Friday, August 28, 2009

Who Is Your Partner?

I love tennis. In fact, I am even on a tennis team at my local club, where we play in two different leagues, three to five times a week, all year long!

As much as I enjoy playing, my husband always tells me Im not competitive enough (unlike him, who is so competitive that he would rather lose a right eye than let someone beat him at a board game, a Wii game, or a race across the yard --even if said persons he is playing against are below the age of ten).

But anywayyyyy..... :)

During a team clinic one day, my tennis pro reminded us of an important game tip....that "you cant control where the ball is going to go, but you can always control where you stand on the court". Meaning, if we stay in the right position, it doesnt matter where the opponent hits the ball, because we should be able to handle it.

I was reminded how true this is for our life too. We can be playing life just fine, then a spin ball comes out of nowhere and we dont know which direction to run or what shot to take! Like a sudden storm that rages into our life unexpectedly, we are suddenly faced with a decision of where to stand.

The easiest place to stand, is on the court where fear, worry, anxiety and hopelessness reside; a court consumed with anger, resentment, hurt and unforgiveness. And even though this court does not sound good, it is where most of us automatically run to at the onset of a serious issue. Trust me, I know. I have been thrown some tough shots lately, and this court sounds just like somewhere I have felt compelled to hang out.

The bad news is that that it is the enemy's court. The court where the enemy wants us to stand, so he can throw more balls at us, and hopefully get us off the path that God is leading us down.

The good news is that life is not a singles tennis game, instead, it is a game of doubles. The partners are there, and we are faced with the decision of who to play with.

Picture a tennis court in Heaven. One side is Satans court (our opponent), and other side is Gods court (our partner). Scripture tells us that Satan stands before Jesus every day accusing us, so like it or not, we have to recognize that he is on the court too, fighting for his side, hitting hard balls at us, trying to trip us up, trying to make us fall....but all the while Jesus stands before God, right beside us, as our mediator.

That visual brings a smile to my heart, and helps bring a smile to my face during those times when I find myself floundering on the opponents court.

Every day in life, we have an opportunity to choose a partner. We can choose to act out, speak out, and live out in ways that gives the enemy a winning point, or we can choose to act out, speak out and live out in ways that gives God the glory.

Even if our hearts wish the game of life were going differently, we can take hope in knowing that somehow, someway, God will be glorified, because all things happen to His glory to those whom He calls. Sometimes, believing that truth is the only thing that keeps me going.

What a wonderful feeling to know that with God on our side, the ball is in our court, and He is our Sovereign partner. He is our defender and our protector. He will be the one guiding us, helping us choose which shots to make, which words to use, and which decisions to act on.

An interesting tidbit that I came across was that the term "tennis" is thought to derive from the French word tenez, which means "take heed" — meaning "a warning from the server to the receiver". The webster definition of the term "take heed" means, to listen and pay attention.

From a spiritual perspective, I think we need to take tennis, or "take heed", to heart. Our Father serves life, we receive life, but we always get to choose our partner.

We can either take heed and listen to Gods direction on how to play the game, or flail around trying to hit every ball that gets hit at us, while feeling that our efforts are pointless, futile, and defeating.

Simply put, while we are here on earth, we have no choice but to play the game of life, and play it to the best of our ability. That best way is to fully depend on Him to teach us how to play; and always remain fully aware of where we are standing on the court.

Who Is Your Partner?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, August 24, 2009

Little things, done faithfully

I did not know that it was so important.

A couple days ago, I left my daughters in charge of emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen,, while I was out running some errands.

Yesterday morning, I got out of bed and headed straight for my coffee pot. Although I love coffee, I do not make it every morning, but there are days when I just feel the need to enjoy a cup of hot steaming coffee before getting my day started.

This was one of those days, but only the shell of the coffee maker was sitting on the cabinet. The coffee pot was nowhere to be seen. So I began searching through all of my cabinets and found the coffee pot, but the lid was not on it. Despite my search efforts, I just could not find the lid. The kids were still asleep, so I didnt want to wake them to ask them where they had put it, so I thought to myself, "the lid doesnt matter, the water will just seep into the pot anyway".

So I filled up the filter with flavorful smelling coffee grounds, poured in the water, and went on to do something else. A bit later I noticed that there was no coffee made - only to discover that all of the water was sitting in the top of the coffee maker in the filter, drowning the coffee grounds, and ready to overflow.

I guess that little lid did make a difference after all. I had never noticed that the bulging little bulb hanging under the filter area, had to be pushed up by the placement of the lid in order for the water to come down. (You are probably thinking a big fat "duh" is needed here, but that is okay, remember, it was early.)I simply did not realize how one small, flat, seemingly purposeless lid, played a crucial role in the proper functioning of an entire coffee maker.

I started thinking about how in my every day life, I at times forget how important the little things are. The little things that God calls us to be; the little ways that He calls us to act; the little things that He calls us to do.

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10

I read something recently that said so many people think that when we face judgement day, that God will be grading on a curve. We think, that we may not be perfect, but we are better than so-and-so. We compare our sin to their sin, and think we are superior in our way of living.

But the truth is, that God does not grade on a curve. His grade is based on a standard of flawless holiness.

Of course, we cannot meet that standard, and thank goodness, God does not expect us to. We are all sinners at birth, and redeemed and cleansed by the blood of the only One who can live up to the standard of perfection.

But we can always try. We can always make the effort to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, by living daily in a way that pleases God.

There are times in life when we are given big assignments - opportunities to go on an awesome mission trip; opportunities to minister to someone in such a way that helps them to know Christ; serving on committees at church that will have huge impact; promotions at work that will better support our families; financial gains that provide access to growth and success.

But it is those little things every day, that qualify us for those big things. Those character traits of love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, compassion, and self control. Those times when we can put aside our own desires and feelings, in order to put someone elses desires and feelings first. Those times when we have to beg God to give us the strength to go on, in a painful situation, even when it would be easier to throw in the towel, give up and walk away.

Those times when we forgive someone for hurting us, over and over again, even when our mind tells us not to.

Those times when we turn off our favorite television show, to read a story to the kids or play a game with them before bedtime.

Those times when we take time to visit someone in the hospital, even if it means fighting rush hour traffic and getting home late at night after a long day at work.

Those times when we take time to listen to a friend who is going through a hard time, when we would rather be checking off items on our to-do list.

Those times when we hold our tongue, even when we know we are right.

Those times when we continue to trust God and all His ways, even when His ways are not lining up with what we wish He would do.

Day after day, minute after minute, God gives us little opportunities to do the right thing; the kind thing; the unselfish thing; the Godly thing. Those little things are what build us into the person that we become - good or not-so-good.

The importance of the little things in life are often underrated because they are small; seemingly unimportant in the grand scheme of life, but it is those little things that God places in our path as stepping stones to the bigger things.

When God can trust us with the little, and trust that we will do those little things faithfully, only then can He entrust us with the big.

Will you join me today, in looking for the little things? Those little things that God is calling us to do. The art of embracing the little tasks that God places in our path equips us to strive and be ready for the big things that God will surely bring into our life when the time is right.

Little things, done faithfullySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, August 21, 2009

At A Loss For Words

You are not going to believe what happened to me last night, which left me at a loss for words. I had been a little down yesterday afternoon, praying about something, and asking God for peace, understanding, confirmation and direction.

Around 7:15pm, I left the house to go pick up Morgan from cheerleading practice. I turned out of the driveway and casually glanced at the house as I pulled away - then slammed on brakes, stopped dead in my tracks, and gasped loudly, while the words "OH MY GOSH!", flew out of my mouth.

The biggest, most glorious, beautiful, vibrant rainbow had hung itself right over my house. An entire semi-circle, was perched vividly in my yard, casting a glow of color and sunshine onto my roof.

When I say it was breathtaking, I mean that literally. I actually felt my breath leave my chest as I gasped. Kaitlyn was sitting in the car with me, and was alarmed at my outburst, thinking something was terribly wrong - then after realizing what was going on, she was a a bit confused at my apparent meltdown over a rainbow.

