Monthly Archives: December 2009

I (Heart) Lists

I must have packed my will power away with my white shoes after Labor Day! I just can’t seem to control my eating habits, my time management habits, or any other habits for that matter. And it’s beginning to show in the way my jeans fit (or don’t), in the way I respond to situations and people and in general how I approach life. It’s made me sluggish, irritable and not very effective. I’m thinking a change is in order.  

I fully believe in my favorite bible verse:

I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (emphasis mine)

I can do all things through Christ, but I don’t. Why? Because deep down I’m one very selfish person. I still want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and not necessarily what God wants me to do. It’s a fight and I’m not much of a fighter, especially when I have to talk myself into something. So begins my goal setting (which I’m terrible at, too!) for 2010.

This may seem elementary and simple, but a girl’s got to start somewhere…

  1. Intentionally seek God’s will personally before seeking His will corporately. It will be easier to fit into God’s plan for my community when I’m in His will individually.
  2. Give Him ALL of me (AGAIN & AGAIN, everyday). No hidden areas that I manage alone. Sounds easy, right? But this is THE hardest thing for me to do – give up control!
  3. Be intentional about my physical well being. Eat right, exercise (the second hardest thing for me to do because I don’t like it), remember to rest and occasionally have some FUN!

That should be enough to keep me busy for a couple of weeks. This short list doesn’t include things like my goals to read at least one book per month, blog at least twice a week, complete at least 6 bible studies or book studies this year. That’s my “at least” list. The one above is my “I’ve-tried-this-before-but-never-succeeded” List!

What about you? What are you planning to work on this next year?

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This is Better Than Chocolate!

 “Leading people to pursue life in Jesus as their greatest passion.”

At Stonecreek Church this is our mission. We’ve received our marching orders. How we accomplish this mission as individuals will differ somewhat according to our tools and talents. But every good soldier will give 100% to complete a mission!

I’ve seen more “passion” in the past two weeks within Stonecreek Church than I EVER have (in almost 9 years).

No doubt, it’s been a tough year. We’ve suffered many losses. Many others are still fighting extremely tough battles. The economy stinks. The future may seem uncertain. But God is good and faithful! This is turning out to be the best year EVER!

I was talking with a friend just the other day. We were discussing the fact that we couldn’t come up with a want for ourselves no matter how hard we tried. The group effort of being able to help so many others this Christmas has filled us with so much love (not a strong enough word to describe the emotion but as close as I can get) that we feel on the verge of bursting! It started me thinking that the last portion of Acts 20:35 may literally mean “when your heart is right (pure) there is more joy in giving than you will EVER experience in getting.” I believe there are more than a few Stonecreekers who will testify to that this year. As a matter of fact they have. Just click here to read their stories.

But it also brings up another valid point. If you refuse to receive from someone, you are robbing them of the blessing of giving. Oh, how I struggle with this. I’ve had the attitude that it’s “easier to give than to receive” for a very long time. It has taken me years of consciously allowing others the opportunity to bless me and break the habit of waving them off with a dismissive attitude. It’s hard to receive. It’s humbling. Sometimes it’s necessary and also the last thing we want to do. But if God has moved in the heart of someone to bless you, it’s your job to accept it with a grateful spirit and allow them the joy of giving. There’s nothing saying you can’t turn right around and pass blessings on to the next person. Take it to a viral level. Spread it all around.

There’s an amazing side effect of this type of giving. You will find the more you give, the more you have to give. I’m not claiming your bank account will increase instead of decrease. Or that you will receive unlimited resources to meet needs. It could happen that way. God’s accounts are limitless and He is not above sharing with you. But what I’m talking about is the fact you will notice a change in your heart. The more love you share the more love you will find inside yourself. You will find yourself searching for opportunities to give it away because you cannot hold it all. It’s a fullness that makes you feel like you’re about to burst. With me, it’s been spilling out of my eyes in tears of happiness and joy this week. I feel almost to the point of dehydration. But the first thought that ran through my mind as my friend and I celebrated the joy of giving was, “THIS IS WAY BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE!” And that, my friends, is saying a LOT!

