Monday, May 17, 2010

“I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” Psalm 13:6

“Congratulations!! You are fully funded!” Those five words greeted me in an email as I heard from the wonderful staff of Proverbs 31 Ministries sharing the news that I’ll be attending She Speaks, their women’s conference designed for those with a call to do more with either writing or speaking ministries. I tell you, the tears were flowing when I read those words. Friends, my sponsorship is fully paid and I am humbled and in awe. I’m sharing this with you because this blog has been the spark that has started something that God is blowing me away through. People have been touched by these simple messages and have been moved to grow closer to Him.

A couple of months ago, God made it abundantly clear that I was to go to this year’s She Speaks conference. With trepidation and humility, I reached out across the internet, putting my dream in His plenty big hands. There was no way I could pay for the conference and transportation. Sure enough, many friends and family stepped in to help. People from all over this country – people who have touched me deeply through their generosity and kindness, as well as their willingness to be obedient to God’s call on their own hearts to help. Thank you is in no way enough to say. My heart is overflowing with love and joy.

And anticipation! There is something in the plan that requires me to be at this particular conference. Of that I am very sure. I am humbly submitted to whatever that plan is. And if all this weren’t enough, there have been a few divine connections that have come as a result of this, and the conference is still more than two months away! A dear friend shared that she is planning on attending. We haven’t been able to spend time together in years, living over 2000 miles apart and life’s journey taking us down different roads. Sure enough, God is bringing her from Florida and me from Colorado to a conference in North Carolina. And friends that have been made through the ministry of Proverbs 31 will also be there. Friends who prayed for the provision to allow me to attend. There was even a point when I had saved up a contribution of my own, but I felt that God was telling me to give it to a different ministry fundraiser. In obedience, I gave that money to the ministry. Within a week, that exact amount had been sent in by others. Wow.

So I say a heartfelt thank you to anyone who read about this dream and prayed for me; for those who helped and for anyone who has been touched by this blog. Oh yea, and the singing part…these words have been flowing through my mind over and over again. “And if our God is for us, than who could ever stop us, and if our God is for us, than what could stand against?” (Our God by Chris Tomlin)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

Have you ever wondered why you are where you are? Why you live where you live, with whom you live? Why you work where you work? Most of the time, probably many of us really don’t give it a lot of thought. For me, I jump on the why questions when things are tough. When there’s a foot of snow on the ground and I can’t get out of the driveway. When we are facing a struggle in our home. When a project at work, or situation with a co-worker, is uncomfortably difficult. It’s pretty easy to wonder if this is really where God wants me to be, if I let my thoughts wander or get rolling down a hill into a pit.

But, what if we flip that thought around and ask a different question of ourselves and God? What if, instead we asked, what is it in this situation/location/relationship that will have God can use me as his ambassador? That’s the challenge I’ve been parked on for a few days. It seems that there’s been a message threaded that I’m supposed to get. First, it was in the pages of the book our ladies group is finishing up. As I read the last few chapters, I felt a conviction to seek out the opportunities where they lie – and with whomever I am with. Then, there was a common theme in the worship music that I’ve randomly been hearing. Finally, today, our message at church was talking through “Risky Hope For Our Jobs.” Funny, I went into that one with a whole different idea of what the message was going to be. I was uncomfortably surprised when I found myself squirming a bit during the message. When the message hits that close to home, it can be a little unnerving.

I believe that God has us exactly where we are supposed to be, whether we believe it, like it or want it. I look around at some of the people closest to me and that is a hard pill to swallow. Circumstances are really hard – financial troubles, difficulties with children, work issues that won’t seem to improve, death and disease. It’s all really tough stuff and can put you dangerously close to slipping off that ledge into the pit. And if Christ isn’t the center of their lives, it is even more difficult. That is, I believe, why I am where I am and where you are where you are. As believers, we are called to shine a light – be a beacon that points the lost towards Jesus. It isn’t easy and there are lots of times when I fail, but then there are those moments when I see a flash of hope because of Christ that wasn’t there before. Or when a friend who is struggling with problems of life that are almost too much to bear asks something about God. Or when your child tells you that a difficult physical injury they have recovered from was because God sent his angels down to give her the strength she needed. Oh how my heart just leaps.

And, it’s in those moments that I am assured, through the grace of Jesus Christ, that I am in fact, exactly where I am supposed to be and my job is not finished so I must press on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

“…I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10

Have you ever been in a dark room and opened the door on a really bright, sunny day? The kind of day that is so brilliant you have to bow down and shield your eyes from it? That’s what comes to my mind when I think about being a doorkeeper for the house of God. An interaction that is so intense you physically cannot just stand there. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have had a few of those kinds of encounters. And, believe me, there were doorkeepers involved. People whose sole intent was to use their gifts and talents to throw open the door so that others could encounter God. Encounters so strong I was left without words – full of joy, emotion and overpowering love for the Father – and wanting more.

I listened to a message that went into great depth talking about doorkeepers and the speaker talked about several who were named in the Bible. That’s pretty remarkable. People whose sole role was to pave the way for others to see the goodness of God and be forever changed by it. I’ll admit, there are lots of names in the Bible that I have just glazed over in reading “looking for the real message.” But as was clearly demonstrated, those people are named in THE BIBLE. And for good reason. They are an example to us of what our role on this earth should be. Hearing it put that way really made me stop and think.

