I was just driving along in my car, laughing with my family after leaving my son's ballgame, when he appeared out of nowhere.
He was coming towards me in the other lane, and right about the time I laid eyes on his intimidating, unmarked, black Dodge Charger, his blue lights started flashing.
I immediately looked down at my speedometer, realizing for the first time that I was going over the speed limit. I assume it is normal to have an instant sinking feeling in your stomach when one realizes that you are about to be punished for your disobedience of the traffic laws - but in any case, that describes me.
I wish I could say I handled this situation well. Since my children were in the car, I could have used this as a wonderful teachable moment...... like admitting my mistake; willingly accepting the punishment I deserved; and being understanding that the policeman was simply doing his job, and trying to maintain safety for everyone on the roads.
But no. I was irritated. Ill. In fact, quite bitter.
You see, the past few weeks had NOT been good. Several trying circumstances that I was dealing with were weighing heavily on my heart. I was already feeling discouraged and worried, and now a speeding ticket? As my frustration boiled to the surface, I blurted out, "Oh. My. GOSH! Well, this is just great. Great, I tell you! It has been a horrible several weeks, now this happens?! This is the worst month ever!! Can't anything good ever happen?"
I ceased my two-year-old temper tantrum long enough to pull over onto the grass, then watched in my rear view mirror as the police car gradually crept up behind me. I angrily got out my drivers license and registration, tapping my finger on the steering wheel with a scowl on my face, as I impatiently waited for the cop to take his ever-sweet time to come to my window.
"Maam, I stopped you for speeding. Drivers license and registration please." I handed them over.
Then it happened. The unexpected. The undeserved.
The cop glanced into my car to see who was riding with me, and let out a big ol' "hey!" to my husband, calling him by name. Apparently they had attended church together growing up and proceeded to spend a couple friendly minutes getting reacquainted. Then he handed me back my license and registration with a smile, and simply said "slow it down please, and have a good day".
What?! We all sat there stunned for a moment as the cop walked back to his car. My daughter broke the silence with a giggle, and then my husband began to get a big head, raising his hands in the air and bellowing "it is a GOOD day to be married to ME!". We all laughed and sighed a sigh of relief, as I drove away - quite slowly, I might add.
I had messed up. I had made a mistake. I had gotten distracted and taken my focus off what was important. I had not paid attention to the guidelines that I was supposed to be following.
I deserved to suffer the consequences - but instead - I was given grace.
Grace - because of a personal relationship.
The grace I received from the cop was not warranted, but saved me from many hassles, paying an expensive ticket, and raised insurance rates. Because of that grace, I got off scot-free. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
As I recalled that incident, I began thinking about how we get off scot-free from sin, when we are in Christ.
We mess up. We make mistakes. We do not live by His guidelines. We get distracted and lose focus. We deserve to suffer the consequences of our sinful choices.
Yet, if we have a personal relationship with Jesus, we get off scot-free from the eternal punishment of sin. We may have to suffer the earthly consequences of our choices, but not eternal consequences.
The definition of "scot-free" is this: to be or remain unhurt or unpunished; safe; without harm, loss or penalty." Jesus took on our hurt, our punishment, our harm and our penalty, so that we could be scot-free in Him.
We do not deserve His grace - yet He gives it freely. It is not warranted, but it saves us from a life void of joy and peace. It was not expected, but His sacrifice saved us from an eternity apart from Him.
God does not want us to have a sinking feeling in our stomach when we realize that we have sinned, because in Him, there is no shame or condemnation.
Instead, He wants us to acknowledge our sin, repent, ask for forgiveness, and refocus our life back to Him.
Hebrews 4:16 says "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
God takes pleasure when we approach His throne in need of grace. The kind of grace that invites us into heaven, scot-free.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Guess good things do happen, even when life seems hard. Good things - like Jesus.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
There is a saying that all of us at Proverbs 31 have been quoting for years. Whenever we are together, when we are planning or running She Speaks, and as we interact with each other in ministry on a daily basis, we always remember this phrase.