What about you? Can you describe the joy of giving better than that?

If You Give a Heart a Voice…

I LOVE the children’s books by Laura Numeroff. You know the ones: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. I think the reason I adore these books and Laura’s writing is because that’s exactly the way my thought process works. I’d say roughly 90% of the time my thinking starts with an “If [this], then [that]…” and it continues, “If [that], then [the other]…” and so on and so on until I finally get to a stopping place. Can anybody else out there relate?

It happened just the other day. I started wondering why we let satan spoil our plans so much of the time. And then I thought that maybe we give him too much credit. Maybe we place the blame on him for things that we don’t want to own up to. Now hear what I’m saying. I know what satan’s job is. His main objective is to keep as many people from eternal life as possible. Part of that job involves limiting the effectiveness of those of us on the opposing team. But we give in too easily. We don’t try hard enough to resist. And I think we defeat ourselves to the point that he and his associates don’t really need to expend much energy at all.

My thoughts then turned down an unexpected lane. It dawned on me that maybe we as a generation, as a nation (America), as the church don’t really know how to fight. I don’t mean argue, complain, or quarrel. Those are things we unfortunately do all too well. No, I mean actually fight. Stand up against. Battle. Wage war. Most people alive today have never really had to fight for anything. We don’t get the concept of fighting to keep something or fighting to stop something undesirable from advancing. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these thoughts are just my own personal experience. I don’t have many battle scars at all.

Hang on, here comes the next turn.

Then I began to think about the many people in this world who need someone fighting for them. Maybe they don’t really have a voice or maybe their voice is just being drowned out by the selfishness of others. And maybe, just maybe you and I need to be their voice. Maybe we need to stand up and wage war against an enemy who aims to “kill, steal and destroy” our brothers and sisters, our sons and our daughters, our parents and our neighbors.

Then I had more questions. Who do I need to fight for? What do I need to battle against? For that matter who do you need to fight for and what do you need to fight against? I’m not suggesting you randomly pull a cause out of a hat and come out swinging. I am however, suggesting you pay close attention to what God places in your heart. There is a reason you are moved by the plight of single mothers, or widows, or orphans. It’s no coincidence that you can’t get those troubled teens or forgotten senior citizens off your mind. Maybe you can’t sleep at night for thinking about the homeless, the jobless, or the helplessly abused. If so, it’s quite possible that God is calling you to be their voice. And when I say voice, I don’t mean whisper either.

It’s time to gear up. Put on that armor. Step out in faith. Give your heart a voice.

Earlier this week I wrote about the Power of One. A picture of how God multiplies what we surrender in ways we cannot even comprehend. But another way the multiplication process works is when we each become a voice for those often forgotten, a message is finally heard, it’s amplified. Change happens. Life is extended. Hope is restored. God is honored.

So who needs your voice? Who will you fight for?

*See what I mean? It’s as bad as giving a mouse a cookie or a moose a muffin. But I kind of like where this one landed. 2010 is going to be a landmark year. I just feel it!

The Power of One, Multiplied…

I have another confession.

I hope you people appreciate these. It so goes against my nature to reveal my “hidden” weaknesses. But for all I know, my friends and family are reading this and thinking, “Geesh, why does it take her so long to realize she’s not hiding anything? We can see those flaws with our eyes closed!”

So here’s the latest. Very often when I see something huge – a problem that seems as large as the national debt, a need that never seems satisfied, a book with more than three hundred pages, a bathroom scale that says I need to lose about  half my current body weight – anything that seems insurmountable (big word that means big), my first reaction is to ignore it. Now, writing that rather large, run-on sentence didn’t bother me much at all. But even I realize how idiotic it sounds to admit I try to ignore the obvious.

