Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Creativity: A Productive Path to Identity

Sometimes our journey toward identity and purpose takes a creative turn. Read more here...

Join me at Come Alive Conferencehttps://www.comealiveconference.com/come-alive-blog/2017/7/25/creativity-a-productive-path-to-identity where I am a guest blogger today. You will discover how creativity led me to who I was created to be.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Does Standing Still Have to do With Trusting God?

On average we hear up to 52 sermons a year. If we visit other churches or listen online that number could easily double or triple so, in any given year we hear a lot of truth.

Then, there is that one sermon, that marks us, shapes us, calls us to action and changes us forever. For me it was on Mother’s Day 2010.

I was visiting a church I had previously attended and the sermon was Trusting God. The scripture was:
This is what the LORD says:
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:5-8
The kids and I had been studying Psalm 1 all year and it was not lost on me that this verse in Jeremiah linked trusting God to being like that tree planted by streams of water.

In my life when I struggled the most it usually stemmed from not trusting God. The pastor said, “The God who made all things, makes all things new.I needed to hear that then and now. We know it, but when fear comes, amnesia sets in.

He also said, “We run away from things in our life that would produce trust in us.” "Huh, you talking to me?," I asked...as I crawled under the seat. (click here to read Why I Quit Running)

When the Israelites were whining in the wilderness and telling Moses it would have been better to serve the Egyptians he said to them, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” - Exodus 14:13-14 He was essentially saying "Stand still, the Lord is about to do something that will produce trust in your life." The Lord is saying the same thing to us. "Stand still and let me show you I am trustworthy, let me show you that I AM the God who shows up and I can be trusted."

Running moved me out of a position to trust in God. I ran because things were scary and painful and I was afraid of pain, especially emotional. When I ran everything stayed the same (which was dysfunctionally comfortable), I could not see what God wanted to do and it produced more fear. Interesting how that happens, isn't it? The very thing that made me run was being strengthened by my running.

Running did not produce trust, 
it kept fear in place and reinforced my distrust.

It was a vicious cycle. So, I resigned myself to go through the fire or the pruning if you will and God has been faithful to do His part. Now seven years later, some of these truths are my reality and the running, well I gave that up.

There were many times during this sermon that I was deeply convicted because God was speaking directly to my heart and addressing the things that still kept me far from Him and who He called me to be. Before we left this church I began to trust so much in the church, pastors and people (of course I did not know I was doing this at the time), God had to take me out of there (a place I loved) and get me totally dependent on Him, so I would learn to trust Him and only Him (because He loved me). At the end of the service, do you know what God asked me to do? He asked me to go to the pastor and repent for placing my trust in him, the church and the people instead of God.

I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do.

I did it because the Lord asked.

I did it because it required trust.

Not many Sundays later the Lord released me to return to this place I loved, but only after recognizing and repenting for not trusting Him – it took a year and a half, but He's patient.
Learning to trust will produce the things in you that you need to survive any storm and walk through any fire. It will produce gratitude. It will produce joy. It will bring peace. - Tom Tanner
I did not know the storms I would walk through later that year, but I can say with complete confidence this one day, this one sermon, this one act of repentance produced trust in me that I needed to weather them. Not only did that produce trust, but an amazing amount of gratitude.

During the sermon the pastor asked a tough question, one that will get you thinking and one I think we'd be wise to keep close at hand:

Where do you go or to whom do you turn when it comes to meeting the deepest needs of your life?

Acceptance (knowing that you are cared for loved and wanted)
Security (knowing that you are safe, protected and provided for)
Identity (believing that you are special and significant)
Purpose (believing that you are put here for a reason)

All these needs are good, but we MUST go to God first!

Read the following exhortation that ended the sermon and it was the merry-go-round that was my life. I have come a long way, but still have room for improvement in the area of trust, but this sermon, on that day was a turning point for me and I have never looked back.
When we trust in people or we trust in things then our security is dependant upon someone or something that we cannot predict we cannot control and whose resources are limited and the result is inconsistency and frustration. One day we may feel good the next day we’ll feel bad the next day we’ll feel good the next day we’ll feel bad and that’s the way it works when you choose to trust in people or things for your security. When you choose to trust in people or things for your identity then you’re identity will come more than likely from one of two places either from what you do or what people say about you and both of those things will get you into trouble. Because your significance and your identity will depend on circumstances and responses that you can’t control.. When you depend on acceptance when you look to other people or things for acceptance your acceptance is based on gaining approval from others which leads to a life of performance. You will find that you will do just about anything to gain acceptance and in trying to gain acceptance you will in fact loose your identity. When you look to people or things for your purpose then your purpose becomes confused by changing circumstances and by the changing opinions of both your critics and your friends. When you trust in God and you look to Him for all of these things then your security is dependant upon one who is totally faithful and whose resources infinite unlimited. Your identity is found in one who will never fail you, never forsake you and who has pledged to love you forever. Your acceptance is found in one who knows you completely and loves you unconditionally. Your purpose is grounded and rooted in God’s plan for you, not man’s opinion of you. - Tom Tanner
I am still learning what this trust thing looks like, and I am committed to trusting God to continue to work this out in me. I trust in Him to walk alongside me on this journey and remove the things that hinder me trusting Him and place things in me that enhance me trusting Him. The good news is because I am trusting Him I don't have to figure this out, He will! Amen to that!

