Sunday, October 31, 2010

When October Goes

One of Barry Manilow's most beautiful ballads, "When October Goes," is playing on my computer as I write this last entry of October.  There was a time when I would grow wistful this time of year as I remembered a magical kiss that awakened a deep love for someone who is no longer a part of my life.  Now I glory in the magic of this month as I celebrate the time I first met my husband and soul-mate twenty five years ago. 

Tonight Steve is out with my daughter trick-or-treating.  For the third year in a row he is outfitted in his Darth Vader costume, being the kid he's always been inside.  That's one thing I love about him.  Not only he is an overgrown kid, he is absolutely the best dad my kids could have!

In keeping with tradition I made hot dogs for dinner.  That's something my mother used to do every year before sending us off into the night.   I think she hoped we would fill up on hot dogs so we wouldn't gorge on candy, but that never worked.  We started eating candy upon departing the first house but always arrived home with enough to make mountains in the middle of the floor.  With six kids, competition was fierce.  We all wanted to see who could get the most candy and spent what seemed like hours bargaining with each other to trade this piece for that. 

Tonight I am sitting home enjoying a few peaceful moments, hoping that a trick-or-treater or two will come by so I can make a fuss and enjoy the chubby little hands plunging into my candy bowl.  I am thinking of my mom and imagining how she relished the quiet when we all took to the streets while she stayed home cleaning up the mess left by a bunch of hungry and excited neighborhood kids.

My husband is proof that one can never be too old to trick-or-treat.  And the little one who just came to my door, pushed in a stroller by his beaming, proud parents, has proved that one can't be too young!  He probably won't remember this Halloween, but I will never forget the joys of trick-or-treating as a child or of taking my kids out when they were little.

It won't be long before my kids are too old to trick-or-treat.  When that time comes, perhaps I will again be sad to see October go.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Master or Mastercard? Breaking the Debt Cycle

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." -- Proverbs 22:7

Dave Ramsey, notably one of the foremost consumer finance experts, has said that sometimes you just have to get mad in order to make any progress eliminating personal debt.  Getting mad isn't quite enough for most of us.  We also have to take on extra jobs or deprive ourselves of things designed to make life easier and more enjoyable, like fast food meals, cellular and computer technology, and even family vacations.  Dave Ramsey, where were you before I got into debt?

One of the most difficult things in my personal struggle with debt reduction has been drawing the line when it comes to paying my bills.  By that I mean listing my expenses in priority order, then stopping when there isn't any money left, even if it means paying a creditor late or sending in just a partial payment.  All too often, I have cheated God by not paying my tithe, or paying my Mastercard on time then using it to buy items like groceries, gas, and other expenditures that should typically be paid for with cash.  Talk about a vicious cycle!  For all my effort, I'm still making painfully slow progress.  I'm sure God must just roll his eyes and shake his head some days, wondering if I'll ever get the hang of good stewardship!

Recently I went back to work part-time to help accelerate our debt repayment and accomplish some other personal goals.  Since I have yet to collect my first paycheck, money is still really tight, but I have decided to break the cycle TODAY.  My tithe is paid, I have set aside a minimal amount of cash to cover living expenses, and I have postponed paying a couple of creditors until the money is there.  No more charging!  No more relying on Mastercard to fund my daily living expenses -- it's time I trusted in the Master to keep his promises!  He has proven faithful to me many times, although I have not always been a faithful steward of what he has entrusted to me.

Who is your master?  Jehovah Jireh, your Provider, or Visa and American Express?  It is time we learn to be satisfied with God, be content with the basic necessities of life, and walk in the financial freedom that comes from trusting in the Master to provide all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prayer Partners

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." -- Ephesians 6:18

Intercessory prayer (praying for others) is a spiritual discipline that very few possess, but it is one that we all need to exercise consistently.  Although I have been a Christian for a number of years, praying was not something I understood or was good at for a number of years.  As I matured in my understanding, however, and realized that prayer was simply an ongoing conversation with God, I found myself praying more.  In Scripture, we are commanded to "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Is it possible to even do that?

There is such a great need for intercessory prayer among the people of God.  Whether for personal healing or the healing of loved ones, financial provision, or simply strength to get through the day, our lives are made better when we are carried on the prayers of those who know and love us.  And we possess the power to bless others by praying for them.

There are three things that have truly revolutionized my prayer life.  The first is realizing that Jesus himself prays for me.  Toward the end of his life as Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, he prayed not only for the believers he would be leaving to carry on his work, but also for those who have not yet believed.  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:20-21). 

The second is knowing that even when I don't know how to pray or what to pray for, the Holy Spirit does.  "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (Romans 8:26-27).

The third thing that has revolutionized my prayer life is the practice of journaling, or "praying through my pen."  Over the past thirty-five years, my journals have evolved from the simple diary entries of a teenage girl to sometimes lengthy prayers to the God I love and serve.  Journaling keeps me focused and reduces the tendency for my mind to wander, as often happens when we pray.  When I sit down to pray and begin writing, I write as though I am communicating with a dear friend.  Certainly Jesus is the dearest friend of all.  Before I know it, I find that I have prayed for an hour or more!

If you struggle with intercessory prayer, keep in mind that we all need the prayer covering of the saints and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying for and with you, even at times when you can't find the words.  Try keeping a prayer journal, not only to keep you focused in prayer but to record God's answers to your prayers. 

It has been said that prayer changes things.  Be alert to the needs of those around you today and offer up a quick prayer in their behalf.  Before long, not only will you see God working in their lives, but you will realize that your own life has changed for the better!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All in God's Timing

"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands." (Psalm 31:14-15)

After four and a half years of job-hunting, praying, and waiting, often impatiently, for God to answer my prayers regarding finances and employment, I found myself employed again after the swiftest interview process I have ever experienced.  In one day I was interviewed twice and offered the part-time position I now hold!  Many times during that lengthy season of unemployment, I was reminded that God is never late, but rather that he is in control and always on time.

Like many who find themselves in a similar situation, I could have been despondent and worked tirelessly to fix this problem myself.  At times, I did try to manage things for God.  But for the most part, I allowed God to have his way in my life, making the most of the time to draw closer to him and allow him to develop my character and gifts.  Was it easy?  Heavens no!  The process was very painful at times, but God was faithful and always present to fill me with his peace.  He provided for our needs in some very unexpected ways and demonstrated that if we would simply trust him for today's needs, he would supply them. 