That phrase is simply, "grace, grace, grace". Because we all need a lot of grace - from God, but also from each other!
This week I ask for grace from those of you have had difficulty accessing, opening or printing my free Ebook, 14 Days To A Happier Marriage.
Just to insure that everyone who wants to read the Ebook can gain access to it, I am sending out one last link which will direct you to an online PDF document. I apologize again for any inconvenience (and frustration!) this little glitch may have caused.
Again, thank you for your grace, grace, grace. Smiles.
LINK TO PDF DOCUMENT FOR EBOOK:
at 11:16 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Hi friends - I apologize profusely for the trouble some of you have had in trying to download the free marriage Ebook. I suppose I should have prayed a little harder over the computer! The devil loves to keep us from God's encouragement, even if it means dabbling in our technology!
I have uploaded the document onto a different server, and hopefully, this will resolve this problem. If you still have issues with accessing the Ebook, please feel free to email me directly.
14 Days to a Happier Marriage Miles
Another link for viewing: 14 Days To A Happier Marriage
* I would love to get your feedback about the Ebook once you have completed reading it. If you are interested in providing feedback or comments, please send me your comments in email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Hello friends - I am thrilled at the response to the devotion on Friday, and excited that so many of you are interested in receiving my Ebook for free, titled 14 Days To A Happier Marriage. (It's not too late to sign up! Just enter your email address in the blue box to the right and subscribe to my blog before the end of the day today. If you are receiving this post in email, you're all set!)
Anytime the topic of marriage is brought up among a group of women, there will surely be lots to talk about. We love the feeling of camaraderie with other women as we talk about our husbands, share our problems and our marriage wish lists, and seek advice from people who have dealt with similar experiences.
In many instances, there will be commonalities, but even moreso, there will be lots of differences, because no two marriages will ever be exactly the same.
Each partner in a marriage is unique, and each marriage has its own unique share of good and bad. In some cases, circumstances are better or worse than others, but in all cases, there is a need for our Savior to be in the midst of it.
When trying to wrap my mind around how to respond to the heartbreaking comments left and the emails sent by readers last week, and praying for the right words, I began to see a mental picture........
I envisioned a big warehouse, filled with all sizes of cardboard boxes. Some boxes were small, while some were huge, taking up large parts of the room. Each box had been labeled, with the bigger boxes describing the types of marriages that were held within that box, and the smaller boxes labeled with a variety of marital problems.
The biggest 3 boxes were labeled to say:
* solid and stable/ Christ-centered
* shaky, but still secure
* on the brink of divorce
Some of the smaller boxes, which would be put into one of the 3 main boxes, were labeled to say:
* substance abuse addicted husband/wife
* infidelity issues
* pornography addiction
* differences in parenting styles / expectations
* financial stress / foreclosure / bankruptcy
* lack of intimacy
* communication has stopped
* husband/wife is not a Christian
* lacks respect for spouse
* abusive relationship
* lack of love
* neglect / abandonment
* chronic unforgiveness
Picture yourself choosing one of the 3 main boxes (solid; shaky; brink of divorce). Then picture yourself picking up all the smaller boxes that represent a problem you are having in your marriage, and tossing them into your big box.
For some, your box might be empty, symbolizing that your marriage is in a good place right now.
For some, your box might be half full, filled with a few of your struggles.
Yet for some, your box may be overflowing, filled to the brim with blatant reminders of the difficult and painful issues you face.
Regardless of what your box looks like today - full or empty - it must have room for God. If we want to see change occur in our marriages, we have to allow God to replace those smaller boxes with His love, strength, forgiveness, and the courage to persevere, while believing that He is the King of transformation.
If we are so attached to the smaller boxes, holding on tightly to the ones labeled with hurts and pain and unforgiveness, focusing on them every day - then God cannot toss those boxes out, making room for Him to reside.
