Wednesday, December 31, 2008

For the Love of My Children

Obviously I haven’t blogged in quite a while. Life’s been hectic between illness, holidays, and trying to keep up with the disaster my house has become. I haven’t had much inspiration to write lately. Well, until this morning that is. It’s a commentary on what having kids means to me. I’m sure all you parents out there can relate. So here goes…

Having children has absolutely ruined me for life. I have two girls and a boy. All three have wormed their way into my heart so deeply that my life will never ever be the same as it was before I met them. Each one makes me melt till I sometimes feel like I’m little more than a pile of mush. When I’m away from them, my heart feels the absence deeply, even if they’re only in the next room. I constantly want to hold, kiss, tickle, hug, and whisper my adoration to them.

When one of them hurts, I hurt, and deeply so. If one of them is in trouble my heart will not rest until he or she is safe again. I will move heaven and earth for their happiness. Sometimes that means I must withhold from them what will bring them immediate happiness so that the foundation for their long-term happiness can be effectively built. I have to see past the moment. My love for them is deep enough that I can see the bigger picture and can discipline myself to discipline them, even when it’s difficult.

Oh, I am so in love, and so full of love for each of them that sometimes I am completely overwhelmed, and it seems as though my heart will break with the weight of that love. I cannot keep that love inside. If I tried it would be like a raging torrent locked up behind a dam. The dam won’t hold. The water must flow. The dam will burst. The waters of my love for them refuse to be locked away. They cannot and will not be ignored.

Before I knew my children I was able to live without them. It was so easy to be without them that now I can only marvel at the thought. I was competent in my ability to go about the day without much care. Now I’m a blubbering, sappy, gushing mess half the time. (Yet by some miracle somehow I still manage to get things done.) What used to be important to me seems so trivial now, so self-centered, and so pointless. Now God and family are by far the most important things in my life. My kids have invaded my world and inconvenienced me to no end – and it's sooo wonderful! Now that I know my kids, even though it’s been a relatively short amount of time, I cannot begin to fathom a life without them. If I ever had to live without them – their smiles, their laughter, their hugs, their scent, their silliness, their discoveries (good and bad), their insights, their kisses, their sweet faces, yes, even their (occasional) disobedience, their needs, their wants, their constant invasions and intrusions, the endless ways they find to inconvenience me, their presence, their amazing little lives… If ever the absence of even just one of them were to become permanent, oh the pain such a wound would cause (a pain I know some of you have experienced, including some members of my own family). The very fabric of my heart would be torn to shreds. I would gladly and readily sacrifice myself for each of them, but I pray that I never see a day when I am required to pick up the pieces of my life without one of them. Each one is so extremely valuable. Each one is priceless. Each one is irreplaceable.

You know the most awesome part? That’s exactly how Daddy God feels about each and every one of us. I fall far short of being a perfect parent, but He does not. Everything about Him is perfect, especially the many ways that He loves us.

Have a wonderful New Year everyone! I pray 2009 is the best year yet!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Authority - Part Five

(This is the final installment of the "Authority" series, so it's a little long.)

Let’s examine how God’s authority applies in the practical realm. I’ll use finances as my example. Malachi 3:9-12 says, “You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer [insects and plagues] for your sakes and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine drop its fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you happy and blessed, for you shall be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” (AMP)

The curse exists because of sin. In Genesis 3 we read about how the ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin. When we continue to act in sin and attempt to accomplish things under our own authority, we continue to live under the curse. However, when we follow God’s orders, we’re acting under His authority. When we act under His authority we fall under the protection His authority provides. Then the curse no longer affects us and we are enabled to fulfill His orders.

In terms of finances, tithing is basic training. It’s the proving ground. If God can’t trust you to tithe, how can He trust you to give beyond the tithe? “God must be served in the first place. [It’s time that] the interest of our souls ought to be preferred before that of our bodies. Let [us] trust God to provide for [our] comfort. God has blessings ready for us, but through the weakness of our faith and the narrowness of our desires, we have not room to receive them.” (from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible. Mal 3:13-18. Public Domain.) God keeps His word, not only the promises, but also the curses. How His word affects us depends on us. Which side of His word will you put yourself on, the side of sin, disobedience, your own authority, and the curse? Or on the side of obedience, His authority, and blessing? He places blessing in our hands so we can distribute it to the world as He directs. He is all-powerful, but one of the ways He exerts His power in the earth is through us. He needs us to be the physical manifestation of His spiritual activity in the world. The Gospel is free, but it takes people and money to deliver it to the masses. As we move in His authority and follow His commands we will be blessed, protected, and will see the Gospel preached throughout the world.

The depths of the power of God’s authority working in and through us are unfathomable. Most of us severely underestimate what it means for us to carry God’s authority. In Ephesians 1:16-25, Paul says, “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

We are under the direct authority of the Supreme Commander of All. The higher in rank the person is that we answer to, the more authority we carry. For example, the person who answers to the general carries more authority than the person who answers to a captain. And we answer directly to the highest authority of all! The authority of the heavenly realm has been bestowed on Him. He holds the power of creation. He authorizes us, His people, to move in that power. We have power and authority over anyone and anything that oppose the Kingdom of God. We carry the power to shift climates and pull the climate and culture of Heaven into the earthly realm. To see this happen in our lives we must walk in agreement with the Holy Spirit. According to my pastor, Whitman Toland,
A sustained response of agreement with the Holy Spirit allows Him to have influence in our lives and pulls the atmosphere of heaven into the earthly realm. A sustained atmosphere creates a climate (a sustained atmosphere that is now pervasive). A sustained climate creates a stronghold. A sustained stronghold creates a culture. (Quotes from sermons on October 22 and 29, 2008. You can download the full content at
Let’s stop denying and underestimating the incredible power and authority to which God has given us access! (This is something I think we're all guilty of because the concept is so hard for us to grasp.) Let’s stop trying to live this Christ life in our own power and authority and begin walking in all the things for which we were created! Let’s begin to see God’s authority working on our behalf! Let’s walk in agreement with the Holy Spirit and see God’s culture brought to earth! Let’s see the world changed and the enemy vanquished! Of course, Satan will not be happy when we begin exerting God’s authority in our world, and he will increase his activity against us, but we walk in the protection of God’s authority. This is God’s promise to us, “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord”. (Isaiah 54:17 AMP) With God on our side we are victorious!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Authority - Part Four

John 8:28-29 says, “Jesus added, When you have lifted up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will realize (know, understand) that I am He [for Whom you look] and that I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me. And He Who sent Me is ever with Me; My Father has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” If Jesus needed the Father’s authority to fulfill His role on the earth, how much more do we need to walk in God’s authority? In order to move in His authority we must relinquish our own will and take up His will as our own. As we do this we will gain greater freedom than we could ever discover under our own power. I know that it seems counter intuitive, but the surrendered life is the life for which we were created. We can only find true power and fulfillment in our lives as we submit them to His will and His love. How is this done? By letting Him love us and loving Him in return. As we grow closer to Him our desire for Him grows and we find ourselves eager to please and obey Him and lay down our own selfish desires. If you’re not sure about this, just try it. What could it hurt?

When we make knowing God our primary goal and spend sufficient time with Him in the pursuit of His heart, we will find ourselves overcoming the sin in our lives without striving. As we spend time with Him we become more like Him. We take on His personality. He is righteous and victorious. So shall we be as we draw ever closer to Him. When we overcome in any area of our lives we are given authority in that area. We can then minister to others who struggle with the same sins that once had us bound. Boldly confident in the freedom in which we now partake, we can show them the way to freedom for their lives. The fact that we struggled and overcame gives us a credibility that can only be gained in the overcoming.

I want to talk some more about the protection His authority provides. Mark 1:27 says, “And they were all so amazed and almost terrified that they kept questioning and demanding one of another, saying, What is this? What new (fresh) teaching! With authority He gives orders even to the unclean spirits and they obey Him!” When we move in God’s authority, even our biggest enemies must obey, but when we come against them in our own strength we will most certainly lose the battle. We cannot overcome spirits with human might, but only with spiritual might. We aren’t fighting a physical battle, but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:10-12). In Acts 19 when the seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out evil spirits in their own power they were beaten up and ran away naked and terrified. But when we rely on God’s authority we will see Psalm 91 fulfilled in our lives. Luke 10:19 says, “Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.” When we move in His authority and protection we will do amazing things for God’s glory!

