Thursday, March 31, 2011

Connecting Others to the Heart of God

One of the first times I spoke in front of other women was to share the story of how God had saved my marriage. There was something very frightening yet freeing about sharing such a personal story. There is a vulnerability to exposing your weaknesses, your faults and your sins before others. Yet I have also discovered that by doing so, we are helping others to connect to the heart of God.

You see, my marriage wasn’t saved because of anything we did. Left to our own devices the marriage would have ended long before we had our three children. But when God intervened, there was no doubt that He became the God of the impossible.

The story of how God came into the mess we had created and turned it into something much more beautiful is not meant to be kept to ourselves. In fact, it is out of our greatest messes that we can most connect others to the heart of God. We already know what He has done in our life but we need to share that with others.

Our testimony gives others hope. Our story encourages and inspires others to trust God. It isn’t always easy to bare our souls but it is always worth it.

This has been what drives me as a writer. It’s not just to share a story for the sake of doing it but to point others toward the only One who can create a beautiful story.

This is why my heart’s desire is to be part of this year’s She Speaks Conference and why I am seeking a scholarship opportunity. It is where women connect the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God. It is where my heart longs to be, to better learn how to serve Him and His daughters through the ministry of writing.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Let God Do His Work in Suffering

What role should suffering play in the life of a believer? Some think that suffering shouldn’t be a part of our lives. If we are truly walking with God, we won’t experience the same hurts, tragedies and trials that the rest of the world does.

Sometimes people convey this message without even realizing it. We come across someone who has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and we tell them how to “fix” it or what they could have done to avoid it.

We find out that someone has just lost their job so we speak the typical Christianese language of, “God will provide” and we move on, expecting them to be able to rejoice in their trial.

We learn of a son or daughter who has walked away from the Lord and we tell our friend that we aren’t surprised, if they had only learned how to parent better. Okay, we don’t always come right out and say that but we certainly think it. We offer our opinion because well, our children seem to be doing okay so we certainly must have the market on parenting.

What it comes down to is that we think suffering shouldn’t be a part of a believer’s life. There shouldn’t be sickness and losses. So we either try to fix other people’s problems, we judge them or we give them pat Christian answers.

I used to wonder if I was the only one who found it frustrating that when I was going through a trial, everyone around me seemed to have “the answer.” I have seen this played out time and time again throughout the years. But then I read something in “The Message” Bible that gave me a sigh of relief.

Right before the book of Job there is a preface from the author. It says: “The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God’s presence in our suffering but is also our primary biblical protest against religion that has been reduced to explanations or ‘answers.’ Many of the answers that Job’s so-called friends give him are technically true. But it is the ‘technical’ part that ruins them.”

I like how the author describes “the dignity of suffering.” This gives a new perspective to the idea of suffering. There is dignity in it. Instead, we try to act as if there is something wrong with suffering, which is why we try to come up with the answers or throw Scripture around.

Most of the time people aren’t looking for us to give an answer when they are suffering. They simply want a listening ear and someone who will offer to pray. Many times we really don’t want to hear the Scripture verses because quite honestly, we already know them. We just want to be human for a moment in time and learn how to get through what we are going through.

There is dignity in suffering. There is nothing really wrong with suffering because as the author later says, “When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.”

Let God do His work in suffering.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wait on God!

Have you ever noticed that when God begins to speak something into your life, it first has to take root before it makes its way out? It’s kind of like the empty vessel that we are to be for the Lord. We have to be empty of self and this world before He can begin to fill it with the things He has in mind.

When God speaks something into our life it is never for our self. Everything is to be turned around and used in the life of another. It could be for your immediate family, your neighbors, a long-lost relative or even the person you haven’t talked to in 20 years.

Yet even though what He speaks to us is to impact others, we can’t begin to take those first steps unless we let what He is doing really sink in. If we don’t allow it to sink in and take root, we will begin to step out on our own and attempt to do things in our own strength.

I am learning through these past few years of serving the Lord that I have to walk in God’s timing. I get so excited for things He does in my life and I tend to want to rush out there and share it…do something. But there is a timing for everything.

Remember when Jesus healed the man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4)? Whenever I have read that story I am always so focused on the lesson of how the man said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” But there is more to this story. Jesus was willing and did make him clean. He was cured of his leprosy.

But then Jesus gave him some instructions that I think we often overlook, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” It might be a little confusing. Why wouldn’t this guy want to go out and declare to the Lord what He has done? It was all about timing.

I don’t know what this means to you…if anything. But to me it means that while I need to step out in faith, I also need to do it according to His timing and in the way He directs me. Don’t let your flesh rule the way this plays out…wait on God.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's Really Important

I’ve been thinking lately about how much importance we…okay, maybe it’s just me…put on things that really don’t matter. I mean, in the very moment we are experiencing our “crisis” we think everything else doesn’t matter.

Sometimes my focus is so much on getting somewhere on time, following my schedule or checking off the things on my to-do-list that I lose sight of the truly important stuff.

Yesterday (Friday) I hardly got any work done. I tried to keep the coverage of what was happening in Japan in the background while I worked but I couldn’t. I kept stopping to turn the volume up so I could hear what they were saying. My eyes watered when I saw the complete devastation. My heart pounded as I waited for the tsunami to make its way to the United States. And I prayed.

So much devastation, so much chaos in the world and it’s happening not just far away but right here in my own state. It’s so easy to lose sight of the truly important stuff.

