to go to the beach this summer; I hope my child wins their ballgame; I hope I get that job I interviewed for."

Hope is simply a part of our every day language, and as a result, I think sometimes we forget how crucial real hope is.

I too have hope about many things, including the fact that I put my total hope and belief that Jesus Christ will one day return. No doubt about it. He died for me and you, arose from the grave, and will return. But what about having anticipation and expectation about other things in life until He does return? That is the hope that is hardest to hold on to.

My heart has felt like it had a two-ton boulder pressing on it lately, worrying about my sweet sister Christie.

Each day is a challenge for her, as she battles her Multiple Schlerosis, and each day/month/year seems to bring new difficulties. The disease is progressing, and there is nothing we can do about it, except watch with heartbreak and fear.

One day last week, my sister said she had a dream. In this dream, she was running, doing cartwheels, jumping and playing with her kids. It went for a long time, and she was happy and laughing.

Then she woke up. To reality. A reality where she cant run. A reality where carefree romping and playing is nothing more than a memory. A reality filled with pain and disappointment and a lack of hope. Then she cried. Then I cried.

I have prayed for her healing so many times that it has probably become a mute point with God. I have begged for comfort for her so many times, that God is surely tired of hearing it. I have pressured God for understanding so many times, that He is probably ready to give this daughter a spanking.

I have begged Him for a sign of hope, but have yet to see one. Hope seems to be just an illusion, beyond our grasp, taunting us about the unknown, testing our faith.

I found myself thinking, is hope really real? Is hope possible, when a situation seems hopeless? Is physical healing possible, when all odds seem to be against it? Is comfort and freedom from pain really attainable, when every cell inside a body is raging a war against itself? Is peace actually available, for those who find no end to the hurting?

Is hope nothing more than an unrealistic wish that we make out of the desperation of the longing of our hearts?

In my quest to find an answer, I looked up the definition of hope, and it is "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to feel that something desired may happen".

Well that sounds all well and good; a nice, warm and fuzzy answer.... but seriously?

As I continued reading the definitions for hope, I came across the last one, which said: 'hope against hope', defined as "to continue to hope, although the outlook does not warrant it".

As I pondered that thought, my spirit leaped a tiny bit. I began to see that God has been trying to reassure me, and to help me find the illusory hope that has been missing from my heart.

In retrospect over the past week, I can see how He filled my days with gentle, subtle reminders that He heard the cries of my heart, and that my hope in Him can be strong. I see how He was trying to lead me to a place of acceptance that I can continue to have hope, even when the facts do not warrant it.

Dont ever believe that God cant send an email, because He has been keeping my inbox full lately! He "sent" me the following verses in email this week, through devotions and people:

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you."

Jeremiah 17:14 "Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."

If you think I just pulled these verses up because they seemed appropriate, think again kemosabi. They appeared in my inbox on their own, all with the same theme of believing in God without fail, trusting the unseen, finding peace, and believing in hope. I even came across an article about hope. And today, during our Sunday School lesson, we discussed the topic of hope. Irony? Absolutely not. God speaking? Absolutely.

God was plugging into my heart, using as many outlets as He could to infuse the power of hope back into my life.

He was simply waiting on me to hear Him. To allow His reassurance to saturate my heart, and fill up that empty space that had been as dry and void of life as the hot, sandy desert in the middle of summer.

If you ask me, hope is as essential for survival as is food and water. When someone gives up hope, expectations, and anticipation of good things, then there is nothing to look forward to. Maybe nothing to live for. Hope is life giving. Without hope, there can be no life, and life is a gift, even when it involves suffering.

How many times have we heard that "God didnt promise a life without suffering"? Too many to count probably. How many more times have we forgotten that truth? I dont know about you, but I cant even keep count of my own forgetfulness, because I dont like suffering! I dont like to see anyone else suffer either. It makes me sad; and at times, angry; and I feel powerless.

