Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What have we become?

James 2: 14-26 from The Message

14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
18 I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”
Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
19-20 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
21-24 Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?
25-26 The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

I was once asked a very pointed question: "If you Christians always fight against each other, what else do you have time for?"

This was from an unsaved friend who was kind enough to give me a birds eye view of what Christians have become. A friend who admitted to not wanting to believe because most of the Christians he knew put down other Christians and cursed like sailors....but hid behind the blanket of grace to be able to say and do as they please.

This is what we look like to outsiders.

I find myself bombarded with the reminder of this question every day here lately. Christians will use social media platforms to berate and tear down other Christians. Recently I came across a quote that said,

We tell women to be stronger, yet wish they would be quiet.

I have often talked to my small group girls about purpose and faith. Actually LIVING out faith, not just mooching off grace. I can love Jesus till the cows come home, but the Bible clearly states that zero action is intolerable to God. I need to do more than love, I need to live it out.

I am inspired by the bold faith of some of the youth I have had the pleasure to meet. They will tell anybody who will listen (and even those who won't) about the gospel. Often times, those older Christians will cringe at the excitement of younger ones and hope that they settle down and conform at some point.....I mean, they're making us look bad to the public.

Over the past few days I have watched many scenarios unfold which has pitted Christian against Christian. Many are quick to virtually (because we dare not actually have human contact) yell their opinion about cups, Christmas traditions, and politics, yet I do not see much yelling of what is really means to be a Christian...saved by grace and allowing God to work through me.

Is it bad for a Christian to be passionate? Goodness, no....but we are often passionate about the wrong things. Some common words I have seen spewed over the internet are about the fact that instead of worrying about the color of a coffee cup we should worry about the poor and destitute (not in those words). In actuality, that is exactly what we should be thinking about:

James 1: 26-27 says,
26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

But here is my question for those posing this argument: Is that what we are thinking about?

I am going to be very honest here...NO, that is not what we are thinking about. We simply want OUR opinion to be heard and validated. So we jump on band wagons and choose sides, virtually berating each other....and all the while the orphan and widow wait.

It would be easy to say that I know the people who have made these comments and I do watch their lives, but the truth is that I am as guilty as the next. If I dealt better with my own need for approval and based all my decision on the Word of God, this world would be far different. If I fanned the flames of the fire in my heart, this world could change. If I commit to teach my children that the world does, in fact, NOT revolve around them, this world could be healed.

A Christian living in and by the Word understands grace far better than those who simply feed freely from grace. All of us have sinned and all of us will continue to sin because our free will often gets distracted. We can block a lot of our sinful tendencies by reading God's Word and studying its application to our lives. It is a daily process to die to self. It takes discipline to hold your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself. It is overcoming a fear of the truth....that the world, indeed, does not revolve around me. I will not cease to exist if I do not take part; however, I must not confuse meekness with weakness. I must not always strive to be politically correct, but to be correct in the Word that governs all.

It is my prayer that Christians would regain their boldness. Make Satan have to work a little harder people! Right now, we have made his job about as easy as it gets. We have become weakened to the point where we argue over petty things and survive from day to day in this fashion. We were made to THRIVE and live fully in life.

So, the next time you feel the need  to hop on a band wagon, I encourage us all (ME TOO!) to first PRAY and seek guidance. Then, examine our own lives. Are we truly living what we're spewing into the world? Then, thrive by doing what the Word says.

In true grace,

Monday, October 12, 2015

SERVE where you are....

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Over the past few months, I have found myself falling deeper into the trap of trying to direct my own life. We can all fall into this from time to time since it is only human nature to want to control as many degrees of life as possible. The problem happens when we start to try and twist God's will for our lives to suit our own desires...

Purpose can be confusing for many Christians, both new and old. As I share with my small group ladies, we really ALL have the same purpose: we are called to live as Christ lived so we can share His good news with others. Period. Our careers, hobbies and passions enable us to this on a different playing field.

My problem came when I began to think that I would serve my purpose much better by speaking in churches and venues. You see, I love speaking and yes, it's also a gift; however, God gave me several gifts to glorify Him...not myself.