Friends, I cried. Tears filled my eyes and streamed down my face. And God impressed two words upon my heart in that moment: TRUST ME. It was loud as if I had heard those words with my audible hearing, and almost seemed as if I could see the words "TRUST ME" written in deep purple letters across the center of the rainbow.

Now you may be thinking the same thing that Kaitlyn was thinking - that something is seriously wrong with me. Who cries over a rainbow? What a weirdo.

But I dont think Im a weirdo really (maybe sometimes, I must admit), but in this situation, I was just so moved by the Holy Spirit, and so in awe of this gift that God had given me. I was so impacted on the inside, that I could not help my outward reaction.

I could hardly process the fact that I could "see", with my human eyes, a message from the most High God, and that I could also "see" with my heart, that He was talking to me.

When I got back home, I could not wait to open my Bible, and see if God was going to confirm His gift to me through His Word. I was praying that He would illuminate a scripture to me, relevant to what I needed to hear. I flipped open The Book to a random page, and looked at the first passage on the page:

Psalm 37, and my eyes got stuck on verses 3-7:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; ............ (NIV)

Again - breath taking. Complete and utter awe in the supernatural holy intevention that I was experiencing. I first heard Him say "trust me", then I read His words that said "trust me".

I will trust in my God today, no matter what. I know that He is in control and He sees.

God works in such amazing ways - and what is most amazing, is that He does it in ways that we will understand. This rainbow may not have ministered to another person in the world. Other people in my neighborhood may not have even taken time to notice..... but to me, it was the greatest and most timely gift He could have given me.

If you have been anxious or fretting or worried about something in your life, and the "what-if's" are causing you a lot of stress, put it in Gods Hands today.

He is calling us to TRUST HIM, in all His ways. Wait on Him. Believe that He is working on your behalf. Look for His gifts in your life today. The gifts are there for us, but we have to choose to see them and open them with our heart.

At A Loss For WordsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Colorful Reminder of Gods Omnipotence

If you have ever read my book (Reinventing Your Rainbow), you already know that rainbows have a special place in my heart. Years ago, God used the simple beauty and mystery of a rainbow to bring my book idea to life, and to remind me of His love for me and His covenant to His people that He is always in charge.

Not that I had forgotten the promises that God spoke to my heart years ago through the breathtaking beauty of a rainbow, but I think I simply moved on to other things, and had not thought about them recently. I knew God was in charge, and I had been praying for Him to show me His presence. I didnt want to test God, but I felt desperate, which led to my asking God for a sign.

My conversation went something like this: " God, if you dont mind, could you send me a sign? Just a litte sign, or, how about a bright, blinking sign? One that I will recognize is You, without a shadow of a doubt? Please? A sign that I can see with my visible eyes that will display Your love for me. That would be great Lord if You would do that, but I understand if You choose not to. Amen."

You see, I had a lot of things going on in my life, and some heavy discouragements, and I desperately wanted to "see" Him.

Last week, God answered my prayer and gave me that sign. It was amazing. It was breathtaking. It was beautiful. It was colorful - 7 specific colors in fact. Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet. White.

I was driving to Lynchburg, Virginia last week for a speaking engagement for a couple days, and my mind was full of if's, and's, and but's; why's and why not's. I found my mind wandering to all the gray areas of life; all the areas that I wanted to control but couldnt; all the relationships that I wanted to flourish; all the hurts that I wanted to go away. I worried and fretted, and even prayed a lot. But then, out of nowhere, God got my attention.

As I stared at the open interstate ahead of me, I saw it. A magnificent rainbow, standing alone in all its glory in the deep blue sky. No raindrops. No storms. Just the rainbow. I was so amazed, I almost had a wreck trying to get a good picture of it. I thanked God for that rainbow, and continued driving. The pictures do not do justice to what I saw, but I did capture them.

An hour later, I was again dismayed. A rainbow shot across the sky, this time a little fainter, but a rainbow nonetheless. I thought to myself, "How odd. Two rainbows in one day? And without any raindrops? Hmmmm."

My thoughts continued to wander, my prayers continued to flow, and then I saw it. Yes, another rainbow. This one was even more beautiful than the other two, as the colors spread wide and vast across the sky. And again, the skies were dry, the roads were dry. I could not make heads nor tails of where in the world these rainbows were coming from - and how bizarre it was to see three rainbows in one year, much less one day. Just then, God gently nudged my heart, and reminded me that His love for me is more beautiful than the rainbow, and the rainbow is a reminder of that love.

As I continued to drive, I continued thanking God for those rainbows, but I could not help wondering - why? Why today? Why now? Why the rainbow?

Three and half hours after I had left my home, I finally arrived at my destination, and checked into the hotel. Later that evening, as I was sitting in a an amazing worship service, my daughter called my cell phone. I did not answer her call at the time, but instead sent her a text message to ask what she needed.

Believe it or not - here is what her message said: "Mom! There is a humongous rainbow going right over our house! It is huge! Dad will text you a picture."

I am serious when I say, I felt a shiver from head to toe. I felt Gods presence all over me. Three rainbows on the drive here, and now one over my own house? I wondered what in the world God was trying to tell me through this pattern of phenomenal rainbows.

Over the next couple days, as I thought back about all the rainbows I had seen in the past week, and pondering what God was trying to tell me, it finally hit me. My heart was gaping open, waiting to hear from him, and I finally heard Gods voice loud and clear.

Dreams. Wishes. Desires. Goals. Ambitions. Prayers. Hopes.

These rainbows were His way of confirming that He had heard my prayers. I was not alone. He had not forgotten me after all.

I believe it was His way of telling me not to give up on my dreams. Not to lose sight of my God sized visions. Not to lose hope over things that seemed hopeless. Not to give up on desires that seem to be taking longer to be fulfilled than I would like.

That He truly heard the deepest longings of my soul. And that He loved me, and He would never leave me or forsake me. He loved me. He loved my family. He desires to bless me, in His time. And He was alive.

Thank you Jesus, for working in my life, and in all of our lives. For reminding us through unique ways that we will understand, that you truly are there, even when our human eyes cannot see you, our human minds cannot fathom you, and our human hearts cannot feel you. Thank you.

Has God spoken to you lately in a way that took your breath away?

A Colorful Reminder of Gods OmnipotenceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Day To Rejoice

All I can say is - wow. And "wow" does not even do justice to the things I have been feeling as each of you so transparently showed yourselves and your love for Christ each day through your comments and personal experiences. God has been at work over the past week!

On a personal note, I just want to say thank you to each of you who shared your thoughts through the comments. Even though hundreds of people may read a blog each day, very few take the time to comment, not realizing the impact that they could have on hearts of so many women who need to hear about Gods love at work. So thank you all for allowing God to use you to touch all of us! I want to take a minute to mention just a few thanks from the past week:

Issy - wow, what an amazing story of how God pulled you out of a terrible domestic abuse situation, into a life that is focused on Him. How He rewarded your faith with a wonderful husband and little girl is truly moving. I praise Him for what He has done in your life and how you are able to glorify Him and use that bad experience as a shining example of His redeeming love and blessing!

Angie - you are always an inspiration with your thought provoking comments. You have a gift for writing and for putting your thoughts into words that glorify Christ.

Rhonda - thank you for words of wisdom about being a mom, and how we need to never lose sight of the blessings of the children that God has given us,but how He gives us those children when it is His timing and not our own. Thank you for giving us an example of someone who showed up for Christ even though it was not popular. (check out her comment for the link about that story)

Beth - for reminding us of the importance of family, putting aside our excuses and feelings of unworthiness, and not getting pulled into the negativity that the world tries to bestow upon us.

Connie - for sharing how difficult it is to break that habit of negativity and tear down those walls that keep us apart from others, and for sharing how God has called you to step out of your comfort zone about speaking. It is so hard to comprehend that we are capable of doing anything for such an awesome God, but it is so great to see how He is can use even when we do not feel capable.

Danielle - what a great example of how the enemy uses simple discouragement to cause us to lose sight of the original vision that God gave us, and how God uses experiences of our past and works on our hearts to help us see the tasks that He ordained for us. How exciting that you are starting your mother-daughter class up again!

Jill - for sharing your experience, how God continued to call you despite lots of hurdles, and how we truly can be victorious if we move out of comfort zones.

