Sunday, January 23, 2011

Every day should be "Take Jesus to Work Day"

Okay, so much for writing everyday or at the very least more than the two times I have written this month. It isn’t because Jesus and I haven’t been busy or because we haven’t had anything to share, it is simply being too wrapped in other things together that we haven’t had a moment to write and post but trust me…He is still all over our lives.
My daughter is still in California and her boyfriend’s family is being tested in situations that need prayer (and they are getting it). I could not be more bummed that Baby moved but am reminded daily why Jesus let her go on this road trip “….for such a time is this.” Esther 4:14. She is able to help this family in a way they would never ask for but, because of Him, they don’t have to. It was great to be let in on this part of His plan this week and to share with the mom of this family…a bit of comfort in knowing they are not alone and despite never meeting, they are part of our family…tied together by our children. My husband is still unemployed but Jesus is giving us glimpses of His plan for us with each phone call, email, interview, or JobShop. Friends are being called for references and his diligence is unwavering. My husband is truly living the “Faith and Footwork” promise we made to Him for this year and I know that we will be let in on the full part of the employment plan he has for us soon. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD….” Jeremiah 29:11-14
As my husband was at an all day JobShop offered by our church, I “went to work” in my library/office; just me and Cardboard Jesus. I have been blessed to sew journal covers and scripture sleeves for an upcoming Women’s Conference that a fellow Lyla is presenting at next weekend. She has asked me to bring my ministry to the women attending that conference so they may have to opportunity to purchase something as a “marker” of the importance of the event or what they have gotten out of it. “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.”  Proverbs 31:13 (I don’t work with wool and flax but fabric. It just means that she is skilled in working with textiles to provide for the clothing needs of her household….. I can do that.) “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable, Her lamp does not go out at night.”  Proverbs 31:18 (Profitable indicates that she is able to realize economic gain from the diligence of her labor, which she uses to purchase a field and provide for her household. I am not looking to purchase a field anytime soon but helping to provide for my household while my husband is looking for work, is a great thing … simply by using my sewing machine from mom and my skills given to me by Him. My lamp does go out at night although some days it goes out a little later than others so I can meet my self-appointed quota for the day in order to make more products to sell at this conference or others; or craft shows at churches, etc.)   “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”  Proverbs 31:24 (This indicates skill in creating clothing of beauty and value. Such activity exemplifies a high degree of entrepreneurial skill and responsibility in making financial decisions and undertaking commercial activity. Wow…. I like to think that when Jesus and I are working in my library/office that we put out things of beauty with His word on them, that people want. Everything I do is for Him and he is giving me these opportunities to not just make this a “hobby” ministry but one that can sustain our family a bit while getting His word out there.)
During the Christmas services at our church, our pastor told a story. Two men pass in the hallway of a church; two men than have worked together for 10+ years. They both have this look as they approach each other and say “Hey, Tom, how’s it going? Wow… I didn’t know you went here.” The other replies “Yeah, awesome. So, you’re one of “us”, huh? I had NO idea.”
