Understanding God–our Power Source (Part I)

If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!—D.L. Moody

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Carrie Underwood’s song, Jesus Take the Wheel, topped the charts. Why did these lyrics strike a chord with listeners? Could it be because we want to believe when the going gets tough, we can turn things over to a higher power to rescue us? If God is so wise and powerful, why do we ask Him to sit in the passenger seat while we drive? Why do we wait until we can’t handle things to ask Him to take the wheel?

When confronted with impending peril, it has been reported both the faithful and faithless cry out to God, hoping for a manifestation of His power. Certainly this was the case with the disciples in the storm. We are going to look at them off and on in our study. Here I want to point out that Jesus (all power) was on board. They didn’t wake Him and ask Him to steer. They woke Him because they were irritated they were struggling and He was sleeping. They wanted Him to get up and help them with their plan: bailing water. Of course, we know how the story goes: His ways and plans were just nothing like theirs. He simply spoke and stopped the wind and waves, and they sailed safely to shore. I can picture Him wiping His hands, saying, “Done!” as they stood in amazement. The Bible actually records that they were virtually scared to death. Who was this man who commanded the elements? Get ready. If you ask Him to show up with His power, the outcome won’t be anything you had in mind. You are going to be overwhelmingly amazed at His power at work in you. Like Peter, when He bids you to come in His power, you’ll walk on water.

As we get started, use your notebook and let’s tackle some hard questions (you can be honest because only God and you will know what you write down):

  • When do you cry out for God to show up in your life?
  • Do you wait for a crisis or walk so closely with Him that there is an easy expectation He is ready to work on your behalf?
  • Is the essence of your prayer time a recitation of all the things you want God to do for you, preferably with the outcome you have envisioned?
  • Do you ask God to help you with your plans or do you seek to have Him fulfill His plan for your life?
  • Does letting go of your plans for His purpose scare you?
  • Do you seek and actually expect to see God’s power in your daily life?

Unfortunately, most of us tackle each day in our own strength. We set goals we feel we can reach if we apply ourselves. We tackle problems for which we either know or feel we can find the answer. Unfortunately, we are happy to have God ride along with us, but we prefer to drive: at a safe speed, and on a familiar road.

The safe road certainly has some merit; but as God’s children, we have access to His power. He tells us He can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we even ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). He also says we have not because we don’t ask; and when we do ask, we ask for the wrong purposes (James 4:3). For most of my life, I’m ashamed to admit James described me. Does he describe you, too?

I asked around, “Would you say that you have experienced the power of God in your life?” The majority recited times they had experienced the goodness of God; however, when pressed, they could not say they had personally experienced the power of God. Many could tell stories of seeing the power of God manifested in the lives of others, particularly Bible characters.

One friend shared a moving story of how God had rescued her from an abusive situation. She had felt His presence poignantly, experiencing Him truly rescue her from the jaws of death. Through tears she testified of His power in her life. As she finished her story, she looked up at me and said, “Now that I know He is truly real and have seen His power, I want to experience His presence and power every day. My heart longs to know Him more, to feel His presence, and to experience His power in a sustained way in my life: not because I need rescuing, but because He is working in and through me.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. She just described my longing heart. I’m assuming she described your heart as well. In my work in recovery, I learned the first step is to acknowledge you need help. The second step is to acknowledge God is your source. These actions place you in the exact right spot, a place of humility that prepares you for the change ahead. So in humility before Him is the right place for us to begin this journey: knowing we need His help, knowing our way isn’t working, and trusting Him to show us His way.

If you have experienced the power of God in your life, you don’t want it to be a one-and-done sort of thing. Doing things you know are impossible for you is good, very good. It’s as if you have joined Peter as you walk on deep waters. Your heart begins to pant after Him. I can identify with Paul who was compelled to run the race for the high calling of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:14). When He answered my plea and let me catch a glimpse of His power, He also planted a desire in my heart to know Him fully. He gave me a desire to know Him, to understand His wisdom and His power, and to find a way to live in that sweet spot every day.

As we learned, Jeremiah 29:11 explains God has a plan for our lives and Ephesians 3:20 assures us He is up to any task. Indeed, He is indeed able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine, according to His power that works within us. Have you unleashed the power of God to work in your life? Are you tired of your way and ready to see His plan? If not, why not? Is it because you don’t know how to do so or because you like control? Do you want to sit in the driver’s seat?

Peter, James and John didn’t really understand who Jesus truly was. Then one day, on a mount, He was transfigured right before their eyes. The Apostle Paul also saw Him on the Damascus road. When confronted with the glory of God, none of these men were ever the same. Why did Jesus hold back the veil so they could see Him, His glory, and His power? Seeing Jesus for who He is will change us completely. What about you? Are you ready to see Him work in your life? He says if we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So spend some time on your knees asking Him, as Moses did, to reveal Himself to you. He answers prayer.