LeeAnn - for sharing your story of your childhood and how through your grandparents, God impacted your life and your heart forever. What an incredible example they were, and such a vivid picture of how it is so important to focus on pulling the hearts of children towards God so that His kingdom can impacted for generations to come through the efforts that we put forth in other peoples lives.

The Seeking Mom - thank your for your transparency about your own struggles, and how God has given you that extra little boost to use the stories He has written in your life to write a book - good luck! You are so right - it is the stories of Jesus working in our lives that ministers to people, so keep it up!

Tracey - for sharing your struggle with what God is calling you to do and your desire to work with the singles ministry, which is a very important ministry that so many women need to feel valued and loved despite their circumstances. A great reminder that Gods plans are always bigger than ours, and that He can use us in ways that we would never feel qualified for.

And for all of the rest of you who commented, thank you! Your thoughts and stories are an inspiration to me, and I pray that God will continue to challenge you and pull you out of your comfort zone, and right into the promised land that He has prepared just for you!

As promised, I put the names of each person who commented on all five days into a cup, and prayed that whoever God chose to receive the book, that their name would be drawn. After praying, I asked my son to pull a name out of the cup, and the name he chose was Rhonda. Yeah Rhonda! So as soon as you email me your address, I will get the book in the mail to you. I pray God uses it to minister to you in a special way!

If anyone is interested in purchasing the book, it is available on the Proverbs 31 website.

I pray you will continue to visit me and keep in touch, and that God will work miracles in your lives that you never saw coming! Many blessings.

A Day To RejoiceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge Day #5: Embrace Your Calling

This has been an amazing week! If there is anyone who has not had time to read through the comments each day, I encourage you to do so! They are wonderful, profound and very meaningful. I dont know about you, but nothing is more motivating to me than hearing about all the wonderful things that God is doing in the lives of His children, and how He so miraculously ordains our experiences each and every day. Thank you all for being so open and honest this week!

Over the past four days, we have spent more time with God, and hopefully grown just a little closer to Him as a result. We have been challenged to face any unforgiveness issues that we were hiding in our hearts. We have been challenged to consider our attitudes and whether or not our minds were a reflection of Christ. And yesterday, God's love was shared and spread throughout the US as we each put aside our fears and hesitations, and sought out opportunities to spread the gospel in some way, either through our words or our actions.

My prayer, and challenge, for you today, is that you are ready to take an extravagant leap of faith. If you have taken this challenge seriously so far, then your heart should be more prepared to take a leap of faith than it may have been before!

Let me give you a little bit of background on me, so you will understand why I believe with all my heart that taking a leap of faith and embracing whatever God has called us to do is so important, if we want to see God begin doing miracles in our lives.

It all started during a womens seminar at my church nine years ago, where I can honestly say that I heard Gods audible voice, or so it seemed to me.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God had impressed upon my heart that He desired that I share my story, shed my hypocrisy, and become transparent for His glory, but at the time I was not quite sure what that meant. My fear of obedience became overwhelming, because I was completely unaware of what "obedience" meant. I was acutely confused at how God could use me.

In addition, I was scared of drastic change, or any change for that matter. I was fearful of leaving my comfort zone. I was terrified of what other people might say or think about me if I shared my testimony. I was not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to follow Gods plan. I was gripped with fear, and paralyzed by the unknown future that would follow.

So I said no to God that day. Sadly, as a result, I walked in complete disobedience to Gods will for my life for five years. Instead of giving in to Him, I gave into my fears, and stayed firmly put in my uncomfortable comfort zone.

However, the entire time that I was treading down my own pitiful path, the more God worked on my heart. In fact, the farther I walked away from His call, the more I became convinced that He was stalking me with a bible verse! It seemed to be in my face every time I turned around, so much so, that it actually got a little spooky.

Seriously, this verse just kept popping up everywhere I went for months, even years! I would see it on TV; in my bible studies; in sermons; my friends would mention it in conversation; it would be on a piece of mail I received; I would overhear a stranger talking about it; it would be scripted on a card from from a church member; it would be on an interstate billboard; my bible could fall off the table and the pages would miraculously flip open to the chapter containing that verse!

To think that God was divinely intervening in my life with something as simple as a repetitive bible verse, seriously grabbed my attention.

This verse I am speaking of is Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not harm, plans for a hope and a future."

Thank goodness that our God is such a patient God. Thank goodness that He does not give up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. He continued to work in my heart over those years, and my confidence in Christ gradually grew, as I watched God continue to stalk, I mean call, me with Jeremiah 29:11.

After all those years of trying to ignore the plans that I knew I had heard, and falsely believing that my life was going along just dandy the way it was, I finally, but hesitantly, surrendered. I asked God to forgive me for my blatant refusal to trust Him, and I surrendered my fears, my life, and my future to Him.

It was not easy, and I still had concerns, but I realized that all those years, He had been reassuring me that He did have a plan! I finally came to a point where I wanted to see what His plan was!

Months later, after God had orchestrated various events that led me to resign from my job and begin working towards becoming a speaker, to my surprise, a church actually booked me to come speak. Why? I have no idea. But they did.

The day finally came, and I began driving toward this very first speaking engagement - practically in tears, feeling sick to my stomach.

What was I thinking?! What in the world made me think I could stand up in front a big room of people, Christians in fact, who were all staring at me in anticipation of hearing my feeble attempt to share some wonderful gospel truth? I was a nervous wreck, so full of insecurities that I could barely breathe.

I began to question Gods call on my life, and also questioned my sanity for taking this crazy step out of my comfort zone. I spent a lot of time beating myself up with all the justifications for why I must have lost my mind somewhere along the path of decision making that I had been traveling.

But the event was now, and I had no choice but to push past my fears. I arrived to the church, and sat in my car for a few minutes, staring out at the rain pouring down and beating loudly on my windshield. Why did it have to rain today? It just seemed like one more thing to make me stumble.

I breathed deeply, and tightly closed my eyes, wondering if maybe no one had seen me yet and I could make a clean getaway.

I knew I could not really do that, so what did I do? I prayed. Hard. Earnestly. With passion. Through tears. With a desperate plea for God to show up in my place.

I talked honestly with God. I told Him that I was not capable, but that I trusted Him to give me the right words. I told God that I was afraid, but that I trusted Him to calm my fears. I told God that I was not worthy to be His voice, but I trusted Him to speak through me. I told God that my legs were weak, but that I trusted Him to be my strength.

Then I said amen, and mustered up enough courage to walk towards the entrance. Then something amazing happened - God took over. I was merely the vessel - He was the deliverer.

Since that experience years ago, I have spoken at many, many events at many, many churches and organizations - but you know what? Those same insecurities always creep back into my heart. And I have made it a practice to say that same simple prayer before each event - simply asking for God to show up and take over - and God never ceases to come through, time and time again.

I tell you all this not to toot my horn, because if you think about it, the timeliness of our response to God is a true measure of our faith. My timeliness was not impressive at all. But I hope that encourages you, and helps you undersand that we all have fears and insecurities and lack of understanding. But it is okay. God can do miracles if we give Him something to work with.

It is never too late to say yes to God. And when we finally do, the rewards will far outweigh the costs. The blessings will far outweigh the sacrifices. And a new life in the center of His will, far exceeds any life we could create for ourselves.

What about you? Has God called you to do something that you feel is completely out of your reach? Out of your comfort zone? Outside of your qualifications?

Has God called you to go in an entirely new direction in your life, but so far you have been paralyzed due to fears and insecurities?

Has God called you to minister to others in a way that you feel incapable of doing?

Are you afraid to move forward with a dream that God has planted in your heart, because you do not feel worthy to be His servant due to sins in your past or present?

Are you hesitating in your obedience, due to excuses that seem valid, such as a lack of tools, resources, time, money, etc?

Are you willing to do something extravagant for God?

Is God calling you to leave your comfort zone and enter the faith zone?

No excuse is good enough for disobedience. I learned that the hard way. The strength of our powerful and almighty God is awesome enough to lead us into extravagant obedience. And just as a special perk for obeying - you will be extravagantly blessed.