You may be waiting on a job or praying for the Lord to deliver a loved one from addiction or a lifestyle of sin.  Keep praying!  If  you are praying in accordance with God's will, he will answer you in due season.  While you are waiting, fortify your faith by reading his Word and leaning on his promises to you.  Know that God's "no" often leads to a greater yes, and that his purpose and plans for your life are good.  Surrender your problems, hopes, and dreams to God and give him permission to complete the good work he has started in you.  Then one day, when your season of waiting has passed, you will be able to look back and see the amazing ways God worked in and through your life to provide for your needs and encourage those beside you on the journey.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

That We May See His Face

"But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head." -- Psalm 3:3

At the end of my first day of work I found myself restless and agitated because of an unpleasant family matter that required my attention.  As is often the case, I found myself a little too disturbed to simply crawl into bed, so I opted to meet with the Lord in my La-Z-Boy, pour out my heart to him, and read his Word.  I never cease to be amazed at what a calming effect that can have!  Sometimes we have to learn that all our advice-seeking from others is no substitute for a heart-to-heart conversation with God.  After all, he is the one with all the answers anyway.

As I prayed through the concerns of my heart, I ran across the above verse from Psalms and began singing in my heart, "Thou, O LORD, are a shield about me.  You're my glory; you're the lifter of my head."  It was just a simple little chorus, but one that brought me great comfort.  As I worshipped him in my heart, I realized that sometimes when we are down, God gently lifts our chin with his hand so that we may see his face.  Only when our eyes are focused on him and the truths of his Word can we find the peace which often eludes us as we struggle with the challenges of everyday life.

No matter what difficulties I have faced today or might anticipate tomorrow, "I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the LORD sustains me" (Psalm 3:5).  Forget the sleep aids!  Spending the last few minutes of a busy and difficult day with the Lord is often all we need to settle down for peaceful night's slumber. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Beginnings

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." -- 1 Peter 4:10-11

Like you, I am a work in progress.  Crafted by the Master, we are each unique in so many ways.  We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," writes the psalmist (Psalm 139:14).  We possess different gifts and abilities, body shapes and hair color, and personalities of every conceivable variety.  Because of our uniqueness, God is able to accomplish his work on the earth, reaching the lost and encouraging the weary.  That's where you and I come in.

Life is full of new beginnings.  As I prepare to start a new job, I can look back over the past few years of my life and see how God has worked all things together for my good (Romans 8:28), to prepare me for this new occupation.  This job will be unlike any I have had in the past, but I am confident that I will be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17) because of the Word of God which dwells in me and the life experiences that God has allowed to make me the person I am today.

A new job or other life change doesn't necessarily signal the end of a season.  For instance, I will continue to write and market my books, be the best mom I can be, and minister to those God puts in my path.  But it does signal a new adventure, a chance to grow in God's grace and have a positive impact on the lives of those we will meet on the journey.  Charles Dederich said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  Yet the Bible tells us that we do not know what will happen tomorrow (James 4:13).  Therefore, it is important that we make the most of today and live it in the abundance that God intended, serving and loving others according to the example of his own Son, Jesus.

Every day can be a new beginning if we are open to what God wants to do in our lives.  If you are not certain what he wants to do in your life, spend some time with him at the start of each day and ask him to direct your steps.  He will.  God delights in working in a life that is surrendered to his will and loving people through those who know him intimately. 

The most important new beginning of all is the moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus by asking him into your heart to save you from your sins.  If you haven't done that yet, make today your new beginning and enjoy the journey of walking with Jesus day by day.  It will be the best decision you ever make and the start of the greatest adventure you will ever have!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Will the Real Enemy Please Stand Up?

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -- Romans 12:20-21

When we are at odds with another individual, we have a tendency to view that person as the enemy.  If we are engaged in a conflict with our teenager, for instance, it is easy to blame him with the negative impact his poor choices have on our family life or our reputation as parents.  We fault him with our own bad mood and negative response to his actions, hesitant to accept our own responsibility for the conflict.  After all, it takes two to tango, doesn't it?

Family squabbles are not always the result of one family member set on destroying the harmony that God desires for our relationships with one another.  Quite often the real enemy is Satan himself, the great deceiver who would have us believe that the offending family member is the enemy and that we should do everything we can to punish the offender.  As the parent of a teenager, I am often guilty of negatively reinforcing my son's bad behavior and choices by meting out unnecessarily harsh punishment rather than loving him for who he is, despite the undesirable behavior he exhibits from time to time.

The verses selected above have convicted me this week of my failure to display unconditional love toward those who make me cranky, particularly members of my own family.  I am a little too quick to say "You're on your own, Bud!" when my son is running behind schedule.  Would it kill me to actually offer to help him in some way, even if I don't feel he deserves my help?  Even when the offense is more serious than simple tardiness, I must learn to love him not on the basis of what he's done, but on the basis of who he is...God's child in need of grace.

We all need a little more grace, and we need to extend it freely to others just as Christ offers it to us.  The next time we are hesitant to love someone we feel is undeserving, perhaps we should consider just how undeserving we were when Christ went to the cross for us. 

Lord, loving others is not our strong suit, particularly when people irritate and annoy us.  Help us to remember that we, too, are guilty of such behavior in your eyes, but that you love us anyway, warts and all.  Help us to overcome the evil we see in others by loving them as you first loved us. In Jesus' name.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Untold Story of the Prodigal's Mother

Hopeless. In a word, that is exactly how she must have felt as her son disappeared over the horizon with not so much as a backward glance over his shoulder. How had their relationship managed to deteriorate so badly? It seemed only days ago that they had sat beside one another in the breeze of a warm summer evening, watching the sun set over the pasture below as the sheep bleated to one another after a long day of lazy grazing.

She remembered the day he was born. After months of waiting and dreaming of the great things her son would accomplish, he arrived just before the bitter chill of winter set in. The harvest had been plentiful that year and there was much to celebrate. Now just days after his birth, the family had gathered around a table laden with the earth’s richest fares, rejoicing not only in God’s bountiful blessings but also in the new life asleep in his mother’s arms.

