Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hi... I'm Lyla. Nice to Meet You.

I haven’t written in a while but please don’t take that to mean nothing worth writing has happened; that couldn’t be further from the truth. But rather than trying to fill you in on all that Jesus has done in my life in the last six weeks, I would like to introduce you to Lyla.
It is no secret that Jesus is my BFF but even in knowing that; I asked for more. I wanted girlfriends in Jesus….but I digress. I didn’t even know what girlfriends in Jesus were but that didn’t matter; Jesus continued to bring women into my life even if we had just one thing in common….Him. I have been sooo blessed to have women come along in my Christian journey; some that are still there as they have been since the beginning and others that were there for a week or a month….or even just an hour.
Since moving to Nineveh…ahem, Oklahoma; I have experienced an abundance of Lylas. Lylas means simply; Love ya like a sister….in Jesus. My definition of Lyla is also quite simple: I see Lyla as a modern day Proverbs 31 Woman; the woman that we can only hope to try and measure up to and the woman that has so many amazing qualities, it is impossible for one woman to attain. BUT…. Lyla takes the best qualities that each one of us have and together we make ONE pretty amazing person. Lyla is the epitome of who we can ALL be in Him. Lylas is about strengthening our relationships with Jesus while creating friendships with each other.
Recently I decided to create a group on Facebook called Owasso Lylas. (Owasso is the real name for Nineveh and where Jesus moved me to just a few months ago. For the record; Owasso means “Trails End”… how appropriate).  It was a Wednesday night about 9pm and the inviting of one woman and then another began; each woman also sharing this group with friends from their own Facebook account. Within an hour we were up to 50 women. After 3 hours we had over 100. By Friday morning, we were nearly 250 strong. Jesus wasted no time in making His presence felt and in between the networking for one small home business or another, the prayer requests popped up; the needs for a Christmas tree or help with dinners were met, and the planning of a fundraiser for a complete stranger in our community overfilled our hearts.
I knew why interacting with Lylas meant so much to me but I couldn’t help asking what others were getting from the group and that is where this blog began. I wanted  to not only acknowledge their appreciation for what this group of Christian women had to offer, I wanted to show them what Jesus had to say about it. I wanted to show them the relevance to their response from the bible; a collection of 66 books that were written for us to refer to in daily life. We are just doing what the bible shows us to do. This is what Jesus and I came up with.
The question: What do you ladies enjoy about this group? What does it mean to be a Lyla for you?
Jenny: The fellowship, the sense of community, the passion for Christ…I love that when there is a need, there are a minimum of 10 Lylas all over it.
1 Thessalonians 5:11…. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Lena: The fellowship and concern for others
1 Thessalonians 5:13-14…. “Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peach with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Ashley: The willingness to help, and the love that just beams off this page and the members.
Matthew 5:14-16…. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Mary: Watching Christ at work. We are truly His hands and feet and I can already see the camaraderie and love that just saying “I’m a Lyla” can bring. Knowing it’s having someone’s back and the comfort that they would have yours too if ever the need were to arise.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26…. “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Kendra: I feel a sense of peace that I have not felt in a long time. I have been “Lylas-ing” for days and can’t get enough. This whole group makes me want to be closer to God and I want that so much. I want Christian friends in my life and I really hope all of you can help me remember that I need Him in my life. Gidget, thank you for this group and bringing these ladies together. Who knew there was such amazing people left to befriend out there?
John 15:12-15…. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jodi: I love that there is a place for people to go, especially those of us that are new in town, to ask for help and know there is someone to be there. Somewhere to go where there are like-minded women who will be there for those who are in need, abundantly. Somewhere to go where women with Christian values can support each other through our businesses and personal lives, both triumphs and challenges.
Philippians 2:1-5…. “If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Shala: All of the above. I think Jesus is shining through this group and that is what draws us together. It’s so amazing that I can’t explain it but I know I don’t have to because you all feel it too.
Matthew 18:18-20…. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven. Again, I truly tell you that if two on earth agree on anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”
Missy: I love knowing that there is a place I can come to ask for prayer and have no doubt that people are all over it. I love the feeling of knowing there are people praying when I need it! I also love being supportive to others and having them support me! If/when my son gets sick again, this will be the first place I come.
James 5:13-16…. “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Alyson: I love the enthusiasm and passion for others; prayer, meeting needs, going the extra mile and just intentional acts of Christian love. I love seeing busy women making time for others. It is beautiful!
1Peter 3:8.13-15…. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”
Lacey: The support I’ve gotten is amazing! I love prayer sisters as well as how we show love for others in need. Amazing women!
Ecclesiastes 4:10-12…. “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Robyn: The complete love for Christ, each other, and total strangers!
Matthew 25:40…. “The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Patty: Personally, I have loved a novel series called “Yada Yada Sisters.” Remarkable stories based on truth about a group of Christian women who meet at a conference and become the best of friends regardless of financial, racial, or religious backgrounds. I have prayed for a piece of that in my life. I am hoping beyond hope that this group is the answer.
Colossians 3:12-14…. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”
Sara: I love having friends! Keeps me from being lonely. Everybody is so kind hearted and helpful. It’s like having a big family. It gives me something to look forward to everyday.
Genesis 28:15…. “I am with you and I will watch over you wherever you go. I will not leave you  until I have done what I have promised you.”
Philippians 4:4-9…. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Sibbie: I am just addicted to this group. I love that I can meet and talk with such fierce women who share my interests and the sense of belonging, not to mention the kind, caring hearts you all have.
2 Corinthians 7:2-4…. “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”
It is my wish that these Lylas named above don’t mind my sharing of their stories of hope, belonging, love, and need. I wanted you to get to know a few of the women that I call friends; some I have met in real life and others that that I have yet to meet but pray for daily nonetheless.  I haven’t had a relationship with Jesus that long; celebrating two years in October BUT He chose me nonetheless. “….but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
I know that I am living a fruitful life because Jesus forgave me. I want nothing more than to be the juiciest, most colorful fruit that Nineveh has ever seen. Okay….maybe I do want more. I want to inspire others to be juicy fruits and to show others what being a Lyla is all about; more than a secret handshake or a wink could ever imply. This is a sorority of Christian women that want to grow in Him and inspire others to do the same.
This is why I moved to Nineveh.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Cheeseburger with Jesus....Supersized