In my whacky mind the thought process goes something like this: It’s too big. It’s too difficult. I couldn’t even make a dent in that. What can one person do? At this point in the conversation with myself God will interrupt and gently remind me, as He has a million times before, the words from Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength. (NIrV)

Apparently even when I think I’m doing it alone, I’m not. It’s the power of Christ in me that allows me to work. And I don’t think there is anything in the fine print that says I have to solve every problem all alone! The entire project is not my responsibility! Let me say that again. THE ENTIRE PROJECT IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY!!!

I am only responsible for the portion God directs me to do. He doesn’t expect me to solve world hunger all on my own. He does however expect me to honor my commitment of monthly support for Adrian, my Compassion International child in the Dominican Republic. And I can buy a few extra groceries to be combined with someone else’s extra groceries and so on, that will fill the shelves of local food pantries and eventually make their way to the tables and into the tummies of families who need them. One person, acting faithfully to God’s calling, can help change the direction of one life, and in turn they can help change the direction of another life and the cycle continues until many lives are forever changed.

It reminds me of a not-so-funny joke. Q. How do you eat an elephant? A. One bite at a time.

The same principle applies when facing those seemingly impossible and daunting tasks. 

Q. How do you move a mountain? A. One shovel of dirt at a time.

Q. How do you read a thousand-page novel? A. One word, sentence, page at a time.

I think you get the picture. I’m learning to focus my attention on what God is leading me to do, first of all. Then just take it one small step at a time.

Our pastor, Steven Gibbs, shared from John 6 in his message on December 13th (listen to it here). It’s the recounting of Jesus feeding a rather large number of people with practically no resources. First of all there were five thousand men (plus women and children). Maybe as many as twenty thousand, total. Jesus called one of His followers over and asked him, “What are WE going to do to feed these people?” Well, at this point disciple with the front row seat made a comment that sounded similar to my self-conversation. “This job is too big for us. It would take us working eight months to have enough money just to give each person one little bite of food!” Jesus already knew what He was going to do but He invited the disciples to join Him so they could witness the power of God in action and the benefits of obedience. Another disciple found a little boy with a lunch of five small loaves and three fish – think biscuits and sardines not Sunbeam and salmon. Who thinks the little boy with the small lunch could feed twenty thousand people all alone? I don’t think he could. But when he surrendered it to Jesus it became so much more than just a small lunch. As a matter of fact everyone ate their fill and they had leftovers you can’t believe!

Lesson here, when we turn over what we have been given, God will use it to accomplish what we never could alone. Now that could be a few cans of green beans and a bag of rice, or the spare change you’ve collected all year in the jar on your dresser, or even little snippets of time when you lend a helping hand to someone in need. Whatever God has given you will go so much further when we give it back to Him. Then we, like the little boy with the little lunch have the privilege of seeing the power of God and the benefit of obedience – lives are changed forever!

The End of the World, As We Know It…

…and I feel fine! Wait – what? I’m supposed to feel fine when my world is turned upside down?

How many times have you felt like that? One minute you’re rocking along and then WHAM! Out of the clear blue you get a phone call. Or a letter. Or a final notice. Or there’s an accident. A diagnosis. The proverbial pink slip at work. There is definitely a shift in your time warp continuum (I really must stop with the Si-Fi references, they make my head hurt).

You may feel you started moving in slow motion while the rest of the world continues at normal speed. It is the end of your world as you know it. How can you feel fine?

You can if you have HOPE. Hope is what really holds our worlds together. Hope and faith that God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do!

We convince our kids that “God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man” (thanks to Bob and Larry) but do we really believe He’s bigger than our fears? Bigger than our frustrations? Bigger than our situations?

If we know we have victory why, in God’s name, do we allow ourselves to be defeated? Because we have an enemy whose only objective is to “kill, steal and destroy.” His favorite lie is against God and His character. He whispers in our ear that God doesn’t really love us. That God couldn’t possibly be good if He allows bad things to happen. That God can’t rescue us because we are too far gone.