No, I cant understand the purposes of suffering; I dont see the reason; I cant imagine what benefits could possibly be derived. But I also know that it is not for me to understand. God is God, and I am not. His ways, are not our ways. His omnipotence is not for me to understand. I may not like it, but I must still love Him, and trust in Him, nonetheless.

I can only maintain the faith and belief that God uses all things to His glory, in one way or another, and without hope in that truth, then life and sufferings, seem pointless. I have to maintain a hope that He may heal people now, he may heal them later in life, or he may heal them when He calls them home.

My sisters nine year old daughter responded to her dream that morning after she had it. She told mommy not to worry, because one day, they could do cartwheels in heaven together. Even though hearing that brought an instant tsunami of tears to my eyes, it also opened my eyes to what hope is really all about it. Out of the mouths of babes. Hope is a treasure that can fill the gaping holes in our heart if we reach out and drink it in.

I think the key is having that hope against hope. A hope that continues to believe that God does hear, He is working, and He can heal, even when everything I see with my human eyes does not warrant it.

I will never stop praying and hoping for Christies healing, and I hope that He chooses to knit her back to perfect form. What an amazing miracle that would be, what glory that could bring Him as we shouted His praises to the world!

But I have to commit to holding fast to my faith, and keeping faith in who God is, and not what He does. That will be hard, and there will be more days where I will need Him to help me have hope against hope. Maybe even tomorrow.

Whether any of us do cartwheels here on the green grass, or in heaven on white fluffy clouds, is Gods decision - but believing that He was, is and will forever Be, is where hope has to begin.

Psalm 33:18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;my hope comes from him.

Psalm 119:14 You are my refuge and my shield;I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 119:147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;I have put my hope in your word

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Set Apart

This morning we got up early, packed the car, and headed over to the church. Michael, Morgan and Kaitlyn, and 50 other teenagers and more chaperones, left today for the World Changers mission trip. They are headed to Savannah, Georgia, for an entire week, to repair homes for people who live in poverty and cant afford the expense of having their home repaired.

Their physical labor will primarily be doing roofing and painting, and minor household repairs. All of this will be done in extreme heat and difficult conditions. In fact, todays forecasted high for Savannah is 112 degrees! But a cool front is coming in (haha) and it should stay in the nineties most of the week. They have been strongly encouraged to drink lots and lots and lots of water, and try to eat something healthy at least once a day.

Most importantly, it is their spiritual labor that is the focus for the week. As our youth minister said this morning during prayer time before they departed, it is just absolutely hard to understand why these teenagers would voluntarily agree to drive hours to get to another city, work in unbearable heat, and repair homes for people they have never met, and will never meet again.

That is why the theme for this trip is to be "set apart", and by simply getting in that van and heading out, they are already setting themselves apart for Christ. They could have easily stayed home, saved money, hung out at the pool, and socialized with friends, but they chose to spend the week being willing servants. I am so excited for them, not only because of what they can do for others, but for what I know God will do in their hearts while they are doing His work.

Kaitlyn, who is 12 years old, was a little anxious about the trip. She didnt have any girls her age going (most participants were high school kids); she was very concerned about missing an important cheerleading camp that is taking place this week, which means she will have to learn all the routines on her own once she returns; and she will be missing two swim meets.

She had a smile on her face and assured me she would be fine, giving me that look that says "leave me alone mom", but I could see the anxiousness behind her big blue eyes. As I gave her a hug, I told her that I know God is going to do something amazing through her this week, and that He will reward her faithfulness. I know in my heart she will have a wonderful time, but please keep her in your prayers this week if you think about it.

And for all the kids that are going, I ask you to pray for them. They are a great group of teenagers, with a lot of potential to reach others for Christ, and minister to one another too. This week is not just about shingles and paint cans, but about being a light in the darkness for people who may have lost hope, and for growing in their own relationship with Jesus.

I really wanted to go on the mission trip, but I needed to stay home with Michael, plus they had enough chaperones. As I was secretly wishing that I was loading my luggage into the van and feeling a little left out, God pricked my heart this morning, and I was reminded that I dont have to leave the state, my community, or even my neighborhood to be a light for Christ. Its not about location, its about dedication! Then, when I got home, I received an email devotion today stating just that truth. Gods timing is so perfect!

