Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jesus Is The Christmas Light!

Christmas lights will soon go out but the light of Christ will NEVER be extinguished. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." ~ Jesus (John 8:12)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Serve Those You Want To Serve You!

I have issues! I confess I am very critical of customer service these days seeing as how it's pathetic or non-existent in many retail establishments.  And as a former retail girl, I have ridiculous standards.

Last week, I was in my local grocery store and only had a small-ish cart full of items.  At the check out point, I became discouraged as the line was long and only one "normal" lane was open.  Maybe I could have used the self-check out option but in all actuality, I think I had too many items too fit on the scannermabob counter.  So I waited in the only lane available to me as I definitely had more than 12 items to qualify for express.  

My reoccurring issue presented itself as I began to wait and my hypercritical thoughts quickly surfaced because the two people in front of me had extra-large carts filled to the brim and the check-out  process was moving at a snail's pace.  After I found fault and cast blame sufficiently in my mind, I went too look for a human employee.  I asked the first one I came across if he could open up a lane.  He said I would have to make my request at the customer service desk.  Ugh.  Then low and behold, an employee appeared and opened the lane I was walking through to get back to my cart.  I quickly grabbed it and began to unload.  I was frustrated but tried to be kind.   In the scheme of things, this was not really a thing.  But it was controlling me and it had happened several times in the past month  (and/or years) so I knew God was doing something!  He tends to highlight our issues when it's time to work them out!  When I got home, I dropped to my knees and asked Him what I was supposed to do at the moment of frustration when I wanted to complain my head off and give vent to my frustration.  He said this:  "SERVE THOSE YOU WANT TO SERVE YOU BY PRAYING FOR THEM."  "O.K. Lord, what do you want me to pray?" I asked.  "PRAY FOR THEM TO LOVE ME," He said.

Well, that makes good, godly sense!  If I'm praying instead of complaining (out loud or in my mind), I am serving them which is actually serving God.  And if Im praying, I am blessing them and not cursing them (which is my sin-nature/automatic response).  So when I feel my customer service needs aren't being met and my blood begins to boil (I have entitlement issues too! But that's a whole other talk show), I will know that that's my cue to begin praying and serving those I want to serve me.  Imma try it.  P to the T to the L!!!  Gonna catch a ride on the freedom train!!!  Woot woot!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Day The Orphans Ministered To Me!

    On one of the days Sophie and I had scheduled to go and hang out with the kids at the  CCC Orphanage, she woke up feeling ill.  She informed me that she wouldn't be able to go.  I pondered my options and decided to walk on by myself.  Although I was afraid, I hated the thought of missing an opportunity to minister to the kids.  So I began the short trek out of the hospital compound and prayed the whole way there.  I asked God to show me what activities to do with the kids and to protect me on the road.
      When I arrived, the head admin. guy was not there as it was the day after the Ethiopian New Year Holiday.  I spoke with another employee who said the room with all of the books and games was locked and he didn't have access to the key.  I thought to myself (what on earth was I going to do without the proper "supplies" to entertain these kids) and I thought about heading back home.  I was nervous and out of my comfort zone.  I kept praying for God to SHOW UP.  I asked the guy in charge where I could find the kids and he pointed me to the cafeteria.  They were in the process of sorting lentils which was one of their regular chores.  I grabbed a seat between a couple of them.  I just sat.  They just stared and sorted beans.  They remembered me from the painting party a few days earlier and they seemed excited for me to be there.  They love attention (worldwide human nature ya know) and I believe they love adults who pay attention to them.  They began to sing to me....HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  It wasn't my birthday but it was actually only a couple of weeks away.  I believe they knew I would know that song so it was a safe choice.  I didn't prompt them to sing.  But at the painting party days before, at the end, I initiated a "Jesus Loves Me" sing-a-long in which they quickly joined in.  I think they remembered me as a "singer" and wanted to "speak" my love language.  I just sat while they sorted and sang.  They were so content and filled with peace.  I kept praying silently asking God to work out the details of this visit.  He most certainly did.  I kept thinking, how am I going to "entertain" them?!  What with the supply room locked and all.  But God had a different day in mind.  They would be the ones doing the entertaining.  After the Happy Birthday song, they kept going. They broke into "Our God Is An Awesome God,"  and "Give Me Jesus." Their voices were incredible.  And I was mesmerized.  By them.  And by God.  We sat there together.  And they serenaded me, singing of the love of God they clearly had a grasp on and were grateful for.  His love was so evident that day.  I knew He loved me.  Through them.  And they knew they were loved.
    I was sorry Sophie missed it.  But actually I now know I was supposed to go alone that day.  As God held my hand, I stepped out of my comfort zone with Him.  And the "angels" sang to me.

