Monday, October 29, 2018

A Pittsburgh Story of Love vs. Hate

Hey Friend,

I grew up in Pittsburgh, not far from where the terrible shootings took place.  Though not in that neighborhood, I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood south of the city.  My best friends were of the Jewish faith.  I've been to worship in the synagogue, have attended Hebrew school, been the guest at many a Passover Seder, and have celebrated Bar and Bat Mitzfahs as well as weddings of Jewish friends.

As a follower of Jesus, knowing Jesus' faith draws me closer to Him.  He was a Rabbi after all.  Reading the Torah, or first five books of the Bible, gives me the history of my faith.  In order to know Jesus, you need to know HIS heritage.  The prophecy of the Old Testament prophets brings rich meaning to the New Testament fulfillment.  Israel, her people and descendants, are God's chosen people.  I, as a Gentile, am grafted in by faith.  

I am so tired of the heinous acts perpetrated on those of another faith.  After visiting what is left of Dachau concentration camp and seeing the appalling pictures and reading the horrible stories in the museum, I just can't believe man's inhumanity to man. Where and when will it stop? 

I believe that fear drives hatred.  Fear and ignorance.  If we took the time to get to know and appreciate each other, fear would dissipate and so would the hatred.  Unfortunately, my Jewish brothers and sisters are not the only victims of religious hate crimes.

I am the President of a non-profit ministry that runs a Christian school for orphans in a Middle Eastern country whose Christian population is about 1%.  This country is considered one, if not THE most notorious for persecuting Christians.  Christians who live there are called "the unclean ones".  They are considered to be on the lowest rung of society.

Most of the Christians there are illiterate and are forced to work for slave wages and they work the most menial and labor intensive jobs (like making mud bricks).  Their children are the first to be caught up in human trafficking, abducted and sold into child prostitution, made to work as slaves, caught up in begging rings, and if starving and disillusioned - recruited for extremist militia training.

Extremists have detonated themselves in their churches and at Easter gatherings in the park.  They throw acid on young Christian women while jeering, "Unclean ones."  One young man who confessed to being a Christ follower was doused with gasoline and set ablaze in broad daylight in the city streets.  The authorities did nothing. Other Christians have been executed in cold blood or burned alive in brick kilns. 

It is in their Constitution that if you say that Jesus is Lord you can be legally stoned to death.  Young Christian boys have been beaten to death by their schoolmates of another faith.  Christian men who have been overcome by fumes while cleaning city sewers are refused treatment at hospitals because they are Christians.  

There is much more religious hatred than I can write about here.  I just can't wrap my mind around a heart and mind so filled with hate that they could commit such atrocities to another human being??  9/11 was a religiously motivated act of terrorism and hate. 

If anyone says there is no such thing as spiritual warfare going on then they
are in denial. There is a full out battle being waged between good and evil.  There are forces of evil in this world that can only be defeated by love.  Fear fuels hatred, but perfect love casts out fear.  

I can't change the whole world, but I can pray, and I can be committed to showing ALL God's children love...even my enemies.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and will all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself.  (Luke 10:27)

THIS is the only answer.....

Be part of the answer....

Sunday, October 21, 2018

What is Your Super Power?

Hey Friend,

You know that Hollywood has gone through just about all the super heroes when they get down to "Antman and the Wasp".  I wasn't standing in line to buy a ticket for that one.  

Some people think the Bible is boring, but all you have to do is look in the book of Judges to find an amazing super hero named Samson.  God's calling upon Samson's life was that he was to be a judge (law enforcement) in those times.  His purpose in life was to deliver the Israelites from the persecution and oppression by the much stronger Philistines.

Man to man, the Israelites were no match for the aggressive Philistines, but God gave Samson to the nation of Israel.  Samson was endowed with super human strength so long as he let his hair grow and it was not cut.  Samson showed his awesome strength by killing a lion with his bare hands.  I think that would make a great action movie scene?!

