Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Do I Live Life With Abandon?

Hey Friend,
When I was in my teens, one of my favorite outdoor sports was snow skiing.  I grew up outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and just to the east of us was a really nice, mountainous ski resort.  My friend, Nina, and I went on many a high school ski trip to this beautiful destination and became pretty good skiers after a few years.  We rose quickly from "bunny slope" to black diamond runs in pretty short order - oh the fearlessness of youth!
On one particular visit we were feeling quite full of ourselves having conquered all the black diamonds on the one side of the mountain.  All that was left to dominate was the formidable North Face of the mountain.  Those slopes were usually reserved for the experts, but we were feeling pretty fearless that day so we took the chair lift to the top of North Face, took a deep breath and with wild, reckless abandon, pointed our skis downward and took off. 
Fast forward our cocky adventure and my friend wound up in the emergency room with her leg in a cast.  There is a difference between living life with abandon and living life with reckless abandon.  
When we think of living life with abandon, we often think of words like:  Courageous, Zealous, Undaunted, Bold, Brave, Confident, Fierce, Generous and Joyous.   Sure, these are some adjectives that could describe someone who lives life with abandon, but there is something more...something so much more.
The apostle Paul lived with abandon, not abandon to his natural base instincts or with disregard to moral code.  Rather...
He lived life with abandon to the task God had given him.
He surrendered himself totally to this goal with disregard even for his own life.
Abandon involves a task or goal and it also involves surrender.

Luke 9:23 reads: (Jesus speaking)  And he said to them all, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me."  To live the life of abandon that Christ was speaking about we must do several things:

Deny Self:  Choose God's direction not our own.

Take up our crosses:  Make a true commitment. Am I willing to carry my cross of faith in Christ even unto death?  Tough question!

Follow Him:  Imitate Christ's example.

Anything else is simply lip service...

Living life with abandon means we don't play it safe.  We say "Yes" to God's Holy Spirit when He moves in us.  We have a higher calling beyond ourselves and we want to make our lives count for something! 

Quiet, introverted, contemplative people can live a life with abandon just as well as the bold, extroverted, demonstrative people can. 

This is not a performance, it is living life with a purpose.

In a college class, we were asked to write our own eulogy.  Kind of morbid I thought at the time, but it made me think...what will I want people to say about me when I'm gone?  Do I want them to say, "She could write and at one point in her life she had a mean backhand in tennis"?  Or do I want them to say, "She was completely sold out for Christ"? 

Living life with Abandon involves burden, sacrifice and surrender so it is not for the faint of heart.

Are you with me?  Are you ready to give all that you are...every part of your heart and place it in Jesus' hands?  I hope so, because you know what?  The world needs YOU!!  If you encourage me, I'll encourage you and together we can make a difference.  Be blessed my friend...

In His love,


ps.  It's spring "give away time".  Leave a comment and your name may be drawn to receive a DaySpring scripture mug and Starbucks gift card.

Also, for some inspiration in living life with abandon - listen to the lyrics from the Newsboys single, "Live With Abandon" on YouTube.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Does The God Of The Universe Care About Me?

