Saturday, December 7, 2013

An Angel Named Heaven

Have you ever seen "Fiddler on the Roof?"  The opening song is all about tradition.  And this time of year is filled with traditions in our home.  From decorating the Christmas tree, to making Christmas cookies, to reading What God Wants for Christmas... it's a month filled with creating memories together as a family.  One tradition, however, is bittersweet for me.  Each year, we adopt an angel from the Salvation Army Angel tree... in memory of the child we lost through a miscarriage.  It can be quite emotional as I choose a child for us to adopt each year.  And Monday was the day to select our angel.

As I approached the Angel Tree booth, I got the typical knot in my stomach.  I casually glanced over the 6 year old girls on the table, but no one jumped out at me.  I looked at the 5 year old girls and found Ariel (my favorite Disney princess), but wanted to stick to our tradition - choosing a child that is the same age our own child would be.  I was about to leave when one of the volunteers approached me to ask if she could help. 

I felt kinda silly about hesitating to choose an angel.  So I tried to explain.  "I'm definitely adopting an angel, but no one is jumping out at me."

"What are you looking for?" she asked, "We have boxes of angels that we can look through for you."  It was too much... she actually wanted to help me find an angel that matched what my heart wanted?  Tears filled my eyes as I requested a 6 year old girl with a name that begins with H.  (Yep, my name is Heather and I'm partial to the letter H).  After a few minutes of searching, without a single six year old girl to be found, she encouraged me to finish my shopping while she continued to look through the boxes. 

With my shopping completed, I headed back to the Angel Tree booth.  The lady's face lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw me.  "We found one!  There was only one six year old girl with an H name.  And her name is Heaven!"  The tears flowed freely at this point.  She handed me the angel and I looked at her, astonished.  She was tearing up too.  "You won't believe this," I explained.  "The angel we adopted last year was a five year old girl named Heaven.  I'm convinced that this is the same angel." 

"It was meant to be," the volunteer said.  Yes, it was meant to be.  Because only my Father God could orchestrate this.  Only God, the All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator could save this precious angel for our family.  There are more than 7,000 angels in the Kentuckiana area.  There are multiple locations that have Angel Tree booths.  Yet this 6 year old angel named Heaven was hidden in a box at the mall... for my family.  It just blows my mind!  It was a holy moment.  It was a jaw-dropping moment.  It was a moment where I felt God's intimate love for me in such an incredible way.  What words do I have to thank Him for this moment?  There are no words.  He truly is the God who loves... so personally... so intentionally... so completely.  Psalm 103 resonates with my emotions tied to this angel named Heaven:

Psalm 103:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
Have you experienced God's love in a tangible way?  How do you respond?  Do you journal your experience, so you can go back and remember His awesome love for you?  Do you whisper a prayer of thanks?  Do you break out into song?  My favorite worship song, 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman, is all about blessing the Lord for Who He is. 
What can you bless the Lord for today?  Take a moment and bless Him right now... you can even leave a comment on this blog post.  Pausing to give thanks helps us remember the good things the Lord does for us (Psalm 103:2 NLT).  Let's make it a habit to praise His holy name each day.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Megaphone

When was the last time you used a megaphone?  Don't know?  Me neither. I've seen them used by cheerleaders at ball games, but it's not something that I use often, although sometimes I think I need one in order to get my boys to obey... Can anyone else relate to that?

While I haven't used a megaphone lately, God has used a megaphone with me. Yep, you read it right. He wanted to make sure I got His instructions loud and clear.  And His choice of megaphone actually made me laugh out loud. Let me explain.

With two boys, I get to serve as their chauffeur throughout the day to get them to and from school. We often have the radio on and jam to Christian radio stations. Nothing quite warms this momma's heart like hearing my boys sing a duet to TobyMac's Speak Life... And yet I digress.  On this particular day, every time I got in the car, the same song played at some point while I was driving.  I'd say I heard this song at least three or four times.   (Maybe more because I kinda lost track and just giggled each time it came on after a while). Wanna know the song?  Drum roll please...  Love Take Me Over by Stephen Curtis  Chapman. Check it out:

Catchy song, right?  The line that continues to jump out to me is this:

This is what I'm sure of, I can only show love when I really know how loved I am. Then it overtakes me, then it animates me, flowing from my heart into my hands.