The first few months were joyful ones for her as she nursed her little one and cradled him often. What special moments they had together! Always dreaming of the special plans God had for him, she prayed for the child, as he lay nestled at her breast, hopeful that Jehovah would capture the heart of her little boy and grow him into a great man of God. Remembering the stories of Moses, Abraham, Joseph, and David, her imagination ran wild with thoughts of all the ways God might use him to reveal the truth regarding His own Son, the Messiah. Surely God’s hand would be with her son all the days of his life, as he followed in the footsteps of his parents and older brother by living a life of dedicated service to their God.

Her son, like so many other young boys his age, was taught the stories of the patriarchs, the apostles, and the prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah. He knew of the miracles Jesus had performed. But there were those in the temple who preached a different message, who used their position and influence to deceive many who believed. Before long, questions began to swirl around in his mind, confusing him and weakening his faith. What if all those stories about God were not true?

When her son began voicing some of those questions and spending his time with those known to hold different beliefs from theirs, she became alarmed. She prayed. She spoke the truth. She could tell her son was slipping away from them, changing somehow, but there was little she could do to stop what was happening. Her own frustrations and fears tormented her. Their relationship, once so close and endearing, became one of strain and conflict. Although the truths of what he had been taught had not changed, his beliefs had, and she was losing the battle.

As her son challenged the boundaries of God’s commands and his parents’ convictions, feelings of love between the son and his parents gave way to anger and resentment toward them. Frustrated by her own inability to get through to him, the mother became despondent and depressed, feeling as though somehow she had failed him and the God who had entrusted her with this young man’s life. It was more than she could bear.

As his rebellious attitude and restlessness escalated, she knew it was inevitable that one day her son would leave. How she had prayed that God would somehow soften his heart and rekindle it with passion for God and His truth! But that day never came. Having enough of religious traditions and the restrictions he felt they imposed on his individuality, he asked for his inheritance, packed up his belongings, and set out in search of freedom—freedom from religious mores, outlandish beliefs, and a holiness that was impossible for any man to attain. Surely the pastures of a foreign land would be greener than the ones he had called home.

The day he left was a day of great pain, yet relief of sorts for his mother, who had been subjected to his tirades and the unending questions by those who surely blamed her for the disgraceful direction his life had taken. Because the father was away herding sheep much of the time, he could not appreciate the depth of frustration and pain the mother had suffered as she watched her son pull away from them, day by day. Although the son’s decision to leave came as no surprise to her, the father was left stunned by his son’s insistence that he be given his share of the inheritance. It was clear that he had no intention of returning home—ever.

The older son, seething with resentment, had watched as his younger brother heaped insults and disrespect on his parents for months. He had been there to comfort his mother one time too many. For him, this day had not come too quickly. He was glad to see his brother go, although he couldn’t stand the fact that his father had given that undeserving wretch one cent of their inheritance!

In the days that followed, life slowly returned to normal for the father and older brother, but the mother’s broken heart seemed to hemorrhage within, draining her of all her energy and the desire to do anything. She fell into a deep depression, always wondering where her son was, how he was getting along, and fearing the worst. Her prayers, like her tears, flowed unceasingly.

The father, who had always gotten along well with him, couldn’t understand how the younger son had become so selfish and discontent. Yet, he was of age to be on his own. What choice had either parent except to let him go find himself in a distant land?

The younger son left the comfort, safety, and love of his family in search of happiness and independence. While he was away, he squandered his fortune in wild living, even spending part of his inheritance on prostitutes in an effort to satisfy his deep desire for love and fulfillment. Without the watchful eye and concern of his loving parents keeping tabs on him, he could do as he pleased, and he did. One day, though, when the money had run out and the only thing filling his stomach was hunger pain, he realized that he had acted foolishly. Homeless and desperate enough to eat the pods the pigs were being fed, he began to long for the comforts of home. Even his father’s servants lived better than he. They were clothed, fed, and sheltered by a loving master who appreciated and rewarded their good service to him. How could the son have been so foolish as to think he could make it without the love and support of his family?

As he lay out under the stars feeling smaller than the blades of grass beneath him, he looked toward heaven and began praying to the One who had watched over him through all his months of wandering. Deep in his heart he knew he had sinned. All the wine, women, and worldly goods that had consumed his inheritance failed to fill that empty place inside. His physical hunger was only symptomatic of a deeper spiritual hunger that had somehow been suppressed all these months. In the silence of that starry night, far from home, the son began confessing sin after sin. As the weight of his sins slipped from his shoulders, his heart became tender toward his heavenly Father and toward the earthly family he had left behind so many months before. He knew what he had to do.

As the sun dawned fresh upon a glistening meadow, he rose and turned toward home. Not knowing how he might be received, he resolved to go humbly to his father, ask his forgiveness, and settle for being received and treated as one of the hired servants. After several days’ travel, the son anxiously topped the hill overlooking his father’s sheep pasture just as the sun was beginning to set. His father, looking longingly toward the setting sun, saw a familiar silhouette on the horizon. Could it possibly be?

Inside their home the mother poured a pitcher of water drawn from a nearby well. As water splashed from the pail onto the table, the drops mixed with her tears. Would she ever see her son again? With each passing day her hope dimmed like the stars at sunrise. Yet she could never completely abandon the hope of seeing her son once more. As she stood there with her eyes closed, relishing memories of a sweet little boy’s laughter, she was aroused by the sound of music and laughter from outside the house. Curious, she went to the window and looked out, hardly believing what her eyes beheld.

Silhouetted in the glow of the sunset, with servants all around, stood the father and the prodigal in the clutches of a warm embrace. Suddenly the servants scurried in different directions, carrying out the father’s orders to kill the fattened calf, prepare a feast, and bring the ring and robe to make the son’s homecoming official.

As the older brother stood glaring in the shadows, the mother knew that the conflict was far from over. The younger son had returned home to find forgiveness, which she knew the older son would be reluctant to extend. Her prayers of thankfulness for the safe return of the lost son quickly turned to prayers for reconciliation and healing. For now, though, she would simply rejoice in the return of her son and her hope.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dirty Jobs

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -- Galatians 6:9

"Dirty Jobs is a program on the Discovery Channel, in which host Mike Rowe is shown performing difficult, strange, disgusting, or messy occupational duties alongside the typical employees.  A worker or team of workers takes on Rowe as a fully-involved assistant for a typical work day, working hard to complete every task as best he can despite discomfort, hazards or repulsive situations" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Jobs).  Some days that's the way parenting feels to me.  It's not necessarily a dirty job, but it is hands down the most difficult task I face each day.