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,  for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."  

The Orphanage

      I had the privilege of returning to Ethiopia this past September 2014, for the second time in two years for a medical mission trip through World Medical Mission.  My husband would be helping out in the orthopedics department at the hospital in Soddo, a town in southern Ethiopia.  And seeing as I am totally non-medical when it comes to nurse-y type skills, I go along and help out wherever I am needed.
      Last year, my daughter, Molly, and step-son, Jonathan,  and I had the privilege of working in a school on the hospital campus teaching English from the Bible.  We had an incredible experience with the students and tremendously enjoyed our time with them.  But this year as we returned, we found out the school would be on holiday break for the entire time we would be in town.  I didn't panic although I was sad that I would not be able to reconnect with the kids we had met a year earlier.  But this year, I would have a new assignment along with my step-daughter, Sophie, who was able to take time off from work and sojourn with us.  I knew in my heart that the LORD would provide work for us.  And He did!  The Children's Cross Connection is an orphanage that houses approximately 60 kids and it is just about one mile from the hospital.  I had not had the privilege of visiting last year even though it was on my bucket list.  But this year, Sophie and I had the desire to meet with the administrator  and see how we might be able to help out.  They allowed us to come and hang out with the children as our schedule allowed and they gave us total creative freedom to spend time with them as we saw fit.
     The first day we planned a "painting party" as I had bought and packed supplies from Hobby Lobby.  The ability to paint and create and allow the "inner artist" that resided in all of them was special.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Unfading Beauty Parlor

"Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."  
1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT

I was asked to speak at a local church women's retreat a few months ago about the topic of Unfading Beauty.  To start the New Year (since this is my first post), I thought I would just blog from some of my notes as a remembrance because the theme verses and subject matter so resonated with me and I don't want to forget them.  

The church calls this annual retreat a 3-H "camp" which represent the Head, Heart and Hands.  This year they chose the theme "Unfading Beauty" from 1 Peter 3:3-4.  I had attended girl scout camp as a child but never had the opportunity to participate in any 4-H camps in our area.  I thought it might be a good idea to google "4-H Camp" just to see what they were about.  I was intrigued to find that the 4-H camp motto was this:  MAKING THE BEST BETTER.  I loved that motto and just knew that the women I would be speaking to were undoubtedly THE BEST!  But to encourage THE BEST to become better, sounded like a work God could and would certainly inspire!

I felt the overall goal He had given us was to be strengthened, encouraged and refreshed with a new resolve to go with Him wherever He wanted to take us (spiritually and physically).  After all, we were called to be Spirit-led women who loved the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

So where would one go for unfading beauty treatments?  The Unfading Beauty Parlor!  I realize we don't call it a "parlor" anymore.  Salons are for sure more trendy and hip. LOL.  But I grew up and had the privilege of going on many occasions with my great aunt, Nonnie, to the "beauty parlor" which she visited WEEKLY!  Weekly appointments:  GENIUS!  A standing WEEKLY hair appointment!!!  Why in the world did we ever let that trend get away?!

So what in the world happens at an Unfading Beauty Parlor?  EVERYTHING!  Divine highlights, faithlifts, encouragement injections, strength fill-ins and more!  But the transformation God was after in us wasn't going to happen in a weekend.  No quick fix here.  It would be a process.  And not the 15 minute kind that takes place under a salon dryer.  Transformational processing would take up to a season or longer.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 (MSG) says, "God hasn't invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful--as beautiful on the inside as the outside."   God isn't against outer beauty.  But if that's all we pursue, we miss Him!  And we're miserable.

I had the ladies name some things that FADE and they shouted out suntans, clothing, eyesight, highlights, perms, youth, flowers, and the list went on.  But when I asked what things didn't fade they came up with these...eternal life, works of the Lord, genuine love, God's glory, Truth, and age spots!  Good to know age spots won't fade as I have some and will now save lots of money NOT trying to fight that battle!  

I found out via the internet that we have spent $56 billion dollars on the Cosmetic industry in the US alone in the past year.  But the world can only offer external beauty whereas God goes deeper and invests in our inner self.  "God looks at the Heart but people look at the outward appearance."  1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Obviously, if "unfading beauty" was our theme, then this was what God was calling us to work on.  It was time to take a look in the spiritual mirror to see if we were reflecting the image of Christ?!   We were going to have to let God examine our hearts.  And we would also have to examine our selfie.  Wouldn't you want to know if you had spinach in your teeth or sushi on your face? (I recently had sushi rice that stuck to my face and Mike failed to tell me.  When I noticed it later AFTER a trip to Dillard's, I blurted out, "Why didn't you tell me??!")  In the same way, we should also care what we are reflecting to our families and others around us.  Because what's on the inside, does come out!  