Pretty profound, huh?  Knowing how much God loves us... REALLY knowing His love for us... enables us to love others better.  I'm just now beginning to understand His intentional, intimate love for me. And do you know that He loves you intentionally and intimately too?  It's all over the Bible.  Here's just a few verses that demonstrate His unconditional love for us:

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

John 3:16 (NLT)

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Do you believe that you are loved like these verses describe?  Do you know that Jesus died for you while you were still a sinner?  Did you know that God rejoices over you with singing (like the Love Take Me Over song references)?   God's love for you can be hard to grasp.  Maybe you think you don't deserve this kind of love... and you're right.  None of us deserve this kind of love.  And that's the beauty of it.  We are loved and chosen by our Heavenly Father EVEN THOUGH we don't deserve it!  It's incredible! 
If you have a hard time believing in this radical love, read more about it in the Bible.  Ephesians 1 is a great place to start:  And ask God to help you understand.  James 1:5 NLT reminds us of this:  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.  You can pray a simple prayer by saying, "Father God, I know that Your Word says how much you love me, but I don't understand it.  Please give me Your wisdom.  Help me understand Your love for me.  Thank you for hearing my prayer.  In Jesus' Name, Amen."
You are loved by Your Heavenly Father.  It's true.  And it changes your life when your belief in His love moves from your head to your heart.  Do you hear His megaphone of love inviting you to REALLY believe how loved you are?  Let His love take you over... you won't be the same when it does! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Tears were streaming down my face. It's not often that this parenting journey leads to a broken heart, but today was that day. My son, from the confines of his room, yells down, "I'm sorry , Mommy!"  I call back, "I forgive you."  But my heart still aches. And I begin to think about how God must feel when I rebel, when I purposefully disobey, when I choose my will over His. It pierces my soul. I do the same thing to God that my son did to me.

The discipline resulted from a series of small decisions made by my son... decisions to disobey my instructions over and over again while shopping. It became flat out rebellion and as the consequences escalated, his behavior remained the same.  It was his will, not mommy's will. Trying to contain my frustration and wanting to speak life after being convicted about this earlier in the week, I decided to pray continually and ask God for His divine wisdom. And the consequence that popped into my head was extreme. I did NOT want my son to experience this consequence because I knew how hard it would be on both of us. 

With a sad heart, I explained the consequence to my son. There were no more second chances. If he disobeyed one more time, this consequence would come into play. I asked if he understood. He said yes. Two minutes after we had this discussion, he disobeyed again. The consequence was given. Anger erupted in my son, which triggered another series of poor decisions. My heart was breaking. Parenting is tough. 

When we arrived home, his broken heart was apparent. But there was no repentance in him yet. He was angry and in a final act of defiance, he chose to lock me out of the house as I gathered my things from the car. I attempted to open the door, discovered it was locked, and began to cry. This was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. My heart was already hurting because I knew the consequence was a tough one for my son to swallow, and the fact that he would lock me out when I love him so much and was hurting with him... it was too much for his momma's fragile heart. I demanded he unlock the door. He quickly obeyed. I sent him to his room and cried as I processed the events of the past hour. 

What did I realize?  That I couldn't control my son.  I desperately wanted him to obey my instructions so he would NOT receive consequences.  But no matter how much I WANTED him to obey, I couldn't FORCE him to obey.  He got to choose his response.  And he received the consequence for choice.  Isn't it so hard to watch someone you love make poor decisions when you long for them to receive the blessing that comes from obedience? 

Have you ever considered that God might experience these same feelings?  Think about how His heart breaks when we choose to disobey because He knows we won't like the consequences.  Consider the sorrow He feels as we experience the result of our disobedience.  Ponder how He desperately wants us to obey, however, He lets us make our own decisions.

Can you imagine the pain that God feels when we lock Him out of our lives because we are mad or hurt or angry about our consequences... consequences that we chose when we decided to disobey?  How much do you think it pierces God's heart as He watches us hurt?

And then the conviction came... how many times have I locked God out?  How many times do I run away from His plans like Jonah did?  Or make excuses like Moses, because who am I to do what God's asking me to do?  Ouch!  My son's actions today led to momma being convicted.  Repentance is needed all around in the Snider  house.  And so I'm clinging to this verse today:

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God forgives me completely when I humble myself and admit that I messed up... and God forgives you completely too when you humbly come before His throne and confess your mess.  God doesn't expect perfection, but He does want us to apply 2 Chronicles 7:14:

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land

This grace of God... how He forgives me when I don't deserve it... it blows my mind!  No wonder John penned 1 John 3:1!

1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Are you willing to repent when God convicts you?  Have you locked God out because you're mad about the consequences you've received?  Are you ready to unlock the door, just like my son did, so the One who loves you so much can come in?  Do you believe that Jesus loves you... so much that He died on the cross and rose from the dead, all because He wants you to spend eternity in heaven with Him?  Let this song, Come Away with Me by Jesus Culture, wash over you.  Accept the invitation to open up your heart and let Jesus in.  You won't regret it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Be the Light

"Mommy, why is the light so bright?" My four year old son asked this question as he walked into the bathroom right after he woke up.  His squinty eyes worked hard to block the brightness.  It was too much after sleeping in his dark bedroom all night.  I explained that it takes a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the light.  And within a minute or two, his eyes were ready to welcome the light and all the good that comes from it.