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Authority - Part Three

I was thinking more about the necessity of knowing and receiving God’s Word. The military has a code through which every other message they receive is filtered. It is the standard against which all other messages are measured to determine their validity. The same is true for God’s Word. It is the standard by which we must measure all other messages that life sends our way so that we can determine their validity. External messages must be placed in the filter of God’s Word. If they don’t measure up to the standard of the Word, then they must be rejected. God’s Word is also our battle manual – it gives us our battle strategy, our battle plan. If we receive messages that go against the strategy laid out in the Word, then we do not entertain them. This is one of the ways we can ensure that we are hearing God’s voice and moving in the authority of His will.

In Matthew 8:8-9, the Roman centurion understood that if Jesus just gave the order his son would be healed because He understood how authority works – if someone in authority gives a command it will be done. Just as a soldier in the US Army is not allowed to question the orders he is given, it is not up to us to question God’s commands to us, only to follow them. Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 says, “Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don't worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You're serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ Carrying out orders won't hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately” (MSG).

We say “God is in control.” Well, that’s true, especially in terms of the big picture. But He created us with free will. He is in control of our lives only so far as we allow God’s authority to be in control. We can hinder His authority by not trusting Him and not submitting to His will. When Jesus went to minister in Nazareth in Matthew 13:54-58, the people rejected His authority therefore hindering what He was able to do. Think of all the blessings they missed out on as a result.

Remember that in “Authority - Part One” I talked about the consequences of a US soldier in Iraq acting outside of his orders. When we question God’s orders and refuse to submit to His will for our lives, then any actions we take are no longer under the protection of His authority. In those circumstances we cease to act under His authority and we are acting under our own authority; the consequences are far-reaching, indeed. When we act in our own authority, God cannot protect us from the consequences of our actions. We will reap what we sow. We are left vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and to the curse of sin. We miss out on the blessings God wants to give us when we are not submitted to His will.

When we act outside of God’s orders under our own authority, the people of the world still see us as representatives of God. That’s why it’s such big news when a well-known pastor is caught in sin. After something like this takes place the people of the world then assume that Christians are no different than other people and our God cannot really help them. The rest of us are left doing damage control. Of course, just because you become a Christian does not mean you suddenly stop struggling with sin. So it is imperative that we stay close to God’s heart so that we can walk in His strength and His authority and be then enabled to avoid sin.

Now, what would happen if a US citizen, a civilian, dressed in battle fatigues and carrying a big gun, were to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, kill him, and then proclaim that he did it in the name of freedom for the United States of America? Would his actions be overlooked just because he looked the part or because he accomplished his goal? No! Because his actions were not authorized by the United States government they are not sanctioned. He would be arrested, tried, and most likely convicted on several charges, including murder, and then sentenced. Even though we may attempt great feats for the Kingdom of God, and we may even be successful on some level, if we are acting outside of what God has said to do, then we are not protected by His authority. We cannot do things just because they seem like a good idea. Such things are futile, will be considered wood, hay, or stubble, and will be burned up in the day of Christ (I Corinthians 3:11-15). God cannot protect or reward us for any action which He did not authorize. It's imperative that we test everything against the standard of the Word. The enemy would love to trick us into wasting time on something that God has not authrized so that we are not actually participating in furthering God's Kingdom on the earth.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authority - Part Two

So, carrying Christ's authority in our lives and the world, what does that mean for us? Well, like those troops in Iraq, we are representatives of the Kingdom of God in the earth. We are authorized to be in this world to do battle and rescue people from the kingdom of darkness and restore them to the Kingdom of Light. We are not here for our pleasure, but for God’s purpose. And as such, God has given us power and authority to accomplish His will in the world. We carry God to the people of the world. As we take time to know God and recognize His voice, He will give us orders to carry out. Not only will He give us orders, but the authority and power to perform them. The actions we need to take to fulfill His orders are sanctioned as long as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to be afraid of appearing foolish or offending people, because as long as we do things God’s way, we are operating under His authority and the protection His authority provides.

The higher up in rank a person goes in the military, the more freedom he has, but he also carries more responsibility. Rank is not automatic based on the amount of time a person is in the military. To achieve a new rank, a soldier must perform certain tasks, and/or undergo certain training. The more a person matures in Christ, the more he understands the freedom he carries because of the salvation he has received from God. Yet, the closer we get to God’s heart, the more He expects of us. This is not automatic because we have attended church or called ourselves “Christian” for many years. This is fully based on the relationship we have with God, and the amount of influence we have given Him in our lives. There are several conduits through which God delivers His authority to us: salvation, praise and worship, knowing and receiving His Word, prayer, and obedience (this is not necessarily an exhaustive list). We’ve already discussed salvation. Praise and worship position our hearts in such a way that we are lessened and He is glorified in our lives. It gives us a posture of humility and allows us to see ourselves in the proper perspective in relation to Him. It allows us to do battle in the spiritual realm in an amazingly powerful way. “[B]y praise and worship, great dynamos of power are set in motion…” (Frances J. Roberts in Come Away My Beloved). Certain Old Testament battles were won simply through praise and worship without the warriors so much as brandishing a sword. Knowing and receiving God’s Word is vital for the person that wants to know God and understand His heart. Only knowing what the Bible says is not enough. Many people know what the Bible says but it has no power in their lives. Even Satan himself knows what the Bible says. It is imperative to also receive it into your heart and life – to take its message to heart and apply it to your life. Prayer is essential for every Christian to grow in godliness and receive instruction from His heart. Prayer is simply having conversation with Him. It is through prayer that we receive God’s commands. But we cannot stop with just receiving His commands. We must act on them through obedience. We cannot act with His authority until we move in obedience to His orders. When it comes down to it, all of these conduits are essentially about Him, not us. As we prioritize our lives to make these an essential part of each day, we are seeking His Kingdom first. Through these things we lose ourselves only to find our life in Him and His Kingdom. We discover for what we have been created and He adds to us everything we need for life and godliness

Friday, October 17, 2008

Authority -- Part One

I've been in the process of writing this post for over a week. Usually when I write, I can knock it out in an hour or less at one sitting, but I've had a hard time with this one. There is so much in my heart that I want to say, yet it's been difficult to get it out. My time to sit and write has been limited, and when I would get a little bit written my head would feel like it was going to explode and I couldn't think clearly anymore, and then I've had computer issues, too. It's interesting that the computer issues began the day I got this part written. So I've had this much written since Tuesday, but have been unable to post it until today. Somehow I doubt that is a coincidence. So, here is the first part of what God has been showing me about authority lately.

John 14:10
– Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? What I am telling you I do not say on My own authority and of My own accord; but the Father Who lives continually in Me does the (His) works (His own miracles, deeds of power). (AMP)

John 10:14-18 – 14I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me – 15Even as [truly as] the Father knows Me and I also know the Father--and I am giving My [very own] life and laying it down on behalf of the sheep…. 17For this [reason] the Father loves Me, because I lay down My [own] life – to take it back again. 18No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily. [I put it from Myself.] I am authorized and have power to lay it down (to resign it) and I am authorized and have power to take it back again. These are the instructions (orders) which I have received [as My charge] from My Father. (AMP)

Jesus was able to say and do everything He did while on earth, including His death and resurrection, because He was following the orders He received from the Father. Those orders from the Father gave Christ the authority He needed to fulfill His mission on the earth. The same is true for us. When God gives you orders, or instructs you to do something, He will give you the authority needed to fulfill the task.

One of the best analogies for this I can think of is the US military. The US troops who are stationed in Iraq are there under the authority of the US government. That means that, as long as they follow proper protocol and obey the orders they have been given, they are representatives acting on behalf of the US government in Iraq. They are present in Iraq with the approval of the US government and, again, as long as they follow proper protocol, the actions they need to take to fulfill their orders are sanctioned. As far as the people of Iraq are concerned, those troops are the United States of America. (No matter your political stance concerning the war, these are the current facts about the situation.)