Perhaps the thing that makes parenting so difficult and challenging is the sin that both children and parents struggle with as we attempt to help our kids grow into responsible adults despite the hurdles and hazards they face.  Parenting our children and training them "in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6) is the hardest thing we face most days, yet it is the highest calling we have as Christians.  Those of us who have been redeemed from our own sinful pasts realize that as our divine Parent, God undoubtedly suffered the same broken heart over us that we now suffer over our children because of their sinful choices and behaviors. 

I find it interesting that Galatians 6:9 is sandwiched between verses dealing with sowing to the sinful nature or to the Spirit, and doing good to all people.  Paul writes, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:7-10). 

Even if we have trained up our adolescent children according to God's principles from an early age, there is no guarantee they will grow into responsible adults without taking a few dangerous and potentially catastrophic detours along the way.  I certainly did, despite my Christian upbringing and my parents' best efforts to raise a good girl.  Had I known the heartbreak my sinful acts and attitudes would cause them and the devastating consequences I would suffer as a result, perhaps I might not have strayed so far from God or remained in my sin for so long.  Just as I'm sure my parents were, some days I am painfully aware that my best parenting is not good enough to keep my children from making mistakes or hurting themselves and others as a result of their sinful choices.  The best I can do is pray for them, lead by example, discipline them appropriately, and pray that the consequences of their choices will be painful enough to send them running home to the arms of their heavenly Father.  

As individuals who are "fully-involved" in the difficult job of parenting, let us pray for the grace and strength to continue doing good so that in due time we will reap the harvest of seeing our children turn back to the Lord, even when they are old.  Let us love and do good to our children, even when we don't feel they deserve it, because God did that for all his children.  If God so loved the world, including you and me, can we do any less for our children?  Let us also do good to those in the trenches with us by offering them encouragement as they struggle with these same issues.  After all, we are not the only parents on the planet.  There are many walking casualties in the spiritual battle for the souls of our children. 

"It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it."  God picked us, so we need to do the best we can for his glory and leave the results to him.  Remember that we parents, too, once walked in darkness, but God brought us into his marvelous light.  If we turned out well, why shouldn't we believe that our children will, too?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rising Above Resentment

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." -- Mark 11:25

Although it may appear that we have it together most days, nearly every person I know struggles with anger and resentment.  Most often, I find myself angry and resentful when I am unable to control my circumstances or the behavior of my children.  It bothers me that I cannot fix things that are so obviously wrong in the lives of others, or that I cannot persuade them to listen to the voice of reason and avoid making the same mistakes that I did.  After all, why should all the pain and agony of my past moral failures be wasted when God could use them to bring someone else out of their own pit?  Doesn't my struggle with sin and my decision to live a life of obedience even count?  If I learned my lessons the hard way, by suffering the consequences and misery of my own sin, why should I expect God to treat others any differently?

If we are to rise above resentment, we must remember and praise God for the forgiveness and mercy he extended to us when we wandered far from him.  We must pray for God to draw those to him that we cannot, and to teach them, through their own consequences, that his ways are far better than man's ways.  As much as we want to fix what is wrong in others, only God can do that.  He is the healer and restorer of broken lives.  Our job is to pray, to live as a shining example of his holiness, and to love others as he loves us -- with grace, compassion, and mercy.

Rising above resentment also requires that we place our priority on our relationship with God.  When we are focused on the wrong that others do to themselves or to us, then our focus is on us instead of God.  Satan so wants to steal our joy and our intimacy with God that he will use anything or anyone he can, even those closest to us.  The moment we take our eyes off God is the moment we lose his perspective and the ability to wage war against the enemy.  We must place God and our relationship with him above all else!  Only as we remain in his presence through prayer and incorporate the truths of God's Word into every aspect of our lives, can we be truly effective in dealing with the heartaches of living in a fallen world and maintain our joy in the process.

If you find yourself feeling resentful today, run to God and tell him about it.  Remind yourself that the troubles you face today are only momentary in the eternal scheme of things.  Forgive those who have hurt or angered you, and ask God to forgive you for any resentment or unforgiveness you are harboring toward someone else.   Don't be defeated by the enemy's tactics or by your failure to control the bad things that happen around you.  God is in control.  Let the joy of the Lord be your strength, and give him praise in all things.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On My Knees

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.  They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm." -- Psalm 20:7-8

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  I was minding my own business (for once) but didn't quite clear the doggie gate.  Down I went, fast and hard, landing on my knees.  It must have been a sight for Joy and her friend to see her big mama go airborne, hit the floor, and try to look graceful in the process.  The worst part wasn't the impact to my kneecaps, but rather the Charlie horse I got in my calf as I braced myself for the fall.  I'm okay...just a little embarrassed and sore.

Life, like doggie gates, has a way of bringing us to our knees sometimes.  The trouble is, do we actually pray when we find ourselves knocked down and unable to move because we've had the wind knocked out of us by circumstances and heartbreak?  Having grown up in a church where people generally pray on their knees, I am accustomed to humbling myself and bowing in prayer.  Because I journal my prayers most days, I don't kneel much except in my heart.  Odds are, I won't be kneeling much at all in the days to come but I will certainly be praying nonetheless!

Life has taught me that there is no person or thing that can be trusted, except our God and his Word.  Money, possessions, people, and our own mortal bodies will fail us, but God never will.  As we place our trust in him, he will strengthen our feeble knees, cause us to stand firm, and fill us with his peace.

If life has knocked you down lately, pray for God's strength to help you rise up and stand firm.  He has promised to do that for those who trust in him.

Guarded

"And the peace of God, which transcends all your understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:7

Have you ever known someone who is besieged by every conceivable difficulty known to man?  Perhaps they have chronic health issues which have drained every cent from their savings account, and then some.  Or maybe they have a prodigal child who has wandered far from their heavenly Father and the godly heritage of his family.  We all have problems which overwhelm us at times, but there are some who seem to weather life's storms better than the rest of us.  What do they know that the rest of us don't?  The issue is not what they know, but rather whom they know.