I have recently come to realize that I need to write more and that everything I write doesn’t have to be profound, but merely from the heart and genuinely full of Jesus. Yesterday my husband and I went to a Grand Opening but not for a fancy restaurant, a new trendy store, or to a theater downtown; this Grand Opening was for a McDonalds. Yep… the Golden Arches, Happy Meals, and Christians….lots of them.
Let me explain.
We moved to Owasso just a few months ago and shortly after that, a local McDonalds closed; to the ground, leveled, completely starting from scratch…closed. The owners I later learned are members of our church but it is not because of that I chose to blog about them. What they did was “blog worthy” because it is something we should all strive to be….truly living God-like.
Their doors would be closed for the entire summer with promises of bigger and better to follow, but what would happen to their employees when these changes were being made? This wasn’t a question I ever really thought about when restaurants or stores were “Closed for Remodeling” but the answer is unbelievable. He kept each employee on his payroll and paid them their wages as if they were working; there was just one catch….they had to volunteer in the community; a community in every sense of the word and not one I have ever been a part of. When asked about his Supersized Heart by a news reporter at the Grand Opening, he said simply… “My wife and I prayed about it and knew it was something we needed to do.” The sum was about $120,000 out of their own pocket but he went on to say “We had faith that this would come back to us; that our customers would come, and that God would provide for us so the decision was an easy one to make.”
The restaurant actually opened at Midnight on Friday night but we made our way there for lunch the following day. The extra-large parking lot was filled to capacity, the drive-thru was wrapped around the corner, and there was a steady stream of cars making their way to be a part of it. Where anyone would have left at such a sight before, they were now just happy to be there and almost looked forward to the wait….us included. We were lucky enough to find a spot and I couldn’t hold back a giggle as I thought to myself “If you build it…they will come” from Field of Dreams.
As we neared the door to step inside this brand new building we heard music piped through speakers inside and out; Christian music…Chris Tomlin welcoming us to a lunch of cheeseburgers and french fries. Despite the craziness of cars coming and going, looking for parking, and people all making their way to the inside, it was surprisingly calm when we got inside. We were welcomed by an older gentleman who told us that we were about to experience the best food in town “We’re so glad you’re here.” We said “So are we.” I found a table for two in the corner and sat down as Robbe went to place our orders; jumping into a line with at least ten people in front of him and soon just as many behind him.
I sat in my corner spot and took it all in. For all intents and purposes it was a regular McDonalds; shiny new tables and TVs on the wall, colorful seating and new soda machines. But there was something different about this one and everyone there seemed to feel it too. Jesus was in this McDonalds….He was in the owner who had faith this would happen, He was in the gentleman that welcomed us literally with open arms, He was in the guests that sat eating their burgers just as they had done a million times before. He was even at the center of a table where a family took off their hats, held hands, and prayed before eating their meal. There were flowers on each table and at closer inspection; there was a business card that promoted another local business. It was the most humbling of experiences to be sitting there, knowing we were a part of it.
With each new face that walked in, the greeting was the same, the feeling of kindness was not only palpable but contagious. Maybe it is the writer in me but I just couldn’t help thinking that is what Jesus wants for all of us and it really shouldn’t be as newsworthy as it was. We should all be doing this every day, and if we were….this would be just “another day at the office,” standard protocol and not this amazing experience. I honestly felt that someone told this owner and all of his employees that Jesus was going to be coming today and they didn’t know what He looked like so they were to treat us all as if He could have been us. Was Jesus in the 6 year old brimming with excitement to see the new Play Place? Could He have been the woman in the wheelchair that needed extra room at a table? Was He the guest dressed as a Flapper on her way to a party? Or maybe, just maybe….He was the slightly chunky redhead seated in the corner at a table for two. We were all treated as if we were the one they opened this restaurant for and had faith in. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Maybe it was just another McDonalds for some that happened into the doors yesterday but it was definitely more than that for me. The most important thing I have learned since moving to “Nineveh” is perspective. When looked at through the eyes of a human things get muddied and frustrating, but when we look at things as Jesus would have us look at them, there is a difference; a great, amazing difference. When I make things about me or “stuff”, it is always disappointing but when I give Him the credit and ask “What would Jesus do?” and live that way…. life seems almost easy.
Thank you Jesus for giving me a new perspective and a new heart. Thank you for allowing me to see your Supersized influence in one couple’s lives and how a community is truly a community in your name. Thank you for letting me see Jesus in others with hopes to emulate that, so others see you in me. Thank you for a great lunch date and inviting us to YOUR Grand Opening; it was awesome to see others congregating in your name somewhere OTHER than a church on Sunday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

