Saturday, December 31, 2016

Well, here we are: the end of 2016. Folks, I have written about some years being more difficult than others, but I think we are all in agreement that none, at least none in recent memory, can be looked on as more surreal. 

How do you summarize a year like 2016? A year that held many public and personal changes and challenges- many mountaintops and a few very low valleys. While we publicly watched our country's leaders (and potential leaders) behave like characters in a bad movie, our own local leaders were no better. We watched in horror as babies were torn apart and their tiny body parts were sorted for sale, yet we sat idly when the videographers were criticized for the undercover methods used to get the information. Is it right that we stopped for a moment of silence for the death of a celebrity we never met, but not for innocent children killed in genocide? 

Surreal. Ungodly. Appalling. 

On a personal level, 2016 was no less odd. My husband and I were led to leave the only church home we had known in our married life (and for him, his entire life) and seek to worship and fellowship at a new church home. Praise God for deliverance and rescue! And as thankful as we are, it's still hard. And strange at times. 

I was made aware of a series of betrayals and rumors that left me both angry and deeply concerned about the sanity - and the very walk - of people I thought of as friends and Christian brothers and sisters. 

God held my hand as I walked with Him through some very difficult emotionally and spiritually-challenging moments this year. I have come through them stronger, more refined, wiser, and as focused as a laser beam on Him and Him alone. 

Because of these trials and His provision, my faith has never been stronger. I will go into 2017 boldly and with the confident hope that only we as children of God can understand. I am free in Christ and therefore free to look ahead with joyful anticipation of the blessings to come. I KNOW that my Savior goes before me. I KNOW He will fight my battles. And I KNOW that if God is for me, no one can stand against me and succeed. No one. God is still in control and He is still spending every moment loving us and being our God. 

At first I had visions of limping across the finish line known as 2016. 
No more. 
I am running hard into 2017, my friends. Charging ahead toward all God has for me - I don't want to miss a single thing! I am, as I voiced in prayer this morning, praying big prayers because we serve a big God! I am claiming all the goodness He has for me, all the grace, all the mercy, and all the love. Join me as I dance across the finish line and start on the new path ahead. It's filled with promise and abundance for all of us. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

If I had time, I'd tell you that it's going to be ok. I'd tell you that the gifts will get wrapped, the cookies will get baked. the burnt ones will fall to the bottom of the dish, and everyone will still be happy. 

If I had time I'd tell you that the kids will still finally fall asleep, even though you forgot to get the matching Christmas pjs. I'd let you know that the corner of the package that was torn is still going to light up a sweet face tomorrow morning. 

If I could I try to make you understand that, as you're rolling dough around in colored sugar, crying because people are dying in Syria, and you can't get to them- He still loves you and honors what you are doing-- because it's for the family He gave you. He know you're tired. He knows you love Him more than your next breath and He loves you more than you are capable of comprehending. 

I'd tell you all of that and more-- but I have to get ready for church and I have wrapping and baking yet to do. 

So know this: you are loved. Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

For years I participated in a church Thanksgiving meal donation. Bags and bags of groceries were collected, sorted, and distributed and many area families benefited and counted on those donations to make ends meet. I loved the privilege of helping to provide the meals and I always, always felt like I was the one who was the most grateful at the end of the pickup night. 

But now I am in a new church home and am serving and blessing in a different way. No less beneficial to the community, no less God-honoring, but different. And this year I felt just a twinge of greed as I assembled two kinds of potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, and gazed on an entire table devoted to breads, pies, and cakes. Our dining room table groaned under plates filled to overflowing and murmurs of "pass the butter" and "did you miss the green beans?" went around the perimeter like the aroma of the turkey. 

I cringed when I went back for seconds. I felt so greedy. "Lord, am I selfish with my blessings? " I asked myself. 

And then I looked around. 

On one end of the table an infant snuggled in the safety of her mother's arms. 
Young men made sure everyone was able to navigate the crowded room.  
Sisters shared a look of satisfaction, knowing everything looked as good as it tasted. 
And a son made sure his mother knew just how special her cornbread dressing was to him. 

Yes, we had plenty to eat for Thanksgiving. But we also had plenty of love. Plenty of joy. And plenty of gratitude. 

Don't be afraid to make memories with your family and with those who seem like family. Time spent around the table is fleeting- but the memories last forever. Invest. Unite. Bless. It's worth the effort. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Strength in Your Role

I like a good object lesson. I like to observe something and then allow my over-active imagination and my sometimes-silly brain to interpret a message about it. I'm not one who believes there is a lesson in everything, but I do know that sometimes I see things that make me think. 
It happened in the bathroom the other day. 
Yes, the bathroom. 