Now let's contrast this conversation with what happened when my four year old son turned off the light right before bed the next evening.  His room transitioned from brightly lit to completely dark with the flip of a switch.  And he did not like the darkness this time.  He couldn't see the way to his bed, and that can be dangerous when a stray toy might be in his path.  So he decided to solve this dilemma by carefully walking to his closet and pulling out his biggest glow in the dark star.  He stuck it to the wall and was satisfied with the little bit of light it offered.  And then, he was ready for bed.

Have you ever considered how our spiritual walk can model my son's experience with light?  When we first hear the truth, it can catch us off guard.  God might gently convict us while reading the Bible or through a sermon or with words from a friend.  We might try to squint our eyes to keep the light of God's truth out because the darkness of our sin is more comfortable.  Yet as we choose to obey... as we repent and ask God to help us change ... as we begin to embrace His way for us... the light doesn't hurt as much.  We start to experience the blessings of our obedience... the blessings that were hidden when we were covered in darkness.  And God's light shines in us, just like Psalm 34:5 promises:  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

It takes time to learn to be the light.  It's not an overnight transformation.  It's a moment by  moment decision to follow Jesus like John 8:12 encourages us to do: 

John 8:12 AMP
Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.

Did you know that Jesus calls us "the light of the world"? 

Matthew 5:14-16 AMP
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [z]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [aa]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

We have a bright role to play in our fallen society.  We are not called to blend in.  We are called to shine by holding tightly to God's word.
Philippians 2:14-16 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

Are you willing to shine brightly for Jesus?  Are you ready to step out of the darkness of sin and embrace the glorious light and freedom that Jesus offers?  It's so worth it because the Light of Jesus reveals beauty.  Just think about it... You can't see the beauty of leaves changing colors in the dark of night.  Obstacles in your path are hidden once the sun sets.  Christ's Light might sting at first, causing you to squint.  Remember to give your spiritual eyes some time to adjust to this new way of life.  Jesus will guide you every step of the way.  Let's learn to be the light... one day at a time. 
And if you need some inspiration on learning to be the light, then check out the song Learning to be the Light by Newworldson:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Speak Life

Have you ever paused to consider what kind of words come out of your mouth?  Do you speak encouraging words or do you tend to have a negative outlook on life?  Are you gentle or harsh?  Kind or hurtful?  Confident in your speech or insecure? 

Words are powerful... they can build you up or tear you down.  And my morning began with unkind words shared among brothers.  These words stung my son.  And while an apology was given, along with five compliments to put a salve on the sting, it just didn't seem to erase the original message.  And so began a day filled with reflections on the power of our spoken words.

While driving the boys to school, Speak Life by Toby Mac played on the radio.  It was a perfect song for my word musings because it poetically explains how our words have power to transform others.  Take a moment and listen to the song:

Guess what?  I discovered that my words were not words of life today.  After my buttons were pushed one too many times this afternoon, calm correction went out the window.  I became impatient and harsh.  My correction was not gentle.  And as I put my son to bed, (the one who received the harsh, impatient words), I started our nightly prayer with a confession... asking God to forgive me for the harsh words spoken to my son.  I thanked God for being so patient with me when I mess up. And I spent some time thanking God for my son and how he brings joy to our family.  (Yep, it was my turn to share compliments after harsh correction.  The Magic Ratio recommends five positive comments for every negative comment.  Unfortunately, I think I'm still in the hole a bit even after the prayer.  Check out this article for a good read on the power of words:  ).  I'm so grateful that God convicted me so my son and I could end our evening with words of life. 

The Bible has lots to say about our words.  I need to keep these verses top of mind... especially when my patience is fading quickly like the sun at sunset. I wonder if these verses will help you too?

Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
James 1:19
 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

Proverbs 15:28
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones

Proverbs 15:23
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
2 Timothy 2:25
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Ouch!  These verses convict me.  I find that sometimes it's easier to put these verses into practice with those outside my family, however, I'm called to watch my tongue all the time.  This is definitely something I can't do on my own. And you know what?  God doesn't expect us to do this on our own.  He tells us in Philippians 4:13 NIrV, "I can do all things through the power of Christ.  He gives me strength."  Isn't that encouraging?  And one way to tap into Christ's strength with our words is to pray this simple verse each morning:  Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.  (Psalm 141:3 NLT).

