Tuesday, August 30, 2011

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 The Message

Rejection seems to be a theme these days – at least in the circles I travel. Many friends and I have received very nice thank-you-but-no-thank-you notifications from publishers we recently submitted book proposals to for consideration.

I am also in the throes of professional rejection. Hitting the 6-month mark for unemployment just feels weird. Thinking about how my other former co-workers and I are coping/trying to cope has been on my mind a lot lately. There are multiple layers here. There’s the initial rejection of our former employer coupled with being looked over for positions we are more than qualified to take on as a next job.

Am I the only one who struggles with this? I don’t think so. For me, these past months have forced me to look a little deeper at my heart. Why is it that rejection hurts me so much? Why do I let the opinions of other humans impact who I am when there is only one opinion that truly matters?

As I wrestle this battle, I read The Message interpretation of 1Peter 2:9-10 and just go, wow! Think about it. Jesus was rejected by nearly everyone. His rejection was necessary for Him to complete the task for which He came to Earth in the first place. He willingly accepted that rejection with a grace that none of us could ever muster. In the midst of it all, He still loved and asked His Father to forgive those whose rejection brought about His death.

• So, what if I need the process of rejection to refine me?
• How about looking at those doing the rejecting with fresh eyes and pray for them instead of feeling hurt or personally attacked by them?
• What if this is truly a process to mold us into the person God wants us to be?
• What if He uses these times in our lives to bring about a bigger result down the road?

Makes it a little easier to take when you shift perspective just a bit. What do you think?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest posting!

Hi bloggy friends! I'm guest posting today over at the amazing site Jesus & My Orange Juice! My friend, Shannon Milholland, is an incredible encourager, and just a downright awesome lady with a huge heart for Jesus! Please check it out, and while you're there, wish Shannon a happy birthday! I have the honor of posting on her special day! What a privilege.
Be blessed!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

We had the opportunity to steal away for a weekend at a cabin in the mountains. The respite was much-needed and tremendously restful.

The Lord used that time to speak into my heart by visually demonstrating Scripture. Jesus tells us in this passage that, like the wind, we cannot control how the Holy Spirit will work in us. The gift of the Spirit is from our Heavenly Father and we can only accept it. I’ve thought about how the Spirit changes us, but sometimes, it’s a hard concept to grasp.

As I sat on the deck during that mountain retreat, I was greeted with a spectacle as the wind created a dance on the hills for me to see. And, wouldn’t you know, the Lord used that picture to open my eyes to the Scripture I was studying:

Like a competing symphony, the wind blows from one side of the mountain to the other. Mere yards from each other, the trees to the left dance and bow, then settle while the trees to the right begin to shudder.

You hear the sound as it makes its way down the hill, mimicking the noise of a roaring river as it flows downstream. Its power unknown as it rumbles beneath the surface. Only the tumbling waves are visible as the undercurrent powers it from below.

Thus it can be with the Holy Spirit. If we ask, pray and surrender to be led by it, our lives will take the turn of a mighty river, flowing and lining up with His will and purpose. The undercurrent turning, shaping, molding and changing as we transform from beneath the surface, from our depths – resulting in a new person with a new purpose. As He told us, only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we change.

Monday, August 22, 2011

“9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

In the middle of a storm, what do you do? Do you stress and worry or are you at peace?

A few years ago, I found myself in the most difficult professional environment I had ever encountered. There was tension at every angle. Internally, the company executives were angry and wanted a battle. Externally, a foe was waging war against us. And among the little team I was part of, we were struggling to balance it all on a very public stage.

After convincing our internal audience to support our plans, we stepped out to wage a public relations and outreach endeavor unlike any I, or anyone on our team, had ever ventured into.

During this tumultuous time, I spent a lot of time traveling. I was in hotel rooms, public meetings, community events and presentations. Being away from my family a lot, I had a great deal of silence. Which gave God a lot to work with.

In the middle of all that stress, a beautiful thing was happening in my heart. My spirit was open and I was listening. God began to work on me, giving me words, encouragement and peace. The biggest thing he taught me was to verbalize the name “Jesus.” Saying His name out loud immediately calmed me. Praying out loud when I wasn’t sure what was coming next reassured me that I didn’t have to worry – Jesus was there and in control.

I vividly remember sitting in city council meetings, wondering what battle we were going to have to face next. When this happened, I began to take deep breaths and whispered His name, Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. I could feel my pulse slow down, my breathing relax and my center of peace refocus on what truly mattered.

Getting through that time taught me a great deal. The most important thing I learned, however, was that there is nothing I will ever encounter that cannot be conquered by the power of His name.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guest posting today!

I have a guest post running today over at my friend Heatherly's amazing blog, A Pinkdaisy Life. Please check it out and while you're there, read on for more blessed encouragement from this gifted writer!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

“Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.” Psalm 43:3

You could barely see your hand in front of your face as we made our way. The headlights of the truck were the only beams of light guiding us towards the cabin. Once we arrived and Steve flipped on the lights, we were able to unload and settle in for a weekend in the mountains.