Toilet paper. Everyone knows about it. Uses it. Needs it. It's one of the items we purchase on a regular basis yet we hope it will not require an announced price check at the register. The first TV ads for toilet paper that I remember were of Mr Whiffle and "Please don't squeeze the Charmin." Those ads were a huge hit and one of the phrases that was added to our household lexicon. There are tons of brands and types. When I was a kid, toilet paper came in all kinds of colors to match your bathroom decor. Remember that? You'd go to someone's house and, if you needed to..."go," there would be the bathroom done in seahorses and lo and behold, their paper would be blue. Growing up my mom's best friend and neighbor had her bathroom all in pink-- complete with pink paper. (And, on the back of the toilet, sat a little plastic doll with a crocheted skirt and under it was, you guessed it, a spare roll of pink toilet paper) For a while it was also scented, but I think that proved to be a bad idea. Now we're all white but with lots of claims of being the softest and the most...comfortable and efficient. 

Another claim that the manufacturers of toilet paper make is that it's strong. All of them say that their's is the best-  the strongest, the most on a roll, the one that works better than all of the others. They've used all kinds of examples in showing us the power of this paper, this tissue, and it's all kind of ridiculous.

So recently I had an experience with a roll of tp that left me thinking. You see, it was in a public restroom. The company obviously didn't want to have to change rolls very often so they were using the giant-sized roll; I mean this roll of paper had to be over a foot in diameter. I'm sure, in theory, that was a great idea - fewer employee hours spent changing rolls equals more time doing other important tasks. Except for one flaw: cheap paper. The paper was so thin and weak that it would tear off in tiny bits and wasn't anywhere near effective. Paper was all over the floor and someone was going to have to come in and clean it all up. It simply wasn't strong enough to support moving the roll along. Had the paper been thicker, and the seams between the squares a little closer, the roll would turn efficiently and the problem would be solved. As it was, I needed to help it along and that defeated the purpose of their attempt at saving paper. 

In contrast, (I know a few of you are cringing by now. Stay with me.) I was pleasantly surprised while on a trip a few weeks ago. A visit to a rest area impressed me by the strong, efficient paper in their toilet. That paper was just the right size and strength for the roll. You didn't get any waste or any little pieces of it tearing randomly from the rest of the paper. Harmony.

By now you're either seeing how I am applying this to life or you are getting very uncomfortable. Either way, at least you're still reading. Here's my point:

Are you strong enough for your roll (role)? Are you ready for the role that you play in life? In service? Because it isn't playing-- it's work. And because it's going to take some strength for the Big Role. If you are so weak that all people are getting are the bits, then you are not ready to be effective and you need to be made stronger. How do we do that? Just like the paper on the roll, we need more substance. We need, in our case. more of Jesus. We must spend time investing in ourselves by reading God's Word and praying for Him to grow and mature us. We need to study and to be still and listen to Him as He speaks. We need to surround ourselves with godly women who will speak Truth to us on a regular basis. All these things develop who we are spiritually. In addition to our inward work, we must also grow outwardly. We have to develop healthy friendships and bonds that will strengthen us and provide us with the accountability that we require. 

We all have roles in this life. We all need to be strong in the Lord and strong for each other. This kingdom work isn't easy and the enemy is just waiting for us to allow him into our lives and into our work. We need to be thick enough that he cannot pierce us. We need to have our arms locked so that when we are needed, we're strong enough to support our role. Get me? I hope you do, because you don't even want me to get started about 1-ply versus 2! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Whom do you serve? Simple question, really. Not necessarily one with the simplest of answers. For those of us who have called out the Name of Jesus as Savior, it's a question that carries a lot of weight. I'd better get it right-- not for fear of punishment -- but fear that I may miss glorifying the only One Who deserves my love and devotion. 

So I ask again, "Whom are you serving?" Are you waking up in the morning with a desire to fulfill God's calling on your life? Are you ready to do whatever He asks of you at any given time and in any circumstance? Are you totally and unashamedly His?

Are you? 

Or are you someone else's? Family, kids, work, church (yes, I said church) all compete for first place in our lives. Where does Jesus fit in? 

No amount of money, no amount of fame, no amount of love, however sincere it may seem, is worth more than a right relationship with God. 

I am going to be very honest and very real for the rest of this blog. Get some coffee, some leftover Halloween candy, a tissue-- whatever you need to settle in with. (I like to think of someone holding a puppy or a kitty- that makes me happy) Here we go.

Your husband does not come before your relationship with God. 

Your children do not come before your relationship with God. 

Your pastor does not come before your relationship with God.

Your job does not come before your relationship with God. 

The altar decorations, the small group snacks, the shoe boxes, the committee position, the church council, the choir, the preschool schedule, the keys to the supply closet, the color of paint in the bathroom and the kind of soap in the dispensers, the kitchen-- yes, the KITCHEN and everything in it -- where they put the ladles, the serving platters, the leftover desserts from the last fellowship do not matter more than your relationship with the living God of the Universe. 

Nothing, nothing, NOTHING is worth more than the Savior who thought of you and me when He was being brutalized, humiliated, tortured, and nailed to a cross. 