EVEN as a Christian....

I just recently celebrated two years of accepting Jesus. Early in my belief and commitment to Him I would say “If only I had found Jesus sooner, sooo much in my life could have gone better. I wouldn’t have had to go through ________________ fill in the blank. Or, I could have avoided that whole ________________ fill in another blank.”
But as you may or may or may not know…I haven’t written in a while; nearly two months to be exact. I loooove writing. I loooove reading. And I looooove the bible study on Paul that I was reading AND writing about; in rediscovering my faith I felt was wavering. So, why did I only make it to Day Twenty Two of a 90 Day walk with Paul? The answer is simple…
A giant pity party.
Yes; EVEN as a Christian, pity parties are common events. I used to think that being a Christian meant avoiding those things and that because I was a Christian everything would now fall into place. It doesn’t work that way. For me; being a Christian just means that I still go through “stuff”… I just don’t go through it alone. Well… not always.
Let me digress.
I moved to Nineveh; ahem…Owasso, Oklahoma. I wasn’t happy about it but within a month began to embrace all that Jesus had brought me to. I began taking the walk with Paul to find faith in Him all over again and just KNOW that this is where I was supposed to be BUT… EVEN as a Christian (ESPECIALLY as a Christian) that Satan was working his magic; he even used the women from my bible study to do his bidding.

Let me explain.
If you have ever been in the 8th grade and had the confidence level that comes with that age…you know what I mean. I was in the 8th grade in Plymouth, Michigan. I just KNEW that I was exactly where Jesus wanted me to be. I was comfortable in my neighborhood and my church and was writing and sewing for Him every day. I saw friendly faces when walking into church every Sunday and would see them again during bible study or in volunteering during the week. It didn’t matter that my church was home to 25,000 people; it was my house and I felt I knew all that walked through the doors.