Philippians 4:19 was the key verse, and it says "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." God can meet peoples needs in lots of ways, including through teenagers on mission trips. But God also uses us to meet the needs of others right where we live. I want to focus this week about illuminating the light of Christ through my every day life, and ask God to bring people to mind who need to hear from a friend, or need to meet a helpful stranger.

My prayer for the week is that each and every teen going on this mission trip will have a divine encounter this week. A divine appointment where they can share Christ with someone, and experience a God-ordained purpose that they didnt know they had.

While I am holding down the fort here at home with my little buddy, who I get to spend a whole week with enjoying mommy/son time, I pray my eyes will be open to see the people God puts in my path, and the wisdom to be His light, when He calls.

Lets focus on being "set apart" for Christ this week together.

Here are a few pictures of this mornings send off to Georgia:

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Leviticus 20:26 You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Rain Stayed Away!

Hallelujah, we finally made it through an entire swim meet tonight! Over the past two weeks, every time we have tried to have a meet, the rain pours, the lightning strikes, and the thunder roars. But today, the rain came, the rain went, and then everyone swam their little hearts out - and won the meet by over 200 points!

Michael and Kaitlyn swam super great tonight, both winning first place in at least one heat, and several second places. Whoo hoo! Its a very time consuming sport, but the kids love it and it is awesome exercise for them. Morgan is not on the team this year, because she had too many school conflicts, but she is also a great swimmer. This is our 5th year doing swim team, and is something we look forward to every summer.

Guess we just have a house full of little Nemo's who just want to keep swimming! Between swim practice five days a week and all the swim meets, I dont know how they dont stay shriveled up all the time, but the fun and excitement of it outweighs a little bit of shriveled up skin I suppose. :)

Here are a few shots of our evening:

A quick shot before the pool got too busy....(which actually took five minutes, since they were both mortally embarrased that I was taking their picture at all)

Michael diving off the block to start his heat.........
Kaitlyn doing the 50 meter back stroke.....

Kaitlyn doing the 50 meter breast stroke....

Hmmmmm, Michael standing around and looking at all the girls? Not a good a sign.

Kaitlyn and a few of her swimming buddies....

Everyone jumping in the pool after learning of our victory, and celebrating in the cool night air!

Now Im off to bed... have to get well rested for tomorrow nights swim meet, and Thursday nights swim meet, and all the 9am practices. Did I say fun? Actually, it is.

And I know that one day I will wish I had a million places to be and a million places to take the kids, so for now, I will just keep on polishing that taxi cab sticker on my car, and treasuring every moment.

The Rain Stayed Away!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back To Basics

I awoke early this morning (as usual, thanks to one overly-happy, spastic chirping bird that apparently lives behind my bedroom windows). Since I was already awake, and it appeared to be a beautiful morning based on the sparkling sun streaks peeking through my blinds, I hopped up and decided to go run before the kids woke up.

If there is one thing on earth that makes my heart happy, it is a beautiful morning, with bright sunshine, and the smell of honeysuckles washing the morning air. This morning met all those criteria, so I was eager to get outside, even if it did mean exercise.

I have found that an early morning run is not only a great way to start a day, but a great opportunity to have some quiet time with God, so as I soaked in my surroundings and started my jog, I also started talking to God. The further I got down the road, and into our conversation, I began to feel the tears burning my eyes. I have had a lot on my heart lately, and this seemed the perfect time to pour it all out to God.

I needed His peace, and His comfort, which had seemed far beyond my grasp in the past few weeks. Circumstances of which I seem to have no power to change, were draining my strength, and crushing my spirit; distracting me from being the person God wants me to be, and keeping me from putting Him first in my life.

I found myself asking God that age-old question - WHY? Why this, why that, why, why, why.