Challenge #5: Take an extravagant LEAP OF FAITH - embrace the call that God has impressed upon your heart. Listen to the right voice, and forget the excuses.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and then appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.Galatians 1:15 God, in His grace, chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve Him.

Prayer for today: Oh God, I am humbled by your unfathomable grace upon my life, and your infinite mercy upon me. I can never express the amount of gratitude I have in my heart, not just for what You did by sending your Son to die for me the cross, but for coming into my life and for not giving up on me.

Please pour your strength into my soul, and your courage into my inner most being so that I will step out in faith for YOU - with no excuses. Forgive me for my untimely responses to your call. I praise you for continuing to love me and bless me, despite my hesitations, fears and disbelief that You truly are in control of all things and have an amazing plan for my life.

Thank you for preparing that plan for my life, and for leading down the path that leads me closest to you. Continue to walk beside me Lord, and show me your plan. Lead me Lord. I am willing to do something extravagant for you, because I love you.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge Day #5: Embrace Your CallingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge Day #4: Stand Proud

As Christians, the two immediate things we can do to stand up for Christ are to live according to His Word and grow our own knowledge of Him. In Matthew 5:16, Christ said, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven".

This means that we should live and act in a way that is indicative of God's Word. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we should have the conviction to stand up for our faith, while at the same time, practice showing love and wisdom and making sure that our personal example backs up our words. Letting others seeing Jesus in us is the most amazing witness ever. People may not always believe in our Jesus, but they cannot deny seeing Jesus at work in us. That, in itself, is a witness.

This past Christmas, I was standing in front of a large group of women at the corporate offices of a major bank. I had been contracted to teach a secular class about Holiday Stress Management.

Most of the class content focused on simple life/holiday balancing tips, but soon we came to a section of the material that discussed tolerance of religions during the holidays. Although I had studied the material ahead of time, I felt my temperature rise when I neared this discussion. I presented some basic information that was included in the curriculum, and then allowed time for discussion. Many women talked amongst themselves and some offered some feedback for the group, but the big question finally came.

One woman raised her hand and asked, "as a Christian, what should I do when my employer tells me that I cannot have a "Christmas" party, but only a holiday party. What do I do when I am told not to display manger scenes in my cubicle, because it might offend someone?"

I could feel my face getting hot. Actually I was sweating all over. Thoughts raced through my mind as I considered that my job could be on the line, depending on how I answered that question. But what was truly being impressed upon my heart, was that my faith was on the line. Who would I stand for? Jesus or political correctness? Who would I aim to please? Jesus or a big wig manager sitting in his leather chair?

I knew the politically correct answer. I knew the corporately correct answer. I knew the answer that this organization would expect me to provide on their behalf, to support their politically correct, non-religious,-non-discriminative, overly-tolerant policies of everyones varying beliefs. And I understand why corporations feel pressured to be so neutral. I knew that from a business standpoint, I should straddle the fence, skirt the real issue, and give an answer that would appeal to everyone in the room.

What seemed like eternity was really only a few seconds, as I struggled with which road to travel. Im proud to say that in this situation, I chose the road less traveled. I expressed my Christian beliefs in a non-judgemental way, and explained what I believed Christmas to be all about - based on my God sending His son Jesus to be born in a manger, eventually to die on a cross for me, so that I could be forgiven, enjoy my earthly life by striving for things that would please Him, and spend eternal life with Him when my time here is over.

I also expressed my overwhelming sadness for our societys attempt to remove Christ from Christmas, and how I wanted to encourage every Christian in that room to stand up with confidence for their beliefs, at work, at the mall, and in their homes.

I reminded them that Christianity is normally the religion that gets pushed to the back burner, while other religions are given much more tolerance. I encouraged them to hang Merry CHRISTmas signs in their cubicles, regardless of the political stigmas. I sensed my rational mind saying "whooooaaaa nelly!", but my words just flowed out from the depths of my heart. It was an opportunity that I had prayed for, and when the time arose, it was as if a dam broke, the flood waters rose, and the nothing could hold the words back!

I received some supportive applause, an Amen or two, a few cold glares, and to my surprise, a few looks of intrigue. Whether or not my words were ever discussed among that group after I left, I will never know. But I do know that I stood up for Christ, and possibly planted a seed that needed to be strown on good soil, to a persons heart who needed to hear or be reminded of the real meaning of Christmas that the world tries so hard to keep secret.

This was a mountaintop experience for me, and I felt really good about it. But unfortunately, there have been other times, when I was not so bold. Times when I felt that the potential consequences of standing up for my faith were too great. Times when I worried about what people would think, and didnt trust God to guide my words and control the outcome. As a result, I hid my light under a bushel, just to fit in.

Today I am certainly much more bold in my faith than I was in the past. I feel much more confident in living out loud for Christ.....but I wonder....what if I was truly put to the test today to stand up for Christ? What if I had to make the choice to deny Christ and live, or speak for Christ and die? What if I was faced with a situation like Cassie René Bernall, from Columbine High School, who when asked if she loved her Jesus, she said yes - at all costs. Cassie didnt lose a job for standing up for her faith, she lost her life. Would I really be willing to do that?

Jesus never intended for sharing His word to be a scary, impossible, sweat-inducing burden. After all, it is a message of love and salvation, but the world has made transparency, especially when it comes to having bold faith, a scary undertaking at times.

God meant for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the natural outcome of living our lives with Him, through Him, and for Him. Sometimes it is easy, other times it is hard. But He presents opportunities to share the good news each day, and I have to wonder, how often are we too preoccupied with life and our own personal inhibitions to grasp those opportunities?

If we want to be bold for Christ, which in the long run causes our faith to grow, here are a few suggestions that might help us take those first little steps towards being a light for Him:

1) Try to start seeing people through Gods eyes, not your own.
2) Write out your testimony, or any story where God has moved in your life, and study it. Be ready to talk about it whenever the opportunity presents itself.
3) Dont try to impress people with Christian lingo, just tell the easy to understand facts.
4) Build relationships. Once someone believes that you care about them as a person, they are all ears, ready to listen to whatever it is you have to say.
5) Pray for God to bring someone into your path whom you can witness to.
6) Study Gods word so you will be knowledgeable about discussing it.

These are merely a few ideas, but it might help us jump start the action! Sharing your faith is kind of like riding a bike - once you take off the training wheels, you feel more confident than ever! And remember, our God is something to be proud of.
Challege #4: Share your faith with three people today.

Mark 16:15
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."

Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;let me tell you what he has done for me

Prayer for today: Dear Jesus, I know I need to share your Word, so forgive me for not always doing that. Sometimes I just worry about public opinion or negative consequences, but I know that my trust is in you, you are my shield and my protection, and that you will always reign over everything. Sometimes, I simply get so bogged down with life, that I forget to allow you to use me to minister to others. Sometimes I just get stuck in my own agenda, and forget. Forgive me.

Lord, I ask that you bring 3 people into my path who need to hear a Word from you, who need a pat on the back, a hug or some simply encouragement; or who need to hear that You love them. Convict my heart as to who I am to minister to. Fill my mouth with words of wisdom for this person. Help me Lord. I know that once I get started, it will become a beautiful habit that I will no longer be hesitant to do. I cant wait to see how you are going to impact lives today through me!

In Jesus name, Amen

Faith Zone Challenge Day #4: Stand ProudSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, August 14, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge #3: The Art of Forgiveness

I feel pretty sure that many of you were hoping that we could attack this faith zone challenge without actually talking about that ugly word -"forgive".

I learned about nine years ago that forgiveness is a two-step process. I realized that before I could have a heart that was equipped to forgive others, I had to have a heart that accepted forgiveness from God for my own sins.

For many years, I knew that God loved me because the Bible told me so, but I really didnt accept that He would forgive me for my sins, much less forget about them. Why would He?

I had created this visual picture in my mind of what God probably looked like when I prayed or asked for forgiveness for the same past sin over and over, or new sins... again.

I envisioned Him sitting on His throne, looking down on me, with a solemn look on His holy face, head resting in His hands, and a heavy sigh leaving His almighty chest, as He uttered the words, "Tisk, tisk. Poor child, she just cant get her act together. What is wrong with her? How many times do I need to forgive her? Geeesh."