For the past couple of years I have been struggling with a relationship that has troubled me and given me much cause for concern.  At times I have seen sweet victory in certain aspects of this relationship, but at all times I have sensed the enemy lurking on the perimeter, just waiting to swoop in and reverse the progress God has made in our lives.  Satan is relentless; so must be our pursuit of God and our dependence on his strength and promise to prevail against the enemy. 

I have learned that the peace we find in the midst of our troubling circumstances comes from knowing the Prince of Peace, Jesus, and having a personal relationship with him.  There is nothing in us that will enable us to stand strong in the face of adversity day after day after day.  Only the presence and power of God at work in and through us can accomplish his purposes and fill us with peace when everything around us comes crashing down.

The peace of God, which transcends our understanding, will also guard our hearts and minds against the fiery darts of fear, despair, and defeat which the enemy continues to hurl at us.  We cannot guard ourselves against him.  Only God can, by his presence in our lives and by the sword of his Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Do you have the assurance of God's peace and protection?  If not, could it be that you have guarded your heart from the very One who longs to fill it not only with his peace, but his presence?  Only Jesus can give you the peace you so desperately long for.  That peace can only come from a relationship with him.  He is standing at the door and knocking (Revelation 3:20).  Answer the door, invite him in, and let his peace guard your heart and mind today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Divine Appointment or Chance Encounter?

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." -- Isaiah 30:21

The first day of Fall Break felt more like the end of summer.  High humidity and a warm breeze whetted my appetite for a Jerry's Sno Cone Supreme, a delightfully tasty sno cone laced with vanilla ice cream.  Because I live twenty miles from Jerry's, I was reluctant to make the forty-mile round trip into Memphis just for a sno cone, but my daughter was insistent.  "No," I told her.  "We need to wait until tomorrow, when we are actually going to be in Memphis to deliver books."  Not long after our conversation, I found myself irritated with my son and thought, What better way to cool off than with a long drive on a beautiful day and a refreshing treat from Jerry's?  Throwing all reason right out the window, we hopped in the car and headed for sno cone heaven.

As we approached our final turn to Jerry's I noticed in my rear view mirror two motorcycles behind us, one driven by a woman and the other by a man, whose passenger was apparently their son.  "Bet they're going to Jerry's," I said to Joy.  Sure enough, after we received our sno cones we turned around to see them on the parking lot enjoying theirs.  Before long we were chatting about church, homeschool, and our occupations, and God opened the door for me to share about my books and speaking ministry.  Was all this a chance encounter?  I think not.

God has a habit of orchestrating divine appointments in our lives when we least expect them, if we are in tune with his Spirit and desire to walk in his will.  Earlier in the day I had been praying for opportunities to market my book and ministry, and this encounter was clearly an open door to do that.  Not only did God answer my prayer, but he let my daughter see firsthand how God often works in the lives of his children.  Had I given in to my daughter's plea to go to Jerry's when she wanted rather than at God's appointed time, I would have completely missed a divine opportunity to fellowship with these fellow believers and share the good things that God has been doing in my life. 

The Bible tells us, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6).  As you go through your day, look for those golden opportunities to share the good things God has done for you.  Your chance encounter may be someone else's divine appointment with the God who lives in you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fly Like An Eagle

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:29-31

In the mid seventies, the Steve Miller Band released their hit, "Fly Like An Eagle."  As I retrieved that song from my mental jukebox, the lyrics resonated with something I had just prayed during my quiet time.  "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future...I want to fly like an eagle to the sea, fly like an eagle.  Let my spirit carry me."  The song goes on to talk about feeding the hungry, putting shoes on the feet of those who have none, and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.  In all the years I listened to that popular song, I totally missed the message!

It has been said that life is a song, but I think we often go through our days missing the point of it all, don't you?  God has given us his Word to show us how to live, but many of us spend little time reading it and even less time heeding it.  God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and work for us to do while it is still day (John 9:4).  Do you know what his plan and purpose are for your life?

Most of us work in the world's marketplace; few are called to full-time ministry.  But we all have a responsibility as Christians to meet the needs of those around us and to share the message of Christ's love and salvation with those who are lost and hurting.  Time is slipping into the future and there will be a day when it's too late to do the work God has called us to do. 

The thought of adding one more thing to our long to do lists can be overwhelming, but God has promised to renew our strength as we wait on him daily in prayer and walk in obedience to his Word.  We can all fly like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31) if we let God's Spirit carry us. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fearless Factor

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?" -- Psalm 56:3-4

What is it about taking on a new challenge, especially one that comes as a result of answered prayer, that can leave us "in fear and trembling?"  When we pray for something and God answers our prayer, don't we sometimes find ourselves wondering if the outcome is a good thing?  It isn't uncommon for us to wonder what we've gotten ourselves into or find ourselves praying even more as a result of the prayer God answered in the first place.  Now that you have opened the door to a new job, what will I do about my son's work schedule?  What if one of my kids gets sick or my publisher schedules a book signing that conflicts with my work schedule?  Suddenly something that we received as a blessing from God can become a source of worry, if we allow it to.

Satan is a master at taking a blessing and turning it into a problem.  He will steal the joy of God's provision and blessing if we allow him to.  What we need to realize is that God's Word is powerful enough to slay the enemy and cast out the fears that often paralyze us.  Certainly, taking on a new job can raise issues with childcare, create added demands on one's schedule, and require some adjustments in our lifestyle, but isn't God big enough to help us with those?  Just because a prayer is answered and things change for us, that doesn't mean that God will change.   Neither will his Word.

God is still going to take care of our needs day by day, so we don't have to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).  He will still give us the wisdom we need, if we ask for it in faith, without doubting (James 1:5-6).  And he will make all grace abound to us, so that in all things at all times, having all we need, we will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

What is your new challenge?  Face it fearlessly, knowing that God is working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Live What I Believe

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." -- 2 Timothy 4:1-2

Recently my husband and I had the opportunity to sit down with our teenager and discuss our differing opinions on what is and is not appropriate behavior for a professing Christian.  Although the discussion was focused primarily on behavior, we prayerfully dug a little deeper and discussed matters of the heart, faith, and the free will that God has placed in each of us -- a will that can be exercised for the good of others or to fulfill one's own selfish desires.