Light takes a power source. Candles need fire, light bulbs and lamps need electricity, a flashlight needs a battery, a gas fireplace needs gas, and fireworks need explosives. Unfortunately, most of us spend our lives assuming we can light up the world all by ourselves if we just work harder or smarter. This is man’s way. As human beings, we might make a name for ourselves in this old world. However, I can tell you from experience, those trophies and certificates lose their luster and make great dust catchers. They are recognition of a job well done from a worldly perspective. They dazzle and distract our attention for a season, but they don’t add up to a radiant life.

If you are looking for ways to obtain worldly accolades, unsubscribe to my blog now. We aren’t seeking an ordinary light. We are seeking light for our lives that is powered by the Almighty, and His ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). We want our lives to shine radiantly, like the noonday sun (Psalm 37). We are asking the Great I Am to take this vessel of ours and turn it into something spectacular for His glory.

If you want to activate His power to fuel your life, let’s start with a primer on God’s power for He is our source.  We are going to tackle a little theology. Don’t be frightened: it simply means the study of God. So we’ll start with the basics. I learn and retain information if I can see it visually; you’ll love the chart.

How did I end up writing a book–of all things (Part II)

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If you read Part I, you know as I did that there was a God thing going on. When my company moved out of town, I thought my involvement was over. I wasn’t sure what God was doing. It wasn’t long, however, before I got a call and (long story short) I became the VP of the Greater Richmond Chamber and Executive Director of Workforce One ( a regional workforce development initiative). I held this job for three years and then became a national workforce development consultant to cities and states. To say I was busy would have been an understatement.

In my spiritual life I was never more aware of my need for God’s leading. I’d become enamored with the wisdom of God because I knew that I had knelt in the same spot as Solomon, had asked God for favor, and received it just as He had. WHY? What formula had I somehow magically gotten right? If my prayer that night by my bed moved the hand of God and engaged the power of God, I wanted to stay right there. My ears were pricked if the word wisdom, understanding or knowledge showed up in conversations, a lecture, a sermon–anywhere/anytime. I made scribble notes of verses and quotes and stored them in my PC as soon as I could transcribe them. I also started  noticing the 7’s in the Bible and started recording them.

Then on a very ordinary Wednesday night I showed up in a small room at church to meet with a group of ladies for Bible study. They informed me they didn’t have a teacher but wanted to study Proverbs. AH! Proverbs. Well, it didn’t take long before I was sharing what I’d been learning, so they asked me to teach the class. There was no way I was taking on teaching a class; there just wasn’t time. But I had another idea; I told them of my interests in the book and some further research I wanted to do. They agreed to join my efforts and we became a research team. Each week I’d make assignments and they would come back and share their findings. The Word began to unfold itself right before our eyes and it became the most exciting Bible study I’ve ever done.

Several weeks into this effort, my pastor calls and asks me to come in to see him. Of course, I thought I must be in trouble. He assured me that was not the case. It seems his wife was in our group and came home on Wednesday nights excited about what we were learning. So, he just wanted to hear it from me. With a deep sigh of relief, I began to lay out before him what we had found. He sat back and said, “That’s amazing! Most people think Proverbs is a lot of great, but mostly disconnected, thoughts and sayings. But you have found a framework for it that ties it all together. In fact, I think it is probably a framework for all of Scripture. There’s not much written on Proverbs. I think you should write this book.” I was still breathing a sigh of relief that I hadn’t done anything wrong, but book writing? Well, it just wasn’t anything I had an interest in. And for sure I didn’t have time for something like that; I didn’t even have time to teach this class. So I dismissed his comments.

As I walked into class on Wednesday night the girls were all abuzz about me writing a book. It seems the pastor’s wife had shared his thoughts with them. I tried to quiet their enthusiasm because there just really was no way I was going to write a book. Over the next couple of weeks, they continued to press me about it. We were signed up to attend a women’s conference in Lynchburg, VA. They insisted that we should all pray and ask God to reveal to me at the conference if I should write a book. I assured them we didn’t need a conference or prayer. I wasn’t writing a book. I didn’t know how to write a book, I didn’t want to write a book, I didn’t have time to write a book. But they were not to be discouraged. Finally, I agreed to at least pray with them but warned them that it was going to take an audible voice from God for me to entertain writing a book.