But one day, something was different. Like the light bulb suddenly clicked on. My vision changed to seeing a God who was disgusted with me, to seeing a God who was smiling at me, with a tender heart, a gentle face, and a forgiving attitude.

As I listened to the speakers testimony at a womens event, it sounded remarkably similar to my own. I learned how she had spent years in the bondage of guilt, but found amazing freedom in the sufficient grace and mercy of Lord Jesus. That day, I found that same freedom.

For the first time ever, I accepted with my entire being that God truly did forgive me once and for all, and there was no need for me to continue to plea for His forgiveness for the same sins over and over. I finally understood what the verse meant in Psalm 130:3, when it read "If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand?" God had forgiven and forgotten my sins, and I was cleansed. I fully grasped and understood that I no longer needed to live in captivity of the devil, who had spent years filling my head with lies. I was free. Truly free.

And my heart was changed forever.

Since that time, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds, but nonetheless, granting others that same mercy that I received from God is not near as easy! Receiving forgiveness is one thing, but giving it is a whole other ballgame. A game I had to learn how to play, and am still continually working at getting good at.

To give you an example, a couple years ago, I was faced with some very difficult circumstances, which involved some very difficult people. Sandpaper people you might call them - except this was the toughest sandpaper I had ever come in contact with! A small handful of these people stepped all over my feelings, treated me rudely, went out of their way to be mean, and even made me cry at times. After a while, I just got fuming mad!

I was fed up with being treated ugly, and fed up with their mean attitudes. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. As the months drug slowly by, I became more and more upset, angry and resentful by the minute. For months those feelings grew and grew, and although I never acted out in revenge in any way, I must admit that I did entertain some ungodly thoughts.

But one day, I finally admitted the cold hard truth that I was simply making myself miserable by obsessing over how these people had treated me and being mad about it. It was getting to where I dreaded getting up in the morning, because I would think about the problem, talk about the problem, worry about the problem, hurt about the problem, and literally obsess about the problem!

I broke down and got on my knees, and asked God to forgive me for carrying this burden and for harboring this unforgiveness towards these people. I realized that the unforgiveness was like poison to my heart. I was ingesting this poison every day, but then expecting the other person(s) to suffer.

But guess what?! They were still going about their normal lives without a care in the world, as I was drowning in my all consuming emotions! I became addicted to wishing they would change, hoping that they would realize the error of their ways and ask for my forgiveness, desiring that we could be friends, or that maybe someone would give them the same treatment as they had given me, so they would know how they made me feel (see what I mean? Not a very Godly thought.)

Honestly, I was just plum tired of feeling down and discouraged - so after months of bondage to this anger and hurt, I simply chose to forgive. It wasnt easy, but I knew it was necessary. Not because they deserved it; not because I wanted to; not because I liked it! But because God commanded it.

I threw away that poison, and boy did I feel better! The problem was still there, but the poison was not. As I look back, I can see how God used that situation to bring me closer to Him, but in the midst of the crisis, it was still difficult.

One of those important lessons that I learned from that experience was the fact that I could not change other people, no matter how badly I wanted to. I could not change their actions and behaviors. I could not change their hearts......but I could most certainly change mine. I wanted my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I wanted my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not weeds of bitterness that would eventually wrap its way around my entire life.

Forgiveness is like art - it takes practice, it takes perfecting, it takes patience. I guess you could say these are the three Ps to forgiveness.

Now I want you to take a moment to think - do you need to put the three Ps into action in your life? Has someone wronged you? Has someone hurt you? Abused you in some way? Neglected you? Lied to you? Manipulated you? Been unfaithful to you? Stole from you? Harmed you? Wounded you?

Friend - forgive them. They probably do not deserve it, wont appreciate it and may not even realize it. But do it anyway - for YOU.

What does God do when we commit wrongs against Him? He forgives, and even forgets. Granted, we may never forget, but we can still forgive, through His strength. It is hard - but all things are possible with our God.

Max Lucado put it this way: "Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you."

You can do it. Throw out that poison today.
Challenge #3: The challenge for today is two-fold:

1. Forgive yourself. Let go of the shame, guilt and regrets that may have held you hostage for years. If you have repented, God has already forgiven you. God has already forgotten that sin and loves you for your repentance. Please do not allow any past sin, big or small, to keep you from realizing your incredible value to God. He loves you, and is ready and willing to extend His grace and mercy to you, if you are willing to accept it. Today could be the first day of total freedom. Embrace it.

2. Forgive that person whom you have been holding a grudge against for days, weeks, months, maybe years. Bask in the freedom that you will gain from being obedient to God in this way. Your rewards will be great.

Psalm 103:2-4
Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Prayer for Today: Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness, plead for you to cleanse me, and wash in the blood in the lamb. Help me to never pick up that sin again, and to be free from any shame that the devil tries to heap upon me.

Lord, You know my heart, and you must know that there is nothing in me that wants to forgive this person who has hurt me. There is nothing in me that wants to pray for this person. But Lord, I know it is your will. I am tired, exhausted actually, of being weighted down by carrying this bitterness in my heart. I am afraid that this bitterness towards them will seep out into other areas of my life, and I am seeking your forgiveness for my refusal to forgive. I accept that you are the healer of hearts, and that you truly have forgiven me for all my sins. In the same way, please give me the strength and courage and supernatural ability if needed, to forgive the person(s) who have wounded me. I pray that they will one day see how they have hurt me, and maybe even apologize, but if I never receive that apology, I will still love you Lord, and trust in all your ways. I want to sleep peacefully tonight knowing that my heart is free from poison.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge #3: The Art of ForgivenessSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge #2: Change Your Attitude

"If he/she would just stop doing (xxxxxx), then we would not have these problems anymore."

"If he would learn how to treat me better, then we could get along just fine."

"If I just made more money or got a different job, then I could be happy."

"If I did not have this health problem, then I could serve in my church."

"If he/she had a better attitude, then I could have one too."

"If I wasn't so depressed, I would try to have more faith".

"If only I could (xxxxx), then everything would be okay."

Have you ever found yourself saying these types of things?

Have you ever been pulled into a game of mental chatter that convinces you that your happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm for life hinges on everything going your way, material items coming into your possession, and/or major changes taking place in your life and the people in it?

Have you ever found yourself putting God to the test - if He answers your prayers just right, then you will love Him more?

Most of us have lots of "ifs, ands, and buts" for why all of our problems are someone elses fault, why our negativity and pessimism are justified, why our faith is lacking, and why we have every right to continue living in a perpetual poor-me pity party.

Unfortunately, this type of attitude only digs our hole a little deeper, and further separates us from God. So why do we keep doing it? The only logical reason I can come up with, is because people either simply do not know how to change, or do not believe that they can change.

Great news! God gave us an amazing gift - the gift of free will....not just free will in our actions, but also in our thoughts. We may not have the power to change our circumstances or the people in our lives, but we ALWAYS have the power to change our own attitudes.

My mom always reminds me of the serenity prayer when I start grumbling about something that is outside of my power to change. It says, "Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That always helps me keep things in perspective.For the sake of today's challenge, I'd like to put a different spin on that prayer. What if it went something like this, "Lord, help me to accept the people I cannot change, to change the ones I can, and to know that one is ME."

No matter how many great things may happen in our lives, there will always be something that can steal our joy, whether it be people or circumstances. Trust me friend, the devil will make sure of it. That ol devil is the master of self-condemnation, ridicule, shame, guilt, blame, finger pointing, rudeness, bitterness, discontent, discouragement, and joylessness. He spends a great deal of time and effort trying to win us over to his way of thinking.

The devil is not after our wealth, health, family, security or homes - he is after our attitude. After all, when we have a bad attitude, we are no longer a threat. If we live in a state of bitterness, he no longer needs to worry about us sharing Gods love with others, reaching out to those in need, and building God's kingdom. Yep, he can move on to some other poor soul who is teetering on the edge of discouragement and separation from God.

Let's face it:

-It is so much easier to be mean to a person who has been mean to you, than it is to pray for them, forgive them, and maintain a smile and joyful heart.

-It is much easier to fall into the unethical practices of the corporate world, than it is to stand up for what is right despite the costs.