Can you imagine? Working with someone that long and not only did they not know that you were at the same church (which would be easy since our church is pretty big) BUT, they didn’t know that either were a Christian. Our pastor said that if your life is truly transformed and you have been changed IN HIM….you won’t have to tell a single person. They will know it by the way that you act and present yourself. Hence… I think that EVERYDAY should be “Take Jesus to Work Day.” Granted, it would be easier if everyone had their own personal Savior (Cardboard Jesus…like I do) but that isn’t what it is about. I know that people in my life KNOW that I have changed and been transformed because of the way I act and present myself. I don’t have to drag my Cardboard Cut-Out with me as proof. If we all had Jesus with us in our hearts and “took Him to work with us” everyday, imagine the lives that could be touched and possibly changed by simple actions; Christian actions, us being more like Him.
First I was the girl that was transparent in bible study; spilling her “stuff” out on the second week. Telling my story and where I came from just to give them a glimpse of what Jesus has done for me in my life. The result: Others following suit, being bold and telling their “stuff,” knowing that what “Happened in Bible Study….stayed in Bible Study.” A group of 10ish women bonding through the study (The Sacred Echo) but finding more than that in friendships, stronger relationships with Him….and each other. Now, secondly…since being home from California, I am the girl that is not just transparent but “silly” in a way. My relationship with Jesus is personal. More personal than I ever imagined and one I could not be more thankful for. My friends know that I am the one that talks to him like he is my imaginary friend, the one that I ask advice from, talk with as if he is in the room…no matter where that room is. I have never been one that is great at “praying” but He and I have THE best conversations ever because He listens.
When my husband and friends asked how this relationship evolved to what it is today, it sounds almost sad in its explanation, but I say simply… “I was lonely.” I had a lot of time to myself when in California and no matter how much my friends and family in Michigan connected with me…it just seemed like it wasn’t enough and I was missing out. I turned to the Word…His word. I found “friends” by reading the bible. It was like reading a novel and being sucked in, having these stories and letters become stories about people I passed on the street and letters that Paul wrote to me. (It is a bit like “The Bachelor” in that I know he was “talking” to others and forming relationships with other people but in my mind….it was all about me; advice that he was giving to me to pass along to others, and I couldn’t get enough).
But, my Lylas love me anyway…maybe even more since I have returned than before I left…if that is possible. And I know that I have come to be closer to them since my return and I can’t help but think it is all HIM and because WE are closer. Sure, I am the transparent, silly Lyla. I am the one that says it’s okay to talk about Jesus like you really had coffee with him that morning or you talked with him about a specific situation and “You know what Jesus had to say?  Oh my gosh…let me tell you.”
You don’t have to have a 6’2” Cardboard Jesus like I do, in order to take him to work with you; or to take him along to a hockey game like we just went to last night. He is with us always and others will see Him in us, no matter where we are…if we are truly transformed in Him and want to be more like him. My good friend Paul says it more perfectly than I could ever attempt….
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” Philippians 3:12-4:1