However, if a soldier acts outside of the orders he has been given, he ceases to act on behalf of the US government. His actions are no longer sanctioned. He is no longer acting under the authority of the US government. He is now acting under his own authority. Once his actions are discovered, legally he will be punished. The authority of the US government no longer protects him. Instead, he is subject to retribution according to US law, no excuses, no exceptions (theoretically – unfortunately, in this imperfect world that does not always happen as it should).

An unfortunate consequence of a soldier acting under his own authority is that he still wears a US military issued uniform, and carries a US military issued weapon. While his actions may not have been sanctioned by the US government, to the people of Iraq it still appears that his actions were representative of the US government. His fellow troops are then left to perform damage control, and have to work that much harder to convince the people of Iraq (and, unfortunately, even some people back home) that the United States does not desire to harm them.

Jesus said that He knows His own the same way that He is known by the Father. We are joint-heirs with Christ. The same authority that was given to Him has been given to us. Jesus knows whom He has chosen and He trusts us with His authority. Still not convinced? Consider John 1:12, “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name” (AMP). Don’t question if you have authority. Don’t be unsure. If you have received and welcomed Christ into your life, you carry His authority in your life and in the world.

(To be continued...)

Friday, October 3, 2008

God’s Amazing Provision

I woke up at 2:30 this morning to Sadey’s cries. After a minute or two she drifted back to sleep while I drifted more and more awake. Well, needless to say, it took me a while to fall back to sleep. So, somewhere in the milieu of thoughts in the wee morning hours, I started thinking about some of the amazing things God has done for us lately. A month or so ago, I told you in "A Testimony" about how God instructed me to pass my birthday gift cards on to other people. Well, I did follow through within a couple of weeks after writing that post. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. The ladies I gave the gift cards to were so blessed. They both said that the timing of receiving the gift cards helped to get them out of a bind. I’m so grateful that God allowed me to be His conduit of provision for them. I love helping people, and it’s not often that I can help people financially (I declare that is changing in Jesus name! I see my family being a conduit of finances to vast numbers of people as God leads!).

Not long after I gave the ladies the gift cards, my pastor told a story of how he had received a couple of generous honorariums for a couple of his speaking engagements. When he first received them, he was rejoicing, thinking that the gifts were harvest for things he had sown in the past. However, God spoke to his heart and told him that the gifts were, in fact, seed money, so he gave it all away (still rejoicing). That’s exactly how I felt about the gift cards. At first I thought they were harvest, but God showed me they were really seeds. If a farmer eats his seed, he will have nothing to plant during the next planting season and his provision will dry up. If I had disobeyed God and kept the seed for myself, that vein of provision would have dried up. Instead I was obedient, and now I’m seeing areas of new provision open up in our lives.

One of the first things that happened, about a week after I gave away the gift cards, is I was asked to be the official, unofficial personal assistant to my Worship Pastor (that just means I am now his unpaid go-to person). I now have the opportunity to help my Worship Pastor and learn so much from him. It’s a privilege for which I am so very grateful. I am thankful and humbled that God would choose to use me in this way to help lead our congregation into worship to Him. It is an unexpected blessing which I feel is a direct result of my obedience. Passing on the gift cards was not only a financial act, but also an act of faith. God has rewarded my faith with a new opportunity.

Another way I've seen God's provision is that this month we have actually had money left over at the end of the month. This is the first time that I can remember this happening in quite a long time! I believe that God has made our money stretch farther, even in these tough economic times. The thing is, no matter what is going on in the economy, God is our source. An unstable economy doesn't cause God to scramble trying to figure out how He will provide for us. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is God, and He is in control of our lives when we give Him room to work and be in charge.

Of course, I’ve already shared with you in the last couple of posts how God is providing for us to get the help Todd needs for his speech development (another thing that has taken place since I chose to obey). But, in the last couple of days something else has developed. Some of you know that last year Shawn applied for a promotion at work that he didn’t receive. There was a good amount of red tape that he had to get through in order to be awarded the promotion. He struggled and fought in his own strength in an attempt to get promoted without success. Earlier this year God showed me that He wants to provide for us in totally unexpected ways that we cannot acquire on our own. Red tape has always been a part of receiving the promotion that Shawn applied for last year. And kudos to Shawn, because he has been working hard to improve his performance at work in these past several months. However God used some current circumstances in the executive level of the ATF to move on men’s hearts to remove the red tape. After Shawn’s next evaluation (sometime this month), he will be given the promotion without a struggle! To me this is just another example that when we try to force blessing to come in our own strength we will come up short, but when we allow God to have His way in our circumstances, and we do things His way, we will succeed!

Thank You, God for Your amazing provision! Thank You that You are not unaware of our needs and You are faithful to provide! Thank You that Your provision is not only a blessing for us, but for others as well! Thank You for allowing us to be conduits for Your provision to ourselves and others! Thank You for Your unexpected blessing and for moving on our behalf! Thank You for new opportunities that allow us to be a blessing to You and those around us! Thank You that You are using us to help make Your Name known throughout the earth! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Todd’s Restoration

Todd was always a very easy-going, laid back baby. He was always cooperative and fairly easy to deal with. Well, when he started having a lot of tantrums, sometimes pretty long and drawn out, I felt sometimes like I was losing him. It got to the point that sometimes he would not cooperate with anything we were doing (other than eating). I know some of this was his age, but it was such a switch from the way he had been that I felt there was more to it than just age. I knew it was also related to the frustration of not being able to communicate what he wanted, but I never gave into him and tried to correct him, yet the tantrums continued.

In the midst of all this I had a very vivid dream one night in which we were at a wedding reception on a bay like Ft. Lauderdale. The room opened up onto a dock. Looking across the dock I could see Todd in dress clothes with a girl who was helping us take care of him. They were getting onto a boat. She looked away and Todd ran off in the other direction, down the dock and around a corner. Shawn and I couldn’t see him anymore. Immediately we started looking for him while someone else took care of the girls for us, but he was nowhere to be found. We were afraid he had fallen into the water. We traveled up and down the bay in a boat for hours crying, calling, and searching, but we could not find him. Exhausted we went back to the place where we were staying in tears. When we walked into the room Todd was curled up on the floor asleep, dressed in his pajamas. There was no way Todd could have gotten there on his own. And he certainly wasn’t able to change his clothes without help. When we saw him we rushed into the room. Shawn scooped him up and we gave him a big, tight hug. Todd has beautiful big blue eyes and this amazing smile that can move the world. At the very end of the dream, Shawn lifted Todd up into the air. Todd looked down at us with those eyes and that beautiful smile. I was exhilarated! That’s when I woke up. (The emotions were so tangible in the dream that I’m crying as I write this.)

After I woke up, I laid there a few seconds with that picture of Todd smiling down at us in my mind. At that moment God said to me, “That which was lost will be restored.” Immediately all the details of the dream rushed back at me, and I began crying. A couple of weeks later was Todd’s initial evaluation that I described yesterday. After the evaluation I realized that God had used the dream in part to prepare me for what I’ve been going through with Todd in the last couple of months. The dream also reminds me that God is not unaware of what Todd is facing. Todd is not really mine. He is God’s. God has given him to me for a time to care for him and bring him up. God cares for him more than I ever can, which is so hard for me to fathom. He knows what Todd is facing and will use this situation for His glory. He is giving us the grace, wisdom, and power to overcome this challenge.

The thing is, God has a remarkable plan for Todd’s life (as He does for all of us). Satan does not want Todd’s destiny to be fulfilled, so where is he going to attack Todd? He’ll try to thwart Todd at the point of his destiny – in the area where God has designed him to function. I was praying over Todd one morning in early July and God gave me this prophecy for him: “I will loosen Todd’s tongue to speak My words and deliver words of life. People will be moved for Me by the words he speaks. His love and compassion for people will enable him to prophecy without harshness. He will be known as a loyal friend and companion, and a loyal servant of God.” And to that I say, “Amen!” I’m bursting with anticipation to see how God will work out His plan in Todd’s life!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Praise Report

Back in mid-August my son, Todd, started undergoing evaluations because he is behind in his speech development. At two and a half years old his speech is still very unintelligible, his vocabulary is not as large as it should be, and he’s barely putting two words together. I actually had concerns when he was around 18 months or so, but under the advice of his pediatrician, I waited. Well, by the time Todd was two years and three months he started getting frustrated and tantruming when he couldn’t communicate what he wanted. The doctor finally agreed that we should do something.