At some point we have wandered astray and we have allowed social agendas, micro-managing leaders, and pathetic power-positions to get in our heads and go to our heads and turn us so far away from the Truth that we are willing to sacrifice not ourselves for His kingdom but His kingdom for our pleasure. We would rather debate the placement of a fake flower arrangement than speak Truth to a lost soul. We pass up opportunities to minister to our community because we may have to actually be in the community. We shy away from the difficult questions and say the words people want to hear instead of what they need to hear. 

We allow leaders to have more influence on us than Jesus Christ and His Word. I have said this before in this blog (and face-to-face with many of the people I love): No one will be standing with you when you stand before God. You choose whom you serve and you choose whom you follow. Friends, we not only need to hear what words our leaders (Bible teachers, speakers, pastors) are speaking; we must look at their actions. And if we don't see both align with Scripture, we must reject them. 

We hide behind those who say they know more than we do about Biblical doctrine because they have done their own "research" and they've talked with famous people who obviously know best. They understand words better than we do, I guess, especially when it makes people happy and doesn't exclude anyone. They treat us as though we're all unable to ask for wisdom, no matter how much James said we are.  So we shift like sand in the desert and move to whatever direction the wind is blowing. And all the time God is grieving because we have accepted everything else as gospel. And we have totally ignored Him. 

Take a minute, please. Take several, actually. Get alone and quiet with your God. Tell Him how much you love Him. Thank Him for His Son and for His Word and for the Holy Spirit. Confess your sin of allowing so many others to cut in line ahead of Him. Ask Him for forgiveness and for wisdom and discernment for your life-- ask for the power to see through the enemy's trick of making things sound so right and feel so...inclusive.  Commit to reading His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal its treasures to you. And then answer the question, "Whom do you serve?" 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

OK. I tried. I tried to start writing this with a cute story about my childhood home and all of the fruit trees that were in our yard. I was planning to interject a funny story about the barbs of the chestnut tree and the scariness of the wasps hiding under the apples that had fallen. Yes, I tried. But my heart is not light today and my words want to be as straight as an arrow hitting a bullseye: 

if you are a Christian leader, the people you lead need to see you bear fruit.

When we are saved and we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to bear His fruit. We can't do this on our own. Oh, sure, you will encounter people in your life from time to time who are really nice, generous, caring people who happen to be unsaved. But I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about those of us who claim to be children of the King. Those of us who sense that God has us on a path of leadership- of ministry. You are who I am targeting in this blog because I am seeing a decline in the "fruit industry" lately. I am reading, seeing, and hearing leaders behave in a manner that is not in accordance with Scripture and the fruit they are to be bearing. So we are going to have a little "refresher course." Leadership 101.1, if you will. 

1. Love. 
Love people more than you love yourself. If you get confused, just love like Jesus. That will pretty much take care of it. I cannot possibly say enough about love because it is the very foundation of our faith. Stop right here if you need to and pray for God to show you how to love. 

2. Joy.
Remember what you are saved from. And Who did the saving. I don't know about you, but that pretty much makes my heart about to burst. I don't even like the summer heat anymore; quite sure being saved from the fires of Hell is enough to give me joy. If you're not acting joyful, pray for it. He will help you sort it all out and "count it all joy." (James 1:2-8)

3. Peace.
John 14:27 says it best: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." Know who said that? Jesus. He's Who we receive our peace from. So the way I see it is that, since we get our peace from Jesus, if we are doing something against His will, we may not have that peace. The Holy Spirit will convict us to change our ways so that we may again live in harmony with our God. Do you have that peace today? If not, stop right now and ask Him to show you where you are failing and to lead you back on track. 

4. Patience.
I have found that impatient leaders are almost always most inpatient with themselves. This attitude then transfers on to the people whom they are leading. If you have given everything over to God each day, and sometimes many times each day, then you need to be patient to allow Him to carry out His plan in His timing. 

I know you like to lead, but God is the one Who really does the leading. 

5. Kindness.
Well, well, well. Are you squirming yet? Feeling a little tense? Maybe this one struck a nerve. There is room for assertive, effective leadership and the kindness of Christ all in the same day planner, dear leader. If you are setting out to perform a ministry task that has no room for kindness, then it is a task that you should not be doing. 

1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all that you do be done in love. 

One more thing about this: let what you say and how you behave in a crowd be what you say and how you behave in private. You're never alone. 

We, as Christians, think of God as "good." Therefore we are to be like Him in our character and exhibit His goodness. Are you doing that? Are you being good? You may be able to fool some people, but you can't fool our Savior. 

In other words, be nice. 

7. Faithfulness. 
Here, faithfulness means to be trustworthy, steadfast, true. Are you? Are you really? Jesus is. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever." Are the people you lead able to say that you are a faithful child of God, servant, leader, wife, daughter, friend? How about those of you who are employers? Are  you faithful to your employees? Can they trust you? Because if they can't, you're the problem, not them. 