When I moved to Owasso, it was like graduating from 8th grade and moving to 9th grade. I was now a part of a place that didn’t just have my 8th grade peers but ALL of the 8th graders and 9th – 12th graders from EVERY surrounding area. I didn’t know anyone. I had to start all over. I didn’t have smiling faces that were constant or that I knew and had formed relationships with already. I was the new kid on the block and it wasn’t a feeling I welcomed. Rather than focusing on the one common denominator we all had in Jesus; I put the focus all on me and stewed in it. It was no longer a matter of faith that Jesus would come through it was a matter of me fitting in and critiquing those new faces around me that had the audacity to have their own conversations while I sat there just waiting for someone to approach me. I was usually the one to do the approaching. I was the one that put myself out there being the spokesperson Jesus created me to be…. Until now.
I went the first week but didn’t go back the second week. Looking back; I have no idea what my excuse was for doing so…but there you have it. The third week came and I attended but didn’t participate; I may have smiled and said “Hello” but didn’t encourage further conversation. I am certain Jesus was just shaking his head as He sat beside me, asking “What was that about?” I now know that Satan was on the other side whispering as he did that first bible study at Northridge “These bible study women are going to judge you. You’re the new girl and they have been together for ages. Once they find out your story it will be even worse than it feels today. You don’t fit in here.”
I’m embarrassed to say that EVEN as a Christian, it was easier for me to listen to guy on the left than to KNOW that Jesus on the right was sitting there disappointed. Satan enabled me just as I let so many others before him; before being a Christian. It was easier for me to sit there and begin that pity party in a room full of those faces that were new to me than it was to put myself out there as Jesus created me to be. All the confidence that He had given me to that point seemed tucked away in the back of my bible where indexes and maps lay dormant….not in the middle of the books Paul had written where I had been living for nearly two years. What the heck happened?
Well… I’ll tell you what happened.
Shortly after the beginning of bible study we attended the first night of four to learn more about our new church. It was organized by the church as a newcomer informational meeting; question and answer time with the Pastor and others that were seeking more “new member” information. We went around the room introducing ourselves and there were people that had attended for a year or so, some…like us, that had attended just a few weeks, and others that hadn’t attended yet but their kids attended the school so they were checking it out.
During question and answer time we learned that our church was not a non-denominational church like we thought…or assumed, but a Free will Baptist church. One person asked what that meant and I liked the answer but was still taken aback that it was a Baptist church. Free will Baptist just means that any that have free will are able to make the choice to accept Christ as their personal savior and Baptist is to be baptized by full immersion; just as our last church was designed. (It was then I remembered that our non-denominational church had evolved from Baptist beginnings… free will Baptist or not, I wasn’t sure.) But what came next is when Satan’s mantra of “You don’t belong here” began droning in the background. I was forthcoming by saying “We didn’t know that this was a Free will Baptist church. It doesn’t say it on the sign out front and I didn’t notice it on the web page when doing research from Michigan before coming here. I honestly don’t know if we would have made the leap through the doors if we had known; simply out of ignorance and not knowing what it meant or just how closely it is related to our church back home.” Another woman from across the room said “We are just the opposite of Gidget. Simply put, it was the label of Free will Baptist that brought us through the doors since it is most closely related to our own of Mennonite faith and closer to home for us to attend, rather than our current church of nearly an hour away.” I asked…. “Is it possible for THIS church to be the common ground for both of us? It is amazing (if not crazy to imagine) that we BOTH can find this to be our church when we are coming from such different backgrounds and what we are looking for in a new place to call home.”
This is where my mental torment began…EVEN as a Christian.
We stopped going to our small group BUT, in our defense, they started a study that was just waaaay over our head so the timing seemed appropriate. We didn’t go to church the following week and I didn’t go to bible study the following TWO weeks. I stopped blogging and I didn’t start sewing for my ministry as I had vowed to do. Even as a Christian, I doubted Jesus and his ability to make up for all the things Satan was doing. Not only did I get invited to this pity party, I attended, became the Guest of Honor, and dragged my husband to it with me. I whined “I don’t fit in. Nothing about Nineveh is working like it’s supposed to. I feel like I am different no matter where we go and I even changed my hair color from red to brown JUST to fit in.” Little did I know that hair color was the least of the fitting in criteria….it is ALL about mindset; a little reminder from that dang bible study this week. Yep… I’m going again.
Baby moved to Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago but the day before she left she said “Mom why do you care if you fit in when Jesus made you to stand out?” I say that I am proud to be the spokesperson He created me to be; even my quote in the header of my blog says “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1Peter 3:15. I am a cheerleader and cheerleaders don’t try to blend in….they cheer others on, they’re excited about encouraging, and never host pity parties (not on Jesus’ team anyway).
So…. Where we are now; EVEN as Christians. Everything isn’t perfect but it is soooo much better than it was. I am no longer hosting my very own pity party; I am not even attending one. I am loooving and getting so much out of my bible study; even friends and field trips with women from the group. Satan is still trying to get involved but I am no longer giving him the attention he was so easily capturing just a few weeks ago. Even as Christians we are tempted and tried and I was reminded of that just this morning when reading (yes….even reading my Max Lucado again…. Ahhhhh). A quote from his new book “God’s Story, Your Story”…. “Times of testing are actually times of training, purification, and strength building. You can even “ – consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
Max goes on to further remind me…EVEN as a Christian “Where are you empty? Are you hungry for attention, craving success, longing for intimacy? Be aware of your weaknesses. Bring them to God before Satan brings them to you. Satan will tell you to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). In other words, meet your own needs, take matters into your own hands, leave God out of the picture. Whereas Jesus teaches us to pray for bread (Matthew 6:11), Satan says to work for bread”…… “If Satan convinces us to trust our works over God’s Word, he has us dangling from a broken limb. Our works will never hold us.”
EVEN as a Christian we are tried but Jesus helps us to overcome them and usually has a lesson in the end that we could ONLY learn by going through those trials. My life isn’t perfect since becoming a Christian; I still have insecurities and weaknesses….even ones I didn’t realize I had. The key now? Getting those insecurities and weaknesses to Jesus before Satan has any opportunity to use them for his bidding. EVEN as a Christian, Satan was able to get in and use those weaknesses against me but Jesus was able to use my own daughter’s words to remind me of the spokesperson I was created to be. My hair color may be the same as some of those in Nineveh. My personality is different. My relationship with Jesus is different. Even the way I dress may be different….BUT none of those things matter to Jesus or the work that He has called me to do. It isn’t about me and Satan somehow got me to forget that for a little while. I don’t need to blend in or be friends with “everyone in the class”…I just need to continue to show what Jesus has done in me and through me and show others that EVEN as Christians we are put through tests and trials, the difference is what we do in those trials and how we use it for His glory no matter what we face or how long we face it.
I am not perfect….EVEN as a Christian.
Not everything goes my way….EVEN as a Christian.
I don’t make more money or have better hair ….EVEN as a Christian.
But BECAUSE I am a Christian I GET to go through whatever is thrown my way and to prove that Jesus always prevails IF I just give him the opportunity to prove it.
THAT is what a Cheerleader does.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day Twenty Two: Troubling Expectations