We arrived at conference on Thursday afternoon and had sessions that evening and all day Friday and until noon on Saturday. Each time we gathered they couldn’t wait to ask me if God had shown me anything, and I was just as eager to assure them He had not. When we took our seats in the balcony for the final session, Stormie Omartian was the keynote speaker. We were really looking forward to hearing her. She had ten minutes to answer questions that had been submitted and about 45 minutes to speak. The first question she drew out of the box was, “How did you know God wanted you to write a book?” She began answering the question and about 30 minutes later she was still answering the question. In frustration she threw up her arms and said, “I know you see me looking at my watch. I’m trying to figure out how to stop answering this question and transition to the material I’ve prepared for you today. But I’ve never felt such a pressing of the Spirit of God. I know there is someone sitting in this room whom God is calling to write a book. Maybe you came with your women’s group praying whether or not you should write a book. All I can tell you is that your audible answer from God is YES!”

Well by this time my heart is beating about a thousand beats a minute, and I’m beginning to sink in my chair. She continued, “Now I know you are sitting there and your mind is racing with all the reasons why you shouldn’t write a book: ‘I don’t know how to write a book,’ ‘I don’t have time to write a book,’ ‘No one would read a book by me,’ or ‘I know nothing about the publishing industry.’ There was a man in Scripture whom God called at a burning bush. He gave God similar answers. Let’s all stand and read Exodus 4:14 to see how this made God feel.”  So 3,000 women stood and read “And the anger of the Lord burned against him.” She continued, “Do you want the anger of the Lord to burn against you?” My heart whispered a very quiet “No.” She continued, “Then you must. . .MUST. . .write this book.”

Silence fell across the room as everyone looked around to see whom God was calling. She continued, “Now I don’t know who you are, but you know who you are. . .and more importantly, God knows who you are. Write that book.” And with that she asked the women to bow their heads as they stood to pray for the one God had just called out. I was dumbfounded. But apparently I had just told God I’d write a book. There was some brief negotiations with God: He would have to show me what to write. I’d be faithful to study, but He would have to guide. More importantly, it was His job to get it published and to do with it as He pleased.

That session was thirteen years ago and I’ve been studying and writing ever since. After all, you wouldn’t just throw something together over the weekend on the wisdom of God. To this day I still grapple with the concept that I, of all people on earth, would presume to write about the wisdom of God. In desperation, I found that same sweet spot on my knees before God, humbly begging Him to show me Himself and His wisdom.  Well, James promises if we ask God for wisdom He will give it abundantly–He will hold nothing back. All I can say is that while I am sure no one can fathom the depths of His wisdom, He has opened my eyes to amazing truths about Himself. Two years ago I thought I was done and could put the final period on a book about the wisdom of God. But He said, “Not so fast. Wisdom is only one of my powers.” This led me into a deeper study of Him and His powers. Now I understand how they work together. Now I understand why I tapped into those powers when I found that sweet spot on my knees before Him.

When Jesus healed the lame man He told him in John 5:8 to rise, take up his bed and walk. This is a beautiful analogy to what God wants from us once He has healed us from our sins. He wants us to get up and get moving–to walk in power; power that He gives to us. I can assure you it can be frightening, while at the same time exhilarating, to walk on new legs.

When Jesus showed up to teach the fishermen, He told them they would need to launch out into the deep and cast their nets on the other side. In other words, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone, go further than you’d planned, and do things His way and not yours. They were tired, but at His word, they launched the boat. And we all know the story: their nets were soon filled and breaking. But that’s not the end of the story. They brought back the largest catch of their lives and they just walked off and left it and their boats. They quit their job and walked away from their boatload of fish (which would have been a lot of money) to follow Jesus. And those smelly, drably dressed, unsuccessful fishermen became His disciples and the pioneers of our faith. Is God calling you? What does He want to do through YOU? Are you ready to find out? Get out your notebook and write that question at the top of the first page. Pray over it as we study together. God created you for His kingdom purposes. He wants to reveal them to you and to use you. And, I believe once you see Him and His power, you’ll walk away from the temporal and pursue Him as never before. If you are lucky He won’t ask you to write a book, but I know He has something very special in mind for you. It’s something you cannot do without Him. He can’t wait to show you, so get ready!

Well, I’ve written the book, but why wait for it to be published? Let’s begin unpacking what God  has shown me. In my next blog we’ll start with a quick reminder of who God is and how He works. You won’t want to miss this one because it is important to understand who He is and how He works if we want Him to work through us.

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So how did I end up writing a book…of all things!

typewriterNot on my bucket list–no way! Not a fond dream or even a distant fantasy–never! Yet I’ve spent 13 years writing a book. I was working one of those 60-70 hour a week jobs and had a husband and four children and grandchildren. I didn’t even have a housekeeper to help. There was not a free moment in my life. So how on earth did this book writing gig happen? Better yet. . .WHY? Did I lose my mind?