I became increasingly distraught when offers to speak and write did not come pouring in. Often times I thought that perhaps I would best fulfill my purpose by freeing up time (i.e. helping God out a bit), so I decided not to train so many clients or run as many classes. I figured this would certainly allow more opportunities to do what I was sure God was calling me to do. Still, silence.

This circle of doing nothing went on for a few months. In those months I began to have several physical issues that needed medical attention. With the medical attention came prescriptions for rest and ultimately some downtime due to some nasty head colds. This leads us up to this past week and my eye opening moment with God.

God knows me better than I know myself. He also knows the best way to get me to really listen is to render me physically unable to do much: forced rest. So, as a sat in actual quiet time last week with no agenda but to listen, a few key things were brought to light.

For starters, of course I want to speak in churches! Let me be clear, I do not for one second think our church staff has an easy job ok? But hear my heart. I want to speak the Good News in churches because people who are sitting in church are already wondering what the Good News is. The planting and watering is done. The uncomfortable conversations have been had and the fruit is ripe for the picking people. THAT is what I desired....to harvest what I had not worked for. I'm just being honest here.

I mean, I love speaking at women's events and touching lives and I hope to continue that until the day I am called home, but my WORK is supposed to be different. I can't just wait for unsaved people to be placed in my lap. I cannot sit idly by and wait for people who need hope to be pointed my way.

That leads us here, to serving where we are. God has given me another gift: I love to teach. Now, I don't like to teach small children, but there are many ways to teach. I love working in the fitness industry and teaching people what they can do to be healthy. I am not a cookie cutter trainer, nor have I ever been (by God's design). I teach. When people sign on for sessions or attend camps, they come ready to learn. By serving where I am, God has enabled me to reach people who want to shape up but may have never even dreamed of setting foot in a church setting. My talents are shaped directly for the type of service God requires of me, and my new passion is to hone those talents and reach out to as many people as I can.

This now begs the question: where are you serving?

If you work in the church, are you stepping outside of those walls to pour hope on the hopeless?

If you volunteer at church on the weekend, do you spend your weekdays searching for those who need to hear some Good News in life?

Are you willing to serve right where you are today?

Think about it, and step out in faith knowing that He has already carved the way.

Monday, August 17, 2015

As simple as a cup of coffee.....

I have been drinking coffee since I was a little girl.

It's a bit of a ritual some would say.

I have fond memories of going to my grandparents house and drinking coffee (which was essentially milk, sugar and a splash of the real thing) with my grandpa while he read the paper and I read the comics. I felt sophisticated and all grown up.

I also have the best memories of my mom in the coffee context. When I was old enough, I woke up early on the weekends to make the coffee for the house. In high school, I would pick my mom up from her teaching job and we would head to the local Cracker Barrel for afternoon coffee and dessert. In these moments we talked about life, love and the future. Towards the end of her life these particular coffee dates became more and more important to me.

I meet my girlfriends for coffee to unload the burdens of common life and my dad and I schedule coffee as often as we can spare. Just like those coffee dates with my mom, I cling to these times with my dad as times when I can glean wisdom and life lessons as well as some old memories.

I happened to fall head over hells for a non-coffee drinker (how did that happen?!?!?!?), but our kids both enjoy a good cup of joe. Both were thrilled that we went on mission trips to 2 coffee-heavy continents (Africa and Eastern Europe). We have moved from drip coffee to a daily press and have sampled different balances and undertones, much like wine tasters in Napa Valley.

So, what is the point of this? Well, I realized today that coffee itself plays a large role in my daily ritual. First thing in the morning, I share a cup of coffee with God as I dive into His Word and talk to Him through prayer. We keep the coffee flowing on Sunday mornings in small group as we live life together and share our heartaches, triumphs, prayers and praise. A call from a friend in need has resulted, more than once, in an impromptu trip to the local coffee shop for fellowship and encouragement. You see, this simple yet complex drink has played a role in the giving and receiving of many blessings.

Knowing that something so small can be profound in our lives, why not use it to bless others?

Start with using your daily cup as a signal to open the Word. Even if you don't normally have quiet time, or struggle to find the time, try sitting down with God's Word just for a moment. Come into it with an expectant heart and you will not walk away empty handed.