Hey Friend,
One of the awesome things about writing this blog is that I see how God is able to use the social media to reach the ends of the earth with the good news of the Gospel.  Though I do not know exactly who is reading my blog, I am able to track the countries from which my readership comes.  Admittedly, I have had to Google the location of some countries that I have never heard of.  That, to me, is pretty darn cool.
I have a fairly large readership from Russia and Ukraine.  If you've cracked a newspaper, you know about the power conflict and struggle going on in that part of the world.  I have noticed, not surprisingly, that readers from that corner of the world have been missing as of surprise there because they obviously have bigger things going on in their lives. I miss them and I pray for them.  It's become personal to me.
It has also made me realize that in God's universe, I am a mere gnat in terms of existence.  The maker of the universe, the God who formed the planets and hung the stars in place frankly has so much to take care of.  If you were to try to capture His job description, do you know how many volumes that would take?  It all seems so immense and complicated.
Yet God, in only a way that He could, makes it very simple for us:
1 John 4:8 says: "God is love."
It does not say "God is love if..."
It does not say "God is love when..."
Over and over again the Bible tells us that God loves us!
It does not say God loves us if...or God loves us when...
God cannot deny himself which means that He loves endlessly without stipulations or boundaries. 
He loves the pregnant teen mom in poverty stricken Haiti.  He loves the orphan in Uganda.  He loves the postal worker in Germany and the homemaker in Arkansas.  We are all led into false thinking that God has "bigger fish to fry"...that He has world peace to think about so how can he be concerned with the little puzzle pieces that make up my life?
I so love Matthew 10:29-31:  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
A God that knows the number of hairs on your head - who knows your thoughts before you even think them - who knit you together in your mother's womb; how can this God NOT care about you?  It is simply impossible.  As Max Lucado says, " If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it." 
When you call out Jesus' name in desperation in the middle of the night, He knows your voice because the good shepherd knows each and every one of his sheep by name.
When you struggle He will scoop you up and lovingly carry you in His strong arms.  He will lead you to green pastures and still waters.  He will make you to lie down and rest.
Why?  Because God is Love... and
          Because God Loves You (period).
No matter what part of the globe we inhabit...we have one thing in common - we are loved and cared about immensely by the Creator of the Universe.  He is present in our everydayness.  He is the God who sees.  He sees you right where you are and He truly cares about you!
The world or one tiny sparrow...He holds them both lovingly in His hand.
You are NEVER outside His blessed.
In His love,
ps.  I feel a spring give away coming on.  Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for a DaySpring scripture mug and Starbucks gift card. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Will God Answer My Prayer?

Hey Friend,
Due to a coffee maker that died (national catastrophe) and a computer that had the hiccups, I am a day late in posting.  Due to a lack of caffeine, my thoughts seem kind of jumbled, but here goes...
Have you ever had one of those prayers?  A specific, burden on your heart prayer that you have prayed every morning and every evening not only for days or weeks or even months, but for years?  Have you ever gotten to the point where, not intentionally, but because nothing seems to be changing, your prayer falls off the radar?  I have.
Again, I risk being vulnerable, but my ardent prayer for years has been for my son.  I call it my "prodigal prayer".  I raised my son in the church.  I set God's precepts before him.  I have prayed every day of his life that he would have a true relationship with his Lord and Savior.  He seemed well on the right path until, through a series of events, he became disillusioned with Christians - he saw them for what they often are - hypocrites.  Religion, as he saw it, was flawed and pointless.  He stopped seeking God's will and set upon a course of determining his own future.  It's a plan that has not worked out too well and has led him down a prodigal path of self destruction.  In short, it breaks a mother's heart.
I have prayed day and night for several years that God would soften my son's heart and lead him back into His loving arms.  I have prayed for enlightenment, restoration - even for God to knock him off his horse if that's what it would take to bring about a change of heart.  I pray and I hope and I wait and yet nothing seems to change.  "When will God answer my prayer?"  I beg.
I do believe in Proverbs 22:6 which states: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.  I cling to the hope that this is only a venture off the path and he will return to the God of his youth.  I  see examples like Billy Graham's son Franklin who rebelled in his youth, but finally turned around and became a great spiritual leader.  With God, all things are possible, right?
I believe in God's promises about prayer:
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)  I have approached with confidence.
"If you ask anything in my name, I will do it."  (John 14:14)  I have asked in Christ's name
"Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."  (John 16:23)  Again, I have called upon the name of Jesus, my Savior.
Now this is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)  Surely praying for my son's reconciliation with his Father would be in keeping with his will?!
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."  (John 15:7)  I do abide in you Lord and your words abide in me...
I believe that God hears my prayer and that He will answer it!!
Lord I believe, help my disbelief.
I have come to some conclusions about why my prayer has not yet been answered (this is my own speculation).  I would certainly entertain other insights!!
*  God always listens.  Perhaps I'm not listening to Him?  I've been so busy talking that I haven't had time to truly listen. Maybe He has already spoken and I've missed it?
*  I am not God...He is.  He is sovereign and in control.  How do I not know that perhaps He is working behind the scenes in ways that I am totally unaware of?
*  Sometimes God is silent in order to get our attention.  Many times throughout history, God has been silent in order to gain the full, undivided attention of His followers.
*Maybe He is putting my faith to the test.  God does not always give a definitive "Yes" or "No"...sometimes He says "Wait".  Oh the dreaded "wait"!
God weaves a beautiful tapestry of our lives and I have found that the dark threads of trial and of waiting on the Lord provide such a distinctive backdrop to the radiant light and beautiful threads of answered prayer. 
What a wondrous tapestry God wove in the life of Job.  There was a man who learned how to wait, yet he rose up to profess:
"Though he slay me, yet I will trust Him."  (Job 13:15)
I don't pretend to have all the answers and I am certainly guilty of stale prayers.  At the very moment I typed the scripture from Job, the sun burst forth from behind the clouds into my kitchen window.  God speaking?  Maybe so!  I pray that I will go forth with renewed confidence in my prayers.  God is listening and He is faithful!
Praying for you as you wait upon prayers to be answered.  Please feel free to share a prayer request in the comments and I will be sure to pray for you!
In His love,