Let’s go back 25 or so years. I had just turned 40 and was working for James River Corporation. We had adopted an inner city high school and had done great work with the staff to turn around their teen pregnancy issues. Once those young people began to see that there was a life beyond poverty, they wanted jobs–good jobs. But there was a great divide between them and the path to education, training and experience that would lead to those good jobs and the life they wanted so deep in their souls.

My CEO heard about our work with them and called me into his office. We had a good conversation and he challenged me to bring him the answer for solving this problem for these kids. He had a heart for them, but he also said that with a retiring workforce and the dramatic expansion of technology, workforce development was going to be the #1 issue in our country. IF I could solve it for this inner city group of kids, I’d solve it for our business and our country. Could I just say that this concept was way above me. I just needed help getting some inner city kids a chance at life.

I went home that night and was completely overwhelmed. My husband was stirring the spaghetti sauce on the stove. As I set the table I told him of the challenge given to me and that I had a week to get back to him with a plan. Weren’t there government agencies working on this sort of thing? A week? Me? That was just insane. Would he fire me if I couldn’t deliver? In frustration I exclaimed, “You’d need the wisdom of Solomon to figure this whole thing out.” Not taken aback as he listened to my rant, my husband Hank said, “Well, I’ll finish getting dinner on the table so you can go upstairs and tackle Proverbs.” He was being flip, but I had not an ounce of humor left in me. So I went upstairs; I needed to get alone–alone with God. I got down by my bed and poured my heart out to God. I told Him I needed wisdom, buckets of it, and I needed it now. I didn’t need it for me, but those kids needed help and my boss had promised money and support they would need IF I could figure this out. I couldn’t afford to fail. Their futures hung in the balance. In humility and tears, I begged God for wisdom.

As I got up off my knees and dried my tears. It was if God told me to take my husband’s advice and get into Proverbs. I picked up my Bible and started in Proverbs 1. There were all those big words that all seemed to mean the same thing. Why all those words? What did they really mean? Not having anything else concrete to try, I decided to look closer at them. I put each of those words on the top of a page from a yellow tablet. Then I began to read. If one of those words showed up I wrote out the verse and reference on the corresponding page. It took all night. That was ok. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep that night anyway. At least this activity kept my mind busy.

When I finished Proverbs, I had filled yellow pages everywhere. So I began to read them, one after the other. Suddenly it jumped right off the pages. There was a progression to wisdom: knowledge, then understanding and finally wisdom. I was so excited. I had my answer for my boss. I got to my typewriter (yes, this was before we had personal computers in our home) and typed out a proposal. In essence it said, IF we gather all the knowledge holders together, we will find understanding; and once we all move to understanding, we can find wisdom for these young people.

My CEO loved the concept and agreed we should move quickly. He opened doors for me to the President’s office–yes, the President of the United States. He in turn introduced me to the Secretary of Education who invited me in to talk with him and his staff. We sat at a big table in the Department of Education in downtown DC. They were excited because indeed they were that government agency working on this, and to have a Fortune 100 company and a local school willing to pilot ideas was just what they needed. Next thing you know we have the blessing of the Governor of Virginia, who gave us the Commissioner of Labor & Industry and the Superintendent of Schools to serve on our little ad hoc group. We already had a local school but the school board got involved. The university gave us a rep to join the table.  And we began to meet. As word spread, other knowledge holders joined in the conversation. shared knowledge, we grew in understanding, we created and implemented strategies we thought would work. . .and they did. Right action. WISDOM!

I was the Joseph in the room. I didn’t have doctoral degrees after my name like ALL of them. I had a Bible college degree. I didn’t have some big title or fancy office. I was even new to the area. But I had a very BIG GOD.

These inner city kids graduated and went to college; they got good jobs. They were on the path to success and we were so excited. Our efforts started spreading to other inner city schools in the region and other companies started getting involved in the strategies and even provided financial support. The school dynamics changed; the community began changing. It was working and spreading. Long story short and compressing years of work, Congress provided School to Work funding for states to allocate to localities, and our team was invited to Pittsburgh to meet with two reps from each state’s education department to do a show-and-tell of of our pilot. So for two days we spoke, distributed PowerPoints, and answered thousands of questions. They were told IF they would come back to the Department of Education with their state’s plan for implementation of these strategies, their allocation would be released for distribution to their local school districts. I had gotten down on my knees and asked for Wisdom, followed God’s plan, and it impacted a nation. This is my Joseph story.