During the sermon the pastor asked this question, “Why did Peter warm his hands in the enemies fire?” Mark 14:54 and the answer was, “because his hands were cold.” He had a real need, he just went to the wrong place to get his needs met, so it is with me and I for one am tired of warming my hands in enemy fire because I ALWAYS get burned!!!

Standing still,

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Who Are You Bringing to the Table?

It was Monday morning carpool and I waited to drop my two-year old off at preschool just barely paying attention to the radio. Then, a phrase got my attention, “Don’t give the devil a seat at your table.” I turned up the volume and listened more carefully. The radio disc jockeys were talking about Louie Giglio's sermon that weekend. After a few minutes of discussion they broke for commercial and said, “When we come back we'll give you three ways to know if you have given the devil a seat at your table.”

I dropped my son off and drove to the hardware store, but I didn’t get out, I waited. I needed to hear the rest of the broadcast. I had a gut feeling the devil was already at my table.

They returned with, "If you hear any of the following, it is a good indication that you have given the devil a seat at your table."
“You’re never going to make it through this.” If you have ever heard, “You’re not going to make it, this will never change, don’t get your hopes up, you’re not going to survive it”, if you hear that, you’ve given the devil a seat at your table. 
“You aren’t good enough. Never been good enough. You’re not strong enough or smart enough. You are not worthy. You’re insignificant”. If you’ve heard today, “You’re not good enough”, the enemy is sitting at your table. 
“Everyone is against you”. If you’re hearing, “No one at school likes you” or “Everyone is out to get you” or “Coach is out to get you” … then the enemy is sitting at your table. 
- Louie Giglio 
I knew at #1 that I’d done it again, invited the devil to eat with me at the very table God had prepared for me in the presence of my enemies.

It had been almost two years since I started seeing a rheumatologist again with no firm diagnosis, but taking muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. He had just changed my medication and sent me to physical therapy, but I was in more pain than I had ever been in and losing strength in my neck and legs daily. My main thought was, “I am not going to make it through this.”

I knew this called for prayer, serious prayer - focused and intentional, so Tuesday morning after everyone was gone for the day I put worship music on and began to pray for my body, something I had not done.

Then I repented.

I repented for giving the devil a seat at my table.

I repented for believing the devil over God.

I asked the Lord to heal my body.

I had this sense of urgency that I needed to go to a bible study I had been invited to over two and half years prior. I knew I would be late, but I had to go that day.

I drove an hour to the bible study and walked in an hour late to hear the leader saying, “Don’t give the devil a seat at your table.” What? God, really? It wasn’t long before I had a chance to share what had happened in my car the day before and that morning.

Two days later I had a thought, “Don’t take the new medication tonight.” It was Thursday night and I had a busy day Friday, so I decided to wait and try it then. Saturday morning I woke up with no pain in my body. That was nine months ago. I have not been on any medication since. Praise the Lord.

Fast forward to June of this year. My friend invited me to the beach with her and her family. We all arrived Saturday night, but I had not seen or heard from her that day. Sunday I awoke to a text from her inviting me to church. The local church was finishing their series on the armour of God and that is what we had been learning at our bible study.

Wednesday night they had services and I decided last minute to go. The pastor announced they would be watching a video and I knew, I just knew, you guessed it - Louie Giglio, Don’t Give the Devil a Seat at Your Table. Once again, I was amazed at God's ways and timing.

During the discussion time I was able to share how the Lord had used this message so powerfully in my life. There was a tangible awe that came into the room, the kind that captivates anyone who is struggling with anything and gives them hope to believe. Everyone was amazed at how God worked and I reminded them that He is no respecter of person and wants to do this for everyone at their point of need.

Just this Saturday I was sharing the concept of Don’t Give the Devil a Seat at Your Table with a friend, she was having a hard time understanding, so I used our phones and a piece of paper to illustrate. As I was setting up my object lesson, the Lord showed me a powerful truth.

He sets the table for two, Him and I.
If I give the devil a seat, someone has to get up.


We get a choice friends, who we let sit at our table. In the midst of a battle, we do not have to let the enemy pull up a seat or worse, give him the one reserved for the Lord.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Psalm 23:5 emphasis added

The enemy will prowl around while you commune with the Most High, but don't let him sit down! Listen to the One who gave His life for you. - Louie Giglio
We need to be focused on our Host and
 listen to His Word and put on the belt of truth,
 the importance of this I do not think can be stressed enough.