Are you scared of the dark? I am. Sometimes, the dark feels like a heavy, wet blanket threatening to smother me. Fear can become very real in those moments when the light is absent. When I can’t see my way, I lose balance, become uncertain and have trouble trusting.

The Bible tells us that the Lord is the light. When He is in us, our lives become like a beacon pointing others toward Him. He is also lighting our hearts. When we let Him in to the deepest places of our hearts, He can heal, cleanse and restore us.

I spent some time reflecting on many things during our weekend getaway. One of the things that became very clear is even though I’ve said I enjoyed having the summer off with the kids, I wasn’t always living like I believed it. I was around, but wasn’t always in the moment – spending too much time letting myself focus on what I could do to impact when I will find my next job. Some of my fear was still hiding out in a dark corner of my heart. The fear that God isn’t in control of this, even though I know that He is. I needed to confess it as sin and allow His light to cover me, choosing to believe what I already know is true.

Morning in the mountains is a reflection of what He can do in our hearts. When the sun rises, just cresting over the tallest peak, it quickly floods the whole mountainside with brilliant light. Shadows are chased off as trees and leaves begin to sparkle with radiance.

I want my whole heart to be a light for Him. Like the mountainside in the clear, bright morning, I want everything that’s in me to reflect the brilliance of Him. How about you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up" Galatians 6:9

Perseverance. I’ll be honest. It is not one of my strong suits.

It can sure feel like a kick in the teeth when life hands you blow after blow, even when you’re doing your best to honor God and walk in faith every day.

But, that is precisely what we are called to do. Persevere.

In 1999, after eight years in the minors, my husband retired from professional baseball. Three knee surgeries kept him from his dream of making the big leagues. A gifted outfielder with a solid bat, his knees were just not able to cooperate long enough to give him a chance.

What he did get was the opportunity to learn from the best. He had an audience with some of the best baseball players of the day. That, and he was blessed with an incredible ability to teach. This was something he began to cultivate in the latter years of his career, taking younger players under his wing.

Fast-forward to 2008. After several successful years in sales, the economy tanked, and his job dissolved. He had been giving private hitting lessons on the side. Something told me this was the time to take it up a notch. He had a dream to open an academy. It was like God had placed the opportunity on a silver platter in front of us.

Everything in the world’s eyes said we were crazy. The economy was in the toilet. It was the holidays. People didn't have extra discretionary income to spend on baseball.

But God.

He lined up the right people to cross Steve’s path, sent encouragement from numerous places and opened doors only He could. It was time.

With humble beginnings, Steve began his baseball academy, a place where he can instill a love of the game, teach the right way to play and begin to build up the next generation of ball players.

It started with three teams. This past season, there were seven. Today, there are 11. Nearly 250 kids tried out for teams over the past couple weeks. A miracle? Perhaps. But I believe it is Galatians 6:9 in action. Steve is reaping the blessing of his trust, sowing seeds and perseverance.

As we sat at dinner one night, talking about how much the academy has grown, he shared something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, “I always wondered why I never made the big leagues. Now, I know why. THIS is what I was supposed to do.”

Isn’t God amazing?

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.

What would your life look like if you chose to live by faith every single day? How would it be different?

The questions came in a conversation with a friend about a possible book idea. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

• What if I stopped to pray every time I needed to make a decision or a choice?

• What if I asked the Holy Spirit to help me constantly?

• What if I woke up every morning and prayed to surrender that day and my will to His purpose.

• What if I got to the end of me and let Him take over?

Yes. What would that look like?

If we committed ourselves to live by faith on a daily, hourly, minute-to-minute basis, how would life change?

Do you ever think about that? I really hadn’t until my friend made the suggestion.

In Sunday school, we taught the kids Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

I tell you, the kids were able to grasp this much better than their teacher.

Can I live confidently in what I hope for and be certain about what I don’t see? I want to. I pray to.

My guess is most Christians would agree with my statement. We want to. We pray to. It’s just sometimes life clouds our vision and causes our minds and hearts to go astray. So what do we do?

Perhaps it is as simple as my friend suggested. Maybe it’s a grown-up time out where I take a moment to pause and pray, asking for guidance and strength that is not from me.

My sweet friend suggested living by faith as a subject of a book. But perhaps, it’s much more than that. Yes, perhaps it is. In fact, I know it is.

It is choosing daily to live out what I profess to believe in. By letting go, living confidently and being certain – the light of life can and will shine through me and be a beacon pointing others to the only One worthy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:5

One of my fondest childhood memories is building sandcastles at the beach. Growing up in Florida, we did it a lot, but the experience was very special to me.

My “masterpieces” were typically what we called “blob sandcastles,” when you get the sand really wet and just let it drip out, forming all kinds of different shapes for your castle.

Now that I have my own children, I love making sandcastle memories with them when we take trips to visit relatives in Florida. The creations are about the same as when I was a child, and I pray my kids will have a fondness for the experience when they are adults.

The feeling of crafting and shaping with nothing but sand and water to make beautiful creations was precisely what came to mind when I pondered the words of Psalm 95:5. “The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”

What a picture that puts in my mind. Just imagine the God of the universe carefully crafting all that is on the earth. He formed the land and sea, molded the mountains and smoothed out the plains. He made masterpiece after masterpiece.