I gave God my heart. I believed Him for a miracle. I followed His plan and God did the rest. Miracle after miracle–too many to put in a blog. Watching God do all of this simply because I asked amazed me day after day. Oh, what a great God who is ready to answer prayer and work for and through us.

This story continues. . .next blog. God began to reveal more and more of Himself. And I’ll share Him with you. Don’t miss it. Get your family and friends to join this story–it will change their world as it has mine. But for today, let’s share our Joseph stories with the world. Has God done something totally impossible for you? Maybe He opened doors you couldn’t budge. Let’s testify of our great God. I’d love to hear your story before we continue on with mine. Start testifying in the comment section. Let’s brag on our great God.  (And if you have a dilemma and you need God to show up, we’ll pray with you.)
Let’s start community.

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MILESTONES

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Milestones serve two purposes for me:

  • Mapping out the journey ahead. When planning a trip, a project, or even just my day, I set out markers that let me know I’m making progress. Sometimes this looks like a to-do list. I’m pretty good about this exercise because I love to check off things I’ve done. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve even been guilty of adding things I’ve done to the  list just so I can fell the rush of checking it off. This type of marker keeps me focussed and eliminates distractions so I don’t get lost on my way
  • The second purpose of a milestone is for remembrance. How far we have come? What twists and turns, valleys and mountain tops, rivers and gulches have we made it through? Sometimes a task on my journey seems difficult and endless. Each step forward seems inconsequential to the whole. But if I set milestones on the journey I can look back on, then when the going gets tough and discouragement becomes my companion, I know that with consistency and perseverance I will get to the goal.

I need to visually see that I am making progress. Without these trusted tools, I feel I’m treading water. . .standing still. In the New Testament Jesus instituted baptism and The Lord’s Supper as reminders of His faithfulness. He understood we need reminders for our journey. I’ve been thinking of setting markers of my faith journey with God. In the Old Testament, we find our heroes of faith setting markers. Most often these took the form of an altar built to remember God’s faithfulness. I think this might be a tradition we should resurrect in our homes and churches.

I was blessed to be part of a simple ceremony when a young man completed a recovery program. Friends gathered for food and camaraderie in celebration of the impact this young man had made on their lives. Each was asked to bring a stone inscribed with a memory dear to them and the guest of honor.  As each presented their stone, the tears flowed. The stones were received with hugs and tears and were set in a pile. As the last stone was set, we gathered around this dear one and prayed for his future as he departed. We asked God to be with him and to use our stones to remind him of his commitments, of his progress, our love, and of God’s presence. As he left, suitcases were loaded along with his precious stones. I have a feeling those stones will be present in his home for a lifetime. Remembrance.

Life isn’t easy. The journey includes many hurdles we have to overcome. As I look back, my stones would represent the times He has taught me to trust Him more.  They would be my markers of increased faith in His faithfulness to me: when I thought I could not go on, when my burden was too heavy to bear, when my sorrow overwhelmed and threatened to pull me under, when enemies surrounded me, when I was lost and confused, felt rejected or failed, when my heart hurt and felt it would burst (or at least drown in my tears). Oh He has been faithful to gently put His arms of love around me. He has been the lifter of my head and has set my feet on a solid rock.

I’m thinking of adding a pile of carefully selected and inscribed stones on the front porch. I want them to be a sign not only to me, but to my children and to all who enter in, of the faithfulness of God.

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LOCAL CUSTOMS

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Families have traditions for all kinds of things; so do communities. It  has been fascinating to see the commonalities and the divergencies of local cultural as we settle into our new locale.

Some of the common things we’ve noticed include:

  1. Pride in their community. When we lived in Montpelier, they touted that they were the center of the universe. Here in Lascassas/Murfreesboro, they raise statues to the fact that they are the dimple of the universe.
  2. Sports fans abound everywhere. The local Cracker Barrel carries the local team duds and paraphernalia. Big, bright, orange jerseys have made their way into our wardrobe. Given Central Tennessee has at least two SEC college teams, an NFL team, and an NHL team, we are full up on the sports front. In Richmond, they cheered passionately for a favorite team from DC or North Carolina. But here in Nashville, they just cheer for home teams.
  3. There are streets and/or suburbs that everyone argues over their pronunciation. You’ve got to get with a true local to get the scoop. We have finally learned how to pronounce the name of our city–Lascassas (as if figuring out how many “s”‘s it needed weren’t enough).  Just think of the most southern, drawling way possible to say it….LASS CASS US–emphasis on the second syllable.