God knows that I have not always taken a kind or patient approach when rebuking my children.  But in recent years, as I have studied God's Word and begun applying his principles to my own life, God has softened my heart toward my children.  When you know and live by God's Word, it is not necessary to parent your children with anger, harshness, and criticism.  In fact, God's Word holds us to the higher standards of love, grace, and patience.  When we hold out the word of life to our children, we must realize that we are accountable for upholding that same word by actions that should reflect the principles we are trying to learn and teach others.  In other words, we must practice what we preach by treating others as Jesus would treat them -- lovingly, respectfully, and patiently.  Some days that is very difficult to do, especially when the war of wills involves those we love most.

God's Word should be the ultimate resource for addressing and improving our parenting, financial management, and relationship skills.  If we aren't taking in heaping helpings of it daily, digesting it through prayer and Bible study, and applying it to our own lives, how can we expect to preach or "make known" God's principles in such a way as to have a positive impact in the lives of those around us?  No one will heed the advice of a hypocrite, but a wise, authentic Christian can have a tremendous impact in a troubled world.

If you cannot practice what you preach, then do the world a favor -- don't preach at all.  Those who preach God's truths yet live as those they are ignorant of them damage not only the reputation of Christ himself, but also the witness of those who do their best to walk in obedience to his Word.  Take the advice of one who has straddled the fence between kingdom living and worldly living, the grass is much greener on God's side of the fence!  It's time to get committed, my friends, and live what we believe!

Live What I Believe
by Russ Lee

I'm gonna live what I believe
I'm gonna walk that line
If it costs me everything
I'm gonna stand for what is right
So that everyone can see
It's Jesus that they need
I'm gonna live what I believe

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Destruction of Seduction

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing, and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2

When you see the word "seduction," what is the first thing that pops into your mind?  For most of us, the answer would be sexual sin of some sort.  We equate seduction with being lured into sexual relationships when in reality, it is so much more.  Seduction is sometimes very subtle, but it is always destructive.  Whether it results in sexual sin, an addiction of some sort, or simply a mental or emotional obsession with another human being or a material possession, it results in idolatry and divides our heart, making it impossible to truly worship the One who died to save us from our sins in the first place. 

It has been said that the mind is a battlefield.  Seduction nearly always begins in the mind.  In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul talks about the conflict of the Spirit with the old nature of sin.  He writes, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God" (vs. 5-7). 

For the Christian, our salvation does not guarantee our immunity from Satan's seduction.  He is a crafty devil who knows how our minds work, and he is quick to plant the seeds of sin and deceit in the fertile soil of our gray matter.  He knows that often what we think about, we bring about.  If he can lure us into thinking about a certain individual who admires us, or a possession we feel we cannot live without, pretty soon we find ourselves in emotional, physical, or financial bondage because of our lust for that which we found lacking in our lives.  Satan can even take good things, like our call to ministry or the desire to do our jobs with excellence, and turn them into idols, distractions, and unhealthy obsessions which negatively impact our families and, most importantly, our walk with the Lord.

We must remember that although Satan is powerful, God has the final word.  Rather than be destroyed by Satan's deceit and wickedness, we can fight it with the full assurance that God is on our side and has already won the war against seduction.  How can we do this?  As we put on the full armor of God, take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:13-17), and meditate on his precepts (Psalm 119), God equips us by fortifying our minds with his truth.  As we meditate on God's Word, he reveals himself to us and we become transformed by the renewing of our minds, able to test and approve his will (Romans 12:2) and stand strong in the face of temptation.

The destruction of seduction is a two-way street.  We can either let Satan destroy us by his seduction, or we can destroy his seduction by meditating on and obeying the Word of God.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Errant White Butterfly

"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, and your right hand will hold me fast." -- Psalm 139:8-10

Riveted to live coverage of the Chilean miner rescue operation, I watched with great anticipation as the first two of thirty-three miners were extracted from their shelter twenty three hundred feet below the earth's surface.  Trapped for over sixty days following a collapse in the gold and copper mine in which they worked, it is a miracle any of them survived. 

Intrigued by the video coverage coming across the internet, I began researching the collapse itself and came across the following report from CNN.com:  "The mine collapsed August 5, blocking the main ramp into the mine. Thirty-one miners quickly found a 'workshop' in one of the mine's caverns, while two others followed an errant white butterfly to the refuge after the dust cleared."  What in the world was a butterfly doing in a mine twenty three hundred feet underground?  There is only one plausible explanation:  God sent it there to lead those miners to a place of safety.  The collapse of the mine may have been an accident, but the divine appointment of that angelic butterfly certainly was not!

The Bible is replete with stories of God's care for his children.  Often he uses animal imagery to illustrate just how caring he is.  Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they" (Matthew 6:26)?  In Psalm 91:4 we read, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  "Refuge" is the very word CNN.com used to describe the place to which the errant white butterfly led the miners.  My prayer is that in their subterranean shelter, the miners discovered "the LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in him" (Nahum 1:7). 

Although you may not be trapped a half-mile beneath the earth's surface, perhaps you feel trapped by your circumstances and the daily cares of life.  No matter where you find yourself -- buried under a mountain of debt, mired in a pit of sin or self-pity, or gripped by depression and fear -- God is present with you.  He is your refuge in times of trouble.  If you put your trust in him, he will call you out of your darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why I Love Clouds

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Clouds get a bum rap most days, especially when they signal the possibility of an untimely rain shower or hide the sun at the beach.  In the spring, they might be the sign of an approaching thunderstorm, perhaps even a line of severe weather.  In winter, they seem never to go away, only adding to the seasonal affective disorder that leave many of us feeling, well...sad. 

People often describe their lives in terms of weather conditions.  When asked, "How are you?", they might respond, "fair to partly cloudy" or tell you how "stormy" their life is.   A person's life that is characterized as anything less than sunny is quite often filled with trouble, hardship, and heartache.  Sometimes we even describe a person's disposition as "sunny" or his mood as "angry as a thunderstorm."

Personally, I love clouds!  Have you ever noticed how the backdrop of clouds on a fall day somehow enhances the color of the leaves?  Although most of us prefer sunshine, God often uses clouds to wow us with his technicolor creation.  Without clouds we'd have no rainbows, nor rain to grow the food that sustains us and the flowers that delight us with their beauty and fragrance.  Sunsets would be ordinarily beautiful rather than stunning and brilliant, as they are when clouds are present late in the day.

