Tuesday, August 31, 2010

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

I need contacts to see distance and glasses to read. A by-product of aging, you might say. There are lots of days, however, when I either forget or do not have enough time to put in my contacts. Life becomes a bit of a challenge when I’m seeing it through the blurred lenses of my aging eyes. The sharpness and clarity of corrected vision are not part of these days and I’m often functioning at a bit of a disadvantage.

Colorado sunrise
This verse in Proverbs really painted a vivid picture for me. As dawn breaks, the light of the sun sharpens the morning sky until the clarity and crispness are nearly too much for the unprotected eye to bear.

The same can be said for the unprotected heart. A heart that is not grounded in relationship with Him cannot survive. Without Jesus as our filter and lens, the ways of this world will cloud vision and force people to function at an eternal disadvantage. I learned this lesson later in life, accepting Jesus at age 35. I tell you, I was living without corrective lenses for far too long. But, he has redeemed me and opened up a world that I never knew existed. Vision, direction and spiritual clarity are mine for the asking, and He freely gives it every time I earnestly seek it. And He can do the same for you. No contacts required.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’" Genesis 32:26

My mom had surgery this morning. It was not a major or serious procedure, but it did require her to be under anesthesia for over an hour and will require several weeks of recovery. While I have known for a while that she had this planned, the reality and emotion of it still somehow crept up on me.

My mom, sister, daughter and me.
I live 2000 miles away from my parents – they are in Florida and I’m in Colorado. Most of the time, with cell phones and email, that distance doesn’t feel so big. Actually, I’m probably closer to my mom now that I live so far away thanks to all the conveniences of modern technology. Even so, with all that life has going on I hadn’t talked to her in a few weeks. Last Saturday morning, we were able to talk for a good, long time. She sweetly shared her experiences leading up to this procedure – even the sometimes irritating complications and challenges of pre-op doctor visits. She told me she used something I taught her when she felt like she was under attack. After a series of delays and paperwork mishaps, a nurse of all people said to her, “maybe God is trying to tell you not to do this.” She boldly responded, “no, as my daughter would say, this is Satan trying to attack and I’m not going to let him.” I was glad she couldn’t see me when she told me this because the tears were streaming. She then relayed how she felt at complete peace with everything. God is so faithful. This is something I have prayed many times to hear.

Two nights ago, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned all night. At some point, I found myself thinking about the story of Jacob wrestling with God through the night. I gave up at 4:30 and got out of bed. I picked up my Bible and began reading. I began praying about my mom and the surgery. As I did, I began to seek out Scriptures that I could share with her to help give her comfort. I found several and put them into a document, adding a few of my own thoughts after each - notes to her. I sent it off to her and asked her to take it with her – praying God’s words are both powerful and comforting. What I didn’t realize was that it would be powerful and comforting for me, as well as my mom. What a blessing. So, this morning when I woke at 5 a.m. thinking about her being in the middle of surgery, I opened up the document and prayed those Scriptures aloud as I asked God to be with my mom during her procedure. And He was. She did great and is on her way to her house with my dad, to begin the road to recovery. I’m thankful and grateful.

Like Jacob’s wrestling match where there was blessing in the end, I believe this experience has been an intricately woven tapestry of blessing in the lives of my mom and me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him." Psalm 62:5

This past weekend I was given a beautiful gift. No, it wasn’t in a perfectly wrapped box with an exquisite bow adorning the top. It was better. It was the gift of time. My husband and son went on a very special boys’ trip, leaving my daughter and I with a weekend alone.

Instead of over-planning and trying to cross multiple items off my always too long to-do list, I picked the 1 or 2 critical must-dos (laundry, grocery shop) and let the rest go. I left the choices regarding food to Abby. We would eat one dinner out and one at home – but the food was up to her. She made great choices that we both enjoyed.

We spent an entire day together – making a list of places we wanted to go (we like to shop!) and went on our way. It was not so much about looking at things or trying on clothes as it was about just to two of us being alone, enjoying each other’s company. We laughed a lot. My daughter is a riot. She has the gift of an amazing sense of humor and one of the sweetest sounding laughs I’ve ever heard. Our day was a lot of fun. We finished with Chinese food at home and some “home spa” pampering – mini-pedicures and facials. We snuggled in for a slumber party and thanked God for our special time.

As wonderful as that 36-hour stretch with Abby was, the bigger blessing came on Saturday morning. I woke up before her and let her sleep in – closing the door to my room where had stayed with me Friday night. I grabbed my Bible, journal, a great devotional book titled “Jesus Calling” and my first cup of coffee of the day. Settling in on the couch, I prayed and opened the devotional. I had a couple days to catch up on so I was quite surprised when the first reading was clearly about pausing and just taking time to be in His presence. It was the perfect place to start quiet time.

I enjoyed a long, joyful devotional period that morning. The Scripture references sent me to lots of different places and gave me great reassurance of His love and a peaceful focus on Him. It was the spiritual exercise I had needed for days.