Now… I want to share links of a couple of my Lylas that DO take Jesus to work with them because they are His entrepreneurs and do His will every time they put together a talk or piece of jewelry in His name or write about Him for others to see his awesome will in their lives through their devotions.

Shameless plugs for the work we do in Jesus because He rocks and we can’t help but share that.

My ministry for bible covers, scripture sleeves, and ideas we chat about while Jesus and I work together. (My website is still a work in progress….but so am I. I promise to have it functioning by the end of the week and look forward to any feedback you have to give.)

Lynnette and her amazing insight into jewelry and His word. I would love to be more like her when I grow up and thank Jesus for the friendship that he brought to me in her every day. And you know what? He NEVER gets tired of hearing it OR about her when we chat over coffee.

Heather and the gift she has for wanting to show other women the vision He has given her for their lives and the encouragement she extends to others on their path to find their destiny He always intended for them; through her blog and through her ministry at HBMinistries.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hanging out with Britt, Lincoln, Matthew....and Jesus

….and Lynnette and Heather; to round out my week.  This has been an exhausting, productive, inspiring, and amazing week. During my “Coffee with Jesus” time on more than one occasion, I scolded myself for not writing more. I feel guilty and selfish for not sharing all that He has done for me lately; the good, the bad, the reminders, the praises, the time, and the friends. The tagline scripture in the banner of my blog should be a constant reminder …. “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 not only prepared but welcome any opportunity (or make my own) to let people know where the joy in my heart comes from…even when, to others in the world, I have every reason to not be joyful. Oh, if only they knew. Hey…they can because I can’t keep quiet about it; until recently. I have no reason for not writing more often and have pinky promised with my new Cardboard Jesus that the writing will be much more frequent and I will not just share His praises with those I see, but those that will “SEE” Him in me by writing this blog.
First the exhausting and productive parts. I was elated to begin volunteering at my church again this week. You are now “looking at” the self-proclaimed Vacuum Queen of Northridge Church. I get to don my cape and grab the super powered German machine three days a week for four hours each day (and still not get it all done). I am embarrassed to admit that after vacuuming six hours straight on Monday that Monday night left me sore and unable to move from my couch that greeted me at the top of my entryway stairs. I couldn’t believe how physically drained I was but laid there with a smile on my face. Throughout my vacuuming I was encouraged in Him via my pink headphones attached to my pink iTouch; my good friends Britt (Nicole), Lincoln (Brewster), and Matthew (West) singing His praises literally ….as loud as my musical machine would go. I was thankful that the din of the vacuum drowned out just how loud it was as people passed me in the hallways with a smile and/or a wave.
I started my day with Britt blaring in both ears. To think I didn’t even “know” her until a couple months ago when Janet shared a song that “was so me.” She told me that she thought of me when hearing it and had to share how she saw me and give me hope to never stop sharing my story or what He has done for me because that’s “…How the Lost get Found.”
Don't let your lights go down, Don't let your fire burn out....'cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe. Why don't you rise up now? Don't be afraid to stand out. That's how the lost get found. The lost get found.
I think all of us hear music and are inspired or reminded, blessed and touched, or just made happier; especially anything that has to do with Him….at least that is how I see it. After Britt sang I played Matthew and loved being taken in by his praises to Jesus; stories put to music to make our relationships even more real than they already are. My husband and I have a song that is “our song” and when I hear others I am reminded of one friend or another. But…if I were asked to pick just one song that was mine and Jesus’ song I could never pick just one. I probably have three or four just from my good friend Matthew. This week it was “You Are Everything.” This is the song that brings me back to my testimony shared at church where I met Janet for the first time.

I’m the one with big mistakes, big regrets - And bigger breaks than I’d ever care to confess.  Oh, but You’re the one who looks at me and sees what I was meant to be...more than just a beautiful mess.
You are everything that I live for....Everything that I can't believe is happening - You're standing right in front of me with arms wide open - All I know is everyday is filled with hope.
Then I ended my day, for the last hour, I vacuumed happily and joy filled to the same song. Lincoln singing “Today is the Day.” THIS was the song that if I were forced to pick just ONE….would be in the top five. This is how I feel for Him everyday, no matter the situation. I wake up singing this to Him and live it to the fullest. But, regardless of how many times I have heard and sang this song…Today WAS the Day.
I'm casting my cares aside. I'm leaving my past behind. I'm setting my heart and mind on you....Jesus. I'm reaching my hand to yours. Believing there's so much more. Knowing that all you have in store for me is good. - Today is the day you have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it....and I won’t worry about tomorrow. I’m trusting in what you say - Today is the day.
Today was the day that my heart sang to Him even if my lips weren’t moving and sound did not escape my mouth. Because for some reason I thought of Him like I hadn’t before. I truly believe that there is a party in Heaven every time someone repents and finds their own relationship with Jesus and I know that there is singing going on and arms wide open each time someone “comes back to Him.” BUT today I wondered… does He sing for us as we do for Him? Of course He does. At least that is how I saw Jesus today. Instead of me hearing a song and saying to myself “Yeah, that is totally something I would, and do, sing to Him.” I imagined Jesus singing it about me; about us. Him singing to me “This is how the lost get found” or Jesus telling me “You are my everything” and definitely Him reminding me every day that “Today is the Day” that He made and gave to me to do His work for His glory and tell anyone that will listen.