While reflecting on how I corrected my son today, God reminded me to tap into His divine wisdom when I'm in the heat of battle... when I'm on the verge of choosing unwholesome talk instead of words that will build others up (Ephesians 4:29).  How?  By putting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 into practice:  Pray continually.  That's right... God invites us to pause BEFORE we speak and ask Him for wisdom.  We can stop and ask God to speak through us.  Trust me, this is not my first reaction... stopping in the heat of the moment to pray and ask God to speak instead of me.  But I can imagine the positive results if I did pause before speaking... can you?
Tomorrow is a new day.  I get a fresh start... and you do too.  Let's tap into Christ's strength and choose to speak life today, one conversation at a time.
So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak...
You speak Life (From Speak Life by Toby Mac)


Friday, October 11, 2013

Speaking Lion

Do you remember the line from Finding Nemo where Dory confidently claims, "I speak whale!" and then proceeds to prove it?  Well, I've come to discover that my son speaks lion.  I know, it's hard to believe, but I've witnessed this talent on more than one occasion at the zoo.  Let me explain his latest demonstration of "speaking lion."

During a recent visit to the zoo, we witnessed several kids yelling "Lion!" at the lion exhibit.  The male and female lion were sleeping and didn't budge at the noise.  My son approached and joined in the fun, yelling "Lion!" with the other kiddos, and nothing changed.  Then, my son started to roar.  And when my son roars, it starts at his toes and travels up through his body.  Then, it explodes out of his mouth.  Yet my son's mighty roar had no impact on the lions.  They didn't move.  My son is one persistent kid, so he didn't give up that easily.  After a series of roars that might shake your ear drums, the lioness got up.  She started nudging the lion, who then roared back.  It was so exciting to watch it unfold!  And then, after a few minutes, the lioness nuzzled her king affectionately and led him to the cave.  I think they had enough of human lion speak!  

I was surprised to watch how the two lions communicated.  A simple nuzzle, a few laps around the lion king and walking toward the cave was all it took for the lioness to influence her "man" to follow her to a new location.  I never witnessed that before.  It was fascinating to watch this intimate exchange.

Have you ever thought about how God communicates with you?  How God speaks __________ (insert your name here)?  Is it through the Bible?  Nature?  Biblical blog posts?  A Tweet?  Your pastor?  Words from a friend?  Something else?  God used some creative communication strategies to get me to follow Him recently.  While it wasn't a roar or an actual nudge, He made His plans so clear to me.  I'm calling it "The rest of the story..."  (Insert Paul Harvey's distinctive voice here.)

In my last blog post (Confident Confrontation), I shared how I became confused after receiving new information regarding a family decision.  We prayed and conducted research, God provided wisdom, and we decided to stick with our original plan.  Peace was back.  And now for the rest of the story...

The same day my Confident Confrontation blog posted on Facebook, I received a phone call that encouraged us to change our original plan.  We were at a crossroads... again.  And if I was in typical Heather-mode, this new information could have sent me in a worried tailspin... leading me right back to where I started... worrying about what decision to make and if we were doing the right thing.  But you know what?  God didn't let that happen.  God made sure He was "speaking Heather" so I would confidently follow Him down this new path.

How did God "speak Heather," you ask?  First, He made sure that my husband and I both received the same information independently.  Then, God validated His plan by having the new information perfectly synch up with data I gathered during the research phase.  And to top it all off, His peace covered me as I received this information.  This peace was truly the peace that passes all understanding that God promises when we choose to present our requests to God instead of worrying.

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
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.

My husband and I agreed on the new direction.  We decided to follow where God was leading us, just like the lion followed where the lioness led him.  And God walked before us, opening all the necessary doors to get us where He wanted us to be.  I'm in awe of His love and how He's constantly at work, speaking in the ways that we understand best because He designed us and knows exactly how to communicate with us. 

Are you confused?  Maybe you're in the midst of a worried tailspin.  If so, ask God to communicate in your language.  Ask God to "speak __________."  (Insert your name here).  And then be willing to wait for His answer like Psalm 62:5 (AMP) encourages us to do:

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him.

Then, after you hear from God, choose to follow where He leads you.  The lion didn't have to follow the lioness.  My hubby and I didn't have to change our decision.  We had to choose to seek God and trust His leading.  We had to choose to put Proverbs 3:5-6 into practice: 

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Are you willing to trust God?  Are you willing to follow where He's leading you?  If not, what's holding you back?  Let this song, He Is With Us by Love and The Outcome, inspire you to trust God completely and follow where He’s leading because He really is with us... always.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Confident Confrontation

What comes to mind when you read the word Viper?  A fancy car?  A poisonous snake?  Fear?  Anxiety?  For me, the answer is a poisonous snake.  Why?  Because I got to see a viper up close and personal at the zoo this past weekend.  I would typically run far away from any type of snake, but when there is a 6 inch piece of glass separating me from its poisonous fangs, there's nothing to fear, right? And so with great courage, I approached the glass.  The viper's face was front and center, and he looked right at me.  I put my face as close to the glass as my hat would allow, and the snake looked me straight in the eye for a moment, and then slithered away.  He repositioned his head away from the glass so he couldn't see me any more.  Hmmmm... I thought.  Pretty interesting that the snake slithered away when confidently confronted. 