And do you know why? His creation – in all its intricacy, variety and beauty exist to praise Him. The amount of care and creativity as He took to make the earth and skies pales when compared to the care and creativity He took to make you and me. We are intricately and beautifully made – with variety and uniqueness that He specially designed to bring Him glory.

He holds everything in the palm of His hand. He is the master creator. Oh, to sing praises to Him. He loves us so much.

Friday, August 5, 2011

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

After months of being unemployed, with not even the sniff of an interview, I felt rejected, scared, fearful and even a little hurt. I mean, really, I’m well-trained, strategic, very collaborative and was promoted and praised in every job I’ve held for nearly 20 years. A corporate downsizing almost six months ago could have taken the wind out of my sails, but I didn’t let it. At least not at the time.
When it happened, I didn’t fall apart. I knew God had the situation under His hand. I knew this was part of His plan for me. I knew He would provide. I knew He was closing one door so He could open another.
But, oh, my restless heart. The first couple months were fine. I worked on my resume and started looking, but really, feeling no pressure. I prepared blogs, prayed over and wrote a book proposal, served my family and picked up a little freelance work.
Fast-forward to this week. I hit the 6-month mark with the “unemployed” label. Having never gone this long without gainful employment since I began working at age 16, I’m a little lost. On the one hand, I can handle the rejection of being passed over for a job – I’m convinced that there is a reason for it. But on the other, my insecurities begin to raise their ugly heads when there seems to be an airtight seal on the door of opportunity. It’s easy to start questioning:
·         Lord, I know you have a plan, but why don’t I know it yet?
·         Lord, what is wrong with me that I am passed over for each opportunity?
·         Lord, am I living out the Peter Principle and everyone sees it but me?
·         Lord, our family desperately needs me to contribute income and I don’t know what to do?
Just when I found myself whipping up a frenzy of self-pity, I cried out. Please, Lord, help me with just one step, just one assurance that you hear me. Within hours, a list of Scriptures came from various sources – strong confirmation that yes, He hears, He cares and He is with me.
Two amazing things happened.
I nestled into bed with my Bible and my list of Scriptures to devour. First, miraculously, I flipped right to the page in my Bible that holds my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11. “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.”  Those precious words, underlined and highlighted in my Bible felt like a hug for my weary heart.
After reading through the Scripture list, the message was clear. Give it to Him.
Second, this morning, a verse appeared in my inbox with the words from 1 Peter 5:7.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Webster’s Dictionary defines cast as “To send or drive by force; to throw; to fling; to hurl; to impel.” There is nothing wimpy about that definition. Cast, to me, says let it go. And the next word – all. Not some, not part. All.
I had been holding back in giving all the fear to Him. No more. I am replacing the anxiety with peace because I know His plans are good and He cares for me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” Psalm 18:32

Pray for your “one thing,” the email said. A couple weeks before the She Speaks conference, the team preparing attendees sent out an email essentially designed to calm nerves. Hundreds of stressed out writers and speakers were busy preparing talks for evaluation groups, book proposals that felt more like giving birth and hearts for teaching.

One of those stressed out attendees was me. From the moment I prayed about attending the conference, God was saying, “believe.” I posted a plea for financial help on this blog and in three days, the money came in. The stunning speed was more like a shout from Heaven telling me yet again, “believe.”

As I prepared my book proposal and talks, I felt the pressure of perfection mixed with the panic of doubt. The materials needed to be just so and I was taking that notion as an assignment I needed to complete. Alone. I prayed a lot, but I was not letting the word sink in. “Believe.”

As the deadline drew near, my materials were awful. Words, which normally flow pretty easily, had dried up. In a moment of complete surrender, I begged God to finally come rescue my weary fingers and brain. “Believe.” When I let go, He allowed the words to fill the pages of my proposal and crafted the messages for my talks.

I arrived at the conference nervous and lacking self-confidence. I knew the first place to visit was the prayer room. As I did, I walked right up to the paper that described God the Creator. "Elohim." My name was one of the names on that sheet. As I glanced up, a wooden sign on the table said “Believe.” My prayer was that He would step in where I could not. That He would speak the words I didn’t have. That His will be done in the meetings with editors and evaluation groups.

“Believe.” Yes, believe. Mercifully, the meetings went far better than I hoped. So did the evaluation group. Those reviews and the possibility of a publishing house considering my book were incredible. But the real miracle was the message. Believe.

Sometimes, when we are pursuing the path that God has for us, doubts and fear can creep in and begin to chip away at our resolve. We can start to believe the lies of the enemy as he tells us we aren’t good enough or our story isn’t strong enough to mean anything in God’s kingdom. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. God has placed each of us in the situations and circumstances we are in for His purpose. We never know who might need to hear our story at just the right moment to impact their decision to live for Him. It is an honor and privilege.

Believe. Believe that He can use any one of us. Believe that He is faithful and true to His promises. Believe that He is our strength and security. Believe that He will direct our path.

My “one thing” was “believe.” What’s yours?