What am I doing every day to open the door to those around me? Am I reflecting the light that is just beyond the door so that others may see Jesus through my life? Do I represent Him in my everyday interactions? Honestly, not always. And some days, not at all. That makes me sad. Sad because who knows what opportunities to point someone towards Jesus were missed because I couldn’t or wouldn’t hold the door open? My role in this life is to use the talents, abilities and opportunities that He blesses me with to show Jesus to the world around me. Whether that is in interacting with my kids, other parents, my co-workers or people I meet along the way, I should be ready for the chance to demonstrate grace, love and compassion. The same grace, love and compassion that Jesus shows me every day.

So, I am striving more to hold open the door so that the brilliance of His light and love will shine through and reflect on Him. Less of me and more of Him, just the way it ought to be.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-12

I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe God has a plan and every instance is a part of that plan. A couple weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Nashville and attend the Dove Awards, Christian music’s version of the Grammy Awards. The story of how it all came to be has God stamped all over it, with connections and conversations that could only have come to be with His guidance.

Looking back now, I know that we were brought there for His purpose. My Nashville connection goes back to 1994, when my husband played minor league baseball. It was the one year that the Minnesota Twins had the double-A affiliate in Nashville. We shared a stadium with the Sounds, the triple-A team that has been there for years. Living in Music City was a blast. While we didn’t do everything the tourists do, we did our fare share. Of course, we saw Opryland and downtown. We ventured into the Wildhorse Saloon after games. We lived there, worked there and made friends there.

For anyone familiar with the baseball life, you know that it’s a nomadic lifestyle and there’s a tendency not to get too attached to any place you live because tomorrow, it could be in the past for you. But Nashville was special for many reasons. It’s where I learned how to be a “baseball wife.” It’s where I made friendships that I cherish to this day. It’s where I did a lot of growing up and growing together with Steve.

A lot of those emotions came back in an overwhelming way when I returned a few weeks ago, for the first time in nearly 16 years. I forgot just how great a place Nashville was and how much of our country’s musical history is there. Our little group spent a day downtown and an unbelievable night praising God and celebrating the best in Christian music. A lot of the conversation was about God’s blessing and how He’s using us for something bigger than we know.

And then, there was the flood. As I watched the spotty coverage over the weekend, and followed the twitter reports of so many on the ground in Tennessee, my heart started to break. As the days have passed and the assessments of destruction begin to rise, especially in so many of those landmark places, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. I am praying for our country to respond to our fellow Americans in the same manner we would if it were a devastating earthquake or tsunami in some other part of the world. We don’t seem to realize how widespread the impact of this flood has been and will continue to be.

God put me and my friends there for a reason. We knew it was to deepen our connections to each other. But, perhaps, He also had us there so that when this horrible disaster happened (and He knew it was going to), we would experience a broken heart and help to show those affected that the rest of the world DOES care and will help. And, maybe, helping to spread the word will cause others to pray, help and glorify Him by loving one another and coming together in a time of great need.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14

What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever “done to you?” Or, the hardest circumstance you’ve ever had to grind your way out of? I’ll be really honest, life has not been all that hard on me. Sure, a few bumps and bruises along the way, several heartbreaks, but really, not anything compared to what some of my friends and family have been through. So, then, why do I struggle with forgiveness?

What I find rather interesting is that the few “big-ticket” items that I can recall are the things I’ve found easiest to forgive, move through and learn from. Looking back, I can even see God’s hand in many of those times and count my blessings for Him bringing me through the struggle. The biggest example came in a work setting. For no apparent reason, I was relieved of my duties on the job, just a week after returning from maternity leave. Honestly, at that moment, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath my feet. But, God had been tugging at my heart for months ahead of this and He had brought people across my path who were on fire for Him and willing to talk to me. Those relationships opened the door to a whole new life for me. And, without that life-altering incident, I may not have realized how much I needed Him in my heart. Within weeks of being let go, I had a new job – one that required a little driving time. I found myself listening to Christian programming on the way. Sure enough, not long after starting the new job, I pulled off the side of the road on the way to work and prayed along with Chuck Swindoll, asking Jesus to become the Lord of my life. The dots were connected almost instantly. I HAD to have gone through that trial and come to a place where I knew there was more to this life. It took me a little while longer to forgive those who unceremoniously ousted me – there’s more to the story, but it really isn’t the point. But, once I let that go, I felt so free. The bondage of that situation was no longer holding me back.

So, why then, again I ask, do I struggle with the little things? A cross comment, an eye-roll from my 7-year-old, the “tone” of an email. It’s easy to let those things really drag me into a pit. The Scripture from Colossians really got a hold of me the past few days. It was part of a message in church, but then the theme of forgiveness has bubbled through several encounters over the last few days.

Tonight, I think I’m realizing that it’s a choice I’m making or not making in a given situation. I’m choosing to let Jesus lead the way or I’m not. When I do, I can see things in a whole different light. When I don’t, I stumble and fall flat on my face. I love how this verse is presented in The Message – it says, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

As a woman, there are several “garments” I never leave the house without. Meditating on this Scripture with those words makes me think about it differently. Love is the garment I need to put on every day in order to see the world the way God sees it. And, God is Love. When I wrap myself in God and His love, I can hold on to that perspective and realize that for as much as He has forgiven me, I am to extend that forgiveness to others.