8. Gentleness
I had the opportunity not long ago to be able to hold a fairly new baby. Of course, I had to be gentle with her and be aware of what I was doing so that her head and neck (and arms and legs as well) would be supported. What struck me though, as I was holding her and watching her sleep, was how, even in her seemingly helpless state, she was commanding such attention. No one in the room was more gentle than she, but dear leader, she was most assuredly in charge of her current situation. 
By the same token, I had been entrusted with this fragile, delicate life and I was all about making sure I handled her with the respect and responsibility she deserved. 
Leaders- God had given us a great responsibility to lead. Let us never take that lightly. 

9. Self-control.
As the Holy Spirit works in and through us and as we draw closer to God by prayer and reading His word, we are to grow in becoming more and more like Him and exhibiting self-control. The verse that comes to mind here is James 1:19. In it, James reminds us that we are to be "quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." The leader who shoots back the quick response in anger, sarcasm, or hatred needs to take a step back and re-evaluate her role. 
We all say things we are sorry for, but if this becomes a habit, then it is a problem and we need to pray for deliverance from its stronghold on our life. And if it is indeed a leader's nature for a season, then by all means that leader should not be in a position of leadership. 

So I ask you today, "Where is your fruit?" Take a minute or two to evaluate yourself at each of these points. We're not all going to see each of them every day, but we need to see some of them in our lives, and in the lives of the leaders we follow. And if we are following someone who doesn't exhibit these godly qualities- pray for wisdom and direction. 

I pray that your ministry and your walk will be in harmony with our good and gracious God and that, as your spiritual roots sink deeper into fertile soil, you begin to bear fruit that will glorify and honor our Lord. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Independence Day

Leave, give in, or stay and fight. 
That's the choice our founding fathers had to make. 

Earlier in our country's history, my own ancestors had to make that very hard choice. Stay under the oppressive British class system or leave. Staying and fighting was not a option for the poor, unorganized farmer in England in the 1600s. So they left. They worked, sneaked, and indentured themselves onto crowded, disease-ridden boats and sailed toward a better life. A life of freedom, even if that freedom did have to wait until they had worked off their indenture. 

About a hundred years later, some more of my people decided once again they had had enough. They probably could have left- but this time they didn't. This time they marched their shiny, buckled shoes into the nearest tavern and sat down and made a plan. No, I'm not related to any of the main founding fathers, but my people rubbed elbows with them, mostly by polishing the buckles on their shoes (In fact, at least two of them came here to avoid prison for stealing shoes, but that's a whole different blog). These people, these Patriots, were fed up. They had tolerated all they could from a distant, ego-centric, manipulative, micromanaging, megalomaniacal king and they were OVER IT. But they couldn't do it alone. They knew they couldn't just say, "Hey, it's been nice, but it's time we tried this thing on our own." There was no easy way out. Kind of like that relationship that lasts just a few months too long. You know it's going to be a rough exit; a few tears are going to be shed. But you have to do it. You have to end it because it's just not healthy. 

So they made a plan. 

Now most of you know by now that I love me some history and I cannot even begin to talk real American history without a nod to 

 Th Jefferson. 

But even the Gentleman Farmer would have to admit (and he did) that it took more than just a plan and a few good long rifles. It took seeking the will of God and including Him in every step of the planning. It took relying on what we know to be "self-evident." And it took guts. 

This was not going to be an easy fight. For crying out loud, some people didn't even WANT to fight. They were content. They were itinerent farmers and they really couldn't care less what His Majesty had to say about tea. They just wanted him to continue to buy their tobacco at top dollar. Every last pound. (See what I did there?) These people were happy to just exist. They relied on the land owner to tell them what to plant, when to plant it, and how much of it to plant. They were not involved in the decision-making or the planning process and they were just fine with that, thankyouverymuch. (That would have driven me absolutely bonkers, by the way, and I would have ended up in Ye Olde Gaol or the Gallows I am sure!) But an interesting thing happened to some of these apathetic "sheep." 

Some of the Loyalist leaders made the mistake of insulting them. See, sometimes leaders get cocky. They surround themselves with people who build them up to the point where they think they are untouchable. In their own mind, they can do no wrong. They are Top Dog and any challenge is seen as treason (In reality they are usually very insecure and untrusting, but again, for a different blog at a different time). So the main Loyalists told the backwood farmers that they would be no match for the world famous British army. Said they were a bunch of disorganized, ignorant hicks (well, they didn't say "hicks," but that's what they meant). In short, they bullied them. Tried to make them think they were not only incapable, but inadequate. It resulted in the Battle of King's Mountain, and it was arguably the turning point of the Revolutionary War. 

We whooped their British behinds. 

Killed their leader and took some prisoners. Sent the rest packing. Then they marched back home and went back to farming. And then France hurried over and helped us finish things up on the James River. 