I believe with all my heart that God is capable of changing, reforming and renewing any person, and any marriage. Unfortunately, this transformation of change that we wish to see in a spouse, or in a marriage, will not happen overnight. It may not happen in the time frame that we would choose. It may require a spiritual wake up call to one or both partners in the relationship. It may need the intervention of Godly counsel or professional counseling.
But above all, it needs God.
God created marriage so that two could become one, and it is His desire that we hold the marriage covenant sacred. I know there are often valid circumstance that warrant the end of a marriage, and that God's grace and love and forgiveness abounds even when that decision is made.
Yet if we trust in God's Word, and believe in His power to work in even the most difficult situations, there is a hope for change. A change that will happen in His timing, and in His ways, and for His glory.
Regardless of which box you would hypothetically put your marriage in, one truth remains - God has to be in that box too.
If God is not in your box, then He is out of your box.
He is on the outside. Left in a place where He can see inside the box, and long to intervene, but is not allowed in because of a lack of faith.
Think back for a moment on the three main boxes that I mentioned above. Did you notice that there was one box that I did not visualize as being in the room? That box was labeled "hopeless and over / cannot be saved".
You see, what we see as hopeless from a worldly perspective, God sees as a heavenly challenge.
A challenge that calls us to trust Him enough to allow Him to replace all the problems, with purpose and hope.
A challenge to follow His instructions, found in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, even when we do not feel like it - "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
God longs that we fill our marriage box with so much of Him, that we see changes within ourselves, and changes in our spouses, which eventually leads to changes in marriages.
Our God has been filling up marriage boxes for countless generations, and He wants to fill yours too. Better yet, He wants your marriage to be in the best box of all, "solid and stable / Christ centered."
If your situation seems hopeless, filled with resentment, bitterness, lack of respect, and distance - ask God to help you trust Him, and to give you a glimpse that change is possible.
Ask Him to reassure You that He sees your marriage box, and that He is still in control, with a plan, a purpose, and a hope.
Ask Him for patience, as He slowly but surely starts to fill your box with more of Him.
at 8:21 AM
Friday, August 19, 2011
Happy Friday friends! If you are visiting my blog today from the Proverbs 31 Encouragement For Today devotion, Crosswalk or Bible Gateway, I extend a special welcome to you!
If you are interested in receiving my free 62 page Ebook titled "14 Days To A Happier Marriage" which was offered in the devotion, just subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the blue box on the right hand side bar. You may sign up for this great free giveaway until August 22nd, and the Ebook will be distributed on August 23rd.
You can also sign up for my quarterly newsletter as a bonus!
Today's P31 devotion, called "I fully intended to....", discussed some communication habits that most married couples find themselves falling into. Word habits, which if left unnoticed, can be fatal to a marriage.
In the devotion, I made reference to a book I read a couple years ago (The Man Whisperer, by Rick Johnson) which had a significant impact on my heart, and in turn, my husband and my marriage.
In this book, Rick talked about how all women think their men "need improvement", in some area of their life or marriage relationship, but how most women go about trying to change their men in all the wrong ways.
Although his statement may sound a little abrupt, let's be honest.....the odds of finding a woman who can honestly say that she does not wish to change one single thing about her husband would probably be slim to none! And just to be fair, I am sure there are husbands who would also like to change some things about their wives.
But regardless of who wants to see change in who, or what small or big changes are desired, there are certain ways that can help foster and promote change, and then there are ways that can not only stifle change, but destroy a relationship.
Wives have the power to bring out the best in their husband's through the simple act of using encouraging words. Once we recognize the subtle power of persuasion that our words hold, we can help our man become the best he can be, and the best that God created him to be.