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14:21-22
            The Return to Antioch in Syria
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Stop and Consider: Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Questions Asked of Me: Why is a hardship inevitable in the nature of things? What does it tell us about God? What does it tell us about our world and our enemy?
I thought that when I accepted Jesus that my “hardships” would be finished. I hoped that because I now had a relationship with Him that I would no longer have to pray the “Dear Jesus, if you get me out of this one I promise to ___________.” That was not the case. Since knowing Him, I have still had to go through a lot; but I haven’t gone through it alone as was the case before. And, being on the other side of it, I know that it was necessary. Jesus trusted me through tough times. He showed me strength I didn’t know I had and is continuing to use it for His glory.
When I had hiccups in the last two years; different trials thrown in my path, there were those that said “Where is your God now? How could He let you go through this?” Those words of doubt just made me stronger. Standing up for Him and having to say it out loud was just affirmation for myself; me telling them but actually being more convicted in my faith in Him with each “Doubting Thomas” conversation. Looking back now…. I am thankful for that and hope that it helped “Thomas” as much as it helped me.
Detour: I loved the way Beth laid out trials in our reading today. “…..But we must first recognize that the inevitable nature of hardships can motivate us to redirect our energies. Fear of trials sometimes depletes more energy than facing trials! Once we accept the inevitability of hardship, we can redirect our focus from fear of trials to faithfulness. In the face of tribulations, we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”
She could not have pegged me more succinctly. I feared moving to Nineveh; loathed it really. I was acting like a spoiled brat that didn’t get what they wanted from Mommy in a store and had to physically be dragged from one department to another. Jesus physically dragged me 18 hours and I think it is pretty fitting that just this week, I learned that Owasso (the real name for the city I live in) means “Trails end.” Lovely.
But I finally accepted what He was doing in moving us here; it was Sunday night nearly two weeks ago after our first small group in our new church. I just prayed and said “Uncle….. Jesus if this is where You want us, I can accept that. Please give me an open heart to the things You have been trying to show me but I have been unwilling to see. I promise You here and now that I will accept any echoes given and opportunities offered.”
When I finally redirected my “fears” of the unknown and gave it to Him (something that was His to begin with but I kept taking back); the faithfulness that I was lacking…. the reason for beginning this study in the first place 22 days ago, began to come back and fully consume me. “…..we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”  Yes….it was right on time. Even my two weeks of pouting and mourning the life I had in Michigan was a trial that He knew I had to go through; with the reason being only one He needed to know.
Beth says more: “Be encouraged to know that difficulty is not a sign of immaturity or faithlessness. The Holy Spirit will do His job and let you know if you are suffering because of sin. Otherwise, remember – we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord Jesus, I am encouraged to know that when we endure, it brings us favor with You. For we were called to this, because You also suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we should follow in Your steps. You did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in Your mouth; when reviled, You did not revile in return; when suffering, You did not threaten, but committed Yourself to the One who judges justly (1Peter 2:20-23). Grant me, Lord, to pay any price in exchange for the gift of Your hard-won salvation.
            1Peter 2:20-23
But how is it your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Dear Jesus:
Thank You for letting me realize my stubbornness. I am appreciative for opportunities to come back to You; no matter how much or how long I pouted and feared what Your plan was for me. I do want to follow the example You set for me and will continue to do that no matter the doubt or wonder of what comes next. I’m sorry for my behavior in the weeks leading up to this move and even when we arrived at “trail’s end.” I can’t imagine how embarrassed You must have been of me or the head shaking that was going on, but I am thankful that You led us to the church and small group we needed before it spiraled any further. I am amazed at the opportunities, friendships, and gifts that You give to me and I know that the echoes shown to me after accepting where I was instead of fearing it was just more affirmation that I should never fear where You lead and I should never worry about what comes next. Remind me that the hardships I go through are for Your glory, so that I may enter the kingdom of God and not a punishment. You have it all under control.
Jesus, thank you for never giving up on me but knowing that I will come around. Please let me be worthy of the gift of salvation that You have given to all of us, and the next time I have fear of the unknown or doubt where You are leading me…just give me “that” look or put me in timeout so I snap out of it even quicker. I promise it will end then and there.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day Twenty One: Rocky Roads