Some of the differences include:

  1.  In Richmond, the RIVAH and the Outer Banks were big doings. No one here has a clue what that is all about.
  2. Seafood abounded in Virginia…the closer to the shore, the more likely it was to be on the daily menu (even part of your breakfast menu). In Tennessee we like seafood, but steak is the meat of choice (we are closer to Texas where beef is the ONLY choice).
  3. The houses in Tennessee are all bricked all the way around. It is just standard regardless of the size of your home. In Virginia, siding and a Williamsburg influence was standard–dormers optional. You might get a brick front, but you’d be hard pressed to talk a builder into including brick on all four sides. I might mention that builders here are also more customer focused. We showed up to find they had painted the entire inside of our home in my colors, built us a Christmas closet because they heard I had a lot of Christmas decorations, enlarged the patio because we had mentioned we love to live outdoors, enlarged our driveway because we have three cars to park, upgraded my hardwood and even put it in my closet, and gave me a custom island that I’d shown them a picture of. . .just because (no charge). The builder stops by fairly often just to make sure we still love our home and there’s nothing we want him to do. Who does that? Business is just done differently in the Boro.
  4. Virginians fly flags–cute, celebratory flags on their front porches, by their mailboxes, in their gardens. In Tennessee you erect a flag pole and fly the American flag AND the confederate flag–they are Southern to the core. It’s about the Mason Dixon line, not about a war. In Richmond, they were still fighting the Civil War; they even burned confederate flags. While Tennesseans don’t fly a birthday or Christian flag by their door, I’ve noted my Christian friends have carefully selected a meaningful verse of Scripture or a verse from a hymn and have had it engraved on rocks in the garden, carved into a wood sign or cut out of metal for the walls. And, many have had their choice created in those rub off letters they can put on their walls. My next door neighbor chose “He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.” It just touched my heart. So I’m looking for the Holy Spirit to give me my special verses to add to my home–I have just the right spots all picked out.
  5. Virginians pride themselves in their ancestry. There’s a hierarchy of First Families of Virginia. And, if you aren’t in that bloodline, well. . .you are just a “come hither.” You may have money but you don’t have bloodline. Here in Tennessee they are rednecks and proud of it. The uppity folks that come from elsewhere are considered money grabbers; they don’t know anything about real roots and family. It’s not about money, it’s about commitment. Neighbors and friends may not be in your bloodline but they can most definitely be in your “family.”
  6. In Virginia everyone has those stickers on their cars that are nothing but three letters. No one in Tennessee would have a clue what that was all about.

All of this made me think about heaven. What will be the commonalities there to life here? What will the new customs be like? For starters:

  1. There won’t be any hospitals, rehab centers, urgent care facilities. The medical community will be out of work.
  2. There are no cemeteries; no funeral homes. Praise God!
  3. There are no clocks there. No rising and setting of the sun for He will be our light.
  4. There won’t be any race issues. We’ll all be born of the same Father and love will abound.
  5. There are no jails, no police.
  6. Money won’t be an issue. The streets are made of gold so even the street sweepers are sweeping up gold dust.
  7. Praise God we won’t have elections. No commercials, no placards in yards, no billboards. We’ll all just praise the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, there will be no politics. We’ll just do things His way.
  8. There are no slums. Mansions abound
  9. There’s no night there. We won’t need to sleep 1/3 of our life away.
  10. Everyone will know everyone. And we’ll have an eternity to sit and chat. How fun will that be?
  11. There will be beautiful music everywhere–praise music! So Music City. ..get ready to be replaced.

I was shooting for a top ten–I’ve always been an overachiever. Share your local doings. And what would you add to the list about heaven?

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A New Beginning

 

planet-581239_1280I’ve been reported as missing….from my blog. Actually, I pushed a pause button on all activities unrelated to moving our household to Tennessee. This was a long and arduous process, and I am pleased to report that we are happily ensconced in our new home, surrounding by amazing neighbors and life-long friends. We’ve found grocery stores, doctors, and a new church home. WHEW!

So what does this new beginning look like for this writer?

a.  First, I had to find a place to meet with God.  My morning room didn’t exist in this house and I sold my chaise lounge. Since the weather has been beautiful, I just took my Bible, devotional material, pen and notebook outside. When winter comes, we’ll have to rethink all of this.

b.  Then I needed to find a place for me to write. We nixed the dining room to create an office for me. Downsizing requires compromises.

c. I needed dedicated time to write. Since I’m an early riser, I am up hours before my household. So obviously I had the time.

But months went by and I didn’t write a single word. WHY? Had I suddenly determined I wasn’t created to write? Was I fearful I’d fail or that nobody really cared. Truth be known, I fell prey to procrastination. “Tomorrow,” “next week,” “after this or that” became the excuses played out in my mind as God gently reminded me He had a plan for my life. Truth be known, I wasn’t that busy. I was a procrastinator. It is amazing how I can fill those hours with wasted activities.