Then, Samson goes up against 1000 Philistine soldiers and single handed, he takes them out.  Even when he is captured, he is able to break the ropes and constraints that bind him....that is until they learn the secret of his super human strength.  Like all heroes, Samson has his downfalls - one of them being women. Even Biblical heroes were human like us.   

I can't leap tall buildings with a single bound, nor swing from skyscraper to skyscraper to entangle the enemy in my web, but I DO have a super power.  Want to know what it is?

Resurrection Power!!

Here is what the Amplified version of Philippians 3:10 says about resurrection power:

And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];

As I understand it, this verse says that we can not only know Christ, but we can experience the awesome power of His resurrection because it is active in believers. 


Think about it...the very same power that enabled Jesus not only to descend into hell, but to rise up and overcome hell and its power, enabled Christ to defeat death once and for all so that we could have everlasting life with Him in paradise...that power resides in us as believers...WOW!  Now THAT's a super power.

When I face extreme trials or am faced with hurdles that I think there is no way to possibly get over, I remember this verse.  In my humanness, apart from Christ, I can do nothing; but with His resurrection power residing in me, I have everything I need to defeat the enemy, take his lies captive, and defeat the power of evil in my life.  

Now THAT's something worth making a movie about!!

Furthermore, the Bible goes on to say that In Christ we are more than conquerors.

So what does it mean to be "more than a conqueror"? Throughout Biblical history and modern history there are stories of one nation conquering a nation and then another nation conquering it back. Using a modern example:  The Germans conquered all of eastern and western Europe.  The US and the Allied forces then came back and conquered the Germans and re-established the free world.  

When the Bible speaks about being more than conquerors, I believe it is saying that, through the resurrection power residing in us, we can conquer death.  Our salvation is secure and no power can come back and re-conquer us or defeat us.

We know how the story ends and we, along with Christ, are victorious.  We win a victory that cannot be reversed.  

So when you wonder, what is my super power?  Be reminded that through Christ living in you, you have the same power that was able to defeat death and allowed Jesus to rise from the grave.  You are not only a conqueror, but you are victorious in the battle for salvation.  The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you and the defeated enemy cannot reverse the outcome.  

That, my friends, is beyond Super Power!!  Take Heart!!

Dear Heavenly Father, I know that in my humanness - apart from you - I can do nothing.  I am so grateful that, as a believer, you give me the same resurrection power that enabled Christ to rise and defeat the grave.  Give me courage knowing that your power dwells within me.  I praise you that, through Jesus, I am not only victorious, but I am MORE than a conqueror.  My victory in Christ cannot ever be overturned.  Let that give me hope and courage.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Have you experienced resurrection power at work in your life?  How might God be wanting to give you courage through these verses?  Do you believe that, in Christ's power, you can break the shackles of guilt, shame, fear, etc. on your life.  Do you need to claim, today, this power that is available to you?  Why not do that now?

Be blessed.....

Monday, October 8, 2018

Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness? A Personal Profile

Hey Friend,

This is a rather lengthy and very personal post, but several things have happened this past week that have convinced me that I need to speak up on this subject.  Here is one thing that was posted on Facebook and Instagram:

It was followed by some joking remarks and quite a few laughing emojis.  Now if someone cracked jokes about cancer, or heart disease, or MS, etc., people would be disgusted, yet mental illness is fair game and the stigma is far from being erased.  After all, "It's all in your head," right?  Obviously they don't know that OCD is considered one of the most insidious of the anxiety disorders.  

A young man I know, has an agonizing obsession that loops around, and around, and around endlessly in his brain.  It says, "You're going to hell."  Compulsively, he is led to pray and read scripture continuously (for hours on end) as a way of warding this off from happening. The more he tries, the more anxious he becomes. Meanwhile, he knows somewhere, consciously, that this is irrational, but the obsessions present themselves as being VERY real and threatening, and he is helpless to make them stop.  That to me is hell....not a joke. 

I hope you'll read my personal story and perhaps glean some information that previously you were unaware of.....maybe even read up on mental illness.  Chances are someone you know has such an illness!