It’s amazing how God works all things together for good. A caseworker comes to see Sadey to monitor her speech development because of her ear, so that if she needs interventions, the caseworker can help us get access to the services she needs. So the caseworker started the evaluation process for Todd (a process that has felt painstakingly slow to me because I want answers!). Because we’re going through this program to get Todd services, rather than our pediatrician, the services are free to us. God is using government funds to provide us with what we need!

Todd’s initial evaluation was the day before my birthday. I wrote in an earlier post (A Testimony) that my birthday started out rough in part because I had received some difficult news the day before. Well, during the evaluation, Todd showed delays in all five areas where he was tested: communication, social/emotional, adaptive (dressing himself, etc.), cognitive, and physical. The caseworker and I had been concerned that Todd may not even score low enough to qualify for the program, but after he was tested, his scores were low enough that he qualified in four of the five tested areas. The test administrators began suggesting that Todd may have a form of high functioning Autism. I was dumfounded, and not at all in a good way!

In the past after receiving such news, I probably would have retreated into myself, gotten angry at God, and eventually become depressed and ineffective. But I determined that I would not go there. Instead of retreating, I called some people for prayer and support. I also decided that I would keep my focus on God no matter what.

I knew that something was not normal with Todd’s speech development, but I did not feel that Autism was the right diagnosis. I’m fortunate to have a friend who works with autistic kids all the time, and she did not feel that Autism was the right diagnosis, either. Todd underwent a speech evaluation a couple of weeks ago, and the therapist also did not feel that Todd was autistic. She did, however, determine that Todd has mild and moderate delays in his comprehension and expression of language, and severe delays in his articulation, so he definitely qualifies for speech therapy.

So that brings us yesterday. Todd had an evaluation with a developmental pediatrician to determine what diagnosis he should have, if any. I had people praying before we went. Todd was very well behaved, I was able to receive all the information the doctor was giving me, and after considering all the information, she determined that Todd is definitely NOT autistic! Praise God! What a relief! She said it is possible that down the road he could be diagnosed with Apraxia (a speech-related diagnosis that can’t be diagnosed yet because of his age) or a learning disorder, and gave me things to look for.

If it had been determined that Todd was autistic I would have accepted it and done what was necessary to help him move forward. I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have done everything in my power to help him recover. I do not believe it is right to avoid the diagnosis just because I didn’t want it to be or believe it could be true. God puts people in our lives that have more wisdom about some things than we ourselves have. Denying something doesn’t make it any less true. Denial can cause us to miss the help that God is trying to give us with something that’s too big for us to handle on our own.

As far as I’m concerned, it didn’t matter what was said yesterday, my response would have been essentially the same: no matter what life brings I am determined to keep my eyes set on Jesus. He is my Mediator and He gives me the strength, grace, wisdom, and power to overcome any obstacle that wants to trip me up. The fact is God is bigger than speech delays, Autism or any other diagnosis we may have. The amazing thing is that he can take those things, give us the power to overcome them, use them to bring glory to Himself, and then draw men into the Kingdom through them. But if we deny them, we deny God the chance to use them in our lives.

As I said yesterday, while I wish we had started this process sooner, I'm very grateful that we are taking steps to help Todd grow and develop as he should. I'm grateful that God has brought people into our lives who can help us determine what needs to be done and will guide us through the process. I'm also grateful for the people we will have access to through this that we can influence for God's Kingdom that otherwise we would never meet. God has already shown me that Todd will be fully restored (I’ll talk more about that later). I'm praising Him that we're not fighting for victory, but from victory! And today I’m praising Him that He was faithful to answer our request! He is a wonderful God!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miracles with Purpose

“No, you cannot ascertain the ways of God amid the pathways of men. You may feel the wind as [God] pass[es] and yet see only the swirling dust. The earthly obscures the heavenly.” *

I’ve been reading a devotional by Frances J. Roberts lately called Come Away My Beloved. It’s full of amazing revelation and I highly recommend it. The above quote came out of the passage I read yesterday. So here’s what God showed me out of that:

We have a tendency to see the swirling dust and think that it is God, but God is not the dust. His movement is what puts the dust in motion. Don’t be distracted from God by the things that are merely a consequence of and evidence for His moving and His being. Don’t get caught up in miracles. Though they may wow us, compared to God, they are really not that big of a deal. Instead, get caught up in God Himself. Don’t get caught up in proving that He is. Get caught up in Him – then your life will be proof enough that He exists. Learn to look past the dust. Let it show you where God is moving, and go where He is.

You know, in my own life I could use a few miracles. God has told me that He will recreate Sadey’s ear – that it will blossom like a flower as it grows. (You may ask how I know for sure it was God. I know because I know His voice as Jesus said in John 10:27.) I haven’t seen Sadey’s ear change yet. It looks the same as it did when she was born, only bigger. I could get tripped up by the fact that nothing miraculous has happened yet and get completely sidetracked from what God wants to do. The truth is, some days I do wonder why it seems that nothing has happened yet. On the other hand, when the miracle does take place I could praise the miracle instead of the Miracle Maker. I’ve seen this type of thing happen in the Church. I’ve seen God do some pretty remarkable things, and I’ve seen people get so caught up in the miracles that they begin seeking the miracles instead of God. They go from place to place trying to get another word or prophecy or healing, but so many times that’s the extent of their Christianity. I don’t see them growing closer to God or going into all the world to share the blessings they’ve been given. So often when the first trial comes they fall away from God instead of holding fast to Him and allowing Him to transform them through their circumstances. That’s the best miracle of all – the transformation of sinful, dirty, hurting people into godly, righteous, sanctified children of grace. Such a transformation doesn’t take place through a series of signs and wonders. It takes place in day to day life as we focus on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. When we seek the miracles instead of the Miracle Maker, we have made our foundation on sandy soil, and when the storms and trials of life come, what we have tried to build will be washed away and we will fall.

God showed me yesterday that I am not to look for Sadey’s creative miracle. I’m to look for Him. Her miracle will take place as He promised because of His presence and His moving. Miracles are merely evidence of that – that God is and He is moving. They are simply a consequence of His presence. When the supernatural and the natural meet, the natural must change – it cannot stay the same. But at the same time, God never does anything by accident. Everything He does is intentional. There is a purpose for the miracles. Miracles, signs, and wonders are not meant for the benefit of those who believe on God. These things are for the benefit those people who are yet to believe. God will perform miracles on our behalf, but only so that His purposes, not ours, can be fulfilled. Sadey has an underdeveloped ear so that the power of God can be seen in her (John 9:3), and His glory can be revealed. It has been prophesied that many, many people will give their lives to Christ as a result of God recreating Sadey’s ear. When God recreates her ear it will be so that His purposes can be fulfilled. It is amazing, because as He uses us, He also changes and improves us and the conditions of our lives. So, as you are intent and focused on God, obey Him in everything. He will give you assignments as you pursue Him that will cause miracles to take place in your life as you move in obedience. Your very life will be evidence of God’s being and God’s moving. What a privilege to be used for such a glorious cause!

*Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved. Barbour Publishing, Inc., Uhrichsville, OH. 2002. p. 177.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Essential Unity

Christ and the local church are essential areas of focus for every believer. It is only through the vehicle of the local church that God’s will can be accomplished in the earth. An individual is called and can accomplish great things for Christ on his own, but he can only go so far. When one person adds his calling to that of each individual in his local church in unity, he can accomplish much greater things. His calling is not just added to or even just multiplied. It is increased exponentially. “One can put a thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand to flight.” That is an exponential increase! When he is unified with His fellow believers God commands a blessing of “life forevermore.” When he is gathered with his fellow believers God is in their midst. In the context of his local body, strength is added to him and he receives spiritual protection. A single string can be easily cut or ripped apart, but a “three-strand cord is not easily broken.”