But the point is this: If the farmers in the mountains had just bought the whole British song and dance about not being equipped for the fight, the battle would not have been won! Only God knows how "equipped" we are because He does the equipping. And a leader who has to resort to trying to weaken his enemy with insults and verbal beat-downs (can't believe I just wrote "beat-downs") must know that his enemy is indeed strong and he must be something of a...well, again, that's another blog for another time. 

I ask you this, dear Patriot: are you ready for the fight? Because we have an enemy who wants to kill, steal, and destroy us and he seeks to weaken us and bully us and disrupt our unity. Satan, like many evil leaders after him, will try to wear you down until you believe his lies. We will become blinded by his tricks and manipulation and lose sight of all that is right. There is only one Match for this enemy: Jesus. When you rely on His strength and His guidance the enemy cannot win. Jesus won that battle when He left the tomb! 

So invite our Savior to be yours. Know Him as your trusted Friend and true Leader. And enjoy your very own Independence Day. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Gift of Leadership

At a women's leadership conference a few years ago the speaker invited the audience to participate in an exercise. She asked all of us to stand, and then she proceeded to ask how many years we had been in leadership. Those who had been leading for one or two years were invited to sit down. Then she started to work in increments of five, always congratulating and thanking the new batch of "sitters" for their service and dedication. Gradually there were only a few of us left standing. At the end of the exercise she asked all of us to think about our age when we first actually "led" something. The next question was very pointed: At what age were you saved? I was astounded; I began to lead at almost the very age that I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior! Yes, I have taken numerous spiritual gift surveys and yes, I have the gift of administration/leadership. But this was the first time that I had actually come to terms with the fact that I, Dolly, was given not only the gift of eternal life with our Lord, but I was newly aware of the immediacy of my spiritual gift: the gift of administration/leadership. 

Before Moses came in contact with the burning bush, he only thought he had lived a complicated life. Suddenly (to him) he was placed in a position of authority over the people of Israel and told that he would now lead them out of slavery and into a land rich with freedom and promise. 


Not only did Moses protest, he actually argued with God. He used all the excuses: "I'm not worthy; they won't believe me; I have difficulty speaking..." You know, the usual thoughts that run through our head when we see someone from the Nominating Committee heading our way! "Oh, no, not me. I don't have the experience!" Or, "No, I'll serve, but I'm not a leader." And indeed, some of us aren't leaders. That's not a gift that we all possess. Only God knows if we have it and only He can truly equip us for serving Him in a leadership role. Imagine His joy when we submit to His will and try. Just try. Let's examine some of Moses' protests and how we can overcome our own. 

 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

Of course Moses was uncertain. He had only minimal leadership experience- certainly, in his mind, nothing that had prepared him to lead an entire nation out of slavery! Moses knew there was a HUGE difference between leading a flock of his father-in-law's sheep and leading a people on a journey to a foreign land. 

Oh, Moses, no. There's really not that much difference. There's not. You'll see. 

So what does God tell him? "I will be with you." And He was! 

And He is!

My sisters, He is with you! As a daughter of the King you have the Holy Spirit with you in all times and at all times, the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult. And you have the power of the one true living God and He will never, ever leave you. So what's your next excuse?

“If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” Exodus 3:13

Now see, here's where you or I would have said something like, "What do you think you should tell them??" God is so patient, isn't He? (And this is only Exodus) So God tells Moses EVERYTHING he should say in a way that must have blown Moses' mind, right? Not only is he told exactly Who God is, but he is told how the Father will equip him in order to achieve the task he has been assigned. 

Do you really think God will lead you to a task and then not equip you? 

The Father reminds Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses is told that God has been watching him and that He sees how the Eqyptians are treating him. Stay with me here: imagine God telling you that He has been watching you and that He sees how your coworkers are treating you. Or how the neighbors treat you. God Himself telling you He cares. 

Even after God continues to assure Moses that the land is rich and plentiful and that He will provide for his needs in every way, Moses still wants to deny the calling. Are you in denial? 

“What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”Exodus 4:1

Okay, maybe now Moses' protests are beginning to hit a little close to home for some of us. Are you sensing a call to lead a group of women who may not know you well? How about the group whose leader just retired after MANY years of faithful service. Or the group that desperately needs new energy. Listen, Sister, if God called you into this role He will give you everything you need and I mean EVERYTHING! Trust Him. Only Him. Ask for His guidance and direction and strength and power. Obey Him when He directs. Look, Moses had to pick up a snake so that God could turn it into a rod. 
But do know that constant communication and obedience to the Father is crucial to your success as a leader. Pray hard. And be still and know. Listen to His voice and use the tools He gives us. 

So you know the story. Moses still, STILL argued with God, this time saying that he was not a good speaker. That he had a problem speaking. 

But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Exodus 4:10        “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Exodus 4:13

Poor Moses. Doesn't your heart just break for him? He really didn't want to do this. He tried so hard to deny God. But now we see that not only does he believe Who God is, but there is a glimmer of hope. It's like he's thinking, "Ok, say I do this. You go with me. You are God. And You provide me with this really cool stick that will show them all Your power...but You know I still can't speak well." 