The inspiring and amazing parts of my week are the ones I never get tired of but feel blessed and surprised each time I think about them; my family and my friends. Everything is in His timing and it seems to take forever when I am constantly just sitting and waiting for an answer to this prayer or that one but…every once in a while I have glimpses of what he needs from me; to be patient and satisfied with knowing He has it all under control. AND it is sooo much better to be surprised when the UPS truck shows up outside with a brightly colored, wrapped present from Him than to be waiting on the porch, anxious for every truck sound that rounds the corner….expecting something that may or may not come. I waited for two years for a hopeful, renewed relationship with my oldest daughter and I had given up hope more than once until one day….there it was; my brightly colored package in the form of an email and then another, and another. It was like Christmas, my birthday, and Mother’s Day ALL rolled into one and it is a gift I cherish with each email I receive from her. I love that He gave this gift to me and in finding me, has given a gift to my mom as well. THAT is the true Circle of Life and one I am very grateful for.
The friends he has given me are incredible and inspiring and are cheerleaders in their own rite. There are many examples of friendships throughout the bible and He leaves it up to us to find the friendship we most want to emulate…and that goes beyond the kind of relationship we have with Him but to one we are encouraged to have with others. I am blessed to have many friends but the friendship I am most blessed to have is one with Lynnette. She is my Barnabas and one that is Barnabas to others as well. Let me back up just a bit….
When I went to my first bible study at Northridge Church I was anxious about the kind of people that Jesus would put in my path. I hadn’t been to a bible study before, and being a new Christian, could only imagine what the others in the study would be like. I worried they were closer to God because they had been Christians longer. I didn’t think I would fit in because I had a sketchy past to be rescued from and couldn’t possibly imagine others from a church with that kind of story. Lynnette sat beside me and in her quiet acceptance, welcomed me not only to the church and study, but to be her friend outside of that setting.
It is no secret that I have a crush on the apostle Paul. Aside from being completely smitten by everything he and Jesus says, I use him as an example of what I want my life to be like; finding joy in the strangest of places and encouraging others to find that joy and live it as I try to. One of my favorite books is by Beth Moore: “To Live Is Christ” and it is ALL about Paul. She writes:
“God had issued Saul an undeniable apostolic calling. He probably assumed his place was with the other apostles. But when he arrived in Jerusalem and tried to associate with them, “they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.” (Acts 9:26)
Two wonderful words begin the next verse: “But Barnabas.” Without a doubt Barnabas was a hero. Few things touch my heart more than Christian men who risk vulnerability in obedience to Christ. Barnabas reached out a helping hand to a discouraged man. Saul took that hand. Two lives bonded n that moment.
God use Barnabas to give others the courage to be the people He had called before the other apostles, they may have remembered how each of them had been the focus of his encouragement at one time or another. Now he encouraged them to accept a new brother.
Many probably criticized Barnabas for being gullible concerning Saul. Barnabas was willing to give people a chance even when others weren’t. Let’s look for ways to be a Barnabas in another’s life.
“I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 7”
Just as Paul had his own writing style and spoke from his heart encouraging others and telling anyone who would listen…what kind of person Barnabas was, it is only fitting that I try and emulate by showing everyone the kind of friend I have in Lynnette. No…it wasn’t as dramatic a scenario as Paul and Barnabas encountered but I did wonder if Lynnette’s husband would think she was crazy for wanting to befriend “someone like me.” But… in that moment and in many that have followed, Jesus bonded two lives for which I am eternally grateful. I only hope that I can give her the same encouragement in what she encounters and be a cheerleader for her as she is for the other “Lylas” we are blessed to cross paths with.  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
This has truly been a week of things that others may not be joyful about; my husband is still unemployed and my youngest still moved 2500 miles away. There are still more bills than income and the glass vase near our door is getting filled with worries we give to Him because they are out of our control. But, no matter what happens in my life… I am forever reminded through friends, family, the bible, books, and music that He has been there and will continue to be there no matter what happens. We just need to put our faith in Him and know that he will provide. We are not alone but have Him and those he gives to us. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Going For a Boat Ride...."You Comin' Jesus?"