Love is the glue that binds us together in unity to form harmony – loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, strength, and loving our neighbors, in this case our fellow believers, as ourselves. Without love we are loud, harsh, and dissonant, like clanging cymbals. A single musical note can be heard, but is virtually meaningless on its own. When that note is joined with complimentary notes, there is harmony. Those notes and harmonies join together to form a song and a sound that can invade men’s hearts so that the message of the song is easily received. Think of an orchestra. When each musician plays her instrument in cooperation with her fellow musicians, under the guidance of the sheet music and the leading of the conductor, a beautiful melody is produced. However, when each musician plays his own thing, the sound is dissonant, harsh, loud, and ugly. It is difficult to listen to and causes the listener to cover his ears. Without love and harmony, the listener is not open to the message of the music.

In a military unit, each soldier must work in unity with his fellow troops if he expects to survive in battle. They must follow the instructions of their commander or face defeat. If even just one soldier acts on his own, the mission will most likely fail. Soldiers must trust and rely on each other to accomplish their goals and see their missions succeed. On an athletic team, the strengths of each individual player are combined and enhanced so that the team is able to defeat its opponents. Even if the team is composed of the greatest individual players in the world, if they do not work together, they will be defeated (the 2004 USA Olympic basketball team comes to mind).

In the context of the local church body, life flows into the individual through his fellow believers as “each joint supplies”. In the local body his gift is joined with that of others with similar gifting, until each cell is joined together to form tissues, and each tissue is joined together to form organs, and each organ is joined together to form several body parts, and each body part is joined together to form one body. A hand is composed of many cells that are bound together to form tissues. Those tissues join together to form bone, blood vessels, muscles, cartilage, tendons, nerves, and skin. Each of these comes together to make a hand, and together they can move many things. However each of these things on their own, while quite remarkable, can accomplish very little in comparison. It is the unification of these parts, in cooperation with many other parts, that allows me to type this essay, or pick up a glass or water, or pound a nail into a wall to build a house, etc. The hand receives it’s supply of blood, lymph, and nerve signals from the forearm, the forearm from the elbow, the elbow from the upper arm, the upper arm from the shoulder, and so on. Those other parts of the arm are essential for the health of the hand. If the hand is cut off from the arm, it will die, along with each cell of which it is composed. Without our fellow believers we will die spiritually.

It is up to God, our commander to decide which instrument we are to play in the orchestra, our role in the unit, our position on the team, where we fit in the makeup of the body. He places each one in the body “as He sees fit.” It is up to us to unite with those around us to accomplish our mission, His Kingdom purposes, throughout the earth. Each of us has needs that must be met, but if our focus is only on the meeting of our own needs then we will accomplish very little. If we lift our focus to Christ first and the needs of His body, working in love and unity with those with whom He has joined us, our needs will automatically be met through the life that flows to us through the body as each joint supplies. So do not worry about what you need. God is well aware of our needs – He created us, after all. If we seek first His Kingdom, all these things we need, and more, will be given to us as His will, not our own, is accomplished in the earth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Prayer of Thirsty Hearts

Dear Lord,
We are a people who are longing for You. We hunger and thirst after righteousness, panting for Your words. We cry out parched with a thirst only You can quench. We earnestly desire to come to the water that only You provide, craving the food that only You can offer. You say, “Let anyone who is thirsty, come to Me and drink,” so we come to You. Thank You, Sun of Righteousness, the Good Shepherd, for leading us to places of plenty, feeding us each step of the way, everywhere we go, under Your guidance and leading.

We are painfully conscious of our need of You. We don’t want to imagine where we would be without You. We are also painfully aware of how much we need those things with which You refresh, support, and strengthen our souls. We cannot obey Your calling without them. We are desperate for You, not because You never meet our desire for You – You are always faithful to provide. We are desperate simply because we love You and want always to be close to You. You truly do satisfy our souls, yet we want more of You. What we had of You yesterday is not enough for today. We are addicted, eager for the next drink, for what You are doing today and what You will do tomorrow. Today we cannot be satisfied with yesterday’s water and yesterday’s manna. Thank You for giving us our daily water and bread.

Though we are grateful for even just one drop of Your living water, You are faithful to completely fulfill our need. And, oh, how we treasure each drop! We are grateful that in Your provision there is no lack and we never again need look to another source to fill our hearts. We do not have to labor in vain to construct a well. We could never dig one deep enough. Our own efforts will only lead to greater thirst. Only You can satiate our desire, and You are ever bringing us new water to drink. You cause a spring of life to burst open in our stony hearts, and make them as clay. There is no need for us to pursue those things that cannot satisfy, because You give us everything we need for life and godliness. We are thankful that You do not expect us to partake of stagnant waters, but Your spring is always flowing, always bringing fresh, new water till it becomes a River of Life. Our hearts' cry is to go deeper into You everyday.

We know we can never earn Your provision. We have nothing to give You in exchange, yet You invite us to freely partake. You are faithful to let us feast on Your provision simply because we surrender ourselves and accept Your blessing. We delight in what You offer us. You give us food and drink that satisfy as no earthly fare can. You do not spare, but give us the best portion. You are the most gracious Host.

Thank You for washing, cleansing, and purifying us in the water of Your Word, removing every stain and wrinkle, making us holy and faultless. Thank You for restoring our lives and giving us meaning, hope, and purpose, not for our own sakes, but for the sake of Your Name. We are grateful that You not only quench our desires, but You stir the waters to make us healed, whole, and complete in You as we move into them. Though sometimes at first take the water may seem like an obstacle, it is the way to freedom. We hear Your voice saying, “Step into the water. Though it look like a raging torrent, I will keep you safe as you are faithful to step in obedience to My voice.” From faith to faith, grace to grace, deep calls to deep as Your waves and surging tides sweep over us, transforming, remaking, and reforming us into something effective, powerful, and new. It is only in the water that we can receive our deliverance, nourishment, and wholeness. Though the seas rage with tempest we can do things we never imagined possible if only we keep our eyes set on You, oh Author and Finisher of our faith. So we fix our gaze on You, and, though the wind and waves clamor for our attention, we will not be submerged. No, instead we hold fast to our faith as You empower us to walk. As we walk with You, we will give a hand of rescue to those who are sinking, navigating them to Your safety.

Thank You for opening heaven’s windows and floodgates, inundating us with an abundance that we cannot contain – a blessing so vast we must share it. We want to be Your voice in this place and throughout the world, like the voice of many rushing waters. Such a sound is loud and unmistakable – drowning out all other sound, it must be heard! Let us communicate Your sound to the world! Let songs flow out of us, songs that capture the hearts of men. Give us words that melt their hearts, causing them to desire to know You as we know You. Let us bring Your living water to the world. We want to communicate Your heart to our cities. Let the message our cities need to hear cascade down from the Mountain of Your House, reaching out across the land, bringing life and refreshment. Let the seeds of Your Word be transformed and grow as they come into contact with the waters of life. We hear You coming, riding on the thundercloud, bringing the early and latter rains so that the harvest of souls is bountiful, and we say, “Yes, come Lord Jesus, come!” Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Gift of Adoption

About a month ago I read an article on by Steven Curtis Chapman about adoption (Hyperlink to Commentary: Our tragedy and God's love for orphans). It's an excellent article which I highly recommend reading. I believe I am truly blessed to have several members of my family who are adopted, in addition to having family friends with adopted children. I think life provides few better pictures for us of how God receives us into His family. The Apostle Paul understood this significance and referred to our adoption by God on several occasions (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5). We have three wonderful children for whom I thank God everyday, but we want to open our hearts and home to a couple more someday (hopefully in the not so distant future) through adoption. Some days I'm so eager to see that dream realized it brings tears to my eyes (like today).