So this morning, I came before the Lord and said, “I need a new beginning with you.” He reminded me that in the beginning He created (Genesis 1:1). During these months God has given me lots of ideas of how to share His truth and plan for our lives. So, I’m going to step out today and start creating.

What does creating look like in my little corner of this big universe?

  1.  Activating my blog and professionally participating in social media outlets.
  2. Hiring a professional editor to rework my current manuscript so I can present it to an agent and publishing houses as a complete and professional work.
  3. Developing a leader guide and group study questions.
  4. Tackling the writing 365 devotions for a companion year-long devotional guide.
  5. Exploring ways to share God’s truths with children, teens and young adults.

Have you heard the voice of God calling you to begin or renew a work? Lay down those excuses and patterns of procrastination. Join me and let today be the day of new beginnings. It’s not New Year’s Day or even the beginning of a new month or week. It’s just a new beginning with your Creator–for He is inspiring you to create ways to minister to others and to tell them of His love, mercy, and grace.

Time to rise, take up our beds of slumber, and walk in newness of life with Him. Just do it.

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OWN YOUR STORY

sword-790815_1920When you think about your past, what emotions reach out and grab your heart? Do you struggle to keep those feelings inside? Do you fear that others may think less of you if they knew your past?

If this is you, then your story owns you. You have allowed it to define who you are, to shadow all that you could be. It has shackled you and your future.

Why do we do this? Fear? Pride?  These are not words that we should have in our vocabulary as Christians. Christ died to set us free that we might be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). By the mere definition of a conqueror, it means you may have been in a battle, but you were the victor. You won. You have faced the enemy and his plans for destruction in your life and you have overcome (I John 4:4). Now that’s a story to tell not hide–it’s your story.

Did you come from poverty? Were you raped, an addict, pregnant out of wedlock, had an abortion, adopted, suffer with depression, consider/attempt suicide, divorce, commit a crime and have to do the time? Did you lose a job or a business or maybe file bankruptcy? These things do not define you so why are you allowing them any place or power in your life?

What’s your story? As long as you hold onto it and try to conceal it, you infuse it with power it does not deserve to have in your life. But when you take off the glasses of self and put on His robe of righteousness, your story becomes your testimony of His power and grace to you.  It’s how you became His child. It’s about His redeeming power. According to the Word, we are all sinners saved by His matchless grace. My sin and your sin drove the nails into His hands and feet. The price has been paid. You have been set free. Cast off the shackles and live in victory. Victors shout about it. They rejoice. So let your shame turn into music. Let today be the day the tempo in your music changes so you cast off those shackles and put on your dancing shoes.

You’ve given Him your heart and trust Him for your eternity. Try giving Him your past and watch Him turn your story into His story and use it to impact the hearts and lives of others..

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TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS

As the clock number blog graphicstruck midnight we launched into a new year–2016 is here whether we are ready or not. Many have endured loss, heartaches, hurts and trials that meant they were eager to close the door on 2015, while others had a very successful year and cause for great rejoicing. As we face the new year, some enter it with trepidation while others rush forward eagerly. Regardless of our circumstances and mindset, we each have 365 days stretching out before us. Some of us won’t be given all 365, but for those who are, God admonishes us to number our days and to focus on gaining a heart of wisdom.

WISDOM IS A HEART STATE. Wisdom is not a head full of knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge in action–right action. So we can’t sit around hoping wisdom is going to show up; we have to apply our hearts to learn, to grow, and to properly exercise God’s truth day by day. Wisdom isn’t some lofty state you will arrive at one day and be able to set up camp for the rest of your days. Wisdom is the judicious application of knowledge moment by moment, day by day.

God’s admonition in this Psalm is that we need to recognize we don’t have forever. We must make every day count. How will you number your days this year? Maybe you need a visual–e.g., 365 stones in a bucket or beans/kernels of corn in a jar, a notebook with 1-365 pages waiting for you to journal what you are learning and how it is changing your actions.

I wish I could tell you I’m wise and always exercise wisdom in all my actions. I don’t. But I want to learn and to grow. Joshua 1:8 tells us to get into the Word for as we meditate on it day and night, it will help us observe what the right thing is to do–for in doing so we will have prosperity. I hope you’ll join me in pursuit of God’s wisdom for this year.

So rather than just wishing you a Prosperous New Year, I want to give you the tools for getting to next January 1 prosperously. Find your strategy to number your new gift of 365 days. Memorize and make real Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 90:12 in your life this year. Daily find gratitude and record your blessings. One friend suggested writing down at least one blessing on a 3×5 card each day this year. Be creative and put your jar, book and/or box of blessing notes/cards/stickies where you will see it each day.