Next, you can take it a step farther and send an encouraging note to a friend. I suggest email as a phone call or text could be a bit too early for some :). You could even send some encouragement to the whole web in the form of a picture on Instagram (this happens to be my favorite way to end quiet time). It can simply be a few verses from your morning reading or a quote you enjoyed. You can even repost encouraging pictures from others pages as well. Just focus on the positive in these pictures to help spread hope and encouragement to others.

Now it's your turn....

Think about the ways that your morning rituals impact your life, then think about how you can impact the lives of others. Maybe coffee isn't your gig and we coffee lovers won't hold that against you! But we all have something to contribute and lend to others each and every day. It is the accumulation of these daily impacts that make up our legacy. What will yours be?


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pray for Marriage

When was the last time you prayed for your marriage or a friends marriage?

In my small group this past week, we spoke a little about praying for marriage. I'll be honest and tell you that I take my marriage for granted many times. My husband and I have had the rough and tough times (any newlyweds feeling me?) and at this moment we live content. Now, contentment is a wonderful thing, but I find in my own life that it can make me lazy as well :).

The consequence of this is that I can tend to put my husband in the wrong place in life. I work hard, I also workout hard, and I deal with home and kids, not to mention the counseling and client issues. So, at the end of the day, I have found I quite enjoy lazy, sweat pants, couch potato time. This places my husband somewhere under what I have deemed most important but over that which I simply don't want to do.

The truth is that my husband is a gift and I should treat him as such. That doesn't mean I should be at his every beckoned call or fulfill every whim, but I should make the time to show him I am grateful. One way to accomplish this is by knowing your spouse's love language. My husband and I have totally different love language: I am acts of service (pick up your clothes and help with dinner) and he is very much physical touch. In fact, him AND the kids believe a hug can fix anything. I believe this hug is wasting valuable time you could use to pick up your clothes. See the struggle :)

Another way to put your marriage first is by scheduling dates. My hubs and I love to go to movies, especially the theaters that serve food. We have smaller dates as well. Every week we go grocery shopping together and treat it as a date. We hold hands, share dreams, plan meals and will get a treat to munch on the way home. There are other times we send our teenagers upstairs so we can have a little time to ourselves. These dates are vital to keeping our marriage healthy, and like keeping your body healthy, it takes work.

The best way to help a marriage is through prayer. I have started to pray over my marriage more and over the marriages of my small group gal pals. What are some things to pray over a marriage? There are no hard and fast rules, but here are a few things I pray:
  1. That Satan be bound from our marriage and that he be given no foothold.
  2. That God would open up times for real communication.
  3. That my heart would be softened to my husbands needs.
  4. That our passion for one another be rekindled daily.
  5. That we both strive to make an effort in this union that will last a lifetime.
As I said, we have been through tough times and I am sure there are more to come due to the fact that we live in an imperfect world...however, we can strive towards a WHOLE marriage by putting in a little elbow grease and a lot of prayer.

Now it's your turn: share the things you do to keep your marriage fresh in the comments below. Those who have been married for a long time (Alan and I have made 17+ years so far!), share the lessons you have learned so others may grow. We all have a story and yours can help others!

Monday, July 20, 2015

To the core......

Are you tired today?

I recently was reading a book for nutrition and the doctor who wrote it used the words "bone weary". I became excited because I could identify with those words on a very deep level! I have felt bone weary many times in life and I'm sure you can relate.

Where does this weariness come from? Are we burdened beyond what we can bear? Are we being tested? I believe much of our burden comes from inside. In other words, we do it to ourselves....

Hang in there with me! I understand we all have different lives. We all have a certain spot on this earth to fill with God's glory. My personal problem is that sometimes I am shoulder deep in fatigue and feel as though His glory gets put on the back burner. Am I alone here? I imagine not.

As women, we tend to wear many different hats. I do not think we work harder than men, but we tend to hold onto more and have a harder time letting go. We honestly feel as though the whole world will implode if we miss a load of laundry, do not cater to our children's needs immediately, keep a clean house when we know someone is on their way over, and try to look less than disheveled when our prince charming comes through the door. If you weren't tired before, I bet you are now!