What if we considered our troubles in life to be nothing more than the clouds God has sent to make us appreciate his goodness?  Think about it.  Without the presence of sorrow we cannot fully appreciate the joy that comes from our relationship with God.  Without suffering financial hardship at some point in our lives, how can we fully appreciate God's provision or the sheer joy of being able to give to others who are faced with the same kinds of financial challenges that once made life so difficult for us?  Just as God uses stormy weather to nourish the earth, strengthen the mighty oak tree, and refresh his creation, he uses adversity in our lives to strengthen us spiritually and make us more like him.  And there is none so beautiful as the Lord of hosts!

One day there will be clouds on the horizon unlike any we have ever seen.  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Monday, October 11, 2010

The One Sure Thing

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." -- Proverbs 30:5

Every now and then life becomes overwhelming.  As we search for answers to all the nagging questions of life, we are quick to read the latest self-help books, tune into talk shows for counsel from our favorite pop psychologists, or talk our issue to death with friends who have their own problems.  While we may garner a little sympathy from our friends and find the methods described in self-help books intriguing, we soon discover that the wisdom of these sources amounts to nothing more than chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:17).  Despite all our effort, we find ourselves still plagued by unanswered questions and unsolved dilemmas.

There are nights when I lay my head on the pillow and the troubling thoughts of the day assault me relentlessly.  I have learned that the best thing I can do in those moments is run to the one source of truth I have, God's Word.  As I pour out my heart to the God who is my refuge (Psalm 62:8) and pray his Word over my situation, his peace begins to flood my troubled mind and I am able to finally sleep.  By praying his Word, I am intentionally focusing on him.  His Word tells us, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3).  Sometimes, though, we need a reminder of why we can trust in God and take him at his word.  We are told in Isaiah 55:11 that God's word will not return to him empty but will accomplish the purpose for which he sent it.  God cannot lie.  He will do what he says he will do, and that is the one sure thing we can count on.

For over an hour last night I poured out my heart to God.  Because I spend time in his Word daily, that sweet hour of prayer became an intimate conversation full of blessed assurances from the Lord.  When doubt grips us and the questions keep coming like a freight train on steroids, we dare not trust the barometers of human affirmation, our bank balance, or our own flawed emotions to provide the answers or guidance we seek.  Rather we need to take hold of God's Word and see what he has to say about us and our circumstances.

God's Word assures us of his salvation (John 3:16), his lavish love for us (1 John 3:1, 16), and his promise to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), even if we don't know for sure what our calling is.  In time, as we cultivate our relationship with him, he will reveal and confirm our calling.

Jesus does not condemn us for our lack of faith or our weakness (Romans 8:1).  He was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  He, better than any earthly friend or counselor, can sympathize with our weakness because he not only was fully God, he was also fully man, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  The Bible tells us "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) with his friends.  Don't you find that a great comfort when your tears flow endlessly?  He is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11), especially for those who have persevered through the difficult seasons and circumstances of life.  Oh, how he loves us!

God's Word tells us that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16) and that if we believe, we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22), as we pray in accordance with God's will.  God declares us righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22), if we believe and receive the salvation which he accomplished for us on the cross.

Do you believe things can turn around for you?  I admit, sometimes I struggle with hopelessness and wonder if things will ever change.  When I pick up God's Word, however, and begin to pray it over the circumstances and details of my life, I know without a doubt that God is in complete control, that nothing takes him by surprise, and that he has matters well in hand.  If you don't share that confidence today, I pray you will run to God's Word, read it, and let him minister to you.  Pour out your heart to him, then open his Word to see what he has to say to you.  As you lose yourself in the pages of scripture, you will soon find yourself lost in the very love of the One who gave himself for you!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fear of Nothing

"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.'" -- Jeremiah 29:11

Fear of nothing...those very words suggest that our faith is strong and we are afraid of nothing in this life, but nothing is precisely what I fear at times.  Think about it.  Do you ever have those days when you fear that your best efforts to raise godly children will amount to nothing in the godless culture we live in today?  When it is time to pay the bills, are you afraid there will be nothing left over for the food and clothing your family needs?  Do you fear you have nothing of value to offer those around you?  Perhaps you are in a position of influence on the job or in ministry somewhere, but you have nagging doubts that you are making any kind of significant impact on the people around you.  You see others and all they have accomplished and feel you are nothing special, but nothing could be further from the truth!

We all have secret longings to be someone special and to do great things for God that will significantly impact the lives of others.  God created us that way.  The beauty is, no matter how insignificant we may feel, in His eyes we are special and significant, not mere nobodies occupying space on a sphere somewhere in the universe. 

Before we were ever born, God uniquely designed us just the way He wanted us.  If you doubt that, read Psalm 139.  Not only did He create our inmost being (v. 13), He also ordained all our days and wrote them in His book before one of them came to be (v. 16).  He has never ceased recognizing our potential, even though sin has kept us from becoming all He desires for us to be.  The master Creator crafted us with variety in mind, and there is not a single one of us who is less than beautiful in His sight.  Sure, we are stained with sin and riddled with guilt and shame because of our own choices, but we are never so filthy that His blood can't make us white as snow and as radiant as a bride on her wedding day. 

Our significance isn't measured by rave book reviews, the number of people we lead to Christ, or the amount of money we make.  Our beauty isn't determined by body size or shape, the clothes we wear, or the way we carry ourselves.  Our significance and beauty are determined by God's unbridled love for us, a love so amazing that He was willing to sacrifice the life of His only Son in order that we might come to know Him and enter into an intimate relationship with Him (John 3:16). 

Fear of nothing?  If you are in Christ, you have absolutely nothing to fear!  You are secure in His love and in the promises of His Word.  Pursue Him passionately, and one day you will see Him accomplishing His purposes in and through you.  No matter how meaningless things may seem at this moment, know that God has a plan for your life and that in time He will reveal it to you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Problem with Pride

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." -- Psalm 139:23-24

As a writer, I have developed a hunger for reading that I never dreamed I would have.  Not one to read much growing up, I am fascinated by the things other people write and am always searching for an answer to a question I have or dilemma I am facing.  My first source for answers is always God's Word, but I enjoy reading other books by Christian authors because they help me understand some of the things I find difficult to comprehend or explain to others.  Currently I am re-reading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King.  The general theme of the book is that God desires and initiates a love relationship with us.  Out of that love relationship he approaches us, reveals where he is working in the world around us, and empowers us to carry out his purposes as we adjust ourselves to what he is doing.  So often we get it backwards.  We think that we must pursue God and a knowledge of his will, then in our own power obey what he tells us to do. 