God's heart is full of compassion for orphans. The Bible of is full of references asserting this fact. It is not the job of governments or social service organizations to meet the needs of the millions of orphans in the world. God has ordained us as the answer to the worlds needs. And while not everyone is able to adopt a child, everyone can do something to help even just one orphan. Unfortunately, not every orphan is adoptable, but all orphans must still be cared for. According to Chapman, "If only 7 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world would care for a single orphan in distress, there would effectively be no more orphans." I encourage you to ask God what He would have you do and make yourself available to His plan for the world's orphans.

Here are some more highlights from the article:
According to UNICEF, there are 143 million children in the world who have lost one or both parents.

In America alone, there are half a million children in foster care, and approximately 120,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted. In many countries, children are too often orphaned or abandoned because of poverty, disabilities and disease; every 15 seconds, a child loses a parent because of AIDS. These are staggering facts that can seem overwhelming and discouraging, but I believe that God has a loving plan for each child, and that plan is you and me.

Caring for these children is not the job of governments or institutions; instead, it is the job of families, people and communities. As Christians, our compassion is simply a response to the love that God has already shown us. Mother Teresa would constantly remind those who worked with her that the Bible clearly teaches that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. So in a very real sense, caring for orphans is a chance to meet the person of Jesus in "the guise of human suffering." This is an invitation from the heart of God to know him and to experience his love....

[In reference to his own adoption story:] My wife and I had always supported the idea of adoption, and as Christians, we understood the importance of loving and caring for others. But what I had not yet grasped was that adoption is a physical picture of what Jesus has done for me. I did nothing to deserve God's love; in fact, I was living as an orphan, without hope. Yet God chose to pursue a relationship with me, and through the death of his son Jesus, I was adopted into God's family....

In our travels to Latin America, Africa and Asia, we have visited many different orphanages. If you look past the surroundings and into the eyes of the children, they all have the same look. They seem to convey, "I don't think this is what I was made for. Where do I belong?" These children are crying out for the hope of a family, for the hope of community, for the hope of a permanent love....

We started Shaohannah's Hope in order to connect willing families with waiting children, but the reality is that there are many orphans who cannot be adopted. Even though we may not be able to bring them into our homes, we still have the opportunity to show them the hope we have.

If only 7 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world would care for a single orphan in distress, there would effectively be no more orphans. If everybody would be willing to simply do something to care for one of these precious treasures, I think we would be amazed by just how much we could change the world.

We can each do something, whether it is donating, adopting, fostering, mentoring, visiting orphans or supporting families that have taken in orphans. You can change the world for an orphan.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Promises for Overcomers

I’ve been reading in Revelation for the past several days, and I just finished reading Christ’s addresses to the seven churches (Rev chapters 2 and 3). I noticed something I had never noticed before: in the address to each church is a promise to overcomers. I’ve catalogued them here. There’s little need for commentary because they pretty much speak quite clearly for themselves. I have emphasized certain things, so all italics, bolding, etc, I’ve added. And, I’ve taken everything from the Amplified Bible. Get ready! It’s pretty astonishing!

Rev 2:7 - He who is able to hear, let him listen to and give heed to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches). To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat [of the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Remember that tree in the Garden of Eden from which God didn’t Adam & Eve to partake after they sinned? We’ll get to partake from it! Isn't that cool!?)

Rev 2:11 - He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches). He who overcomes (is victorious) shall in no way be injured by the second death.

Rev 2:17 - He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches). To him who overcomes (conquers), I will give to eat of the manna that is hidden, and I will give him a white stone with a new name engraved on the stone, which no one knows or understands except he who receives it.

Rev 2:26-29 - And he who overcomes (is victorious) and who obeys My commands to the [very] end [doing the works that please Me], I will give him authority and power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a sceptre (rod) of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, and [his power over them shall be] like that which I Myself have received from My Father; And I will give him the Morning Star. He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).
-Psa 2:8 - Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations as Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.

Rev 3:5-6 -
Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels. He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).

Rev 3:12-13 -
He who overcomes (is victorious), I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God; he shall never be put out of it or go out of it, and I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which descends from My God out of heaven, and My own new name. He who can hear, let him listen to and heed what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).
-Isa 62:2 - And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication [your rightness and justice -- not your own, but His ascribed to you], and all kings shall behold your salvation and glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name.
-Eze 48:35b -
and the name of the city from that day and ever after shall be, THE LORD IS THERE. (That's just part of the new name He is going to give us!)

Rev 3:21-22 -
He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne. He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).

After I finished cataloguing these verses yesterday, I read them again all together (I actually read them aloud), all I could say was, “Wow!”, and after that I was pretty much speechless. When life gets difficult, as it often does, just hold on to these extraordinary promises. Remember that you’ve been created for something greater than you can ask, think or imagine! Right now we’re training for the main event that is yet to come, and all the saints who have gone before us are cheering us on! So no matter what you are facing, look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, and shine forth his glory whether you’re on the mountaintop or in the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances. Remember that Christ was staring down death and was able to say to the Father, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” One day we will enter eternity and Christ will stand up to greet us, and say to each of us, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” All we have to do is hold onto and be obedient to Him!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Testimony

Today I want to tell you a little story of something that’s been happening in the last couple of weeks. On August 17th, we took an offering at our amazing church (C3Greensboro) for a citywide outreach campaign called Reach. In the weeks prior to the Reach campaign, our pastor asked everyone in the congregation to ask God how He wanted us to contribute. Well, a couple weeks prior to the offering I had been praying and had a dollar amount in mind. Shawn and I discussed what to give one evening and we both had come up with the same dollar amount, so we thought that was it. Well, the next day I felt God say, “No, you miss understood me, I meant [that dollar amount] for each of you.” Well I didn’t get the guts up to tell Shawn that till we were driving to church on the morning of the 17th. Yes, I waited until the actual day of the Reach campaign offering to tell him. Since I hadn’t given Shawn any notice, I told him what I felt, but left the decision totally up to him. Well, Shawn followed through with what God had shown me, which was a big faith move on his part. We were definitely in a position in which we needed God to move on our behalf. Things were going to be tight that week. Some may think that it was irresponsible for us to give in that way, but I strongly believe that it would have been even more irresponsible for us to be disobedient to God’s instructions.

My birthday was two days after the Reach campaign on Tuesday, the 19th. It really started out as a bit of a rough day. I had received some difficult news on Monday that I was still absorbing. Korrynn had been sick to her stomach on Monday, so I had to be very careful about what to give her to eat. Shawn had been unexpectedly called out of town late Monday evening, and because of the situation I was concerned for his safety. Sadey and Todd both came down with fevers Monday afternoon and still had them when they woke up on Tuesday. So if I had given myself permission, by all natural means I would have had good reason to have a bad attitude that day. Monday evening I had called my pastor’s wife to tell her about the news I had received that day and told her everything else that was going on that day, too. She and her assistant arranged it for someone from church to come help me get the kids fed, bathed, and in bed that night. That in and of itself was an unbelievable blessing. But it didn’t stop there. The girl from church also brought a meal, flowers, and gift cards, which exceeded the dollar amount that we gave to the Reach campaign on the 17th! I also found out that night that Shawn would be back home the next day. What had started out as a difficult day was completely turned around to be an awesome day of blessing! I just realized something else – if I had kept my pain to myself and had not reached out to my pastor’s wife for prayer and support the door for God’s blessing would not have been open and I would have missed out.

Well I think that’s a pretty awesome testimony, but the story doesn’t end there. Shawn and I were sitting in church the next evening and I felt God tell me that I am supposed to pass most of the gift cards on to other people. I tried to argue with God about it, making sure to point out that cards would pay for the mattress and car seat we need for Korrynn and Sadey. Did I really think I could change His mind? Let’s just think about this minute, shall we? Hmm… While I didn’t succeed at changing God’s mind, I did hear Him tell me that He wants to give us an even bigger blessing and my obedience is necessary for that to happen. To be honest I haven’t followed through yet. ☹ (oops!) I’ve either left the gift cards at home, or the people I want to give them weren’t at church, and then there was this past Sunday when I had them with me at church in my back pocket, but completely forgot to remove them from my pocket and pass them on. Of course, just saying that I intend to give them away doesn’t constitute full obedience. But I’ll keep you posted on what happens when I do follow through.