-It is much easier to join in the gossip session, than make it known that you want no part of it.

-It is much easier to criticize your husband and hold a well tallied list of all of his flaws, than to forgive him.

-It is much easier to yell at your kids, than exercise patience and respond in love.

-It is much easier to resent the mother who has seven kids, when you cant even have one baby, than it is to thank God for blessing her with a family.

-It is so much easier to be bitter, than it is to choose joy despite our circumstances.

Do we really want the easy way? Is it truly easier? If we constantly travel the easy road - what is setting us apart from the rest of the world? I dare say - nothing at all.

Our outward attitude is a reflection of our inward heart. Our outward actions are a reflection of our inward beliefs. Our life is a reflection of our spiritual heartbeat.

A heartbeat that beats for God, is one fueled by unbreakable, unshakable joy. The type of joy that is unaffected by circumstances. A positive state of mind. A deep joy, fueled by contentment, confidence and hope.

Spending time with Christ builds a desire in us to be more like Him. Having an attitude of joy, gratefulness, faith and hope - despite and regardless of our circumstances - prepares our hearts to really begin hearing Him speak.

Move over sister, God still needs a little more room today.

Challenge #2: Let God's light shine brightly through you today - even if someone licks the red off of your sucker. Be kind to those who are unkind. Be giving to those who dont give. Look for the positive in every situation you encounter.

1 Peter 1:13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy." (The Message)

Prayer For Today:
Dear Jesus, this is a hard challenge! I try to be positive, but things happen in my life that steal the joy right out from under me. You know the situations I am dealing with; you know the pain in my heart; you know the battles that I am facing, and the ones to come that I am unaware of. I pray that you will be with me Lord every step of the way, today and every day, to help me break the bondage of negativity in my heart and seek out joy and hope in you. I am so desperate for the type of joy that you tell us about in your Word. I seek out that joy and ask that you pour your love into my heart so that thoughts of you and wisdom of your sovereignty will control my actions throughout each day. Prepare my heart Lord, for a mighty work.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge #2: Change Your AttitudeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge Kickoff

I am so excited and so glad you have come back to visit me today and that you are interested in taking the Faith Zone Challenge. Even if you did the challenge last year, dont expect the same results! God speaks to us differently and about different things in each season of our life, so I have no doubts that you will feel His presence and hear His voice as you spend time pondering His will and anxiously listening for His voice and direction over the next five days.

The challenge is not hard and I promise it will not hurt, but it will take some time, and a personal devotion to truly letting God move in your hearts this week.

Ready to get started? Lets go!

Several years ago, God called me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown zone. God, of course, knew where I was headed, I just had to put my trust in Him and watch His plan unfold. And guess what? His plan was amazing!

As a result of seeing firsthand the miracles that God can do in someones life simply by trusting God and being willing to say yes to His call, I now have a passion for encouraging others to experience that same excitement. I want everyone to experience the joy that can be found from stepping out in obedience, despite sacrifices, fears, shame and doubts.

So..... for the next five days, I want to make you think. I pray that God will speak through me to inspire you to take some time and do things that would normally be out of your comfort zone.

"But why should I?", you may ask. "What's in it for me?"

Let's look at it this way - when you are sitting in your favorite recliner, remote in hand, focused on the TV; all snuggled up and comfy with your pillow and throw blanket, a few magazines on your lap or a good book; a soda in your hand and a popcorn bowl on your knee, and maybe a few kids - is there room for anything else? I doubt it. That recliner is probably getting rather crowded. Comfortable, but very crowded nonetheless.

In the same way, when we get so comfortable with our life the way it is, and with the things that are filling our life, then there is no room for God to introduce anything new. He desperately yearns to give us new things, but there simply is no room for them!

While we think we are safely sitting in our comfort zone, we are actually sinking into a dead zone. A zone where we dont see God working, because we are focused on life itself. A zone where we dont hear God speaking, because our ears are full of earthly noise. A zone where God cannot be felt, because we are too comfortable to make room for Him.

The result: we stay stuck in our recliner, a.k.a LIFE, all alone, uninspired, unchallenged and unfulfilled.

God calls us to be all we can be, and more than we think we can be - through Him. However, our doubts, busyness, insecurities, lack of faith and attempts to fill our hearts with earthly pleasures, often prevent us from fulfilling our true purposes.

This five day challenge is certainly not the answer to all our problems, but my prayer is that it will motivate someone to take that first step of faith towards a stronger relationship with Christ, help them begin to build a habit of listening for God's voice, and maybe even empower someone to jump right into God's will for their life, which they may have been hesitant to do before.

Consider Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

It takes great faith to do amazing things - it takes God sitting in the chair with us. It takes us being willing to make room for Him, maybe even sit in His lap, and ask Him to begin reading us the beautiful story that He has laid out for our lives.

If you believe that He is calling me, and you, to trust Him, leave our comfort zones of our daily lives and enter THE FAITH ZONE, then this challenge is for you.

For everyone who is willing to take a chance, and commit to the challenge, please make a quick comment in the comments section. If you feel led to do so, post your commitment to this challenge on your own blog and challenge your readers to not only hold you accountable, but also get involved themselves! (note: you do not have to have a blog to get involved, you can simply leave a post that you want to participate, or just do it on your own!)

I pray that when the 5 days are up, many of you will leave me a comment about how the challenges worked for you personally and spiritually, or what struggles you encountered, as God changed your heart and mind, and maybe your life, as a result. Oooooh, Im excited!

So... are you ready to take the challenge? ___________________________________________________________
Challenge 1: Spend 30 minutes a day in quiet time with God for the next 5 days.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Okay, okay - I know what you are thinking - 30 minutes??!! I barely have time to brush my teeth, get dressed or even breathe! Much less spend 30 minutes alone in quiet time every day, for five days straight?! (I realize for some of you, this may be an every day habit, but please extend grace to the rest of us.)

Your next thought may be this - "how is quiet time stepping outside of my comfort zone?"

Most Christians understand how important daily quiet time with God is, however, I dare say that most of us do not do it on a consistent basis - myself included! Life gets noisy, daily tasks take priority, and quiet times seem impossible. That is exactly why it is a challenge !!

If you are willing, turn down the noise today. Carve out thirty minutes some time today, and try to get up earlier than normal for the next 5 days, find a place of solace, and spend time with your heavenly Daddy. Pick a Bible chapter or use a devotional book. Breathe, slowly, deeply, using your diaphragm, focusing only on Gods word. Your body will react to this relaxation, including muscle tension fading and even blood pressure dropping. Your mind will ease too, leaving you free to hear Gods whispers.

Quiet time is more than just a daily appointment with God. It's more like a visit with your closest friend. Just like a friendship cant flourish if you never spend time together, neither can our relationship with Christ. The more time we let pass by before we call a friend to chat, the deeper the separation and the awkwardness becomes. The same thing can be said for our Friend in heaven. The more dedication and time we devote to our faith walk, the closer we will feel to Jesus. The closer you are, the more likely you are to hear Him speak, see Him move, and feel Him near.

So to kick off the challenge, lets get back to basics. The basics of time with Jesus.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, please forgive me for not making you a priority in my every day life. Forgive me for getting so busy with life, and so bogged down by earthy noises, that I forget to spend quiet time with you. I earnest ask that you call me into Your Presence, and give me a burning thirst for your Word that can only be quenched during our quiet time. Grant me perseverance over these next five days, despite the hurdles that the enemy tries to throw my way to prevent me from keeping my commitment. Lord, help me make a permanent habit when this challenge is done.

In your name I pray, Jesus, Amen.

PS - if this sounds easy today, dont get too comfortable just yet.....the best (and most challenging) is yet to come! Come back tomorrow for Faith Zone Challenge #2.

Faith Zone Challenge KickoffSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prepare Yourself to Embrace God's Plan

Welcome P31 readers! I am so glad you stopped by today.

Last week, God laid it on my heart to write two posts about embracing whatever God calls us to do, even if it is hard. Even if we do not like His plan. Even if we do not want to follow His call.

These two devotions are so applicable to todays devotion, that I decided to make them the focus today, instead of writing something new.