I can vividly remember my dad asking me, "Are you still dwelling on that?" and then saying, "For Pete's sake give it a rest already."

When I would start a new job, even a simple job like working in a fast food place, I would get so anxious that I would literally get sick.  I was sure I was going to screw up.  

I intrinsically knew I looked at the world differently.  I didn't have as carefree an attitude that others seemed to have.  I was plagued with self-doubt and was certain that anyone else, if placed in my shoes, would do a better job at managing life than I did.

Fast forward to my first child being born.  I couldn't wait for his/her arrival.  I loved this baby and was anticipating its coming...until she came, and a dark cloud blew in and settled over me.  Another friend, who gave birth around the same time I did, seemed to be enjoying motherhood.  I was a nervous wreck.  I had terrible thoughts like I wanted to give the baby back because I didn't like how I was feeling.  I wasn't the glowing happy mom that doted on this precious child the way others did.  Even writing this now, I feel horrid, ashamed, and embarrassed.  It's hard to think about, let alone write about it. 
I couldn't sleep even when my daughter slept.  I obsessively wrote down and tracked everything she did and when.  I couldn't go to bed at night without putting my hand on her chest and feeling her chest rise and fall.  I'd kiss her and exit the room, only to return seconds later to see if she was still breathing.  This process of checking her breathing, going back and forth, could last for hours. I feared she might die if I left her alone and didn't keep checking. 

I sank deeper into a sadness and despair at what my life had become and felt guilt and shame for not being more grateful for this gift that God had given me.  I would walk around the neighborhood in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and one time I remember just running.  I was running and crying, and I didn't know where I was running to, but I just wanted to run away.  I remember driving by myself and thinking I just wanted to turn and head into oncoming traffic so that someone would hit me and put me out of my misery.  What on earth was wrong with me?

I finally confided in my family doctor who said I was experiencing post-partum depression and as long as I didn't feel like I'd hurt the baby (which I didn't) that I should just give it time and it would pass.  It was the "baby blues" and it was not unusual and given time I'd feel like myself again.

The trouble was that I didn't feel like myself again.  I felt somewhat better, but I knew that I just didn't feel like I should. I loved and adored my daughter, but something bigger, greater, was wrong.  

It wasn't until around my daughter's third birthday and potty training just about pushed me over the edge, that I was thankfully and mercifully diagnosed as having OCD (an anxiety disorder) and depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain).  

I started taking medicine (albeit with great hesitation) that worked on both the OCD anxiety and the depression.  It took a while, but I began to feel like I could cope.  I wasn't as anxious about things - especially taking care of my daughter.  I didn't have that feeling like if someone said to me, "Could you pour me a bowl of cereal?"  It sounded like they were saying "Go climb Mt. Everest.”  I began to feel joy return. 

I didn't like taking the medicine, however, because that meant I had to admit I had a mental illness.  Well-meaning people told me that if I just read more scripture, or prayed harder, or had more faith then I wouldn't feel this way, nor would I need to take medicine.  I was a Christian, after all, and medicine was a crutch.  

I felt flawed, less than, like my faith wasn't enough.  Surely, if I was just a better Christian I wouldn't be in this state.

These are the thoughts I wrestled with.  I remember going to a new dentist and having to check off medical history.  I would get to the part where it would list anxiety, depression, or mental illness and I’d have to check the little box.

Fast forward many years and I now realize that Mental Illness is, just that, an illness!  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or by extreme circumstances (like what many of our returning vets experience).  Sometimes it's a combination of chemistry and experience. It's also genetic.  Many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, etc. 

The truth is, it's not my fault.  It's not your fault.  You have an illness.

If someone had diabetes, you wouldn't tell them they didn't need insulin, but just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, think happy thoughts, mind over matter and they'd be fine.  Perhaps reading more scripture would alleviate the diabetic symptoms?  Sounds silly, right? But this is how we treat the mentally ill.