The armour of God begins with the belt of truth and ends with the sword of the Spirit and we are the stuff in the middle - covered in truth.
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. Ephesians 6:10-18

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Are you Childish or Childlike?

“It is my day to sit in the middle,” they both screamed from the back seat. “Mom, pull up the chart on your phone,” one said. It is a constant, almost daily battle.

This morning I wrote the list on the vanity mirror above the driver's seat and it grieved my mama’s heart. These children are self-fish and self-centered, when are they going to grow out of this? They want their way all the time. It made me think about myself, "Am I growing up? Am I getting to a place in my life and relationships where I don’t have to have the list posted for me to do the right thing?"

The truth is, there are things in my life
and the Lord is asking Himself the same question,
"When is she going to grow out of this?"

It is pretty easy for most of us to do what we are told or to follow a set of rules and guidelines set before us, but what about when we are alone or with someone that we know we could overtake? By overtake I mean get our way, manipulate or control. Do we choose to do what is right or what makes us feel good?

Childishness does what makes you feel good.

Maturity does what is right.

The definition for maturity from Dictionary.com is 1.the state of being mature; ripeness: 2. full development; perfected condition.

I found it interesting that “ripeness” is one of the meanings because that refers to fruit. Maturity is a fruit of our relationship with God.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
Unveiled faces.

In order to be transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, we have to be unveiled. We have to make ourselves known to Him, all of us, all the ugly, broken and childish places.

He is our Father He loves us as His children but,
He does want us to mature.

And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3 NIV
Children are typically humble and teachable.

Thefreedictionary.com says that childish means 1. Of, relating to, or suitable for a child or childhood: a high, childish voice; childish nightmares. 2. Marked by or indicating a lack of maturity.

"Physical age can be counted by number of birthdays, and also by whether a person has attained full growth in terms of their height, strength, cognitive functioning etc.
Psychological or emotional age is based on emotional habits. For instance, adults can stay calm whereas children tend to be quick to anger. Adults exercise careful judgment before talking whereas children are prone to impulsive blurting out of hurtful words."  Susan Heitler Ph.D. in Psychology Today

Understandably children lack maturity, but as followers of Jesus in an intimate relationship with Him are we childish or childlike? Are our behaviors suitable for a mature son or daughter or are they more suitable for a child? Look at the chart above and spend some time in prayer and let the Lord speak to your heart. It's not a place for self-condemnation, but a place for transformation and restoration.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What Does Art Have To Do With Redemption?

If I have learned anything about redemption is that it is multi-faceted and when God begins to redeem our lives, He will redeem everything, even our creative side. Creativity is our birthright as a son or daughter created in the image of our Creator Father.

When sin comes in and we stray far from His plan, our gifts and talents are hidden, but when He redeems us, the light goes on in His perfect timing and we begin to see again. We are reminded of who He created us to be and remember things that were forgotten. He is amazing that way, He doesn't waste a thing. Read more here...

Join me at Come Alive Conference where I am a guest blogger today. You can read how He has been protecting and redeeming my creative side. You will also discover what kind of artist you are.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Two Are Greater @ Come Alive Conference Blog

I walked into her new office and my mind was already doing what it does when I walk into a space - decorating it. There was the most perfect gray paint and she already arranged a gallery wall. Her excitement was contagious. She told me about a canvas she purchased and wanted to have the ministry verse painted on - “two are greater” from Ecclesiastes 4:9. I said I could do it, but would get it when I got back from vacation.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Story Is Still Being Written

The words had a familiar echo as I read the comment, “I’d love to know more about your story,” but today it made me think how often I want to hear my story, the whole thing, beginning to end. 

I want to know how long I will be in this valley.

I want to know if my child who struggles will overcome.

I want to know if I will overcome.

I want to know if there will be reconciliation in relationships.

The truth is I want to know. Most days I realize I am fully unprepared to know much beyond the moment I find myself in.

The Lord knows, He knows it all.

He knows I was born into a broken family.

He knows I have a broken family of my own now.

He knows there are days when I still want a mommy.

He knows I still cry about my kids not having an extended family.

He knows the whole story. He isn’t the least bit concerned about the drama of the day or the patterns I must break. 

He knows just when to write characters in and write them out. As I fellowship with Him, He is continually writing, developing and shaping my story.

He has written my name in the Lamb’s book of life. I am a forgiven overcomer even though my story isn’t finished.
Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.Your builders are faster than your wreckers. The demolition crews are gone for good. - Isaiah 49 MSG
He knows me well enough to know “I can’t handle it all now.” He knows when to introduce me to a new paragraph, page or chapter. He knows when one should begin and end. He has it perfectly planned out. 

I am a character, not the author, and my responsibility is to fully give myself to Him and trust. Believe that this book, my story, He is writing is going to be the perfect part of His story.
...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… Hebrews 12:2 NIV
There is already much to tell because His hand has always been penning and fanning the pages. For now, I rest, trust and wait while my story is still being written.