In complaining about his speech affliction, Moses offends God. After all, God reminds Moses that He made Moses' mouth! So what does God do? Turn away from him? Visit His wrath upon him? Turn him into a pillar of salt? He does get angry-- He was insulted because Moses was ungrateful.

But God doesn't give up on him. Instead, God gives him a helper:  Moses' brother. So kind. Was this a negotiation with God? Did Moses "wear God down?" Not at all. See, God never told Moses that he wanted him to lead alone. The Maker of heaven and earth most certainly knew that He was going to provide help for the man he was choosing. He was just waiting for Moses to see his own potential. 

In leadership, no matter how big or how small, we all need help. Not only will the help be beneficial to the work of the kingdom, but by asking other women to join us we will gain new, fresh insight, perspective, and energy. And we will be fulfilling the Titus 2 mandate of mentorship. A variety of voices on a team provides checks and balances. Strong Christian women can point out our own errors with love and grace.  

Remember: "Iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17) isn't only for men. 

So where are you in your Moses journey? Are you still arguing with God and denying His calling? Are you doubting that you have "believability?" Or are you praying and seeking and striving to serve the God who called the baby hidden in the weeds to lead His people out of slavery? The God who equipped a man to show Pharaoh who was really in charge! 

I want to encourage you to examine what gifts you were given at the time of your salvation, but first you have to make sure that you do know Jesus as your Savior. Seek out a pastor. Contact a Bible-believing church. But if the Lord is speaking to you and calling you to lead, recognize that as a gift. It is a perfect gift, since it is from God, and it is never to be abused or used for anything less than for His glory. And don't ever be afraid. He is always as close as you allow Him to be. Let Him lead, and you follow right behind Him. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Beth Came to Norfolk

The stage lights fade. Bibles are closed. The last notes of "Shout to the Lord" dissolve into the air. It's over.

Beth Moore came to our area three weeks ago. Three weeks ago I was deeply involved in the final tasks of serving on the core team of women who assisted in the event. Almost a year of prayer, organization, and activities, were culminating in a conference designed to glorify God and lead women to a closer relationship with Christ.

I cannot stress enough how much prayer was a factor in this event. Prayer on the street in front of the venue. Monthly prayer meetings in a beautiful sanctuary surrounded by sisters of all denominations, united by the love we have for Jesus. Prayer in our own homes, prayer at a mid-winter rally, prayer calendars distributed for personal use, and a prayer rally, held just a week before the event, walking a mile up the street and circling the building. This event was bathed in prayer. Fervent prayers. We prayed for Beth and her team. We prayed for the worship team. We prayed for the vendors, the staff, and the surrounding area. We had asked God to send exactly who He wanted to attend, and asked Him to get everyone there safely in a world that is anything but safe. 

Early Friday morning we arrived with 8500 bookmarks, each one hand-made and hand-signed. Each one prayed over by more than one person. And each one now placed on a seat in the auditorium- and each seat touched with prayer. It all came down to this: the Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University was, for one weekend, a House of Prayer. 

The team was allowed to enter early, and we were all on the floor of the arena as the guests began arriving. One by one the seats filled up, then the sections were full. Then empty seats were difficult to find, as more bus loads of women arrived. 

Music swelled and lights went up-- hearts sang love songs to our Lord. Upwards of 7000 women, and a few men, joined in one voice to worship the only one Who is worthy. 

Then we sat. And we listened. And we learned. We laughed, we cried, we were challenged and we were inspired. The word of God was taught with reverence and respect. His servant constantly poured herself out, so that she would be filled with the Spirit. You see, not only does Beth Moore prepare a lesson specifically for the area where she is teaching, she constantly seeks God's will in how to teach it and leaves herself open to His changing it as He sees necessary. She comes to your city to minister to you by His words, not hers. And through Him, she delivers. 

And then she is gone. 

We are all left with a little bit of a vacuum in our joy. A sense of "what now?" But beneath the veil of emptiness burns a fire. A challenge. A sense of urgency that I had started feeling before she even arrived. We have only a set portion of time here on this earth, and we must reach those who do not know this Savior we sang about. This Spirit that lives within us and rises up whenever we call on Him. We must do whatever we can to meet needs, minster to, and ultimately love the very people Jesus loves: everyone. 

Late Friday evening we learned that Beth wanted to meet our team-- that she was changing how the next lesson would go and that she wanted us to come backstage. Why did she want to meet us? What would she say?

She wanted to thank us for praying. 

She could feel the love that was a result of our seeking God's will for this event. And she returned the Favor by praying with us. And right then it came full-circle. 