I am a cancer survivor.  Cancer, though terribly scary, was something I could wear like a badge of honor that I battled and survived.  No one talks about battling/surviving mental illness in these terms.  When I hear about someone committing suicide and others saying things like, "How could he or she be so selfish to do something like that?"  All I can say is that unless you've lived the pain and suffering of depression or anxiety or intense fear or all other symptoms of mental illness like mania, or rages wherein you feel like a monster, or multiple personalities, you have absolutely no idea the pain and suffering that a person endures.  It is so bad, and if left untreated, I can understand that a person could get to a point that they are in so much pain, that ending one's life is the only way to make this horrid, unbearable pain stop.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  

Most people would not peg me as the poster child for mental illness.  I was the captain of my cheerleading squad.  I graduated 8th in my class of nearly 800 students in high school.  I excelled in college.  I held leadership positions and have worked in Christian ministry most of my adult like.  I love to write and have been published. 

Mentally ill?  No, those are the homeless people begging for money on street corners, right?

I am the face of mental illness.  I know what it's like to wear the gray glasses and have the dark cloud come in and settle over you.  I know pulling the covers over my head and not being able to get out of bed for days at a time.  I know pain so intense that all I can do is let the Holy Spirit groan, "Jesus" on my behalf.

I needed and still need medicine and counseling - hand in hand - to get me to, and keep me in, a healthy place. It's still not a cure.  I have my episodes with OCD and depression, but I am able to function and cope in this world. I can experience joy and can find hope in scripture.

I've learned that stress, and lack of sleep and exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a greater likelihood of returning symptoms.  I know coping techniques like distracting and holding the lies I hear in my head (from the enemy) up to scripture and if they don't match up with scripture, then I need to take those thoughts captive to Christ and let Him cast them far from me.  I can call on my faith now, because I was able, thanks to medicine and prayer, to get to the field.

Christians, Mental Illness, & Scripture - A Football Analogy: It’s like you are on a football team. God is the Coach and the Bible is His playbook. In order to benefit from the Coach you first need to be able to get to the field so that you can hear the Coach’s instructions from the playbook, practice on the field, and get the encouragement and discipline He offers. The only problem is... you can’t even get to the field. You are stuck miles away in a pit so large and so deep that you can’t possibly climb out of it by yourself. You need medicine or counseling or both to even be able to get out of the pit, to get to the field, to sit at the feet of the Coach so that He can coach you from His playbook. You, first, need to be able to get to the field.

Mental illness is the thorn in my side (like what Paul experienced).  The Lord has not removed it, but I have learned that in it - as in all trials - His grace is sufficient.  He has never left nor forsaken me and He has been faithful to walk with me THROUGH the valleys and has not left me stuck there indefinitely.  

I believe that I have a compassion for others that I would NEVER have had it not been for what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.  I would NEVER have the close relationship that I do with Jesus had I not had to call out to Him from the utter depths of despair and to know He was still holding onto me even when I couldn't hold on to Him.  

So why do I say all this?  Two reasons.  One is to let the world know that God is faithful.  He knows the pain of the mentally ill and is close to the brokenhearted that deal with this illness.

Second, I would like to erase the stigma of mental illness.  One day, perhaps NFL teams will wear bright lime green cleats, gloves, and mouth guards to bring awareness to the one in four people who suffer from mental illness…including Christians. 

One day we might talk with ease about bipolar, panic attacks, anorexia, OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
I strongly encourage you that if you have felt or experienced any of the symptoms I've mentioned, that you PLEASE seek medical advice and counseling.  There IS help and there IS hope!!  We just need to talk more about it.  Take it from one who's been there.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:1-3) 
Thank you for reading.... maybe you know someone who needs to read blessed....

Monday, September 24, 2018

How Can We Bless the Lord?