One last still unfolding chapter in this story… You know when you make the effort to be obedient to what God is telling you, Satan really doesn’t like it. He will do whatever he can after you take those steps of obedience to disrupt your circumstances and try to discourage you so you won’t do it again. Well, the Saturday after my birthday, the 23rd, Shawn, Korrynn, and I were taking part in a community outreach through our church in partnership with several other churches in the city. While we were driving home the check engine light came on. We dropped the car off to be repaired this past Sunday and found out the whole radiator needs to be replaced, a repair that will cost us over $800.00. Our current budget doesn’t yet allow for that, but we know God has our back! He is our Source! Sunday night I had a dream of God bringing unexpected miraculous provision from completely unexpected sources into our lives. Who knows? I can’t wait to see what happens!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Procrastination Blues

Sorry I haven’t blogged for a while. I haven’t been too busy. Life hasn’t been too complicated. I’ve just been putting it off. It seems that when I said I wouldn’t be blogging as regularly as before I subconsciously gave myself permission to procrastinate. I should never do that. Procrastination is one of my biggest hang-ups. (There… now you know the ugly truth… I’m not perfect!) I even have a whole list of things I want to blog about, and the longer I procrastinate the longer it gets. Duh! Does anyone else struggle with procrastination? Any pointers for overcoming? I know I’m certainly not procrastinating out of faith. There’s no script playing in my head saying, “I know that if I put this off today, God will get it done!” Actually God is usually waiting on me to do it. It is my assigned task after all.

“Why put off tomorrow what you can do today?” (So the saying goes…) Different reasons. I’ve recently discovered that it’s usually fear based. I find the fear thing overwhelming, so I avoid what it is I need to do. What am I afraid of? I don’t know, usually stupid things. Sometimes it’s putting myself out there. Sometimes it’s all the nitty gritty details. Sometimes it’s not having enough time. Sometimes it’s not doing it right. Sometimes it’s people. Sometimes it’s change. No matter what the reasons may be, the fact is that procrastination has become a stronghold in my life.

Procrastination is definitely a “sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles” me (from Heb 12:1 AMP). The Message says “parasitic sin”. It is clever. It’s subtle, strategic, and serves as a distraction to steal my focus away from Christ. Some may say it’s a little harsh to call procrastination a sin, but Paul said, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23b NASB). The simplest definition of sin I’ve ever heard is just, “missing the mark”. Procrastination trips me up, causes me to lose my focus and miss my target. It is also parasitic. A parasite steals energy from the host for it’s own purposes at the host’s expense. Procrastination steals energy from me and keeps me overwhelmed. The more I put something off, the harder it is to accomplish, and the more it overwhelms me. When I’m overwhelmed I feel like I don’t have enough strength to accomplish my task. Also, by calling procrastination sin I am more motivated to get it out of my life. I don’t want sin in my life, but I might be willing to overlook a “personality fault” and make excuses for it. The truth is, my procrastinating has made it necessary for me to invent a lot of excuses throughout the course of my life which are little more than deceptions. I’m done with making excuses. I want to be able to be fully forthright and honest with myself and everyone around me.

One of the things I have discovered recently is that half of the battle is just getting started on something. Usually once I get started, it really doesn’t take that much time and effort to complete a task. And for the bigger tasks sometimes I just need to work on it for a few minutes and then do something else for a little while. But sometimes the task it so big that even breaking it down and getting started are not enough to keep me from getting overwhelmed. Sometimes I need help, and I’m learning that that’s okay.

So now I’ve put myself out there. Okay, y’all, this is huge… I’m giving you permission to call me to task on this. (Maybe I shouldn’t, but for some strange reason I want to.) Let me make myself clear, I am by no means inviting criticism – just advice and accountability. If you think you have something for me, please just run it by God first and make sure. Then, please be gentle, not condemning. I want to be better and I’d love your support. And I must say, thank You, Christ for giving me strength to be more than a conqueror!

Friday, August 22, 2008


“For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” (Eph 2:10 AMP)

“Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” (Phil 3:12-14 AMP)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].” (1 Cor 9:24-27 AMP)

Last week many of us witnessed Michael Phelps make history by winning eight gold medals in a single Olympics. We watched him fulfill the goal he had set for himself after the 2004 Olympics in Athens. By far the most exciting prize that he won was his seventh –the gold for the 100m fly. He won that race by the smallest measurable margin, 1/100th of a second, the length of the eraser and metal on the end of a wooden pencil. When journalists were discussing that win, one of them excitedly took the pencil and said something along the lines of, “Look at that. If that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is.” At the time I thought that was a bold statement. But then, Michael went on to win medal number eight the next day, and it did indeed seem that destiny had called his name.

The thing is, Michael did not achieve his destiny just by showing up at the Olympics. He achieved his destiny because he chose to do so. He had to get in the pool and swim 17 times to win those 8 medals, and that was just what he did during the games. Four years ago he made a decision that he would win eight gold medals in 2008. He believed he could do something no one else has ever done in the history. For the past four years he has been working every day to achieve that goal. For the past four years he spent two hours a day just working on his starts, five hours a day in the pool. Every bite of food he took was chosen based on what would best help him to achieve his goal. When people criticized him he channeled him emotions into motivation to win each medal. How many thousands of laps did he swim without the cheering crowds, with only his coach and trainers looking on? There were probably many days he didn’t feel like getting up and going to the pool, but he chose to do so anyway. He chose a lifestyle of discipline. Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” (Prov 19:18a NASB). He had a vision of eight gold medals, so he kept himself restrained to his training routine even when it was difficult to do so. He lived a life of no excuses.

God assigns a destiny to each of us. It is by grace alone that we are saved, and without that free gift of salvation we would be incapable of fulfilling our destinies. However, faith without works is dead. God has so much more in store for us than just salvation. We are not our own because we’ve been bought with a price. God desires to partner with us to establish His Kingdom on the earth and He has given each of us a role in His Kingdom. Our salvation is only partly about us and is all about Him. He needs us to find out what that role is and fulfill it through His guidance. We can certainly ignore our destinies and live according to our own choosing. If we make such a choice, God will use someone else to replace us and we will miss out on amazing blessings. Many are called, but few live up to the calling. God told Reinhart Bonke that he was fourth in line for the calling God placed on his life. Reinhart Bonke told God that He would not need to look for number five. Reinhart Bonke has won many multitudes for Christ in Africa and has seen many miracles performed for the sake of the Gospel.

Michael Phelps is limited to what he can achieve by the available resources and the strength of his own body. However, we have an advantage over Michael Phelps. Through God we have unlimited strength and resources, and we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us. God doesn’t give us more than we can bear, but He equips us with everything we need for the life to which He has called us. What we can achieve through Christ is limitless! But our achievement of that destiny is still up to us. Every moment of every day we must make the choice to live in such a way to achieve the prize. We must discipline and train with only God looking on. We must restrain ourselves to achieve the vision. We must walk in the Spirit so we won’t give in to our fleshly desires. We must choose to live a life of no excuses. We must ignore every distraction and focus on Christ. We must rely on His strength, not our own. We must put our hands to the plow and never look back. Through such a lifestyle we can achieve the prize!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Running for Gold

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27 NLT)

“THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)

“You don’t work all your life for silver. You work for gold.” Shawn Johnson was credited with this quote during the broadcast of the balance beam finals of the Olympics last night. Before I heard this I was in an unusually contemplative mood & that quote seemed to put what I was feeling into the words I had as yet been unable to find. I’ve faced some things in my life in the last few weeks (which I’ll expound on in future posts) that have made me determined to march into heaven as a Kingdom champion. I don’t want to come to the end of my life having to accept the second place finish. I don’t give a rat’s whisker what Satan throws at me to try to get me off course. If anything those things are making me more determined. I will win my race! My past does not matter. I don’t have to catch up. I only have to jump in where I am and begin moving forward without ever looking back.

Olympic athletes are working “for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally.” (1 Cor 9:25, The Message). The awesome thing is that I’m not running my race alone! Christ and the saints are supporting me, cheering me on. I will not let them down, but I will keep my eyes on the Prize – on Christ Himself. One day Christ will honor me with those golden words, “Well done my good and faithful servant”!