In my Ebook "14 Days To A Happier Marriage", I share a personal experience that a sweet woman shared on my blog last year, when I was talking then about the power of encouraging words. Here is that excerpt below:
"She stated that her husband was not an emotional or affectionate man, and that their relationship was strained. She was hesitant to try to compliment him, because she did not think he would be responsive or appreciative. But she stated that as soon as she spoke those words of encouragement to him, he "melted like a marshmallow". I just loved that analogy!
I am not saying that all men are like marshmallows, but all men do need encouragement, and need to believe that they are respected and admired. Men are born with the need to be admired, just as women are born with the need to be touched and loved."
I'll admit there are days (more days than I might want to admit) that I do not use encouraging words. Sometimes the enemy just seems to take my tongue hostage and I find myself falling back into the habit of saying things that are not building up my man.
I have found that this not only tears my husband down, but brings me down as well, because of two reasons. One - because I feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when I know my words have been discouraging; and two - because I am quickly aware that my words were also displeasing to God.
God's Word encourages us, to encourage one another - especially when it comes to our husbands, the one whom we made a convenant of love with.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,...." (NIV) .
Hebrews 10:24 says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,.."
Hebrews 10:22-25 in The Message Bible puts that verse this way: "So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching."
These verses gently instruct us to not only use our words to encourage others, but to be inventive and creative in doing so!
Friends, I want to encourage you today to ask yourself a few questions in the solitude of your prayer time. Ask yourself, if the words that you have been saying to your husband lately would fall into the category of encouraging, or discouraging. Have your words been building him up, or tearing down his self esteem? Is it possible that you need to seek God's grace, asking Him to cleanse your heart of bitterness or resentment, allowing you to see your husband in a more positive light, and equipping you to be more loving with your words?
These are tough questions, and some of us may secretly be ashamed of our honest answers. Some of us may wonder if it is possible to ever break the habits that our mouths have formed, and if Jesus can free our tongues from being held hostage by the enemy.
Some of us may wonder, just like the woman who posted that comment on my blog last year, if your husband would be receptive to a change in you, as you strive to encourage him.
Yet, if you feel convicted by this challenge to begin changing your bad habits into good habits that can help bring sweet, refreshing changes into your marriage relationship through encouraging words, God can help you push past all those insecurities and fears.
Today is a great day to trust that God's ways are always best, and to accept the challenge of becoming an encouragement guru.
I love the old prayer that says, "Lord, help me change the things I can, accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
We have no control to make other people change, but we have complete control over changing the pattern of words that leave our lips. Through controlling our own tongues and using loving words to our husbands, we open the door for God to begin doing great things in our marriage.
Faith has to precede any commitment to positive change, and when God gets involved, change is good.
at 6:00 AM
Monday, August 8, 2011
Someone I love has made mistakes, and needs to remember that nothing My children do can ever separate them from Me, because My love and forgiveness is unconditional.
Someone I love knows in their heart that they have not been walking as closely with Me as I would like, but I, in My infinite ability to love and forgive, adores them just the same.
Someone I love needs to focus on Me, and believe that I will walk them through this difficult journey, from the wilderness into the promised land, while holding them in My hands and catching every tear.
Someone I love needs to remember that through Me, their sins are washed as white as snow, because I died for them. I keep no record of wrongs.
Someone I love is hurting, feeling broken and ashamed. I long for this dear loved one to remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in My care.
Someone I love needs to trust Me, and have faith in knowing that despite their mistakes, they are a beloved child of Mine, and I will never leave them nor forsake them.
Someone I love needs to be reminded that My love endures forever, through the good times and the bad.
Someone I love needs to know that I am here, and I am listening.
Someone I love needs to believe that everything will work out according to My will, and that if they trust in Me, I can use what the devil meant for evil, for My glory.
Someone I love needs to be reminded that I have plans for them; plans to prosper them and not harm them; plans for a hope and a wonderful future, despite the circumstances that they are facing today.
Someone I love needs to believe that I am proud of them, despite their flaws.
Somone I love needs to lay their fears at My feet, and leave them there.