Well, my friend, it’s time to stand up and put those lies right out of our minds and hearts. There is no room for them. They will only paralyze us and keep us from experiencing the joy that we are meant to have.

Things may seem bad. They may even BE bad. But know that you have God in your corner. He’s rooting for you. He’s already conquered the enemy. We live in victory and even when the end of the world comes, if we belong to Him, we have nothing to fear. We will be so fine, you can’t imagine!

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:4 (NIV)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

Those are just three of many promises you can claim. Satan cannot stand against the WORD OF GOD! And you have His permission to use the sword. Start swinging!

Twelve Days of Christmas…My Version

I’m just going to be honest. I’ve been somewhat disenchanted with Christmas this year. I haven’t been able to “get in the spirit of things.” There’s been very little excitement for the decorations, planning, shopping, parties and all that goes along with the holiday season. It’s not as though I want to bypass the festivities altogether and I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with all those things. But I keep feeling there must be a better way – that I’m missing something. Something very important.

Earlier this week I was reading a blog by Shaun Groves that shared some background on how Christmas became so commercialized. It started me thinking, “I wonder how Jesus feels about the way we celebrate His birthday. Does God look around at the activity between Halloween and December twenty-fourth and smile at what He sees? Do our activities warm His heart?” For the most part, I find it highly unlikely. I’m afraid it actually breaks His heart and grieves His Spirit. I don’t think He’s bothered by the decorations, lights, hustle and bustle, per say. But I know that His first concern is for our hearts, so it stands to reason that how these things affect us might trouble Him. If the flash and fluff along with the stresses of the holidays push Jesus out of center position in our lives, then Houston, we have a problem! I don’t want to be a part of such a celebration. I don’t want to ignore or boycott Christmas, but I want to do something different.

My Google Homepage Bible Verse of the Day on Tuesday was James 1:27…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 This exact verse came in my emailed DBV the next day! I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid to ignore God’s word when it taps me on the forehead two days in a row! I paid attention. I sincerely want to help people who are in need and I want to stay away from the disease of worldliness at the same time. Following God’s instructions to love Him and  love others goes a long way to “looking after orphans and widows in their distress” – that part makes sense. But preventing the season from robbing our joy and “being polluted by the world,” if you will, may be tougher to accomplish.

 Enter the theme for this Christmas Season at Stonecreek Church. “Pause: This is Christmas.”  We are pressing “pause” on December 20th from gathering together as a church family and we are going out into our community to be the church. We have little cards to leave or hand out to people as we treat them to an Intentional Act of Christmas. The hope is that the community will experience God’s love and we, as the church, will become more accustomed to “being the church” daily instead of having the mindset that we are only the church when we are “at church.”

As I pondered how God wants us to celebrate His Son’s birthday, an idea was born to try and carry Christmas through the entire year. So here’s my plan. Every month on the 25th I’m going to celebrate Christmas. And since there are twelve months, there will be Twelve Days of Christmas in 2010. I know it’s not exactly celebrating Jesus’ birthday everyday, but it’s a start. I think as an experiment I’ll spread my gift-giving, card-mailing, treat-baking and other Christmas traditions over the course of the entire year.

Be warned, you never know when you’ll get a Christmas gift, a Christmas card, or a batch of Christmas goodies from me in 2010. I think it’ll be fun. I plan to spread my Intentional Acts of Christmas over the whole year also. I may even leave a small Christmas tree up all year as a visual reminder and add an ornament representative of each month’s special activity.

 I’ll keep you posted on how it works. I’ll include posts here about the things God teaches me throughout the year and how people react to something this unusual. As I’ve shared my idea with family and close friends most reactions have been, “Hmmm, that’s nice,” or a non-committal, “Interesting…” We all know what that means…she’s really lost her mind this time. Oh well, I once heard when other people tell you your ideas are crazy, you must be on the right track!

 So go ahead. Give me your honest opinion. Do you think Christmas can last all year? What are your ideas for placing the emphasis back where it belongs? I’d love to hear your suggestions.