Hey Friend,

I love the Psalms.  They minister to me in so many ways.  There's a unique group of fifteen Psalms (or songs) called the Songs of Ascent. Many scholars believe the title indicates that these songs were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Psalm 134 has taken on new meaning to me lately.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion, 
he who made heaven and earth!
(Psalm 134)

When it comes to blessing, I naturally think of God as the "Blessor" and me as the "Blessee".  After all, when God blesses us, He adds something to us.  He bestows gifts like grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, kindness.  That's God's job, after all isn't it, to bless us? 

Psalm 134, however, continually talks about us blessing the Lord.  This concept is a little harder for me to get my mind around.  What does it mean to "bless the Lord"?  After all, God is totally complete unto Himself.  There is nothing we can add to Him or detract from Him. Nothing we can give Him that He doesn't already have.  In essence, He really doesn't "need" us, but He chose to create us anyway.  

I believe that by blessing the Lord, it means to constantly keep His name in the conversation.  By blessing or praising the Lord, we enhance His reputation here on earth.  One might say, "We give God props!"  Not to go all Southern on you, but when good things happen here in the South, there is always someone who will shout with gladness, "Praise the Lord!!"  They are giving credit where credit is due. Our job is to bring glory unto Him. How good it is to bless His holy name!

I recently received a short email from a friend, and at the end she signed it, "I'm grateful for you, Bev."  Those words of gratitude and blessing brought a smile to my face.  I believe that when we bless the Lord - lift Him up and glorify Him - there has to be a smile on His face.

Recently, here in the Carolinas, we lived through a devastating hurricane.  Slow moving Florence dumped record levels of rain on us, sweeping peoples' homes away in floods and toppling trees on others with her wind gusts.  She even closed down I 95 which is a major north/south interstate.

I distinctly remember standing by the window, watching the rain pelt against it and watching the huge trees in our back yard bending, almost parallel, to the ground.  I pleaded with God to place a hedge of protection around hold those trees by their roots, to not let the rains flood us. I cried out to Him. 

Our small slice of NC was relatively spared, but 40 miles to the east, people lost everything in the flood waters.  Entire homes were consumed.  To the west, trees were toppled on houses and roads flooded out.  If there was ever a time to shout, "Praise the Lord!" this was it.  Sometimes we won't be spared the crucible, but when we are...what is our/my response?  Do my words and my actions bless the Lord?  Do they enhance His reputation?  Do they let others know that I firmly believe God is at work?  Even in the disasters? 

I'm good at pleading, but am I good at blessing?

And what about "lifting up holy hands"?  You have to understand that I grew up in a staunch Presbyterian church.  If anyone raised their hands in church...well, they were just plain crazy. Boy have I changed.  This girl's hands just automatically raise when the Holy Spirit moves in me.  We all worship differently, but for all the goodness God has given me, I can't help but raise my hands and bless Him.  I can just picture the sojourners to Jerusalem, singing songs of praise and lifting their hands to bless God on the way to His temple.  Might we learn something from them?

I did see a very humorous Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, who does a hilarious routine on hand-raisers in church.  "First," he says, "you have those who 'carry the t.v' - that's when your elbows are at your sides and your hands are held out like you're helping someone carry the t.v. into the house.  Then you have 'wash the window'," he goes on, "those are the ones with one arm up, palm flat and forward, and they sway and swoosh their hand back and forth as if washing that window clean.  Ultimately," he concludes, "you have 'touch down'.  That's both arms up high like the ref signaling six points."  Cracks me up....Yes, I digress...but I do believe that hands raised in praise do bless the Lord. 

Finally, I love the progression of this Psalm:

1.  First WE come and Bless the Lord.
2.  We lift up our hands to the Holy Place.
3.  We THEN call upon the Lord's blessing from on high - the maker of heaven    
     and earth.

I admit that I often have it in reverse:  God, you bless me first and THEN I'll bless you.  I also know that exclamation marks are not often used in the Bible.  Look at how many in this short Psalm....three!  These folks are SERIOUS!

And so I serious am I about blessing the Lord?  How often do I keep His awesome name in the conversation?  How often do I give Him credit where credit is due and speak of His lovingkindness?  How often do I give Him props?