Maybe you are that someone today, sweet child. That someone who needs to know how much I adore you.
Rest in knowing that I am here, and in control. It will be okay. Trust in Me.
Your eternal Friend and Protector,
at 9:41 AM
Friday, August 5, 2011
Yesterday morning, my daughter Kaitlyn turned off her alarm clock, stretched her arms widely and let out a big yawn, before getting up in her dark room to go take a shower. Little did she know, that her alarm had gone off an hour late. She thought she had an over an hour to get ready to leave, but in actuality, she only had a few minutes.
I awoke when I heard the shower running, ran upstairs, threw open the bathroom door and frantically asked her if she knew what time it was. Confusion washed over her expression. "It's 5:55am!", I bellowed. The blood drained from her dripping, wet face and I saw pure panic set in.
You see, her cheerleading squad was leaving for a four day camp which was a three hour drive away. We were supposed to be at school no later than 6:15am, and if anyone was late, they would risk being left behind.
Wild toiletry throwing, zipping of suitcases, and craziness quickly set in. We plugged in two hair dryers, with her drying one side of her hair while I used the other one to dry the back, hoping to help speed up the process. This worked great, until a fuse blew. But by some sheer miracle, we managed to get her to school just in the nick of time.
Later that morning, I got on the road with my mom and other daughter, and headed out for a few quiet days at the beach. After three hours of driving, laughing, and listening to beach music, we finally arrived to the condo. We quickly unloaded all of our luggage, changed into our swimsuits, and hopped back into the car for the one mile trip to the shore.
A one mile trip, which should have taken less than five minutes, but instead, took over an hour and five minutes.
We sat in a sea of cars on the highway, all paralyzed in motion due to the accident scene ahead. Traffic was stopped in both directions, and the left side of the highway had been shut down completely.
A motorcycle had collided with a jeep at an intersection. As we crept forward in the slow moving traffic, I ended up sitting directly beside the accident scene for about five minutes. Our eyes surveyed the flashing red and blue lights, firetrucks, policemen wandering around, emergency crews, draped sheets across the mangled car, yellow tape, a motorcycle laying on its side in the middle of road, and pieces of metal and glass scattered everywhere.
We knew it was bad, and my heart sunk. I felt the urge to pray for the people involved. Then my mom spoke up and said, "someones life just changed tremendously". And that was true. We learned later on the evening news that someone had lost their life in that accident. Their life, and many other lives, were changed that day.
The driver of that motorcycle probably thought he had plenty of time to get where he was going. Plenty of time to enjoy life. Plenty of time to start prioritizing the important things. Plenty of time to make amends with enemies and tell their family how much they loved them.
Upon awaking that morning, they thought they had plenty of time to get ready to leave this world, but in actuality, they only had a few minutes.
I cannot help but wonder - was he or she ready to leave this world? Were they secure in where they would spend their eternal life? Did they meet Jesus yesterday in all His glory, or did they face their worst nightmare.
1 Corinthians 15:52 says "...in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (NIV)
This particular verse references the last trumpet of when Christs returns, including the resurrection of the saints and His return to earth. However, until that divinely appointed time, Christ will still come for us in His timing - in the twinkling of an eye.
We may think we have plenty of time, but maybe we do not have much as time as we think. Only Christ knows how many seconds we each have left to live, and in my heart, I want to know that I am ready.
His Word also instructs us to help others get prepared. To care about the reality of whether or not the people we know, work with, socialize with, go to church with, are ready.
The weekend is upon us, and we all probably have a lot planned. However, I want to encourage you to pause this weekend, and make sure you would be ready to meet Jesus, if He came for you today.
Think about your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors - are they ready? Could God be calling you to help prepare them to meet Him, when that time comes, in the twinkling of an eye?
Luke 12:37 says this, "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." (KJV)
When we are ready - having accepted Jesus as our personal Savior - we not only are assured that we are prepared for His coming, whether it be for us individually or during the second coming, but this verse also tells us that those who are prepared, are blessed.