My thoughts then turned to the Garden of Eden, equating this viper with the serpent that tempted Eve.  Remember how Eve entertained the serpent's questions, allowing the serpent (aka Satan) to plant seeds of doubt in her mind?  And remember how Eve ultimately disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit? (Genesis 3:1-13)  How would things have been different if Eve fought Satan with confidence, using her sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17) to defeat the lies hurled her way...

Satan carries many descriptions in the Bible:  liar, murderer, and father of lies (John 8:44); a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8); a thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and a schemer (Ephesians 6:11).  He's good at what he does... and what he does is no good.  We can so easily fall prey to his schemes, lies and tricks if we are not watching out for him. 

I fell into one of his subtle traps this week.  A major decision was made on behalf of my family and I was at peace with it.  This is kinda uncharacteristic of me because I've been known to worry about decisions of this nature.  It felt great to trust God with where He was leading our family.  And it was exciting to think that I was growing in my faith.  And then... dun, dun, duuuuun... I randomly come across a piece of information that took that peace and tossed it to the wind.  Doubt filled my head.  Worry crept in and found a nice home in my mind.  And the wrestling began.  What do I do with this new information?  Is it God guiding or Satan inviting confusion to stir up worry and doubt when I was at peace?  What do we need to do? 

I spent the next day praying, wrestling through our options, discussing the situation with my hubby and getting advice from someone with experience in this area.  It is such a blessing to have those trusted people you can turn to when you're faced with big decisions that are muddied with your emotions.  I was blessed to have my hubby and friend think clearly for me when I couldn't think clearly on my own.   

With a strategy in place and prayers lifted up, the research phase began.  And within 24 hours, I received the answers I needed to confirm our original decision.  God was faithful...  we asked for His divine wisdom (James 1:5), and He provided.  And peace has found it's home again in my heart and mind. 

It would have been easy to stay on the worry, doubt, insecure path that I started on... but God protected me.  He answered prayers.  He exposed Satan's confusion.  And I can stand firm and look Satan directly in the eye and watch him slither away, just like the viper at the zoo did. 

Are any of you on the worry and doubt path?  If so, ask God for His divine wisdom.  And then apply James 1:6, or you might find yourself right back on the worry path again...

James 1:5-6  New International Version (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Don't let Satan blow and toss you around with his lies and schemes.  You have the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) as your weapon to defeat him.  And he doesn't stand a chance when you confidently claim the promises of God's word.  You have the power... use it and watch Satan slither away.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Missed the Boat? There's Still Hope...

During a meeting yesterday, we were presented with the opportunity to Praise God.  Kinda a cool way to start off a meeting, huh?  And the praises shared were touching.  I knew immediately what I needed to share... but it wasn't a touchy, feely response.  In fact, it came from a place of pain after feeling like I missed the boat.  And here's what I shared:  "I praise God for being a God of second chances.  I'm thankful that when I miss the boat, it doesn't mean that He won't send it back for me again." And that is God's grace in action.  Let me explain.
I was working on an event for about a month and had some random thoughts about inviting some people to attend that maybe hadn't heard about it.  Some friends even shared ideas about who to invite.  I made a mental note and thought "I should make this happen."  The week of the event arrived and my time was filled with urgent things that needed to get done.  Needless to say, the invitations didn't happen.  And during the event, a story was shared that took my breath away... but not in a "that's amazing" way.  Instead, it felt like I was punched in the stomach because the story applied specifically to a group that I planned to invite.  I was humbled, mortified, and really just wanted to find a room and cry my eyes out because I missed the boat.  I felt like I totally let God down.  I wonder... have you ever felt this way? 
I was boarding the self-condemnation train right then and there.  It was ready to leave the station for a long ride down a fast hill into the pit that Satan had waiting for me.  But God had a different plan.  And I'm incredibly thankful that He knows me so well that He stopped the train from leaving the station by having someone ask me to pray for them.  Nothing like praying for someone else to take the focus off yourself, right?  Then, God protected me yet again from the condemnation train by reminding me to be social.  So I obeyed and thankfully, I avoided the condemnation train this time.  (Need more information on the difference between conviction and condemnation?  Check out this blog post:
After the event ended, I was feeling convicted about missing the boat.  And as I journaled my confession and asked for forgiveness, God reminded me that just because I didn't invite them, it didn't mean that He would stop pursuing them.  He reminded me that it's not just about me and He let me know that I was completely forgiven.  I can't tell you how thankful I am for God's grace... for God's UNCONDITIONAL love... that He loves me when I obey and when I don't... that His love for me is constant and unchanging and NOT based on my performance.  He just loves me... He just loves you... all the time.   
Believe it or not, this is not the end of the story.  Over the course of the next day, God brought the boat I missed right back to the dock and invited me to get the message to those same people, just in a different format.  I was in awe... God would still use me?  After I missed the boat the first time?  He was giving me a second chance, and this time, I was going to obey.  I made the connection and as of today, there is a plan in motion for this group to receive the message God has for them.  How incredible is that?  God doesn't give up on us when we mess up!  And He may even bring the boat right back to the dock so we can obey.  It just blows my mind!
Know who this reminds me of?  Jonah.  Yep, Jonah was God's prophet and he missed the boat too.  Except he didn't just get distracted by urgent tasks like I did.  He actually ran the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3) because he didn't like what God was inviting him to do.  And that, my friends, landed Jonah in the belly of a large fish for three days, where Jonah had plenty of time to do some reflecting.  Check out Jonah's prayer:

Jonah 2 New Living Translation (NLT) 

[a]Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,[b]
    and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
    and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
    I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
    Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
    and the waters closed over me.
    Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
    I was imprisoned in the earth,
    whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
    snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
    I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
    in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
    turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
    and I will fulfill all my vows.
    For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
 Don't you love verse 2?  "I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and Lord, you heard me!"  Jonah had caused his own great trouble by running from God and God not only heard Jonah's prayer, but He also rescued him and gave Jonah a second chance.  God gave me a second chance too.  And guess what?  God has a second chance waiting for you... waiting for everyone.  Why?  Because God is the God of shocking, scandalous grace (Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?, 1997)
Have you missed the boat?  Are you on the self-condemnation train, deep in the pit of guilt and shame?  Know that God loves you... wherever you are.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, instead of your mess.  Why?  Because Jesus died on the cross to save us from ALL our sin, ALL our mistakes, ALL the times we miss the boat.  All we have to do is invite Jesus into our hearts to become our Lord and Savior and we are rescued for all of eternity.  (If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9).
If you're feeling overcome with shame, guilt and regret, then take a moment and pray these verses to God.  Do this daily or even moment by moment if you need to. 

Psalm 40:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
God wants to rescue you.  Will you surrender and let Him?  He's waiting. 

Need some more encouragement?  Then listen to Hurricane by Natalie Grant.  And know that when you call His name, He'll find you in the hurricane.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Be Here Now

Back in my corporate America days, the company I worked for had a slogan called “Be Here Now.”  Pretty simple statement, right?  And of course, that’s what we want… to be completely engaged in the moment.  But I often find myself in a “Be Here Kinda” state.  You know, the state where you are kinda engaged.  It goes something like this… you’re chatting with your friend on the phone and are kinda listening because you’re checking your Facebook page at the same time.  Or you’re playing with your kids, but aren’t completely engaged because you’re kinda thinking about all the other things you need to check off your To Do list.  Or you’re sitting in church and kinda planning where you’re going to lunch when it’s over… while your pastor is preaching.  I bet you could come up with a million other scenarios of “Be Here Kinda.” 

What’s so important about “Be Here Now?”  You miss out… on that piece of information that could have brought you a belly laugh if you had caught all the details.  Or seeing the delight in a child’s eyes because she knows that she has your complete attention.  Or…

Francessa Battestelli has a song that’s on this topic called Don’t Miss It.  Take a moment and listen to the lyrics.

Convicting, huh?  I’ve been convicted about this lately.  And I’m learning the value of truly engaging.  Take a recent school night, for example.  It was bedtime for my boys but they wanted to play chase as a family.  And when Daddy plays chase, it’s super fun!  So the deal was one song.  The four of us ran around our house, singing, dancing and laughing our heads off.  And when it was over… and past bedtime… and the boys begged for one more song… and Daddy said yes… I played chase too, as if it was 7 pm and we had all the time in the world.   It felt great to Be Here Now… fully engaged with my family doing something silly and fun right before bed. And it’s a memory that I will treasure in my heart.