I am sure God was not surprised by my question. From time to time, we all wonder why things happen the way they do, why people are the way they are, why we are the way we are, and why God is not intervening the way we want Him to. But this time, I almost had a hint of anger in my questioning. It caught me off guard actually.

As a result, I realized I needed to adjust my thinking. There are a lot of things that I dont have any control over, but I do have control over my own mind, and over the strength of my faith. Even though I may not like the things that God is allowing in my life, I should not be angry at Him. In fact, scripture tells us to rejoice during our trials, but sometimes it is hard to do that in the midst of them.

Thank goodness we serve a merciful and loving God, so I know He understands and forgives. I asked Him, once again, to help me "let go, and let God".

The verse Psalm 51:12 suddenly popped into my mind, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me", so I recited it over and over for the next few minutes. I realized I had been missing good things, while focused on the bad things, and that is a recipe for disappointment.

I finally ran out of energy, then went home, and got ready for church. Todays sermon was focused on the return of Jesus, but the Sunday School lesson is what really hit home. It was focused on the basics of the Christian faith - that Jesus died for us, so that we could have an abundant life and hope for eternity.

As the lesson progressed, the teacher asked us if we had ever asked God "why?". My ears perked up. Suddenly I was more interested......hadnt I just had that conversation with God a couple hours earlier? Was this Gods way of trying to tell me something? I believe it was.

We discussed how all things happen for a reason, and to remember that God uses our experiences, good and bad, to draw us closer to Him, to help us to learn to trust Him, and to help us remember to depend on Him.

This was not news to me. In fact, I "preach" this same stuff at all of my speaking engagements, despite the topic title. Those truths are the absolute core of everything that God is to us. But I apparently needed a reminder, and God reminded me ever so gently.

Our teacher ended the lesson with a visual... a little stick person drawn on the white board. He drew one person standing there, with several rocks being flung at him from the sky. The person was asking, "why God, why?"? Then he drew the other side of the picture, completing the visual, which showed Jesus holding back an avalanche with His mighty hands, shielding the person from the huge boulders that would otherwise be crashing down upon the little guy.

Just a little stick figure, with a huge message for us. At first we only see the problems, with no reason to thank God, but if we remember that He is working in the invisible areas that we cant see, all the while protecting us and preparing us in ways we cant even imagine, we can learn to seek Him during the trials, instead of blame Him.

We all have concerns, problems, heartbreak, and disappointment - they are just a part of life unfortunately. We all have circumstances that we wish were different, or people we wish we could change.

We also all have a choice - to worry about the "seen", or trust in the "unseen", believing that the unseen is where God is mightily at work.

My prayer this week is that I can keep my heart focused on the One who can mend it, the One who can change it, and the One who created it, for His purpose. This week, I think I just need to get back to the basics.

Back To BasicsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Me, and Twitter?

Yep, it is true, I am now a twitter person, or is that tweeter? I have no idea, I just felt like I was behind the times for not getting in the game! Amazing how just when you think technology couldnt get any more confusing or complex, it does!

When I first heard of Twitter, I thought what most people probably think - how stupid and ridiculous! Who would care what I am doing day in and day out? And why would I care what everybody else is doing day in and day out? But it is kind of like Facebook, because once you get started using it and get engaged in peoples lives, you realize how fun it is!

If you want to follow me on twitter, link over to my address at http://twitter.com/traciewmiles , and you can visit me on Facebook too. See ya there!

Also, if you would like to keep up to date on exciting things and news going on at Proverbs 31 Ministries, then visit the ministry twitter page and join up! http://twitter.com/proverbs31org . Its only been up about a week, and we already have 74 followers! Proverbs also has a new Facebook group as well, and after only a week or so, we already have 638 members of our group, and 1156 fans on our page. Wow - I guess good news travels fast!

Have a great weekend! Off to tweet!

Me, and Twitter?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My God, My Friend

My daughter was playing around with her IPOD last night, and said she wanted to play the "what if" game with me (some silly game she had downloaded), and I said okay.