So now we press on. We carry the love and the joy and the hope and the promise to each person God places in our path. We continue to seek Him and serve Him and allow Him to direct our paths. The lights may have faded, but the Light will continue to burn. Because what Jesus finished on the cross was His purpose- but ours has just begun. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Facing Sin

I have had this particular blog in my draft queue for at least 6 months. I have written, deleted, rewritten and edited it more that any blog I have posted to date. Why? Because I am concerned that someone will read it and think it is about her. Or him. And, in fact, it is, because it is about all of us. So please, read these words carefully and allow the Scripture to speak to you and the Holy Spirit to convict, encourage, and teach. May God bless you as you read the words I am led to write. 

I love the sense of community + family that you get in church. I love breaking bread with these people, joining them in their work, and coming alongside in times of need. When we gather with people we know this well, we can trust that they are going to be themselves and that means not only that we can be ourselves, but that they will be who we know them to be. We were present for their collective births, baptisms, and marriages. We have joyfully celebrated with them and we have ministered to them them in their grief. 

It's almost the same way with our closest friends. You know, the friend you really know. The one you know so well that you recognize something that would be perfect for her house, or you know the necklace she would really like her husband to give her for Christmas. The one who makes the Friends & Family list on your cell. That friend. 

Friends like those are rare and precious and you realize it! You include them and their family in your prayers and you look forward to the next time you see them- knowing that you can discuss politics, faith, money, and shoe styles with ease because- well because you know them. 

Until the day you don't. 

Until the day you get the phone call that rocks you. 
Until the day you have to remind yourself to breathe. 
Until the day you have to face your friend's humanity, your friend's sin. 

We all sin. (Romans 3:23) All of us. Those of us who are saved readily admit that fact. But often we admit it the same way we admit that we eat too much, we don't exercise enough, and we should keep better bank records. We mentally hit the "play" button and let the statement come out: "Oh, we're all sinners!" 

But do we believe the horror of our own capacity for sin?  

Because it's there. It's real. And it's the ugliest of the ugly. Yet we still remain shocked at how vile it is. We are appalled at how sin can change a person to the point of being practically unrecognizable. 

We think we know someone, but only God knows our heart. 

I have faced sin in my own life. And because I am human, I will again.
I have confessed those sins to a just and merciful God and He has forgiven me. Jesus' death on the cross freed me from having to pay the price for the sins I have committed. I have repented. I am redeemed. Praise God! Praise God! But let me tell you, even though I know what it is like to sin, and even though I know that my sins are no better or worse that anyone else's, it is still almost too much to bear when I learn that a friend or a brother or sister in Christ has committed and is continuing to be involved in sin. And it is happening more and more. To believers. Prayer warriors. Bible students. And Bible teachers. It's happening to the very ones you would go to - run to - for your own wise counsel. 
My God, what is happening in our churches? 

And then I remember: we're human. And we sin. And it is awful and raw and horrific and destructive and it will just about take you down and paralyze you- but God. God is there to supply your needs and to fill your lungs with air when it has been sucked right out of you. God is there to hold you up and to hold your heart. God is there with His Word that can fill your thoughts so that your human mind doesn't race to dark places. God is there to pull your loved one, your friend, you, out of the sin and into His arms. 

But there has to be an admission of guilt, a request for forgiveness, and a time of repentance. Without it, it's just another day. 

I have had the sad opportunity to comfort, counsel, and confront the heartbroken and the heart breaker. I have seen sin and what it does to those around it. It cannot be treated like a broken bone that can be set or a cut that can be bandaged. This "illness" is the product of a mastermind who is plotting to attack at the very core of each of us. Consider the area where you are strongest: that area is the goal of the enemy. Right there. He comes to kill and destroy and he will stop only when defeated by the only one Who can win against him: Jesus. (John 10:10But we have to ask for help. And we have to allow Him to to have His way in our lives. Not on our terms, but His. 

So what to we do when we come face-to-face with sin? First, sisters, we need to pray. We need to pray for ourselves: that we will remain strong in our own walk. We have to constantly seek Him and His will for our lives so that we are not pulled down into sin as well.  We need to pray for our spouse: that he will remain strong and that our communication remains open. We must pray for our pastors, for our church family -- let them keep Christ at the center of everything they say and do. Pray hard, because I am here to tell you that 

prayer works! 

And second, a very close second, we need to love. We need to show the love of Christ while at the same time rejecting the sin. We can show Christ's compassion and still maintain our own strong character and godliness by staying true to His word and following Christ's example of forgiveness. We have to be willing to say, "I know what you did and I am here to love you through this." 

I have seen lives changed and relationships renewed through the power of prayer. God expects us to pray. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) When we do, He listens. He sees us on our knees in our quiet place, in our cars stuck in traffic, or on our back porches pouring our hearts out to the only One Who can hear us. 

So don't give up. Keep praying. Pray like a life depends on it. 

Because it does. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

For whatever reason, I have always been able to see irony in a situation. Call me jaded or negative if you want, but I don't usually see things as they appear, rather as they seem

That's why I am laughing at myself right now. 