I want to first encourage you to read them below, and pray about what it is that God is calling you to do today, this week, this year, or with your life in general. Ask God for open spiritual ears to hear His voice clear as a bell this week, and to guide your thoughts to an understanding of what His will is for you. Also, before you say Amen, ask for the strength and peace to embrace His will, even if it seems outside of your capabilities, or way outside of your comfort zone.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to come back to my blog for the next five days and take the Faith Zone Challenge. I ran this challenge one year ago, and God used it so mightily in the lives of people who were serious about hearing Gods voice, seeking His face and His direction, and finding the courage that can only come through Him to step out in faith.

My prayer this week is that it will do the same for many of you, who may be in a place in life where you feel that something is missing; or you feel there has to be more to your faith than what you are living; or you feel that God has been pulling you into obedience, or calling you to a specific ministry or task that will glorify Him, but your fears have prevented you from taking that first step down the journey that He has destined specifically for you.

If you have ever thought any of those thoughts, or are simply looking for a closer relationship with the Savior that has promised you life, then I want to encourage you to get on board with this upcoming challenge.

I can already feel it - God is going to do great things in some hearts this week! I cant wait to see how God is going to move! As you participate in the challenge, it would bless me and the other readers to hear how God has spoken to you each day, so please share!

Be sure to come back and visit for the next five days! From everyone who comments each day, I will have a drawing over the weekend for a free copy of my book, Reinventing Your Rainbow. (A little incentive always helps doesnt it?!)

May God bless you as you draw closer to Him this week.

Prepare Yourself to Embrace God's PlanSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If It Were Easy, Everybody Would Do It.... part 2

Yesterdays post talked about how important it is that we persevere with things that are hard. Things that hurt. Things that knock us off our feet. I mentioned things like marriage, parenting, illness and life in general. All of these things take huge commitment if we ever hope to be happy and fulfilled. Sometimes the things that take the most work, are the things that bring the most happiness.

On that note, what about ministry?

When I first quit my executive job to serve in ministry, most people thought I was taking the easy road. Most people could working in ministry even remotely compare to the stress, chaos, rewards and gains of the corporate world? How could serving a God you couldnt see, possibly be as rewarding as serving a high powered man (or woman) in a suit?

Oh how little they knew about ministry! And come to think of it, how little I knew about ministry at the time. How uneducated and unaware I was, of the sacrifices that would be required of me; of the surrender that would be expected of me; of the transparency that would be demanded of me; and of the battle that would be waged against me.

People who say ministry is easy, must have never served in ministry, because ministry is hard work. When I say ministry, I dont just mean public speaking, published writing, or becoming a pastor. I mean being a leader in whatever way God has called you to do - whether it be feeding the poor, helping post-abortive women find forgiveness in Christ, raising children who love the Lord, being a good provider for your family, being the spiritual leader of your home, giving Gods love and grace to your spouse, serving on a committee at church, being a womens ministry leader, helping a neighbor, or witnessing to people in your office.

The definition of ministry is: "something that serves as an agency, instrument, or means." Ministry is simply helping people, in Gods name. Sharing love and grace, in Gods name. Impacting the kingdom of Christ, in Gods name. Being devoted to being the best husband or wife you can be, in Gods name. Being the best mom or dad you can be, in Gods name. Being loving and kind and compassionate, even if is it not your inherent nature, in Gods name.

It means willingly allowing God to change us, so we can help others change.

Ministry means being an instrument for God, an authorized agency to do His work, a means for Him to speak to peoples hearts, through us.

Ministry is a call to unequalled privilege and unequalled blessing. However, it can also be a call to unequalled discouragement and fear, as Satan wages war against those who are a threat. Think about this - why would the devil waste time trying to trip people up who are already living in a pit of despair, far from God? He will use his time wisely, and cause Gods people to stumble -those who are committed enough to persevere in Christ.

Not to scare you at all, but I am a full fledged believer now in spiritual warfare. Maybe that sounds like silly-overly-religious-holy-roller-ghostly-talk to you, but as for me, I believe it.

Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We are not at war with the world, but with the one who desires to bring the world down to his level. When we take that first step to serving God with our whole hearts, the devil takes notice. That is why God's Word instructs us to put on His full armor. We might be able to protect ourselves from an attack by another person, but an attack by the devil can only be fought off through prayer, fasting, trust, and an unshakable devotion to Christ.

Every year prior to She Speaks, I see the war gaining momentum. All aresenals on go, and targets in place. Everyone on our speaker team, myself included, seems to get hit with new problems in the spring and summer months prior to the conference. Not that problems dont occur throughout our life all the time, but you can see the warfare happening when you witness it in full force against a team of people eagerly awaiting to be used as vessels by God. So many issues, for so many people, all around the same time of year, and year after year - that is not a coincidence. It is war.

The same story can be told about the attendees of She Speaks year. Their emails flood in every year with an outpouring of requests for prayer over difficult issues in their life, some that may even prevent them from attending the conference.
Coincidence? Absolutely not. Spiritual warfare? Most definitely.

If ministry were easy, everybody would do it. So lets face it - it is not easy. Serving God is not always an easy street, lined with ever-fragrant flowers, birds chirping, butterflies swarming, and sunshine glowing. It is a not a career choice that we make after a lot of positive research backs up our suspicions of imminent success. It is not a carefree life, free from stress, tears, worries or problems. But is anything in life that way?

Sometimes, ministry can be a hard road. Something that one has to pour their whole heart into, even when their heart is breaking. Something that one has to commit to doing, even if it means being transparent with others, or sharing a past mistake that they are not proud of. Something that may require financial sacrifice, and a willingness to change a habit of spending. Something that may solicit ridicule, but requires perseverance nonetheless. Something that calls us so far out of our comfort zone that we feel as if we are hanging off of a steep cliff, with only one tiny, flimsy branch keeping us from falling to a canyon of fear.

However, despite the hard things, ministry is a call to amazing unequalled privilege. It is a call to unfounded and unequalled blessing. It is a call to develop a relationship with a God so mighty, that He doesnt need us to impact His kingdom, but gives us the opportunity to do so because of His ever lasting love for us.

Ministry is fun, and exciting; rewarding and amazing; miraculous and fulfilling..... but not always easy. If it were, everybody would do it.

Many people trust God, but not enough to step out of their comfort zones.

Many people know Gods Word, but dont have it tucked away in their heart.

Many people love God, but not all love Him enough to do what He calls them to do.

So if God has called you to do something for Him, dont expect it to be easy. If it were easy, it would not be a call, but simply a task. But rest in confidence, believing that when times get tough, you will have a God so strong to hold you up; a God so smart to guide you; a God so all-knowing to teach you; and a God so powerful to control your future.... that you will soon begin to stand on His strength, instead of your own. You will become more aware of when you are being pulled into war, and sense the immediate need to put on the armor that God has prepared for you.

Ephesians 6:13-17 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Many are called, but few are chosen. We are told this truth in Matthew 22:14. This does not mean that God picks over all the people, and chooses who He deems worthy, because no one is worthy. Instead, this verse means that those who are chosen, are the ones who step forward, out of their comfort zone, to fight the good fight. The "chosen ones" are simply the ones that say "yes" to God, even when everything in their entire being screams no.

If it were easy, everybody would do it. What is God calling you to do today?

If It Were Easy, Everybody Would Do It.... part 2SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If It Were Easy, Everybody Would Do It

Last night around 9pm, my little Michael came home from his second football practice of the season. I could tell when he walked (or should I say hobbled) into the door, that he was hurting. He had that look on his face that said, "I really want to flop down in your lap and bawl my little eyes out, but that would not be very manly so I wont do that".

Instead, he gradually made his way to the couch, winced as he slowly sunk into the cushions, and in his little boy voice, began to tell me his every ailment. He had a bad headache. He was congested. His back hurt. He had turned both of his ankles and they hurt. His foot hurt where he had fractured it earlier in the summer and it looked a little swollen again. His thighs were hurting, front and back. His arms were too sore to pull himself up. Then he pleaded for an Advil, some chocolate milk and a cookie.

Even at the tender age of 9 years old, football is hard. Football consists of relentless drills, running, lunges, hitting, pushups, throwing, leg lifts, and falling. Although football is my very favorite sport, I do have to feel sympathy for those that actually hit the field - especially when my sweet little man is one of them.