Lets make it a focus this weekend to prepare for when we meet Jesus, and be bold in our desire to help others be prepared as well. Nothing is more important than being ready.
Nobody wants to be left behind, and nobody has to be.
If you are not sure you are ready, or you know a friend who needs to know Jesus, click here for more encouragement.
at 9:39 AM
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
So a few weeks ago, after much anticipation, research and fretting, I purchased a new cell phone.
I wanted to make sure that I made the right choice, so I spent months checking out all of my options.
I finally decided upon one that was small and flat so it would fit easily in my hand; one that had all the bells and whistles, also known as "cool applications"; one that had everything a phone user could possibly need.
Then I selected a pretty case in my favorite color, bright blue, so that it would be appealing to the eye.
I was sure my new phone would meet all of my needs, wants and desires, and maybe even some needs I didnt even know I had. And honestly, I do love my new friend, I mean phone, and I have had lots of fun getting to know her, oh, I mean getting to know "it".
But despite all her friendliness, fanciness in appearance and technological capabilities, my phone is still dependent on the signal that allows it to work.
When we first moved into our house fourteen years ago, people would say we lived in the "boonies", which means far from civilization, and way too far from a grocery store. It seems the city keeps getting closer and closer due to building and community growth, but most people still think we live in the country (aka, boonies) which I love. The only downfall is that phone service is certainly lacking.
I have been known to hang over the deck rail on the back of my house, in order to get a better signal. My husband can be seen pacing around the yard on any given day, trying to get a better signal. And we can both be found having arguments with our phones, as if they could hear us, when calls are dropped or messages are broken.
However, I have discovered that in one particular room in my house, and in one particular corner of the kitchen, I can great service........ as long as I stay confined to a small semi-circle area where the invisible phone barrier lives.
I thought having a fancy-dancy, pretty, trendy phone would solve my signal issues - but the issues remain. The phone only works like it should, when I am in the boundaries of the signal.
Thank goodness, our faith is not like that, because of the amazing gift of prayer. God always has a strong signal, and is waiting to communicate clearly with our hearts.
We often take for granted that we can "call" God anytime. He is not concerned with where we are, because His signal is always strong. We could be in the shower, in a car, shopping at the mall, on a beach on the other side of the ocean, or standing in a kitchen in a house out in the middle of the country - God still hears.
Today as I pressed into the kitchen corner where my invisible phone barrier lives, I felt reminded in my spirit that God's signal is always strong. So, I just had to pause for a moment, and call Him right up, to simply say thank you, for always being available.
For always answering. For never dropping my calls.
For always having a strong signal, that nothing and no one can hinder.
The truth is, that we often treat our cell phones like our most prized possession, or treasured friend, rather than the unloyal, unpredictable piece of equipment that it really is, no matter how many bells and whistles it offers.
I had to ask myself, "Do I treat my cell phone better than God? Sadly enough, sometimes, the answer is yes, yes I do.
How blessed we are to know that God understands, and loves us anyway, even when we are not calling or listening to Him. What a blessing to always know that His signal is strong - and ready whenever we need it.
I recalled reading something in the past, about how strong our faith would be if we treated our Bibles like our cell phones - with the same interest, enamor, love, obsession, and attachment - so I looked it up.
Below is that excerpt from an unknown author, which you may have seen before, but I thought it was worth sharing again today. Good thoughts to ponder.
Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?
1-What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
2-What if we flipped through it several times a day?
3-What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
4-What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
5-What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
6-What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
7-What if we used it when we traveled?
8-What if we used it in case of emergency?
9-What if we worried about its whereabouts all the time?
Gotta go now, I'm off to make a call. To the One who has the strongest signal 24/7/365 without fail.
And a special benefit, is that I will not have to awkwardly stand in the invisible signal boundary in my kitchen, because He is available everywhere.
at 3:59 PM