Coming through this hurricane has given me time to pause and reflect.  I believe this sister needs to get her southern on and shout, "Praise the Lord" and lift my hands to the holy place!  Can I get an Amen?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for ALL the blessings you have bestowed upon me.  Help me to not take them for granted.  Please be with those who have had devastating losses in this latest storm.  May you give them peace that passes understanding and may those of us who were spared reach out to help.  Lord, let me continually bless YOU by keeping your name on my lips and in the conversation.  Let me lift up my hands in praise to You for you are more than worthy.  Let me come into your presence with singing for you are truly good, Lord...oh so good to me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  When was the last time you blessed the Lord?  Take inventory...what in your life makes you want to raise your hands to Him in praise?  What have you experienced when you bless the Lord?  Are you waiting for His blessings first?  With what have you already been blessed?  Do share...

Be blessed.....

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Biggest Lie About Surrender - Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey Friend,

For the past several weeks I've posted about a must-read book coming out, written by my good friend and writer, Jennifer Dukes Lee.  It's entitled, "It's All Under Control".  

Her book truly spoke to me because I am a life long member of "Control Freaks Anonymous."  In her book, Jennifer debunks the myth that I bought into for so is possible, good even, to always try to be in control.  Ha!  

I've since learned that fear drives the need to be in control and when we move aside and let God take the driver's seat and truly learn to trust, then we are set free to walk in the freedom He wants for us.  

In her book, Jennifer challenges us to let go of our "busy" life in order to take hold of our "best" life.  Sound familiar?  I now give you Jennifer - as sweet and real as her picture - in a guest post and yes a Giveaway!!

Please give Jennifer some lovin' in the Comments and be entered to win a copy of her new book!  If you don't sure to pick up/order a copy from your favorite bookseller.  Available September 18th!!

The Biggest Lie About Surrender – and Why You Can’t Afford to Believe It

If you asked me five years ago, I naively would have told you that I didn’t struggle with control. I mean, seriously— as long as everything went exactly the way I hoped, I was totally flexible.

It’s not that I wanted to control other people. Mostly, I wanted to control myself. If I ever had high expectations of anyone, it was of me. I wanted to present the self-assured, together version of my whole being. Which means I craved control over my face, my emotions, my body, my food, my words, my house, my schedule, my yard, my future.

My preference was a tidy, predictable, safe life where no one got hurt, where my kids remained in one piece, where there was no pain for anyone ever again, amen.
I said I trusted God but had reached the point where I realized I actually didn’t.
As a Jesus girl, this shocked me.

Clearly, my old systems of coping weren’t working: My desire to obsessively orchestrate my whole life was burning me out.

As a mom, I heard myself snapping at my kids. As a ministry leader, I knew that I was functioning within my call, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was tired, even after a regular night’s sleep. And I found myself zoning out during conversations with my husband, because I was mentally making lists of everything I needed to get done.

In short, I ran out of gas.

Maybe the empty tank was God’s way of bringing me to a dead stop, so I would finally pay attention. It worked. God got my attention, and maybe he’s trying to get yours too.

Imagine that it’s you who’s run out of gas. Maybe that doesn’t take much imagining after all, because like me, you’re tired of trying to hold it together. You want to keep it all under control, but things aren’t working out the way you planned.

When you and I began to follow Jesus, we relinquished control over our lives. But because we suffer from the chronic condition known as being human we constantly try to steal that control back.

My wake-up call happened when I realized that the battle for my heart was regularly being fought inside the tiny squares of my to-do list.

I began to ask myself this question: “What are the things that, if they were taken away, would shatter the identity I have created?”

Was it my work? My calendar? My efforts to shield my children from pain and suffering? This urge to always say yes?

For me, the answer was: “All of the above.” I was trying to be the CEO of everything.

Jesus delivered a sobering reminder: You will never know if you can trust Me if you don’t give Me the chance to prove it.

I recommitted myself to a life surrendered to Jesus’ plans for my life. But something felt … off … when I considered what surrender truly meant.