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Combatting The Negative Voice In Your Head

Hey Friend,

Well, the wedding and the honeymoon are over and my new husband and I have set upon the task of feathering our nest...aka moving his stuff in.  Translated, that means moving, lifting and unpacking boxes.  I began the task weeks ago with the vigor of a twenty year old.  Unfortunately my 50+ year old back caught up with me.  Long story short, I wound up in bed literally unable to move without being in intense pain.  The pain only continued to get worse until finally in an act of desperation I sought the help of a physical therapist.  (Thank God for those in this profession!). 

One day, however, I stood in the shower with the hot water running over my sore back and the enemy, as he does so well, began to kick me when I was down.  The negative stream of consciousness in my head ran something like this:

"Your husband sure got the short end of the stick.  He's had to do the lion's share of the moving and unpacking while you've laid in bed.  If you weren't old and out of shape this wouldn't have happened.  You are not a worthy helpmate for your new husband who loves you...and why should he love you?  You are not worthy or pretty.  In fact you are useless and not very pretty and you're overweight.  If only you looked better and were a better wife.  And what do you don't even work.  You are a homemaker who doesn't keep a very good home.  You call yourself a are a dime a dozen.  Anyone could do what you do and do a better job at it.  Just who do you think you are anyway?  You tell people about walking the Christian walk and you are a poor excuse for a Christian.  God is certainly disappointed in you........."

On it went until I was in tears.  What do we do with these thoughts when they come streaming into our brain?

Step 1:  Determine whose voice you are really hearing

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I have come that they might have life and have it to the full (abundantly)."  (John 10:10)

If the voice you are hearing is filled with negativity and criticism it is NOT the voice of God.  Satan, the enemy, wants nothing more than to tear us down, destroy our confidence and render us useless in God's Kingdom.  If the voice is critical and condemning it is the voice of the enemy.  God uses only those words that build us up and grow us in His love.  His correction is never harsh or cutting.  It gently turns us in another direction. 

We need to measure the negative talk through the filter of God's truth.

Does what we're hearing in our head match up with the truth found in scripture?  One litmus verse I use is Romans 8:1:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The truth is that a condemning voice is not from God!

Step 2:  Take captive every thought

When that negative voice comes a yammering (and it will), God promises to rescue us if we will take those thoughts captive and bring them to Him.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Negative thinking is a mere pretension...a lie in the face of the knowledge of what God says about us.  I literally picture myself dropping a net over the negative thought, wrapping it up and carrying it to Christ's feet where I drop it and ask him to take it from me. 

God gives us the power and authority, through His son, to kick the enemy to the curb.

In Christ's name I can tell the "creep" to GET LOST!!!!

Step 3:  Replace the negative thought (lie) with God's truth

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8)

Psalm 139 is a great psalm to meditate on whenever the enemy is attacking your self worth.  I keep an "emergency kit" of scriptures that speak to God's truth about me for whenever the enemy begins to push my "hot buttons" of self doubt.  Reading those helps me refocus on the truth about me.

Sometimes I will put on worship music because it is hard for the enemy to drag us down when we are worshipping the awesome God who created us.

"Worship is an act of War against the enemy of our hearts."  (Holley Gerth) 

I'll leave you with two images (can you tell I am a visual learner) that help me to do what I need to do when the enemy comes a calling.

I picture the enemy on the other side of my front door.  He's knocking and trying to push his way in, but in God's power I need to slam the door on the enemy before he can even get a foot in the door.

This one is from my mom.  She used to say, "If you let the camel get his nose under the tent, before you know it, he's all the way in."  Anchor your tents friends...thanks mom.

Seriously though, the battle with negative thinking can be a fierce one.  But, remember, greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.  Call on the Lord to fight this battle.  He wants to fight for us...we just need to ask.

May God's great love for you bless you abundantly today...

In His love,