She asked me random questions like:
- "would I prefer to eat lizard skin or squirming roaches".(Eeeww. Just the thought of that made me gag a little.)
-"would I want to be homeless with 30 friends, or rich with no friends"
-"would I rather be wealthy in a job I hate, or poor in a job I love"
-"would I rather have a uni-brow or buck teeth"
-"would I rather die of starvation, or dehydration"... And so on.

We laughed at all the dumb questions, some much weirder and grosser than the few above, until she came to one specific question.

The question was, "would you rather be able to talk to God and nobody else, or be able to talk to anyone and everyone, except God".

Of course, the best answer would be to choose talking to God, over talking to friends, but on the other hand, that might make for a lonely life from an earthly perspective. I know that God is our best friend, and no one could ever love us as much as He does, but to think we had to choose between never talking to anyone ever again except God? Hmmmmm. Makes you think, doesnt it?

Even though it is hard for us to grasp that concept with our human minds, God wants to be our one true friend. In fact, He wanted it so much, that He gave His only son to die on the cross for us. Sometimes the best friendships cost something.

But God didnt just let Jesus die on the cross, He gave Him victory over death, for us. Jesus cleared the way for everyone to have victory too, over sin and death, if we choose to believe in Him. As a result, we are free to pursue a relationship with God, and be friends with Him!

Lets think a little deeper about this whole friendship thing: A true friend only wants what is best for us, and God would definitely rank the highest in the true friend category. I can tell Him anything, and know that He will respect my privacy. I can cry on His shoulder and pour out my innermost feelings, and feel His arms and comfort around me. I can be thrilled about happy circumstances in my life, and know that He is pleased that I am joyful. I can be angry at negative circumstances, knowing that He will still love me just the same. Just like a true friend.

God is our one true friend, no matter how many good friends we think we have, none of them compare to the loyalty and dependability we get from Christ. So hypothetically, if God was the only One we could talk to, it might not be that lonely after all. He meets all the criteria that we would seek in a best friend!

I also imagine that we would be more in tune with Gods voice, as we spent all of our time with Him. We would better understand His Word, as we became engaged with His stories and verses. As a result, the more we "hung out" with God, the better friends we would become, and the need for other friends, might become a distant memory.

Is God your friend today? Do you really know Him? Does He really know you? Would you consider yourself to have a close and bonding friendship with Him? Do you have an even stronger relationship with God, than you do your earthly friends?

Im not saying that God does not expect us to have friends, because He wants us to have earthly friends, which is why created a partner for Adam to begin with! He created us to need to love, laugh and fellowship together. He puts special people in our paths to enrich our lives, because He knows we need that companionship. He gives us the blessings of good friends, so that we can build relationships and be an encouragement to each other.

He just asks that we remember to put Him at the top of our friend list, instead of at the bottom.

So what you would you choose?

My God, My FriendSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, June 8, 2009


Lately, Ive been feeling a little useless.

Now dont get me wrong, I know I am "needed". My kids need me to fix their breakfast, pack their lunches, run them around to all of their many social and sports activities, bake brownies, cook dinner, wash their clothes, take them to church, tuck them in at night, and love and nurture them each and every day.

My husband needs to me to love him, love on him, and appreciate all of his hard work. He needs food and clean clothes, and really loves a clean house.

My sister needs me to help her out with doctors appointments and kids stuff, and to be a friend and confidant. My parents and in-laws need a good daughter and daughter in law. My neices and nephews need a good aunt, my friends need me to care about them, my church needs my involvement, my ministry needs my involvement. And so on.

But despite all that, I have been feeling useless in Gods Kingdom lately. I know that is not how God wants me to feel, but I cant help it! My speaking schedule has been slow this year, so other than writing on my blog, monthly P31 devotions, and working on a book proposal idea, I havent been doing that much in ministry. I stepped off of my church women's ministry team after leading it for six years, and my corporate training schedule has even slowed down for the summer. So, Im not feeling all that busy!