If I had to think of someone who’s an expert in “Be Here Now,” it’s Jesus.  Just think about it… He was constantly interrupted with people who needed His help.  And He fully engaged with them.  The story of Jesus healing a bleeding woman highlights how Jesus chose to “Be Here Now” rather than “Be Here Kinda.”  Check out Luke 8:40:47:

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[c] but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

The story begins with Jesus being approached by Jairus, a synagogue leader desperately pleading for Jesus to come and save his dying daughter.  And Jesus agreed.  As Jesus embarked on the journey to Jarius’ house, “the crowds almost crushed Him” (v. 42).  I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of people crowding around Jesus for it to be described as crushing.  And in the midst of the crushing crowd, Jesus notices a specific touch.  One touch… when the crowd is crushing Him… caught His attention.  So much so, that He asks “Who touched me?” (v. 45) and Peter reminds Jesus that “the people are crowding and pressing against you” (v. 45).  But Jesus was in tune with what was going on and He didn’t let Peter’s explanation deter His mission to find out who touched Him.  The bleeding woman confessed and Jesus stopped to engage with this woman, affirming that her faith had healed her.  And then Jesus continued on His journey to Jarius’ house. 

Isn’t that incredible?  Jesus was on an important journey to heal a 12 year old girl, but He wasn’t so focused that He missed the opportunity to heal someone else along the way.  He stopped His journey to “Be Here Now” with the bleeding woman.  And she was forever changed by her interaction with Jesus. 

What about you?  Would people describe you as “Be Here Now” or “Be Here Kinda?”  If you fall into the “Be Here Kinda” category, what changes can you make to so you “don’t miss it?” It’s worth the effort to “Be Here Now.”  Are you willing to give it a try? 


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Color Red

It's time for another dog story.  Yep, I'm full of interesting animal observations, thanks to my morning walk.  This latest observation occurred earlier this summer.  Are you ready?  Drum roll please... dogs don't like the color red.  I know... it's crazy!  And I have to admit, it's not scientifically proven.  This is just based on my personal experience.  So if you find articles that prove me wrong, consider this my disclaimer. 

Here's how I discovered that dogs have an aversion to red.  I have lots of red workout clothes... shirts, shorts, you name it.  And I am NOT a fashionista in the mornings.  I grab whatever is available and I'm out the door.  Matching is not on my mind that early.  So a few mornings in a row, I wore a red shirt.  And the dogs (who were either leashed or behind a fence, for which I am eternally grateful!!) went nuts!  They barked and growled at me.  The moment that sealed the deal was when a dog literally stopped and was standing in attack mode while his owner was walking him across the street from me.  The man even commented about how the dog responded to my presence.  I just shared my perspective... dogs don't like red.  And he agreed.

What things turn you off?  Is it a color?  Type of music?  Personality style?  Movie?  Food?  There are many things in our lives that make us want to bark, so to speak.  Have you ever heard why people aren't a fan of Christianity?  The answer is often Christians are hypocrites.  Our hypocrisy can be like the color red to a dog... making them want to either attack us or run away from the One who can save their souls. 

Hypocrite is defined as:

1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings  
Ouch!  Guess what?  This describe me.  And quite frankly, I bet it describes you too.  Wanna know why?  Because we're all sinners.  I love Jesus and I desire to live a life that honors Him.  But I mess up... daily, hourly, by the minute.  I know I should be gentle, and I want to be gentle, but in the heat of the moment, harshness can spill out of my mouth.   So what's a gal to do?  Repent.  Confess that I messed up and I know that's not how God wants me to act.  And start praying scriptures about gentleness, asking God to help me become more gentle.  Here's some to get you started if you struggle with gentleness too:

Proverbs 15:4 Amplified Bible (AMP)

A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life, but willful contrariness in it breaks down the spirit.

 2 Timothy 2:25 Amplified Bible (AMP)

25 He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it],

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
I wonder if part of the reason people see Christians as hypocrites is because we judge?  Or act like we are better than others?  Or say one thing, and then do just the opposite?  Or choose not to forgive?  Or...?
I wonder how the hypocrisy perception would change if we just came clean and let others know that we are a mess.  What if we were vulnerable and shared that we sin too?  What if we admit that we can't measure up... and that's exactly why we need Jesus?  What would happen if we explained that God doesn't expect perfection because Jesus was perfect on our behalf?  Would they look at God differently if we shared that God's love is truly unconditional?  That He loves us all the time... whether we do the right thing or mess up big time, God's love doesn't change at all.  What if we let others know how much we need Jesus as our Savior.. and how they need Jesus too?  Would our vulnerability open the door to a deeper discussion about how to invite Jesus into their hearts?  Would our color change from red to a more pleasant yellow?  Would the term hypocrisy be replaced with the word authentic? 
Are you willing to give it a try?  Be vulnerable?  Can you let go of your desire to "appear" like you have it all together, when in fact, it feels like everything is falling apart?  Is it worth the risk?  Can you trust God enough to see how He can use your mess for good?  Because that's one of His promises:
Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
What is God asking you to do right now?  Take action.  Trust Him with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).  And invite Him to do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) as you follow His lead.  Who knows how He can use your authenticity to lead others to Him? 
And if you're looking for more information on the subject of hypocrisy, check out the link below from my pastor's blog.  You don't want to miss his "Dust if you must" illustration.  You won't look at cleaning the same way again...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Got some hurt?