Determine with me that this is the year we will not only count our days. . .we are going to make them count for the Kingdom.

Happy New Year!

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PERFECTLY IN-SYNC

CHARGE2My youngest son is a geek in the truest sense of the word. He moved way beyond techie before he was ten years old. Truth be known he is way too smart. I’d like to tell you he got it from his parents, but there’s just no way that happened as is evidenced by our latest saga over the cords that link our I-phones to power.

By way of background, my husband is an E-Bay junkie. Whatever we need, he searches until he finds it for the cheapest price possible–even if it has to come on a slow boat from China. So when I left my I-phone cord in a hotel, he went on-line and found about a dozen great cords for less money than one would have been in the Apple store.  When they came, we had long ones and short ones in a variety of colors. It wasn’t long til I realized they didn’t really work–at least not all the time. I’d plug my phone in at night expecting it to be fully charged by morning only to find out it didn’t sync. FRUSTRATION. I began to get error messages that told me this cord was not an approved device and may not work. Well, I’d already figured that out. And, it wasn’t long until we began to have all sorts of problems with our data syncing between our phones and our PC. Updating apps or uploading pictures became impossible.

So it’s Christmas Day and we could hardly wait for the youngest to arrive. Before I could finish my welcome hug, his dad whisked him away to look at our problems. It didn’t take him long to announce that it was the cords we had been using–those cords I’d been fuming about for months. It seems they are not only cheap and incompatible, they are charging cords, not syncing cords. They looked the same, they connected, but they didn’t work. They were great lengths, bright colors and abundant–but they couldn’t and didn’t get the job done.

Have you ever been frustrated and felt your prayers aren’t getting through. It seems your life just isn’t in-sync with heaven? I realized that sometimes we approach our quiet times with the desire to just recharge our battery. Indeed it might be enough to get us through the day. But are we taking the time to truly sync with God’s will–His plan for our day/our life. Are we ready to tackle the day on our own once we’ve gotten a little recharge or are we completely synced with Him–ready to do His will vs our own.

It’s a simple analogy that has had me looking at my quiet time with renewed fervor. There must be time for God to sync our hearts with His–there must be time for the Word to take root in our lives. Prayer is important–we need to charge our spiritual batteries. But the Word is the lamp unto our feet and the light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Sync up.

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TALK! TALK! TALK!

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Morning talk shows. Late night talk shows. Afternoon talk shows. Sports talk. Money talk. Movies. Documentaries. Books (silent talk). Teacher lectures. Mom chats. Kid chatter. Calls, texts, face-to-face. So much talk–from everyone–all the time. So what’s all this talk about? It boils down to sharing–sharing what’s inside us with those around us. . .with the world.  It can be information, excitement, disappointment, dreams, anger. . .silliness. It’s all inside and it all comes out at some point or another as talk. This past year as I’ve studied personalities, I realized that each personality type has a talk style. My husband tells anecdotes (jokes)–it’s his speech pattern. My personality engages in self talk. We aren’t narcissistic–just our speech pattern. Some speak in dissertations or love offering advice (even when they have no clue what they are talking about)…just their speech pattern.  Realizing this has given me cause to pause–to listen to others to see if I can identify their speech pattern–a clue to who they really are. I’ve loved listening. I’ve heard hurts and disappointments turned to triumph, wiped tears, received encouragement and love, listened to jokes and passions with renewed interest. It’s a new way I’ve found to love those around me.

So as I approached the Christmas story I thought it might be interesting to see what God had to say, “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'”

God sent His messenger. First He wanted us to know we need not fear. He wanted us to know His message was of good news. He wanted to share the joy of heaven with mankind–to bring great joy to all people. And the best way for Him to do that was to send us Christ the Lord–God Himself. He wanted man to find Him–gave signs and instruction to look in a humble place.  And His message brought about great praise in the heavens as we see and hear the excitement of the angels celebrating God’s announcement of the birth.

I recently heard someone say that small minds talk about things, average minds talk about other people–but great minds talk about ideals. Great minds see problems, but they see that a difference can be made and they get involved in trying to make it come about. God saw a world lost and undone. No doubt heaven’s talk was of finding a way to save mankind. That Christmas on that hillside, God heralded the beginning of His plan. Talk about a great mind and great talk. What a wonderful example He gave us all. There was compassion in His first words as He told them not to fear. There was a plan given–the unfolding of the salvation plan. First steps–find Jesus. End result–peace.

As you gather with friends and family this year, listen to the talk around you. What will your talk center on? Will it be talk of peace. Make sure it includes telling others about the baby in the manger.

Merry Christmas!

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