God has been teaching me much about pride lately, partly through his Word and through Experiencing God.  I confess that pride has held a great deal of power over my life through the years, and recognizing pride for what it is, I pray that God will teach me what true humility is and help me walk in it rather than in the pride that has been the cause of so many problems in my life. 

There have been times I have prayed for God's provision, then chosen to step in and help God provide for my needs, generally relying on credit cards rather than waiting for him to answer my prayer.  When I was a young stay-at-home mom and money was tight, I prayed about our situation and decided to become a beauty consultant because I knew that I had the ability to talk to women, the organizational skills to run a business, and the desire to remain at home with my child rather than place in him daycare so I could go back to work.  While all of those things were honorable in and of themselves, I chose to rely on my own intellect and methods of provision rather than on God's.  That faulty career choice resulted in the addition of more debt, not a reduction in it.  God's Word plainly tells us, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  But my foolish pride believed that I could accomplish this without having to bother God with it.  How wrong he proved me to be!

As a newly-published writer and speaker who desires to minister to women, I find myself now facing the same dilemma and asking myself,  Has God really called me to ministry and is this what he intended me to do? Am I obeying his call in a way that will ultimately bring him glory, or am I doing things in my own power rather than in his?   Honestly, I believe he has called me to ministry as a writer and speaker, but I know that I have not handled things his way.  Rather than pray about each day and the obstacles I face, then wait for his answer and provision, I am guilty of taking action to accomplish my own objectives rather than allow him to accomplish his purpose through me.  I have sought affirmation from my readers, not from the One who called me to this ministry.  Instead of waiting on his provision, I have done everything in my own power to generate book sales and raise funds to cover the expense of the ministry. What I have failed to realize, until now, is that God cannot personally receive the glory due him if I am the one busy making things happen.

Haven't we all, at one time or other, been guilty of playing God instead of letting him be God?  The sin of pride may have started with Adam and Eve, but it doesn't have to be perpetuated by us.  God wants to do great things for his children, but how can he if we are so busy doing things for ourselves?  Adam and Eve made a royal mess of things because they wanted to be like God.  So do we, every time we get our cart before God's horse.  It's time we humble ourselves, confess our sin of pride, and give our Sovereign God the chance to be God, for a change.  If we don't, we will remain caught in the bear trap of pride, unable to escape from the enemy who seeks our destruction and perpetual misery.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Celebrate the Holidays & Support a Worthy Cause!

Celebration Sale Benefitting Calvary Rescue Mission

With Thanksgiving and Christmas (and my 50th birthday!) just around the corner, I am having a Celebration Sale! Between now and November 4th (my birthday), I will donate $2 per copy to Calvary Rescue Mission for each copy purchased of Good to the Last Drop: Refreshing Inspiration for Homeschool Moms and Other Busy Women. Calvary Rescue Mission is a nonprofit ministry located in Memphis, Tennessee, whose goal is to reach homeless men with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provide temporary shelter, food and clothing to those who are in need. Last year over 813 men made decisions to follow Jesus Christ. This is a ministry that is doing outstanding work in the Memphis area, and they need our help to carry out their mission, especially in this tough economy and with winter fast approaching. For more information on Calvary Rescue Mission, visit their website at www.calvaryrescue.org or find them on Facebook.

If you have been at all encouraged by Good to the Last Drop, I pray you will also consider helping me expedite production of my second devotional book, Lessons from the La-Z-Boy: Inspiring Devotions for Busy Believers (title subject to change), by pre-ordering your copy during the Celebration Sale. Currently under contract with the publisher and expected to release by late summer/early fall 2011, Lessons from the La-Z-Boy is a collection of relevant devotions covering the issues of everyday life. Written in similar style to Good to the Last Drop, this second book is designed with both men and women in mind and will encourage a daily quiet time and provide encouragement to busy believers. You can pre-order your signed copy now and be among the first to receive it when it releases next year! I will donate $2 to Calvary Rescue Mission for each copy pre-purchased during the Celebration Sale.

By ordering either book at the sale price of $21 (s/h incl.), not only will you be saving money (I’ll even pay the sales tax), but you’ll also be helping a very worthy cause! Take advantage of the Celebration Sale and help Calvary Rescue Mission by purchasing or pre-ordering your copies between now and November 4th. Offer good only at www.deedeewike.com.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let God

"When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'  'Yes, Lord,' they replied.  Then he touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored." -- Matthew 9:28-30

In the past few years the world has become a smaller place, thanks to social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  For someone who aspires to encourage and minister to many, this new avenue of communication provides more opportunities to do so than one could imagine.  With our friend lists often numbering in the hundreds, we read of the struggles many are facing.  Each day presents needs and hurts that blow our minds, but not the mind of God.  Suffice it to say, one could conclude that we are pretty much in the same boat -- a boat tossed by the winds and waves of adversity that come with living in today's world.

As I was pondering some of these issues today and looking for solutions to my own joblessness, two simple words popped into my mind:  "Let God."  In an economy that has claimed the jobs of many, a society rampant with drug use and every conceivable form of moral depravity, and a belief system that often includes faith in everything BUT God, we are prone to fret about everything instead of to let God handle the problems we face.  I am not suggesting that we just throw up our hands in defeat and do nothing, but I have learned that when we let go of worry, seek God's will, and get out of God's way so he can actually do something, he often touches our lives with peace and provision one day at a time.

What are you fretting about today?  What is the one thing you feel you must do something about if you are to keep your life from unravelling completely?  Give it to God.  Let God carry your burden and ask him to show you what your role in the solution should be.  Don't assume you already know or can find a better solution that he can.  He has your best interests at heart, even if you doubt he has a clue about your dilemma. 

The Bible tells us that "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).  He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).  And, "therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25).  Did you catch that?  He lives to pray for you!  If Jesus is praying for you, then don't you think you could simply not fret for once, and let God work on your behalf?  Trust him!  He is able and willing because he loves you!