In my line of work I see overworked moms and wives all the time. We all try to live up to the Wonder Woman standard of doing it all and in doing so we always fail at something. We may get the house to look spotless, but we completely forgot to shower and now we just can't even. We may tote our kids and their friends everywhere, but somehow we forget to eat lunch ourselves. We work overtime at our job, but we neglect our own physical health and opt to sit for hours on end. We are making ourselves weary...

Luckily, we have guidelines that can help us in these times. I encourage you to take the first five minutes of your day (before phones, texts, emails, showers and maybe even coffee) to read in God's Word. Instead of feeling like a time of devotion doesn't count unless it's thirty minutes, why not start with five? In fact, I have a great resource for you:

Proverbs 31 now has an app for that! I kid you not :) a mobile app that gets you connected to the ONE Who promises rest for the bone weary. You can find it here: http://first5.org/ and I encourage you to start right now. Set your alarm for just five minutes earlier tomorrow morning and expect something to happen. Finding our way into His presence daily will take the burdens from our shoulders. It won't change the course of everybody else's day or erase family needs, BUT it will change the way we respond to stress and help us stay connected to our Supporter all day long.

So, I offer up a challenge to you, bone weary sister: commit to spend the first five minutes of your day with God for the next five days straight and just see what burdens can be lifted. The core of our heart desires a peace only He can provide, but we must first be willing to accept that peace.

As always, I am listening! Leave your comments below on how the challenge is going for you and what has changed. I am faithful and confident that God will move.

In love,

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Disease of Busy-ness

Our world seems more frantic and fast-paced these days doesn't it? I feel like I barely have time to return texts, and who even talks on the phone anymore?!?!?!

These days we are so hyper connected that we have become people who try to do everything. Here's a truth: You CAN do anything....you just CAN'T do everything. Most of us are too busy for our own good and that makes us ineffective for God's kingdom. Our days start early and end late. We are ALWAYS on call! Have you thought of that? Every time your cell phone gives you a notification, you check it. I know some people will say, "No I don't!" basically because you think you have life far more figures out than the next person.....studies have show that when a notification sounds on our phones that our heart rates quicken and our pupils dilate. We reacted without ever looking.

This epidemic has placed us into a constant state of stress. This constant state of stress is leading to more and more disease.

In Chinese medicine the word disease is treated as two parts: dis (meaning lack of) and ease (meaning comfort or well being). If you think about it, that is the general take on disease right? Now, we have a common disease of busyness. The symptoms are as follows:
  • chronic stress
  • fatigue
  • lack of sleep
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling ill-productive
  • lack of strong relationships
  • lack of self worth and self esteem
  • headaches
  • back problems
  • and can even cause obesity and other health problems
Busyness is a problem.

We can even be busy with seemingly GOOD things. Maybe we volunteer at church all the time or raise our hands when anybody needs someone to step in or step up. Before we go on please note, I am NOT saying that helping people is bad...I'm saying that if we fill ALL of our time with the busyness of helping others it can actually become a sin.

This is what Jesus said in Luke 10 about a busy woman we all know:

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
-Luke 10:38-42

That starts to put our busy lives in perspective right? Man may look at the outside and see someone who is either working tirelessly towards a dream OR someone who serves every opportunity they get, but God looks at the intentions of the heart. Last week I heard somebody say "If God had to rest on the seventh day, why do we act as though we are too good to need rest?" Perspective change, right?