I guess I have been equating my ministry-busyness, with my worthiness, and I didnt even realize it.

Me.... the girl who leads stress management classes telling people not to be so busy. Me.... the girl who leads ministry sessions on finding our worthiness in Christ, and not in our actions or accomplishments. Me? Uh oh. I realized that while my heart had been longing to see God do something awesome, that I forgot to see how He was using me right where I was.

Last week, I was praying about this feeling of uselessness. I asked God why I was feeling uesless and "visionless". I shared my feelings about how nothing exciting or God worthy seemed to be going on in my life. I questioned why God has me in the season of non-busyness; a season of waiting to see what doors God wants to open next; a season of trusting that God is preparing me for something exciting, even if I cant "see" anything happening.

Then I opened my Utmost For His Highest daily devotion book to the June 4 devotion, and here is what it said:

Hebrews 13:5 "For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

As I read through the devotion, one of the paragraphs said this: "Sometimes it is not the difficulty that makes me think God will forsake me, but the drudgery. There is no Hill Difficulty to climb, no vision given, nothing wonderful or beautiful, just the commonplace day in and day out."

Those words seemed to jump out on the page straight into my heart. That is exactly how I had been feeling, and God was speaking to me. I wasnt feeling useless and visionless because of problems in my life, but just because everything seemed to be staying the same ol ,same ol ...every day. Now understand, that I absolutely love my life, and I have a wonderful life, but with regards to serving, I had been feeling a little hum drum.

As I continued to read the devotion, it went on to say that sometimes we have this idea that God has to do something exceptional in our lives to equip us to bring Him glory, but instead, as we live out each day in His grace, we are glorifying Him. We need to learn to be excited about the every day things, instead of yearning for some earth shattering, amazing adventure or opportunity to drop into our life. We are somebody because of Him, not because of what we do.

It was a stark reminder to remember to see things through Gods spiritual vision, and not depend on my own physical vision. My heart needs to be busy, not my hands.

I am working on changing my attitude to one focused on usefulness, not uselessness. God wants to use me fully, not just partially, and that can only happen if my heart is engaged in His plans. I want an attitude that treasures the opportunities to be Jesus to others in my every day life, instead of trying to catch a vision of something spectacular that seems just beyond my reach.

I want to cherish each of the little ways that God uses me in my every day activities, with all the wonderful people in my life.....from tying someones shoe, to taking a meal, to encouraging a friend, to playing taxi-mom, and kissing my sweet husband. Each of these every day things are ways that God makes me useful, and that is the vision I want to see.

I dont need to be busy with my hands, to do work for Gods kingdom. He is making me useful and kingdom worthy right where I am, and simply knowing that brings a smile to my heart.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Twilight Zone

I have officially entered the twilight zone.

My fifteen year old daughter Morgan, passed the drivers education class at school, and has come to a point where she needs to practice her driving skills.... with me.

It honestly doesnt seem that long ago, when I was sitting on a steep hill, in a little black Toyota Celica, struggling with learning to drive a stick shift, and desperately trying to avoid rolling backwards down the hill and hitting the car behind me.

I remember the sheer panic of the realization that my life, and everyone elses life, was in my hands. I also remember getting so frustrated with the whole driving thing, that I angrily forced the car into park, hit the emergency brake, and exited the vehicle in tears in the middle of the road, while demanding that my mom, whose nerves had to be shot all over the place anyway, get out and take over the wheel.

Where have the years gone? Now, instead of my mom, I am the one getting white knuckles as my fists clench the door handle and my toes embed themselves into the floor board.

Fortunately, Morgan is not experiencing as much frustration as me, because for one, she doesnt have to drive a stick shift; and, two, we dont have any big hills around here. But overall she is doing great, enjoying her newfound interest in driving, and she is all smiles behind the wheel.

Kaitlyn on the other hand, didnt think it was such a fun experience.

I was hesitant about letting her ride along with us on Morgans first 'real' driving experience (meaning we were actually going out of the neighborhood, on actual roads, and through an intersection or two), but I gave in and let her come anyway.