(1956 Olympic Games)

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14:8-20
            In Lystra and Derbe
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left Derbe.
Stop and Consider: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
Questions Asked of Me: How do you typically handle compliments and success? Do they sort of go to your head? What usually happens when he depend on others’ positive opinions to feed our pride?
I don’t usually handle compliments very well. If someone says “Hey, great boots;” I usually say “OMGosh, they were only $40 at Kohls, you should get some.” I can never just say “Thank You.” But when I speak at churches or write a blog; even where HE is the theme, topic, or focus…I probably take more credit than I should. I mean, I never act like they are original thoughts…unless they are, but perhaps it does kind of go to my head. Humility is something I work on and strive for. I know that my boldness and transparency rubbed off on Lynnette and I like to think that some of her humility rubbed off on me, but not nearly as much as it needs to. Perhaps I need to go home and hang out with Lynnette more…yeah, that’s it.
I don’t need others’ approval of me…or do I? I love the feeling I get after finishing a blog, especially if I know that it will help others (when He probably thinks that it was all for me and I don’t have a clue.)
I tell my daughters’ never to let others determine their worth. “Don’t let what other’s think of you make you feel better or worse than you should.” Yet, I have recently realized that other’s having a high opinion of me has tended to make me think I just might be better than a few of them; definitely not a good place to be. BUT… it is a humbling place to be when you realize it so it can be addressed and put in check.
When you think of the most humble, sincere people you know, what qualities of there are the most admirable – the ones you’d most like to possess yourself?
Lynnette is the most humble I know. She is THE best listener and her heart just signs through any situation. I remember taking these qualities as her being shy when we first met; and only later realized that she enjoys seeing others succeed before herself. When I came along I was her biggest cheerleader and where she was humble and unassuming, I was quick to share with others what she had accomplished and all I loved about her. She is my biggest cheerleader and encourager as well…. Where there was once a “Lucy and Ethel” feeling with past friends (Me being the redhead and always up to something….), Jesus now brought me a friend to welcome in a new chapter of friendship comparison. Lynnette is Barnabas to my Paul and I would love to possess all of the qualities that she has; humble, prayer warrior, listener, servant, and friend. I know that is why Jesus gave her to me (one of my favorite gifts). He gave me something to emulate and someone to feed off of until I can get it right myself. I am grateful beyond measure.
Praying God’s Word Today: Like Hannah, when rejoicing over the miraculous birth of her son Samuel, may I never forget that You bring death and give life, You bring poverty and give wealth, You humble and exalt (1 Samuel 2:6-7). Or like Job, when wrought with trouble and turmoil, may I still be able to say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In any and all circumstances, may my view of You – just like my love for You – remain ever the same.

Dear Jesus:
Thank you for all of my gifts. I now know that even what I thought were the worst times of my life; were gifts from You….had they not happened, I would never have the relationships or heart that I have. I am grateful for the lessons You continue to teach me and I am grateful for the people put in my path to teach them.
I know what it is to be successful in others’ eyes and I know what it is to feel successful in You; I am grateful for them both. I know that Your love for me was why I had to have one to feel another and I ask for strength and humility in remembering that; everyday whether it be good or bad….happens because You choose for it to happen. Whether I know the reason for it, or the outcome, doesn’t matter…. I will have faith that it will ALL be for Your glory and second guessing it is not an option.