Part of realizing your destiny is knowing how to constantly be making progress. Progress requires going through lots of things that may be uncertain to us while doing it but, in hindsight, we know it was what had to happen; as we come out of the old and into the new person we are becoming.
Everyone thinks that there has to be some life-changing transformation when you become a Christian….and for some of us that is true. BUT, there are others that just know they want a relationship with Him and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. I went to a church service recently where our pastor talked briefly of transformations and how, if we are truly transformed, it should be noticeable to everyone. The excitement we feel, the joy we experience, the grace given to us and want to share with others; a true “Cheerleader for Jesus.”
John 6:15-21 tells of a story where the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee on their way to Capernaum. Any crossing from one place to another requires a transition that begins with an ending and ends with a new beginning. Leaving the shore represented an ending, catapulting the disciples into a transition – that limbo period between the ending and a new beginning. Limbo….just like the boat at sea. The disciples weren’t where they started and they hadn’t made it to where they were going. They had been cut loose to cross the Sea of Galilee and were vulnerable to the elements. The wind came up and they were even more unstable, threatening to capsize their boat; never getting them to their new destination.
I think; more dramatic than the transformations….are the series of transitions that we go through and what becomes of us because of them; or in spite of them. Before I was a Christian, when something would go wrong I would wonder: “If there is a God, how can he allow something like this to happen?” ….Having breast cancer at the age of 30 with three small daughters and a precarious marriage. I blamed God for that and “to show him”… I refused any kind of relationship with him for a long time. Then when I was a Christian and things wouldn’t go as I hoped they would (because let’s face it… just having a relationship with Jesus doesn’t make our lives all peaches, even though that would be pretty great), I say things like “Satan is really working overtime these days.”
But…in reading this passage from John, I realized that I was giving Satan too much credit.
The story goes on….
“A strong wind was blowing and waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:18-21
In that unstable place, the disciples were confronted with contrary winds that threatened to capsize their boat and keep them from arriving at their destination. “Contrary” means antagonistic, against, or opposing. The wind was trying to keep the disciples from reaching their destiny.

In the middle of everything the disciples faced, Jesus came to them. They didn’t recognize him at first and were hesitant in asking him into the boat; just as I put him off so many times before the BIG transformation. But…when they did recognize him and they let him into the boat….it was a decision that saved their lives and allowed them to get to the new place that God intended. If God sent them, then he was also committed to their destiny and would release all of the resources necessary for them to get to the other side. When God directs us in a way that leads us into transition, He has already committed Himself to come to us when we reach unstable waters.
Since having Jesus as my BFF, I have had LOTS of contrary things come my way and I realize that my story is so much more than my transformation. My story is one that is lived everyday in the transitions that are put in my path; not giving Satan the credit but knowing that God is putting me to a test of faith as he did the disciples that night crossing the Sea of Galilee. Satan has nothing to do with any part of my transitions I live through now. The peaches and the peas of my life are only driven by Jesus and I will do my best to walk with the faith that is expected of me.
No….I guess this isn’t the typical “Welcome to the New Year” blog. But it was definitely one put on my heart by the one that matters….Jesus. My husband found out that his position was no longer needed just two days before Christmas. My youngest daughter I welcomed home just a few months ago, has decided that she wants to move back to California and leaves on Friday; less than two weeks after she told us the news. My middle daughter had car troubles and didn’t get to come home this Christmas after all. The amount of our bills outnumber the amount of our income. But in the middle of this “contrary” time… my oldest daughter responded to one of my countless emails I sent just last week and we are now emailing back and forth, sometimes twice a day; and we haven’t spoken in two years.
Jesus got into my boat back in October of 2009 but that was just the beginning. Without the relationship that I have with him, the everyday transitions that are part of my life, would go unanswered; worried about, and stressed over. The clear glass vase that we had by our door to leave our troubles in over the holiday; is still there. We decided to leave it there and continue to fill it with things we can’t control but know He can.
2011 is a year of Faith and Footwork. We have faith in Him to get us through our “Sea of Galilee” trip no matter how many waves come crashing into our boat. God has given us the resources to handle whatever comes our way. When my husband was unemployed last time, it was seventeen months. We had just accepted Christ as our savior but had no idea what that meant or what to do next. Those resources?? Yeah. We have friends; a lot of them. We have a church family that is like no other. We have bible studies and small groups. We have a prayer network and we have Jesus…in our boat. We have faith in Him and want to show him the faith we are going to live by. The footwork part? That’s easy. We will apply for the jobs, fill our vessels in church and bible study and small groups. We will volunteer at church in whatever capacity is needed (I start vacuuming again next Monday…. and can’t wait). We will NOT sit idly by and dwell on our circumstances because we know that He has gotten us through things before with a lot less faith and a lot less friends and resources; imagine what He can do now. Woohoo.
This isn’t a New Year’s Resolution but a pinky promise to show others what he is capable of. A real life “Oh yeah… well look what Jesus did for me today” moment.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  2Corinthians 1:3-5
Had to throw a scripture from Paul in there because it was so appropriate is Paul…lol.