After making a few humorous comments about her safety (which Morgan did not think were funny), and Morgans lack of driving experience, I heard her exclaim "look mom - no need to worry - I extra buckled and Im all safe, just in case Morgan does something crazy and we run off the road."

This is what I saw when I looked back at her, and I just thought it was too funny not to share. (I secretly wished I could get in the back seat and triple buckle too, but I didnt think Morgan would appreciate that). Smiles.

Morgan has to do the driving part of the drivers ed class on Friday, and I have heard they take them on real roads, and.... gasp.... the interstate. I might have a nervous breakdown that day, so keep me, and her of course, in your prayers.

I also might have to enter that twilight zone again, and honestly, I dont like it there.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God Almighty, Still Standing

Last week I referred to the movie Bruce Almighty, which I loved! When I first began seeing the commercials for it, I was sure it was going to be sacrilegious, but after seeing it, I realized that it really had an awesome message, and if nothing else, might plant a seed in the hearts of people who dont know Jesus, and would have never gone to see a movie that involved God.

There was one other memorable scene that sticks in my head about that movie. It was when Bruce began "hearing" voices in his head. At first, he thinks that people are always yelling around him and he gets annoyed and agitated, but after a few days, he realizes that he is actually the only one who can hear the voices, and eventually figures out that he is hearing prayers being lifted up to God.

Out of desperation to make the 'noise' stop, Bruce tries to find a way to organize the millions and gazillions of prayers, and after several failed ideas, he ends up having all the prayers turned into emails. He sits at his desk shocked and dismayed at the amount of prayers that come flooding into the inbox, and then moved by how many people are hurting and in need.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago, which brought this scene back to mind.

At the Proverbs 31 Ministries office, typically 15-30 prayer requests are received each day, from men and women from all over the country, and sometimes from other countries. But one day last week, nearly 500 requests came into Proverbs - in one day!!

Proverbs 31 takes these prayer requests very seriously, and my sweet friend Melissa normally tries to respond to each one personally, but this volume of emails was beyond her capability to answer in an timely manner, so she reached out to our team and asked for help.

Later that morning, as she began forwarding the emails to all of us, my inbox became flooded with prayer requests.

As I began reading through all the carefully written words in each email, the movie Bruce Almighty came to mind. Just as he had sat staring at the computer, overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests coming in, and acknowledging that he couldnt possibly answer them all, I now sat there in shock as well - not only at the volume of requests, but the words.

"please pray for my mom who has cancer"; "please pray for my sons who are facing prison time"; "please pray for my church which is falling apart because of the pastor"; "please pray that God will guide my teen daughter in her decisions"; "please pray for God to help my teenage daughter who is pregnant"; "my son committed suicide recently, please pray that I can get past my grief"; "my husband left me for another woman, please pray that I can forgive and that we can restore our marriage"; "I cant provide food for my family, please pray that God will provide for us"; "I cant find a job anywhere, please pray that God will open doors for me"; "I am struggling in my faith, please pray that God will draw me back to Him somehow"; "my husband is an abusive alcoholic, I dont know what do"; "I was sexually abused as a child and dont know how to feel alive and clean again"; "I feel God is calling me to serve, please ask God to show me the way"; "I cant have children, please pray that God will bless with me a child"; "my child is a drug addict, please pray that God will heal him of his addictions" .... to name just a few.

As I continued reading each and every one, my heart felt so heavy. I was reminded of what a broken, and desperate world we live in, how hard life is for some more than others, and the hopelessness that people feel in the midst of their problems.

I felt so inadequate to be the one to try to minister to these hurting people. I wondered how I could even know what to say, especially not knowing them or their whole situations; I was afraid I would say the wrong thing, or not say the right thing, to someone who so desperately needed to hear from God; someone who was feeling like the ol mighty smiter, was smiting them in life, and they didnt know which way to turn; who wanted to trust God in their circumstances, but were broken, discouraged and wavering in their faith; feeling like an ant under a hot magnifying glass.