The gift of last weekend – both the time with the Lord and with Abby – was a lovely reminder of priorities. When my relationship with the Lord, or my dedication to my family begins to slip lower on the list, I am the one who suffers. I am grateful for that reminder. It’s often too easy to start the day thinking about everything I think I “need to do.” By giving God that first part of the day – however much time that is – He helps prioritize my thinking and somehow (wink, smile) I end up having a much, much better day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.” Mark 2:14

Follow me. These two, simple yet powerful words got a hold of me. As I read them in Mark 2:14, they gripped something inside. In that passage Levi (Matthew) immediately responded to Jesus’ command. No questions asked. Those words and his response stayed with me. In fact, they have been reoccurring in messages throughout the week. Hmm. Is He trying to tell me something?

As I prayed this week, the words to a song by the Sidewalk Prophets began to stand out. Much like “Follow Me,” the words “Father of love, you can have me” struck a chord in my heart. Last night, as I was driving to pick up my daughter, the song came on. I found myself closing my eyes and singing those words with my whole heart.

It was a “yes Lord” moment. I need to remain fully immersed in His plan and trust that He is all I need. That’s easy for me to say and hard for me to always do. There are bills to pay, my husband and our kids have many needs, there are expectations on me at work. My tendency is to wrap up in those other things too much and forget all that I am equipped to do.

I came back from the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks conference a couple weeks ago full of fire and inspiration. I am still very full, don’t get me wrong. In fact, when I came back, I wanted to lock myself in a closet and just write.

But in all honesty, that is not what the Lord has placed in me either. Yes, I am called to write – He has made that crystal clear. But, I am also called to be a light. And that is found in the other areas of life that are vitally important to being a witness for Him. A witness in my role as a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sibling, employee, encourager and teacher. Those are areas where it should be evident to all I come in contact with that I am following Him. Like Matthew, asking no questions. Perhaps that is the story He’s calling me to live first and then write.

Friday, August 6, 2010

“…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

Interestingly, the two sessions at last weekend’s She Speaks conference that grabbed me the most were practically bookended – one the first night and the last speaker of the weekend. Completely different in their message, God was using these sessions to tuck away ideas, encouragement and even conviction into my soul.

This verse from Esther has been one that has resonated in me for a long time. Esther was the first Bible study I ever took part in and I can honestly say I have never learned so much as I did during that time. I felt like a sponge, taking in knowledge and truth in a way I didn’t know was possible. In this week after the conference, this verse has bubbled up in my heart and seemed to be grabbing for attention. So I re-read the story and it certainly seemed to fit. For reasons only my God knows, He set in motion a series of events that paved the way for me to go to She Speaks. As a grateful recipient, my job was to see what He had to say to me through it.

The emotional roller coaster of just getting to the conference was at last behind me (see blog post. 8/2/10) and I sat with great anticipation as the conference began. That first night, I attended a talk given by Cecil Murphy. Cec to his friends, Cecil is a very successful author, speaker and mentor. Cecil graciously donated scholarships for over ten attendees. He truly believes in giving back and helping the next generation.

Cecil’s talk was titled “Who Would Have Thought?” He engaged us in a discussion about some incredible examples of books that have reshaped conversations, opened doorways and enlightened on subjects – books that for lots of logical reasons should not have been successful, yet somehow were. The underlying current of his message was that as a writer, you never know what God will do with you and sometimes He will use the most unusual people.

This really struck a cord with me because sometimes I wonder what it is that God has in mind for me. Yes, I consider myself a writer. But to what extent I am an expert in any given subject or an authority on some unique life circumstance, I’m not really sure. But, in Cecil’s message I found encouragement. Because God uses those with a willing heart and teachable spirit to accomplish His purposes – through the mechanism that He chooses. And really, it’s not about me or my expertise – it’s what God is doing through me that matters. That, could also be the story He wants to tell.

Sunday morning was our last official session. Proverbs 31 speaker and writer Karen Ehman was presenting. Her talk was titled “First Love.” Oh boy did she deliver. How often are we caught up in the daily dealings of life, our ministry, even the temptations of the “shiny things” that we forget our first love – Jesus – is the center of it all? Karen’s talk was highlighted by a key verse in Revelation, Rev. 2:5 which says, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

As she unpacked the verse for us, many aspects convicted me. The hardest pill to swallow was the challenge to memorize Scripture. For whatever reason, this is not something I have been able to do well. I can “quote generally speaking.” But, as I have learned as I have faced attacks over the past few weeks, generally speaking isn’t enough to cut it. Speaking God’s truths from God’s own words are powerful and give an advantage over the enemy and his attacks. But even more than that, don’t I love my Jesus enough to write His words on my own heart?

Tears were running down my cheeks as Karen choked out her own words through them. I knew exactly what she was saying and it felt like I had been ripped open. My takeaway from the session was this – we must never lost sight of our passionate pursuit of the person of Jesus.