God revealed some gross stuff in my teeth, I mean heart, Thanksgiving 2013.  Teeth are easier to manage  because you can just brush and floss them clean in a matter of minutes.  But the heart must be EXAMINED AND REFINED.  My family and I would be celebrating Turkey Day at the beach condo that year.  I was super excited to be together and hang out. BUT the day came, and as it did, I became more and more frustrated.  And mad.  At my family.  Poor innocent souls had no clue.  My frustration had to do with all of the preparation and work necessary to pull off the banquet.  And no one was volunteering to prep, cook and help to my liking.  And my mind began to entertain negative thoughts prompted by all of the external circumstances.  To give them credit, they were on vacation.  But the turkey and trimmings weren't going to cook themselves.  I resented having to ask for help.  I became more and more miserable as the day went on.  My life verse SHOULD BE Proverbs15:17 that says, "better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a platter of meat/turkey with hatred."  I have known this verse since the early 2000's.  But that doesn't mean I put it into practice. Back to the story and the point:  God cares about what we think about our family members. And others.  He really does.  What we say to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds DOES MATTER.  

Psalm 26:2 NIV  says, "Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."  And the NET Bible says it like this,  "Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives."  Why would God care about our inner thoughts and motives?  Because they affect our inner beauty!  Negativity on the inside doesn't stay on the inside.(In the same way that "what happens in Vegas" DOES NOT stay in Vegas!)  What happens in the mind will trickle our words, actions and demeanor. 

I tried to be jovial and thankful and enjoy that day but God would use it to show me what was in my heart that had been lurking for years. This was the time He had chosen to deal with this issue.  Let's just say it was NOT my best thanksgiving.  A few days later as I was flying home, I got sick on the plane.  Literally sneezes and a sore throat besieged me somewhere over the Florida/Georgia line. By the time I got home that evening, I was miserable.  I thought I would sleep it off.  Not so.  Overnight, the cold morphed into the worst upper-respiratory infection on record. So I was bed-ridden for 3 days. And THEN I then had the wherewithal to ask God if there was something He was trying to teach me.  And He said these words immediately in my spirit. "You're not loving your family well."  I gasped and said, "You're right!"  I immediately agreed with God and then confessed my sin to Him.  I asked Him to heal me and teach me how to love like Him.  When Mike got home from work, I confessed it to him. 

Now was the time God had ordained to pay serious attention to what my mind spoke.  And it was a call to repentance.  I knew "taking certain thoughts captive" was important and had even done the Bible Study,  Me, Myself and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild, but it was time to change the way I think!  After all, we do have the capacity to think like Christ as we have the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). I was no longer a captive unaware.  I knew the subject matter I was to work on for the semester.  It really does help to know what we're working on. And God usually makes it crystal clear when we want to know.  Paying attention to what we "say" in our minds is a big deal.  And our love, joy and peace are affected by it tremendously.  He had my attention.  I paid attention.  I am still a work in progress.  PTL, its not how ya start but how ya finish.  Unfading beauty is a lifelong pursuit.  But it's what we really want and ultimately what we're searching for.  Perhaps fading beauty is over-rated. What if what's on the inside is what it's really all about.   #sorryhokeypokey

FBC Raceland 7/24/14 
CLOSING PRAYER (recite together)

Dear Heavenly Father,

We are so grateful to know You and be in relationship with you.  Your unfailing love is so precious.  We are desperate for more of you and less of us.

We confess the times when we have not loved you with “ALL OF OUR MIND.” Examine our hearts and minds.  Do the necessary checks to expose the areas that need work.  Give us the desire to draw near to You and listen closely.   Please pour out Your Spirit of wisdom and discernment so that we can better cooperate with You on our issues.  We DO want to get well.  And we DO want to reflect the beauty of Your Son, Jesus, to our family, friends, and everyone we meet.

Only You can make us beautiful from the inside out.  We are in agreement that the Spiritual work of sanctifying our minds is crucial to our becoming Spirit-led women.  Teach us how, LORD.  We cannot get this at the beauty shop.  It can ONLY come from You at Your UNFADING BEAUTY PARLOR and we know it!!!  We need an appointment A.S.A.P.  We are thankful that you always have openings and You never have to “work us in.” 

We praise You, Father, for loving us.  Give us hearts to love You more and more. 

In the beautiful Name of Jesus’,