When my little world gets turned upside down because traffic isn’t moving fast enough, the kids aren’t responding the way I would like, the meat isn’t thawed or I didn’t get my 8 hours of sleep last night…wow, amazing how in the very moment it seems so important.

I’m reminded of James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Think about it. Every moment in our lives is really just that, a vapor. Here one moment, gone the next.

I have to ask myself…and perhaps you need to ask yourself…are the things I get worked up about or I consider to be a “crisis” really just that? Or is every moment, every inconvenience, every interruption, every messed up plan I have really nothing more than just a vapor…here one moment and gone the next?

We don’t know how many years, months, days or even hours we have left here on earth. We don’t know what the future holds or what tomorrow will bring. But I do know this, I need to focus on the truly important stuff and let go of the rest.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Living the Dream at the "She Speaks" Conference

I feel like I am finally on my way. The plane tickets have been bought and I am yet one step closer to what has really been a dream of mine, attending the “She Speaks” conference.

It was about three years ago that a good friend of mine, Angela, sent me a link to this conference. She encouraged me to check it out. At the time I was starting to really get serious about this whole writing thing. I had begun to submit articles to various magazines and online resources.

Most of the time I received rejection notices. I did get a couple of things printed and I will never forget the feeling I got when I received my first payment for a magazine article. So when my friend sent me the information, I thought it was perfect.

But time, money and other obstacles seemed to stand in the way. Actually, I think it was really God’s perfect timing. He knew I was to go to this conference but it was going to be according to His schedule, not mine.

So the next couple of years passed by. I found my writing career starting to make some headway and I wrote a devotional book that I submitted to a publisher. I couldn’t believe it when I received a call from an editor at the publishing house. They were actually interested in my devotional! The trouble was that my book was 80% journaling and only 20% “devotional.”

My devotions were short with lots of lines for women to write on because I am an avid fan of journaling. The editor pointed out that not everyone enjoys journaling, so would it be possible to turn my book around to 80% devotional, 20% journaling.

My initial excitement at the prospect turned into fear. I allowed fear to keep me from moving any further. So I stopped writing. Well, I more or less wrote the devotional on and off. It is now at its halfway point and I felt that this was the year I was not only going to finish it but I was finally going to attend the “She Speaks” conference.

I knew this was God’s plan because not only did I have my husband’s support but my sister decided to join me. This trip will be about more than just learning how to fine tune my writing skills, it will be an opportunity for old wounds to be healed.

My sister has been pursuing a writing career as well, and it has helped meld us together in a way that I never thought was possible. I didn’t know what she would think when I asked her to attend the conference with me. Much to my surprise she agreed. So the first thing we did was book our flight from here in Milwaukee to our final destination, North Carolina.

The reason we booked the flight first was because of the threat of increasing airfares, so we wanted to get the lowest price possible. Next will come the registration but I sure wouldn’t mind winning the “She Speaks” scholarship.

I leave everything in God’s hands…the money for this conference, the opportunities that are before me, the book I am writing and the chance to work on a relationship that has been in desperate need of it.

I feel like “She Speaks” is going to do something incredible in my life and I am so excited. It fits in so well with the teachings of my church, to live the DREAM, the Dynamic Lifestyle of Worship, Relationships Devoted to Unity, Empowered through Biblical Training, Active Ministry Involvement and our Mission to Reach the World for Christ.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Commit Everything to the Lord

Have you ever had one of those days (or perhaps a week or longer) where it seems like one thing after another goes wrong? All of your finely tuned plans seem to crumble around you. If you are anything like me—which means you like to have all of your ducks in a row (some call that controlling)—then its situations like this that can change the course of your day.

Someone hits your vehicle, your heat isn’t working, your computer gets a virus, a drain in the basement clogs, the dishwasher breaks, you have a leak where the power steering fluid goes…while I would love to say that these are just examples, they are actually real life situations of what we have been dealing with for a couple of weeks.

While in many of these circumstances it has ended up working out, it’s the initial impact that seems to do the most damage. I guess for me it is one of those go-around-the-desert experiences I have yet to learn.

You remember the Israelites? They wandered in the desert for 40 years when it wasn’t really necessary. I can’t recall how long the trip should have actually taken but it was no where near 40 years!

Sometimes I feel just like them. You would think that after the 3rd or 4th time of something going wrong, I would learn to take a step back and not get so stressed right away. Like I said, most of these situations have ended up working out (mostly due to my husband who can fix pretty much anything).

Unfortunately it’s not in my nature to not react. My days are pretty clearly ordered and I have a pretty organized life so when anything messes with that, it’s almost like I don’t know how to respond other than to get immediately stressed.

I think that is exactly why the Lord saw fit to give me a husband who is opposite of me. When my laptop got a virus and I was on the verge of crying, my husband sent me a text from work that said, “Relax, I will fix it” and guess what? He did.

We balance each other out, I guess. But still, I know it would be better for my mental health and my family if I could learn to chill before immediately stressing. It is one of those things I am working on.

Psalm 37:5 says to commit everything to the Lord, trust Him and He will help you. Whether your struggles are similar to mine or you have difficulty in other areas with releasing control to God, know that when we commit everything to Him—that means hand it all over to Him, release our hold or our grip on it…and we choose to trust Him, which means we don’t worry or fret, then He will help us. He will see us through. He will make a way.