I accidentally bought into a weird idea that surrendered living meant mostly that I needed to “do less.” Yet that was unrealistic because so much of life clearly couldn’t be opted out of. People depended on me. I had kids to feed. A house to manage. Books to write.

Most people can’t simply fire their lives and move on when it gets too chaotic. We can’t stop managing a household, cancel all our appointments, and spend the rest of our days on a floatie in the middle of a lake.

Here’s what I began to learn: Surrendered living is much more than “doing less.” It’s being more of who God created us to be.

Yes, I totally need more chill in my life, and maybe you do too. But here’s the full truth about surrender:

Surrender doesn’t come with some unrealistic demand that you are suddenly going to stop being the incredibly brave and brilliant woman that you are. Real surrender appreciates God’s remarkable design in you.

Do you know what a wonder you are?

You don’t settle. You are the sort of woman we can count on to meet a work deadline, organize a food drive, take in the neighbors’ kids during an emergency, drive your coworker to chemo, counsel a friend at 3 a.m. by text message, keep track of everyone’s appointments, and make sure we’re all wearing seat belts before you drive us on the three-day adventure that you single-handedly arranged.

We need you. We need take-charge, charitable women like you as doctors and nurses in operating rooms where details like “proper disinfectant” matter. Let me tell it to you straight: If you have an inner control freak, I’m hoping you’ll let her bust loose like nobody’s business if someone I love is on your operating table. We need responsible women like you to control all the bleeding.

We also need you in charge of schools, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies. We need rock-star women like you to show us that surrender isn’t “lie down in a pile.” It’s “march forward like a warrior.” Sometimes surrendering to God will require you to do the hardest work you’ve ever done in your life: take in another foster child, fight for your marriage, kick cancer where the sun don’t shine, or refuse to capitulate to the persistent drubbing from Satan.

Girl, listen up. We count on you. You are a woman fervently devoted to God’s calling on your life, not only in your work but also in your relationships.
Of course, as Carrie Underwood will sing to you, Jesus is definitely taking the wheel. But make no mistake: There are times when he’s going to ask you to do some driving.

Don’t think of Jesus as your chauffeur; he is more like your driver’s ed coach. He’s there to teach you His rules of the road. Friend, do not fear the wheel. You have been equipped to drive—and Jesus is beside you when you steer the wrong way. Hopefully He will pull the emergency brake if necessary, and I’ve personally put in a request for roads lined with padded walls.
 The windows are rolled down, the music is cranked, the tank is full, and there’s something that looks like freedom on the horizon.
Out on the open road, may you feel the reassuring love of Jesus. On this journey toward surrender, you’ll discover that, at last, it really is all under control: God’s.

BIO: Jennifer Dukes Lee is the wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, and an author. She loves queso and singing too loudly to songs with great harmony. Once upon a time, she didn’t believe in Jesus. Now, He’s her CEO. Jennifer’s newest book, It’s All Under Control, and a companion Bible study, are releasing Sept. 18th! This is a book for every woman who is hanging on tight and trying to get each day right―yet finding that life often feels out of control and chaotic.

Adapted from It’s All under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible by Jennifer Dukes Lee, releasing this fall from Tyndale House Publishers.

Together with Jennifer - She Speaks Writers' Conference

If you'd like to win a FREE copy of "It's All Under Control", leave a comment below and you'll automatically be entered in the drawing to win a copy of this wonderful book!!  Contest open until September 30th, 2018.  Winner will be notified by email.

Be blessed.....

Sunday, August 5, 2018

When Will God Answer My Prayer?

Hey Friend,

I know it's been a LONG time since I've written.  My work with Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. is a full time job.  My other full time occupation has been hanging out in the waiting room of the orthopedic associates' office that I visit with great regularity.

If they had punch cards, and with every visit you got one punch, I would certainly be entitled to one free surgery by now.  I've chatted with the UPS man who lugs those massive boxes to all our front doors and whose back has finally given out.  I've commiserated with the cleaning gal whose knees just can't take the hard tile floors anymore.  I've listened to the young soccer player who is healing from his second meniscus tear, but wants to be able to be a starter his senior year.