Monday, September 5, 2011

Day Twenty: Let's Get Out of Here

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14: 1-7
            In Iconium
At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.
Stop and Consider: There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.
Questions Asked of Me: How should we determine when to trust God to protect us supernaturally and when to run for our lives?
Good question. I like to think that Jesus puts people in my life to help in making those decisions. But sometimes I pretend that Jesus wants me to stay put just a little bit longer; knowing it is my will and not His that I am catering to.
For instance; we lived in a 3,800 square foot house entirely too long. Jesus was giving us signals that we were in over our head but, in our defense, we weren’t Christians yet so we continued to go through the motions; acting as if our lifestyle hadn’t dramatically changed. We became Christians in October and we still heard Him leading us elsewhere; we stayed put…THEN telling ourselves that Jesus would take care of us; He wouldn’t let anything happen to us, right? I mean…after all, we are Christians now. That was not the case.
We continued to pray for Him to expand our territories and hoped that He would bring a job for Robbe but that didn’t happen. Another month would go by of barely making bills and staying somewhere we had no business staying. We finally figured out that it was time “to get outta here” and when we did; everything fell into place. It took us until the middle of February to follow where Jesus was trying to lead but we did it. A week later, a job was offered to Robbe just a mile from our new place; a place that was much more affordable at half the size and we moved just a month before our landlord had foreclosure proceedings brought onto the property we were living in. Whew…..
Still working on the discernment of knowing when it is Jesus and not our own way of thinking that gets us to places…but we are definitely more open to doing the footwork where He says “do the footwork.”
What causes us to doubt that this is equally God’s provision? Look deep enough to define some of the miraculous components involved in using our heads.
I was new to being a Christian when I first thought: “I’m a Christian now; Jesus won’t let anything bad happen to me. I am certain He will swoop in and save the day before I even realize my day needs saving.” And, even though I am certain that being a Christian does not make me invincible to bad things happening, I still somehow believe that Jesus wears a superhero cape and will show up in the nick of time to get me out of any situation. I know that He gave me a personality to do His will. It is harder to imagine that He gave me the smarts and know how to do His will too.
This may be a difficult concept to consider, especially if you have been attacked or injured and wonder why you weren’t delivered. Tomorrow’s reading will hopefully give you a measure of comfort in this regard. But for now, express your willingness to trust God even when you don’t understand.
Praying God’s Word Today: Your Word says, “The inexperienced believe anything, but the sensible watch their steps” (Proverbs 14:15) and are “crowned with knowledge” (Proverbs 14:18). May I not be afraid to use the wits and faculties You have created in me to be part of Your blessing in my life. I trust You wholeheartedly in whatever way You choose to keep Your promises, knowing that the God of old is my dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Dear Jesus:
I trust You completely; You know that. But You also know that I have issues with having continued faith when it comes to something I don’t want to do; i.e…moving to Nineveh. I was uncertain and knew that things would work out for Your benefit but I didn’t know or when and I wanted it exactly like home and I wanted it now if not sooner. Thank You for rescuing me from myself. Thank You for giving me the smarts to figure out that putting ALL of my faith in You ALL the time is what I have to do. Thank You for only letting me wallow in my own doubt so long and finally giving in to what You already knew; Nineveh is home and these Ninevites aren’t so bad; they’re pretty nice actually. Thanks for them too.
I trust You wholeheartedly in whatever way You choose to keep Your promises, knowing that the God of old is my dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Yeah…. What he said.  =)



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day Nineteen: Using Your Influence