When was the last time someone hurt your feelings?  Or made you REALLY angry?  If I had to guess, I bet each person reading this could think of more than one example for each question. 

So what do you do with your hurt and anger?  Let me see if I can guess...  Some of you call your best friend and replay the event detail by detail and then tell it again because you forgot a detail or two.  You vent your frustration and hope to get others on your side.  Some of you confront the person and give them a piece of your mind.  How dare they treat you like this?  They need to know that a boundary was crossed and you won't tolerate it.  Some of you keep quiet and let it fester behind the scenes... until it festers so long that a root of bitterness grows.  And some of you stop and pray about the situation, asking God to give you His wisdom on how to handle the emotions swirling through your head.  And after you receive God's answer, you obey... even if it's uncomfortable because you trust that God knows best and you have confidence that He will empower you to do what He asks. 

I think I can fit into each category... and quite honestly, I probably fit into multiple categories with a single incident.  I wonder if you do this too?  You call someone to vent, then let it fester for a bit.  And hopefully, you feel God's gentle conviction that this is not His plan for you, so you confess your sin, receive His forgiveness, and ask for His help. 

I had a situation some time ago that triggered anger in me. I had multiple instances with someone that had piled up over time and I was mad.  What I didn't realize, until I talked it though with some people, was that I wasn't just angry... I was hurt too.  Understanding that hurt was linked to my anger was helpful to me.  And God, out of His amazing love for me, provided this Twitter post from Sue Detweiler to show me how to handle my hurt and anger.  I wonder if this will help you too?

Pray For Blessing

How do you treat people who have hurt you?

God’s word tells us to practice forgiveness in practical ways. He tells us to pray for people that have hurt us and to bless them (Luke 6:27-28) You may not feel like they deserve it, but by obeying God’s word and praying for those who have hurt you,  you will find that it changes your heart first. By praying for someone else you stop dwelling on all the toxic thoughts that lead to toxic words that lead to toxic emotions and simply pray for God’s goodness, mercy, love and forgiveness to surround those that have hurt you. Try it and see God bless you.

Ouch!  That convicted me because to be honest, I didn't really feel like blessing the person who hurt me.  I was mad.  But I also understood that this would help me change my "toxic thoughts," so I decided to give it a try.  I looked up the scriptures she recommended and started to pray them over the person who hurt me by plugging in the individual's name.  I wonder if you need to do the same.  Take a moment and give it a try.  Here are the scriptures:

1 Peter 4:8 NIV
Love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. 
Romans 12:14 Amplified Bible (AMP)
14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. 
Luke 6:27-28, 31-33, 35-37 Amplified Bible (AMP)
27 But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred,

28 Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you].

31 And as you would like and desire that men would do to you, do exactly so to them.

32 If you [merely] love those who love you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you? For even [t]the [very] sinners love their lovers (those who love them).

33 And if you are kind and good and do favors to and benefit those who are kind and good and do favors to and benefit you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you? For even the preeminently sinful do the same.

35 But love your enemies and be kind and do good [doing favors so that someone derives benefit from them] and lend, expecting and hoping for nothing in return but considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your recompense (your reward) will be great (rich, strong, intense, and abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful and the selfish and wicked.

36 So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these].

37 Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released.

As I was praying these verses, I became even more convicted.  Yep, these scriptures pointed out my OWN sin while I was blessing the person who hurt me.  My attitude was not very pretty.  I wasn't loving like I should.  I wasn't treating them like I wanted to be treated.  And I definitely wasn't being like Jesus, who loves everyone no matter what they do.  God used these verses to change my thinking.  He exposed my own sin in the situation and He encouraged me to be more like Jesus.  And guess what?  Doing this daily transformed my attitude toward this person.  Shortly after I started doing this, God's did immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) by using this person to bless me in a big way.  I would not have received this incredible blessing if I was still harboring my hurt and anger. 

I wonder what blessing is waiting for you if you choose to obey God's command to bless those who hurt you?  Can you imagine how wonderful it would feel to be set free from the anger and hurt that is weighing you down?  Are you willing to say yes to this invitation to bless those who hurt you?  Then commit to pray these verses daily... and see how God blesses your obedience.