Like so many women my age, I like to get my nails done. Can't do the fake ones. They don't stick to my nails. Pop right off. But my natural nails on their own split and are very painful, often bleeding. So, I go get them trimmed, filed, and painted every few weeks. Sometimes I like color, but mostly I like the "French manicure" look. Never long-- always pretty short and simple. I do that for two reasons. 

First, I think there is little more pathetic than a middle-aged woman trying to hold on to her youth by way of her fingernails. Sorry if that causes you to twinge or press the esc button, but let's be honest: having nice nails is NOT going to lose you ten pounds or conceal your roots. The second reason I like simple nails is that I am too rough on my hands. (And by too rough I only mean that I am terrible at wearing gloves.) I like to wash dishes with my real hands, prepare meals with my real hands, and, on occasion, plant a flower with my real hands. 

So here's the dilemma: I got my real hands very dirty and part of the painted nail peeled off. I have an event this weekend and I wanted to have my hands look nice. But I am in battle with myself over the fact that I want to have my nails re-painted to look like a real pretty fingernail so that no one can actually see the real fingernail that is peeking out from under the broken one. Does anyone else see the irony in that? Read it again slowly if you need to; it does make sense- trust me!

Here I am, trying to cover up something real with something that only looks real. 

What in the world? 

The beauty isn't in my fake nail. The beauty isn't even in my real nail. The beauty is in getting my hands dirty by being real. 

So, I'll get my nail fixed. But I'll also be ready to get my hands dirty with any opportunity the Lord sends my way. Even if it's as simple as talking about Jesus with my nail tech. It all comes around. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hiking on a New Path

In case you were wondering, I'm still here. I know I've been a little quiet lately. I haven't been very busy, but God has been busy with me. With us. My husband and me. We've been in the valley and we've been on the mountaintop. We've been in the weeds, the pit, and on the right path. We've been all over the place for the past few months. And I wouldn't trade a moment of it. Because, as you see, I said, "We." My husband and me...and God. 

It began over a year ago, this particular journey with God. Born out of our prayers and petitions every morning. Seeking God's will for our lives and His direction for us in all manner of our life together. You see, we are His first, so why wouldn't we ask Him to show us what He wants for us? Hand-in-hand, sometimes silent, sometimes whispered, often teary-eyed pleas for God to make Himself so obvious to us that there would be no mistake-- that we would know without a shadow of a doubt that we were following Him alone. 

As I have mentioned before in this blog, we like to hike. Now by hike, I must be totally honest: we like to walk in the woods. As much as I enjoyed climbing as a child, I do not cherish it now. Mostly because you have to climb back down. We have learned this both the easy and the hard way. Some maps are more honest than others about the difficulty level of the terrain. One man's "Moderate" is another man's "DEATH TRAP!" So this God-journey was the most difficult "hike" either of us has ever been on. We did not choose the terrain nor the difficulty level. God did. 

So we prayed. And we prayed. And we PRAYED. 

I wasn't ready for the answer that came. It hurt too much. Cut way too deep. I was confused. Scared. Sad. I denied it. But yet I kept on praying, asking for His will to be done. Praising Him for His goodness. Serving Him with gladness and hope. And He kept working on me. 

Obedience is a funny thing. The thought of it seems so monumental. The enemy tells our brains that it's way too difficult. We are convinced that there will be days and nights of agony and despair and that we will never be the same again, that we stand to lose and lose too much, once we take that leap of faith. Well, sisters, I am here to tell you that the leap of faith is a step on the most sturdy and stable ground that you will ever take. God will never lead us to something that will not be for our good and for His glory! I am telling you that the enemy is filling you with doubt and fear that are lies and that are meant to make you weak and keep you from serving the only One who can provide freedom in the midst of obedience! 

You don't have to leap- just take one step!

One step toward obedience. One step, trusting the One who is leading you. And then let Him do His mighty work in your heart and in your perspective. At once my heart was healed and my spirit was soaring with the notion that I wasn't walking away from anything but that I was running toward something new and beautiful and with a purpose! He had only my best interests at heart as He always has-- and He has plans for me, even still. Jeremiah 29:11  promises me that He wants the best for me and He has shown me that my entire life. I just needed to obey Him first to see it. I just needed to seek Him first, to be rewarded with it. (Matthew 6:33)

The blessed Scripture that He left with us teaches us that we are not to be afraid. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that we are not given a spirit of fear. Don't be fooled. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that this has been easy, even after the Lord did His work on my heart. I still hurt. I still cried (and still am). But I have no resentment, doubt, or bitterness in my heart at all! I am free because of the power of Christ and I know that this is a journey that we will not regret taking. Because, no matter the terrain, we will stand on the Rock and proclaim His goodness. 

Thank you, Jesus, for providing access to the God of all. And thank you for this new path, a hand to hold, and a heart trying to be as much like Yours as it possibly can.

Why I Choose to be Southern Baptist

These have been tough days for those of us who call ourselves “Southern Baptists.” I won’t go into all the details. I don't think it’s S...