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 13:42-52
            In Pisidian Antioch
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored of the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Stop to Consider: But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
Questions Asked of Me: Who are some of the people that have the greatest influence on you? How have they earned the right to speak into your life? What qualifies them to be respected and reliable?
My parents, my husband Robbe, my best friend Lynnette, my church leaders, and my friends that Jesus has given to me. They have earned the right to speak into my life because they ALL have three things in common; 1) They love Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. 2) They know where I came from and love me anyway. 3) They want what is best for me and know that Jesus is the only way to get it. If I need help in seeing that purpose….they are always there to point it out.
Respected and reliable are two things I never was but two things I always expected from other people; even before becoming a Christian nearly two years ago. Without knowing…Jesus has shown me that respectability and reliability are two things that go together; if you have one…you more than likely have the other.
I never respected my parents opinion but now I thirst for it. They have been THE most reliable thing to me throughout my life, even when I didn’t know it….just like Jesus being along for the ride without my knowing He was there. Robbe has earned my respect because of all that he has been there for. He didn’t run or take the easy way out no matter how many times I tried to show him the way to the door when things got tough. He has been the definition of reliable and the rock that was needed to see me through to Nineveh. Lynnette is not only respected by me but by everyone around her. She is the epitome of reliability because she always puts others before herself. Lynnette is another’s support that did not waver no matter how many opportunities or tantrums I through her way. My church leaders and friends have my full attention and respect because they have recognized things in me, I did not see for myself and they always came to fruition. I always felt as if I were thrown into the Lion’s Den, they were in the front row smiling … telling me not to worry. You know that no one can harm you; surrounded by Jesus. These friendships given to me never seemed probable or even possible but when you think about the one common denominator being Jesus; they seem completely expected. I know and respect ALL of them because they were just one of the many gifts given to me by Him.
Are there others who have an influence on you for less than godly purposes? How great is their impact? Have you ever found yourself wondering if they’re right and you’re wrong?
I am happy to say that there are no others that have influences on me for negative purposes. Two years ago that would not have been the case….oh what a difference a change of playgrounds can make. I used to think that I was the one impacting their lives for “evil” and I was, but…. it was a two-way street. Everyone I associated with before Jesus didn’t have a relationship with Him. They were just as happy as I was to make bad decision after bad decision, dressing it up as being completely normal and expected…sometimes even fun. Robbe was the turning point from that playground to the next. He was a complete surprise that rescued me in a Starbucks. A guy that was not familiar with Jesus either but saw something in me that needed rescuing and wanted to do it. My husband has a giving heart and started showing me what was possible if I just grew up. Finding Jesus and beginning our relationships with Him just a week apart; only made our relationship stronger. Only Jesus could have done that.
Detour: It is no surprise that our service today in church was about influence. We had a guest pastor and he was one I was excited to hear. Why? Because his mom and I talked before the service. Another chance meeting? No, of course not. If Jesus can do all that He does; how much stronger do you think that gets in His own house? Yeah.
It was not glamorous the way we met. She nearly slipped by our row while making her way to her front row seat. “Yeah, real subtle Jesus.” We chatted about our names and we joked about her son being the speaker and I told her that I would cheer and clap as loud as I could from my fifth row, center seat.
But I digress.
The story was about the Biggest Loser and appetites; not just appetites for food but things we hunger for; sex, love, money, power, success, etc. He went back to the book of Genesis to make his point; relating to the story of Jacob and Esau. He told of the importance of birthright and what it meant….it was everything. To be the firstborn brought huge benefits: double the portion of a family’s inheritance, getting to be the judge for the family in decision making, and a sense of blessing/leadership/status just to name a few.
Even though Jacob and Esau were twins; Esau was born first so he was older – with that, getting the place of birthright. Older brothers are always the one of influence to a younger brother; following in their footsteps, leading by example of what to do….or what not to do as was the case for me, since I was the oldest of three girls.
In this story Jacob was able to influence his brother with a bowl of stew and change the course of history. Esau was so hungry that he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. He sold all that birthright entailed to satisfy an appetite; in this case a literal appetite but that is not always the case.
I had little influence over my sisters growing up. I got good grades and graduated high school early, went on to college, and then the military. I am sure comparisons were made between my grades and theirs but I didn’t try to help them achieve better in any way. My sisters had little to worry about as I was an adult. I was the “Prodigal Son” that took what I could from my parents and never looked back. They were glad for my lack of influence then I am sure. They didn’t have to worry about hearing “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” because that was something my parents wouldn’t want to see happen to more than one of their daughters I am sure.
I like to think that I had some influence over my children when they were growing up; at least the good parts. I want to take credit for the young women they are today but most of what they have become has been by learning what “not” to do from their mother. I used to think I was making the right decisions for them in the beginning but in thinking more closely, I don’t believe that to be true; even enabling their “appetite” for name brand clothing as early as elementary and middle school.
But now I know that I do influence others and it is for His glory. I am able to influence those that see what Jesus has done in and through me.
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord, help me always to speak what is consistent with sound teaching, being self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. May I be reverent in behavior, not a slanderer, not addicted to much wine, teaching what is good (Titus 2:1-3). My desire to be someone others can trust – in the same measure that I trust in You.
            Titus 2:1-3
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

Dear Jesus:
Please continue to put people in my path that are of good influence. Thank You for giving me good examples to follow and for helping me to see that a change of playground was not only necessary but imperative to the purpose You have for me. Please help me to be of good influence to those around me by what You have done in and through me. I want to be like those You have put in my path. I want to be to someone else what they have been to me.
Help me to be consistent. Help me to be sincere. Help me to influence in the right direction for the right reasons. Remind me that it is okay to have an appetite if I am using that for Your glory; I am hungry for You. I know that I have no idea the plan You have for me…as much as I would like to. But I know that I am hungry to know more of You and the purpose You laid ahead for me.
Thank you for Ryan yesterday, our guest pastor. I am grateful for the message he gave to us and the lesson he left on my heart….
“Hunger for the grace of God that can only be filled by the Spirit.”
Fill me Jesus so that I may be of greater influence on Your behalf for those that are thirsty and still have no idea that You are the only one that can quench that thirst.