I left that morning challenged yet feeling loved. Because while the truth hurt, the grace that flowed in that room was real. The Proverbs 31 team was there to minister, pray with or just extend a hug to anyone who asked. This journey is wildly exciting. Knowing that I’m taking it with other women who share in my struggles and my victories makes it even better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

“O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." 2 Chron. 20:12

This past weekend, I had an incredible opportunity to attend the She Speaks conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Last week, as I prepared to travel to North Carolina for the conference, I also tried to prepare my heart and mind to be open and ready for teaching. After all, this conference is practically a how-to for women’s ministry and that’s an area I believe I am called to be part of in some way. I thought I was ready. And then…

On the first flight from Denver to Washington DC, I listened to a couple of podcasts. They are from Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church in Atlanta. If you’ve never heard him speak, you absolutely must check him out. In the first program, the message was about lifting our eyes to Jesus. Keeping them fixed on him in the midst of all the trials, challenges and good things of this life. Knowing that without him, we cannot make it, will just make a mess of things and will never know the full beauty of the plan he has for our lives. Louie talked about the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Under fierce attack, the king prays to his God and asks for him to place His hand in the middle of the situation. Sure enough, through the faithfulness of the king and his people, the three attacking armies defeat themselves before King Jehoshaphat’s army even arrives. Through it all, they remained fixed on the Lord their God and praised him.

I listened to this and thought, wow, this is just what I needed to hear to prepare further for this conference. Yup, I was ready. I arrived in DC to make my connection to Charlotte. And then…

That’s when the attack began. I knew the enemy did not want me to go. I battled it for weeks leading up to the conference. But I thought he had been defeated and all was fine. How wrong I was. After arriving in DC, here’s what happened in a nutshell:

• Flight delayed for 2-plus hours, then canceled altogether
• No ability for the airline to reschedule for 36 hours (at which point the conference would be more than half over)
• No complimentary hotel or other option
• Miscue on retrieving my luggage (after waiting two hours) – it was put on the next flight to Charlotte (although seats weren’t available, there was room for my luggage)
• A dying cell phone – charger was in my luggage

As if the enemy was saying to me, see, you think you need/want to go and learn more about fulfilling what you say is your calling. Well, see how much of a Jesus girl you are after this!

To which I said, GET OUT OF MY WAY! And I proceeded:
I Tweeted, texted and Facebooked an urgent request for prayer to friends and the Proverbs 31 sisterhood – others preparing for and traveling to the conference. I knew they would have my back. I then rented a car, bought a phone charger, an energy drink, some food and headed out of DC at 11:30 p.m., determined to make the 500-mile drive during the night.

I was driving for about two hours, singing with Christian radio that I found on the dial, thinking that I had it under control. And then…

That stinking devil tried again to break me down. I started to wrestle with my decision to drive. Do you know how far it is? Do you really think driving 500 miles in the middle of the night, a woman alone, is a smart idea? As I wrangled these, and other thoughts, I made a transition on the highway to head south. As I did, I began to crest a hill. I had lost the radio signal so the car was silent. Just as I began to climb, I looked up to see the most incredible sight. There, straight ahead of me at the top of the mountain were three 2-3 stories-high illuminated white crosses. Seeing them took my breath away. I began to tear up. Okay God, I said through sobs, it’s clear to me that this is not about me. You are showing me that my heart was not as prepared as it needs to be for this conference. That like the story of King Jehoshaphat, I need to fully fix my eyes on you. I had no power to face this vast army that is attacking me. I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you. (see 2 Chron. 20:12).

With that realization, I began to have an incredible time of worship and prayer with the Lord. I continued on feeling the tight grip of the prayers of my sisters while my God showed me the way.

Finally the next morning, I arrived at the conference. Tired? Absolutely. Discouraged? Absolutely not! I felt a supernatural energy as I entered the hotel. As I did, there sat two of my P31 sisters. We hugged and shared tears of joy and relief. I knew it was going to be okay.

With Lysa TerKeurst
That evening as we listened to the opening night’s message, Lysa TerKeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, delivered a talk that encouraged us to wave off the presence of the evil one. To stand strong and say ‘you shall not pass.’ I was rocked. Those were nearly the exact words I had been saying on my drive. Lysa continued her talk and as if she had been listening to the same message I had heard the day before, she began to tell us about the story of King Jehoshaphat and how he knew that without his God, he had no chance against the attack of his enemies. That he paused and prayed to his God to help them. That in the middle of a seemingly impossible situation, a God-honoring response would yield God-sized reach. And that’s just what happened in the Bible. The 3 countries converging on Judah were overcome and began fighting among themselves until there was not a man left alive when King Jehoshaphat’s army arrived singing praises to our Lord. The enemy was defeated and God delivered them. I could absolutely relate.

Hearing that story twice in less than 24 hours, I went back to my room that night practically shaking. I knew God had delivered me where He wanted me. I was affirmed and encouraged. I prayed that night and the whole weekend for God to speak into my heart. To show me those places where I need more of him and less of me. I prayed for Him to teach me and direct my steps.

In 48 hours, I learned so much. Received so much. Gave so much. But most of all, I felt my Lord holding me tenderly yet firmly, never letting go.