We stay busy for MANY different reasons, but I believe whole-heartedly what busyness is a disease we bring on ourselves. It is absolutely preventable and curable, but you must first identify the root cause (a holistic technique taken from Chinese medicine).
  1. We are busy because we live outside of our means. We have more payments than we get paid and therefore we must work more. An epidemic that sweeps our nation.
  2. We are busy because we are greedy. Put simply, we want more. We want a larger house, better car, bigger vacation, sharper clothes, etc. You name it, we want it.
  3. We are busy because we think far too highly of ourselves. We imagine that the world will spin out of control if our hand isn't in the center to steady it......at least, our little corner of the world.
  4. We are trying to rack up good works. Good works do not get us a ticket into Heaven. Even if we know that, some of us can feel as though we need to make up for past wrongs or build a bigger house on the other side through our own efforts.
  5. We are busy because we fall victim to guilt.
Some of these are easy enough to pinpoint and deal with. Make a budget and stick to it. Start learning to be content. There is nothing wrong with working to provide for your family UNLESS it is at the expense of your family. Get over yourself....truly, only one hand can hold our little world in place. Remember that Jesus already paid your debt and you are now requires to simply follow Him. If you model your life after His life, you will see that Jesus did not volunteer at every single opportunity. Why not? Because He had other things to do for the kingdom! And guess what? So do you...
Guilt can be powerful whether it comes from within or without. Guilt is not something that God uses so if you have a guilter in your life you may want to lovingly remind them of that fact. Doing things out of guilt are not in God's will.

I encourage you to take some time this week and write out what keeps you busy. After that, start to weed out what you need to. Pray over it before you begin. Pray that God will show you exactly what needs to go! Are you swamped with writing deadlines for a newsletter? Maybe you won't let go because you think the world will be over if you do. Honey, the world will spin on. God may have somebody even better to come in, but He's waiting on you to get out of the way! The same is true for ALL areas of life.

Sometimes you have to take a step to the side to see the picture a bit more clear.

Don't get caught up in busyness, get caught up in obedience.


Now it's YOUR turn!
Have you overcome the disease of busyness? Comment how you were able to and share your strategies below!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When the yes hurts.....

Have you ever had the "struggle is real" moment?

I'm not talking about the ones where pictures of cookies as big as my head are posted and people are trying to talk themselves out of devouring the entire thing (you would feel awful afterward). I'm talking about the struggle between following your heart and following God.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? _Jeremiah 17:9

We are often told that in order to be happy we should follow our heart, chase our dreams, seek out our own happiness. The truth is: we are NOT called to be happy...we are called to be effective.

Don't think that I am above heart following here! There have been far too many times where I have literally told God to wait until I finished. That's right in line with treating God like a toddler asking for your attention. The fact is, God doesn't require our attention. He will continue to be God even if we ignore what He commands. He desires our attention and His ultimate desire is that we be effective for ministry in a way far larger than we can comprehend.

But there happen to be some things that hold us back from offering a whole-hearted YES to our Creator when it comes to His commands:
  • We're afraid of what we might have to give up.
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. _Luke 12:33-34
  • We're afraid that we don't have what it takes.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. _Psalm 26:2
  • Sometimes, we don't think our calling is big enough or fancy enough.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart._2 Timothy 2:22
  • We're are comfortably distracted by the things the world offers.
And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God ._Luke 16:15

So, if we find ourselves struggling to say "YES" wholeheartedly, here are a few action steps to set us up for success:
  1. Guard your heart: be careful what you allow into your heart on a daily basis. By mindful of the music you listen to, the show you watch and the books you read. Ask yourself if these are planting seed of  God's will or are they selling short-term happiness in following our own dreams.
  2. Read God's Word DAILY. I don't just mean pop it open and read a few verses before you head about your business. I mean come into a quiet place with an expectant heart and spend quality time in His Word.
  3. Commit to memorizing scripture. Make the commitment (which means you intent to give time and effort) to memorize verses that speak to your specific season in life. If you have trouble finding them, consider biblegateway.com to help. And remember, this is about YOU, not your husband or friends or co-workers. The ones you may need can be a little uncomfortable, but you are committed.
  4. Join a small group or Bible study if you haven't already. This is how we grow in the Word: by studying and sharing with others.
  5. Keep a journal. You can record verses that speak to you and also write down ideas and dreams that you have. This will help you cut through the clutter and begin to discern God's will in your life.
Living for God becomes a more natural thing as we commit to know Him better. Just as marriage can be difficult when there is no communication, our lives will thrive when we communicate with God.
Start with just one of these action steps and commit for a week. We would love to hear how it is changing your life, so be sure to leave a comment in the section below.

Life is worth living when lived with a purpose,