But over the next few hours, I carefully responded to each one, pouring my whole heart into each response. And honestly, I have never felt more blessed.

God gave me the words to say in each circumstance, applicable bible verses to share, and a heart to be able to understand what encouragement they needed to hear. It was not my doing, but completely and absolutely all God, working through my fingers on the keyboard, and through the fingers of the rest of our team who responded to the other countless prayer requests that were forwarded to them.

Unlike Bruce Almighty, I was simply acting as the mediator, praying to God on their behalf, not trying to be the One making decisions about how to answer the prayers; all I had to do was surrender my time and my heart, and God did the rest.

It was a vidid reminder to me of how much I need to refocus my mind sometimes, and stop worrying about myself, and instead spend time lifting up others in prayer. God gives out the blessings, but we have the privilege of being a part of a blessing, when we take time to pray for others.

This experience really gave me a renewed awe of how awesome God really is. I am left speechless as I ponder how He can possibly intervene in our lives in such personal and specific ways, knowing that He has millions upon gazillions of prayer requests every second of every day. No word is sufficient to describe it, except, WOW.

Proverbs 15:29 God keeps his distance from the wicked; he closely attends to the prayers of God-loyal people. (The Message)

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Pushing Past Doubt

Thanks for dropping by today!

If you are anything like me, you will probably admit to yourself that you like to SEE God at work. Who doesnt!

I feel so reassured, so loved, so reaffirmed in my faith... when I can see God working. It is those times when we cant see God working, that I was referring to in todays devotion.

I received a comment this morning from a sweet reader of our Proverbs 31 daily devotions, who gently reminded me of an important fact, that I wanted to share today.

Although doubt is something that can separate us from Christ at times, and make us wonder if He really is watching over us, doubt is also a "vehicle to stronger faith", as she put it.

She also stated that doubt is not something we have to run from or feel guilty about, but something to look squarely in the face and pray to God about it. Amen sister!

Lets face it, doubt is simply a part of being a Christian, regardless of how strong our faith is. Why? Because we cant always see God at work, the way we want to see Him at work. He may not be answering our prayers the way we want, so we wonder if he really heard them. He may not be protecting us from harm or illness, so we wonder if He really cares. He may not be pulling us out of the pit we got ourselves into, so we wonder if He really sees us.

My hearts intention for todays P31 devotion, was to express that doubt is a human emotion that we all feel, and there is no way to avoid it. But most importantly, that our faith gets stronger once we push through that doubt, and trust in God at all costs, even when we cant "see" divine intervention at the moment.

Its okay to admit we are doubting Gods sovereignty when things are not going our way, but understanding that we can overcome that doubt through a total dependence on God is what will lead us closer to Him.

In the meantime, dont give up on yourself or your faith because you feel like you are standing at the edge of the doubting cliff and ready to fall off! And dont beat yourself up emotionally because it seems like other people never seem to doubt what God is doing, and you are always wondering if He really has things under control or not. Those feelings are a simply a reminder of why we have to believe to see, and not the other one around.

There are always two powerful voices going on in our hearts and minds - One is God, and the other is enemy. The enemy would love to convince us that we are a poor excuse for a Christian, and that our doubts make us unworthy to be loved by God.

But praise God! We have the power to overcome that doubt - through believing in our Savior. We can simply admit our doubts, recognize that possiblty it is the enemy engaging us in a game of self condemnation, and ask God to draw us closer to Him during this time of confusion and disappointment, and be ready for God to pour His mercy and grace and love into our hearts. Even if we have to do this everyday for a while until our worries subside, God is always walking right with us through that journey. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

The other possibility is that maybe God is allowing certain things to happen in our lives to test your faith, to cause us to doubt, in order to push us into a place of full dependence on Him. Hmmmm. Just something to think about.

Do you have a personal experience or suggestion about dealing with doubt in your relationship with Christ, that might encourage the rest of us? Please consider sharing it with us!

Have a blessed week!

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