Just to give you some more food for thought, here’s the Hebrews passage from the Message. “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Heb 12:1-3)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Miracle - Part Two

To recap from yesterday, Todd dropped the computer, and a few days later it failed to boot up.

Part of my husband's job requires him to travel out of town on occasion. The next week after the computer failed to boot up he was going to Wilmington, which takes him through Durham where the closest Apple Store is. So he made an appointment to take the computer to the Apple Store to get a tech to hopefully salvage the information from the hard drive. Well, Shawn was in a lot of pain when he went to the appointment, so he doesn't remember exactly what was said. (He slammed his finger in the car door, injuring it to the point of needing stitches, as he was retrieving the computer from the back seat of the car for the appointment -- but that's another story.) Basically he was told that the hard drive couldn't boot up due to mechanical failure. It wouldn't stop spinning and therefore couldn't be read. The information was virtually irretrievable and the hard drive would need to be replaced. (We could have tried to send it away to a headquarters for a tech there to attempt to retrieve the information, but that would be a minimum of $1200 with no guarantee they would be able to salvage any data. Well, considering our budget, not to mention our sense of logic, this just wasn't a viable option.)

Oh, computers! Such a love-hate relationship! It's amazing what they can do for us, but they're also such a pain to deal with sometimes. When Shawn told me the verdict, I cried (briefly, mind you, but tears were shed). I had been trying to back up my pictures and documents in the two days before the computer crashed, but had been unsuccessful. Now all that information was lost... again. Just a few months before this incident we had lost a bunch of information on another hard drive. (I didn't cry only for the computer. I also cried because Shawn got hurt and he was away from home, and because all this stuff was happening at the same time while he was away from home.)

The crash occurred in early May. We packed up the computer and didn't touch it until two weeks ago. Occasionally I prayed for it and asked God to let it boot up just one more time so that I could retrieve the information. Despite my prayer, I never followed through with trying to turn it on to see what would happen. I must admit I was afraid of being disappointed, so I just avoided it. Shawn came to me a couple of weeks ago and said that he was considering trying to replace the hard drive himself. I told him, "Well, pray over it, and try to boot it up again one more time and see what happens." I told him that I had prayed that God would let the computer work one more time, but hadn't tried to turn it on. Well, Shawn had the courage to follow through where I didn't. He did what I said and came into the kitchen where I was a few minutes later with computer in hand. He said, "You'd better get the information off the computer right now while the it's working." I can't remember what I said next... Something along the lines of "God is so awesome!" or "Praise God!" or "Hallelujah!" or some other expression like that. I'm pretty sure I jumped up and down a few times. I asked Shawn what he did, and he said he just prayed over it and tried to turn it on, and it came on!

God is so amazing! Anyway, I ran and grabbed the blank CDs and proceeded to copy every file off the computer I could possibly want or need later, starting with the pictures, even though I was in the middle of making homemade brownies. Well the computer has been working ever since! As far as I'm concerned, it's a miracle. Some may try to explain it away, but the diagnosis was very grim, and what man couldn't do, God did. Enough said.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Miracle - Part One

We all know that I have posted in months. As I explained in the last post, our laptop was on the fritz, so it was difficult for me to get to the computer to write blog posts. Well, I'm back up & running now. I'm not sure that I'll be posting as regularly as before, but I am posting again. No, we didn't get a new laptop. We didn't even get the old one fixed, well at least not by a human computer tech. Let me tell you what happened to the computer to explain what I mean. It's important to the story for you to know that we got the computer cheap, second-hand from eBay.

We have a wonderful and curious little monkey boy who lives within the confines of our home, named Todd (yes, I am referring to my son). Well, one beautiful sunny day Todd decides to try to carry the laptop around while Mommy was busy doing something else. (Don't ask me what, I can't remember other than it was only something vital to his wellbeing, like making lunch or some such thing.) Well, I'm sure you can guess what happened. Yes, my sweet, amazing, and sometimes clumsy little man dropped the computer. Did he drop it on the carpet? No. Did he drop it on the vinyl kitchen floor? No. He dropped in on the hardest indoor floor surface in our home -- the hardwood floor. We probably have all of five square feet of hardwood floor in our home and that's where he dropped the computer, while it was powered on and open, no less.

Now, some of you are probably wondering why in the world I left the computer where Todd could get it. Well lets just say that Todd is very active, and, like most curious two-year-old boys, has the attention span of a gnat. With my crazy life I needed a way to potty train Todd that would hold his attention so that he would stay on the potty long enough to have a successful potty session, and yet allow me to take care of the baby at the same time. The solution I came up with was to put one of his favorite DVDs in the laptop and let him watch it while sitting on the potty. Since he refuses to use a potty chair and only wants to use the "big potty", it was necessary to put the laptop in front of him, in the bathroom where he could reach it. Are there better solutions? Possibly, but it was the best I came up with at the time.

Okay, so the laptop is in the bathroom where Todd can reach it. Well, he decides to cut his potty session short, before I could get back in the bathroom and check on him. So, he gets off the toilet, grabs the laptop (he's still half-naked at this point, mind you), walks two feet into the hallway, and proceeds to drop the computer on the hardwood floor. Fortunately the computer continued to work for a few days, so I (at first) thought everything was fine. Well, one fine morning a few days later, when I was already having an unusually difficult day, the computer decides not to boot up. I tried several times. I tried the next day and the next. My husband tried several times as well. All attempts were met with no success.

In the interest of your time, I'll continue the story tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I know it's been awhile...

Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. Our laptop died, so now I have to develop a new routine. It's pretty hard to post from the PC because of dealing with interruptions from the kids. Usually I post in the morning before they're awake. I definitely function much better in this arena with the laptop. It's quite upsetting, too because I lost some pictures and documents. I was trying to backup the pictures, but the computer was giving me trouble, and then a couple of days later the hard drive gave up the ghost. If anyone knows someone who is able to recover files without a huge pricetag, I'd appreciate the references. Hopefully I'll be back up and running soon. In the meantime, make each day the best day!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Lessons in Anger - Part Three

Exodus 32: Moses' anger was justified and righteous in this instance because the people were defiling themselves and worshiping a man-made god. They were also crediting that god for delivering them from Egypt even though they had seen the power of the true God working to deliver them. His anger motivated him to obey God's command and cleanse the people, which he may have been hesitant to obey otherwise.

Numbers 20:1-12: Moses was continually being frustrated by the Israelites. Nothing was ever good enough for them. Rather than embracing each challenge they faced as an opportunity to see God work for them, they chose to complain to Moses about how they wanted to go back to Egypt. They often accused Moses of bringing them out into the wilderness to die. You would think that after everything they had seen God do through Moses that at some point they would begin trusting. I'm sure Moses was tired of their complaining and accusations. He probably hoped they would show gratitude for being delivered out of the abuse and slavery they experienced in Egypt. When they arrived at the Wilderness of Zin, where there was no water, and the people began rehashing their familiar complaints, Moses was probably thinking something along the lines of "Oh, here we go again!" At first he did the right thing and sought God for the solution, but as he approached the people his anger was still brewing. He may have wanted to show the people once and for all that he was the one in charge. In his anger he modified God's instructions. God had told Moses to simply speak to the rock in front of the Israelites, and it would yield water. Instead Moses chose to say, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" (vs 10) and hit the rock twice with his rod (emphasis added). In the past Moses had channeled his anger to enable him to do positive things, but this time he let his anger get the best of him. This time he took matters into his own hands, reminiscent of the time that he killed the Egyptian who had abused the Israeli slave (Exodus 2:11-12). In his anger he tried to take part of the credit for God's miracle. God wanted His own authority to be clearly demonstrated to the people. Moses wanted the people to accept his authority. He disobeyed God's command. In his anger he struck the rock. I think that both God's and Moses' authority would have been much more clearly demonstrated had Moses exactly obeyed God's command (that's not a judgment, just an observation). But, when we allow anger to get the best of us our judgment gets clouded. God was faithful and provided the water despite Moses' disobedience, but He punished Moses by preventing him from leading the people into the Promised Land.