I've been doctored by the knee, the foot and ankle, the spine, and the pain management docs.  All of them are excellent, but the pain still persists and I cry out, "How long, O Lord?"  This is going on six years of prayer.  I'm afraid to ask, "What next?"  One silver lining blessing, is that I have developed a sincere compassion for those who have suffered for many years with chronic pain.  I've learned that it can be debilitating physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  

If you know someone who suffers from fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, neuropathy, ongoing mental illness, or any other form of chronic pain,  please don't offer the obligatory, "Let me know if there's anything I can do,"  just do it.

Back to my initial question, "When will God answer my prayer?"  In my case, "When, God, will you heal me?"  "How long, O Lord?"  

There is a great mystery to prayer.  What about this scripture:

John 14:13-14 King James Version (KJV)

13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
I believe that this is not simply prayer that mentions Jesus' name, but prayer that is in accordance with all that the person who bears the name is.  It is prayer that would carry forth the essence of what the work of Jesus is all about.  Prayer in accordance with the heart of Christ.
When Christ was all alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and He literally poured tears of blood, He prayed:

Luke 22:42 New International Version (NIV)

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Christ's Spirit groaned because He did not want to face an excruciating death on the cross, but yet His earnest prayer ends with, "Yet not my will, but Yours be done." 
If Jesus' most heartfelt petition before God ends with, not my will, but Yours, how then should we pray?
I like how my writer friend, Michele Morin phrases it:
But if God were just a vending machine, there would be no need for relationship, and this is what our hearts truly need from the living God."  (Michelle Morin)
God isn't just some kind of giant vending machine that we press D4 - "I'd like healing for my disease."  or J7 "I'd like a better job." or A2 "Please let my marriage be saved,"  and out pops an answer (that WE desire) to our prayer.  
We might ask for M&M's and get cheese crackers instead.  Why?
I believe Michele is's more about the relationship than the answer.
There is a third scripture that speaks to coming before His throne of grace:
I have asked so many times to be healed from these physical impairments, but I have received, instead, so much more.
I have felt God's mercy as He has beckoned me to climb into His lap and shed my tears upon His shoulder.  He has been faithful to never leave nor forsake me.
I've experienced His grace.  He has given me patience and courage to withstand the pain, abide in Him, and wait patiently and expectantly for what He will perform.
Most of all He's given me Himself.  On days when I can't walk or move much, I can be in His Word.  When I can't be busy, I can be still and pray.  When I'm not distracted, I really sense His presence with me. 
On good days, I praise Him with a grateful heart.
I know what it is to have a relationship with my Lord.  Perhaps it's the pain and my prayers that have brought me to this point?!
Perhaps the answers to our prayers is that God gives us so much more than the limited answers we ask for.  
He gives us His time, His mercy, His grace, His gift of salvation, His love, His faithfulness, His peace, His goodness, His tenderness, His kindness.....
He gives us Himself.  
So as to why some answers are quick, slow, "wait," "yes," or "no,"  I don't know.  That's why God is God and I am not.  Therein lies the mystery.  
But this I know....God always answers when we ask....

Dear Heavenly Father,  Forgive me for when I simply want my way when I come to you in prayer.  Help me to come before your throne with a humble and contrite heart.  I praise and thank you that you ALWAYS hear and answer my prayers.  Give me confidence to trust that You know what is best for me and to want Your will above my own.  Thank you for the gift of your presence that you offer.  Keep drawing me into relationship with You as I wait on You to answer.  Enable me to accept your answers with grace and peace.  In Jesus name I ask and pray, Amen.
What about you?  Is there a prayer that you have been praying for a long time?  Are you seeking your will or God's will?  What do you think He may be wanting to tell you as you await His answer?  Might He have already answered your prayer? and if so How?  What has God taught You about prayer?  Will you share?
Be blessed...