As my son continued to complain, which got worse as the evening went on, I couldnt help but console him, and try to care and comfort him, waiting on him hand and foot so he didnt have to experience any more soreness than necessary. This, of course, resulted in a scolding from my husband (one of his football coaches I might add), as he instructed me to quit babying him. (but I cant help myself!)

In the midst of my husband/coach reminding me that my son is a football player, not a baby, he said some profound words. "If it were easy, everybody would do it".

I have to admit, that even though my hubby is not known for his overwhelming sense of sympathy, his words rang true in my heart. Although I desperately want to keep my little boy safe from harm, I do admire him for wanting to play such a tough sport, for not taking the easy way out, and for being willing to persevere and continue doing something he loves, even when the going gets tough. Even when it hurts. Even when he gets hit hard... time and time again.

I thought about this statement all day today. For some reason, it just stuck with me, and I found myself pondering how much I need to apply this simple truth to my own life.

Life can hit hard too sometimes. We might get knocked down, even when we didnt see it coming. It might be a little punch, a painful hit, or a glancing blow that brings us to our knees. But the truth is,that it is not about how hard we get hit, but rather its about how hard we can get knocked down and still find the strength through Christ to move forward.

If faith were easy, everybody would be walking around on mountaintops all the time. Instead we have to trust in Gods sovereignty, even when we dont like what is happening in our life. We have to depend on His Word to hold us up during hard times, to encourage us when we are down, and to help us persevere when we want to quit.

If marriage were easy, everybody would be happily married. But statistics prove that divorce is at an all time high, even among Christian marriages. Instead, we have to walk in love, even when we dont want to. We have to forgive, even when it may not be deserved. We have to hold our tongues from responding in anger, even if what we have to say is valid and right. We have to persevere when we want to quit.

If parenting were easy, everybody would have perfect children, with no worries of drugs, sex, abortion and alcohol. No worries of our children walking away from the Lord and making bad decisions that will affect them for a life time. Parenting is hard work, every minute of every day. Some parents grow so weary of trying to be a good parent, and not seeing positive immediate results, that they give up and unassumingly grant the child too much freedom, offering them an open invitation to complete despair. Parents have to persevere, even when we feel like quitting.

If dealing with the illness of a loved one, or our own illness were easy, we wouldnt need to depend on God. We wouldnt need to seek His face and desperately pray for His strength, wisdom, and healing. Coping with illness through extreme faith takes hard work; a commitment to Christ; a dependence on Him; a complete surrender to His will, even when it does not line up with our will. We have to persevere in trusting Gods plan, even when we dont understand the plan.

Life is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But not everybody does it. Some people are alive physically, without being alive spiritually. Some are married, without being engaged or committed to the marriage. Some are parents, without being willing to be the parent God called them to be. Some are sick, without the hope of healing or the gift of eternal life.

God does not only exist in the easy places of life, where everybody makes sense, where everybody agrees with us, where everybody treats us kindly, where everybody follows the rules and makes good choices. A life where everything is good and pleasant, where problems belong to someone else and where heartbreak lives in other peoples hearts. God lives in the hard places too.

Life is hard. Faith is hard. Its not easy to have faith when life is hard. But that is why it is called faith - believing in the unseen, and trusting an invisible God.

Have you gotten hit with life lately? Have you been knocked down to your knees? If you are like most of us, your answer is yes. Small hits, or big hits, they are hits just the same. But how long do you stay down? Do you wallow in self pity and stay stuck in the pit that you fell into, or do you reach somewhere deep inside of you and pull out every ounce of faithful courage within you that can lift you back on your feet? Are you trusting God, or blaming God? Do you quit, or persevere?

Lets commit together today to be the exception. To be the ones that keep going, even when the hits are hard. The rewards of perseverance through Christ will far outweigh the temporary benefits of taking the easy way out. Its not easy, but through our God, we can do it.

Prayer is asking for rain and faith is carrying the umbrella. (Barbara Johnson)

Faith is not an easy virtue; but, in the broad world of a person's total voyage through time to eternity, faith is not only a gracious companion, but an essential guide. (Theodore M. Hesburgh)

It need not discourage us if we are full of doubts. Healthy questions keep faith dynamic. In fact, unless we start with doubts we cannot have a deep-rooted faith. One who believes lightly and unthinkingly has not much of a belief. One who has a faith which is not to be shaken has won it through blood and tears--has worked his or her way from doubt to truth as one who reaches a clearing through a thicket of brambles and thorns. (Helen Keller)

If It Were Easy, Everybody Would Do ItSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Top Ten She Speaks Moments

Well today was a reality facing day - ran around this morning getting Kaitlyn to cheerleading practices, then spent a couple hours getting eye exams for the kids, and then an hour at another doctor for Morgan, then on to the pharmacy, the grocery store, and home to cook dinner.

Was it just yesterday that I came home from She Speaks? Surely it was longer ago than that? But even though I have to come back to the ordinary of life, I expect to continue to experience God in extraordinary ways as a result of fully experiencing Him this weekend.

And I have to tell you, that I experienced a revelation this weekend. I had prayed in the last few weeks for God to give me a revelation, and He did. I will be praying about how God wants me to share that message with you, but in the meantime, I want to share a few thoughts with you about She Speaks.

My sweet friend Glynnis put her top ten She Speaks moments on her blog, and it seemed like a great idea! I had been trying to wrap my mind around how to put down all of the blessings that I experienced over the weekend, and that seemed like a great way.... so here they are!

1. Getting to spend two days with all of my Proverbs 31 sisters before the conference began. Funny how you can not see someone for a whole year, but once you get together, it seems like they never left. Precious friends.

2. The realization of Gods intervention in the lives of the 600 women that invested their time and money to come learn about speaking and writing, even when most of them didnt fully know what God was calling them to do.

3. The fact that these 600 women came from 42 states and 5 countries around the world to attend this conference leaves me awestruck.

4. The special treat this year of having my mother and both of my daughters at the conference with me, and getting to share this invaluable experience with them.

5. The renewed passion and enthusiasm for serving in ministry that I walk away with each year.

6. Seeing all the hands raised, tears streaming, hearts moving, and hugs flowing as we sing treasured worship songs to the beautiful voice of Cheri Keaggy.

7. Bumping into two wonderful ladies who had invited me to speak at their event last year in Georgia - wonderful to see them again and get reacquainted. Also saw several ladies from past speaker evaluation groups which was great!

8. Getting to know the hearts of the women in my speaker evaluation group as they nervously shared their testimonies and messages that they had prepared, sometimes for the very first time. What an awesome privilege to seeing the reality of God working so powerfully in their lives.

9. Getting the opportunity to hear powerful and life changing messages throughout the weekend, from Lysa Terkeurst, Wendy Pope, Renee Swope, and Jennifer Rothschild.

10. Getting to meet Jennifer Rothschild, have her sign her book for me, and entrust me with a picture of us together. This is a woman that I so admire and who has been a spiritual influence for me as I have walked down this path of getting to know God. (I will tell you more about her later!)

And even though I said only ten, I have to list one last thing - the most important of them all - the most astounding and breathtaking of them all - the most life changing and heart rewarding of them all - GOD SHOWED UP BIG TIME.

His presence could be felt so strongly throughout the weekend, and especially in our prayer room. So much so, that even people who worked at the hotel seemed at a loss for words, and were moved by the Spirit, even if they didnt understand what they were feeling.

On Saturday, one housekeeping employee asked one of our speakers what was going on in the prayer room, and she told her. This lady said she could feel the Holy Spirit so heavily that day, but she didnt understand what it was all about, until she asked and the love of God was explained to her. Then she said that when the conference comes back next year, she plans to attend as an attendee, not a housekeeper. Wow. And listen to this - she was a hispanic woman, who didnt speak English and without knowing, she asked my wonderful P31 sister Van, who just happens to speak fluent Spanish. Wow. Out of 600 people, she asked Van. Wow.

I hope to post some more God-stories from She Speaks in the next couple weeks, so check back for some serious inspiration!

My Top Ten She Speaks MomentsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend