Archive for May, 2011

What’s The Point?

We’ve talked about the qualities we need to add to our lives. We began by comparing it to a math equation.  1+2 +/- x=y.  If that represents life, we want to know what the y is.

Why is always the important question?  What is our life’s why?  Why does it matter?  As one young man recently told me, “When I die, I want the dash between my birth and death to count for something.”

2 Peter 1:8-9 gives us the reasons for being diligent and moving toward excellence in our life.

Just like the math equation,  we determine what x is, and choose to  add or subtract it ,  which in turn determines whether we get positive or negative results.

So here’s the negative result:  “Whoever lacks these qualities is blind…..”  Pretty hard to maneuver through the obstacles of life if you can’t see!  The Amplified version goes on to explain that blindness is spiritually shortsighted, seeing only what’s near to him.

When I look back at my life and times when things weren’t working very well or I was struggling emotionally, it was usually a matter of perception and focus.  When my eyes were on my circumstances or focused on my weakness my vision for what was possible was clouded.

If we want to live a life of fullness and excellence, we have to shed short sighted thinking. If not having these qualities makes us blind, then developing them in our lives will give us clear vision.

When we begin to recognize that God has given us these qualities and it is our responsibility to use them, the positive results are clear.

1.  We won’t be idle.  Ever feel bored with your life?  Who hasn’t?  The monotony of day to day routine can get us into a pretty deep rut.  We prevent that by always growing and adding things that foster that growth.   It takes action to create excellence.

2.  We’ll get good results.  Getting results is what it means to be fruitful.  What did God tell man in the garden?  “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Adding these qualities to our lives will keep us fruitful.  We will have enough for ourselves and be able to share it with others.  In other words, life’s dash will count for something.  We will leave a legacy!

So now that you know the point, what is x in your life’s equation and will you choose to add it or ignore it?

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Check out this New Release on practicing love.  I’m one of the contributing authors.  This is a great collection of stories about loving God, loving ourselves, loving our neighbors, and loving our enemies. 

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Just Because

There is a difference between kindness or brotherly affection and love.  2 Peter 1:7 continues: …..as you exercise brotherly affection (kindness) add (develop) Christian love (charity–(my paraphrase).

The Greek word for charity (KJV) is agapao from which we get the word agape.   It means moral and social love.

There is quite a debate going on in the church right now about the so called, social gospel.  I understand where both sides are coming from and both have some valid points.  I leave the debating to others. I question myself instead.

I say I love but I must ask myself:  What is real love?  When I reach out to someone, what are my motives?  Am I loving like Jesus loved?

Often we think of love in terms of that warm, gooey, emotional feeling we get.  But love isn’t tied to a feeling, it’s exhibited by action.

All I have to do is read I Corinthians 13 to find out how short I fall most days in the love department.  So much of my giving love is tied to what I already got or what I expect in return.

All too often, I find myself loving my husband based on what he does or says to me.  I’ve been guilty as a mom of only showing love when my children obey, or do something that makes me proud, etc.  Much more difficult when they are fighting, screaming, disobeying, or embarrassing me as their mother.

And then there are those pesky relationships!   How do I act when the neighbor is a pain in the butt?  Or the friend I thought I knew, does something to hurt me?  And the one I particularly struggle with the most–when someone in the church does or says something that I don’t believe reflects Jesus?

What about socially and morally culturally?  Do I love, really love the ones I disagree with–the one who has the opposite political or spiritual viewpoint, the abortionist, the homosexual, the one that looks different, the one who has a different financial position (whether rich or poor), the protester, the terrorist, the criminal, and so on?

When I look at how Jesus loved, I fall so short.  While I love  because or from some hidden motive….Jesus loved, PERIOD!!!!!!!

He doesn’t love because of what He gets in return.  He doesn’t love because we make Him proud.  He didn’t say take care of the widows, the poor, the disadvantaged on the condition that you can preach to them.  And the only time He really got upset was at those who were using the “religious system” for their own gain.

When we truly love, we expect nothing in return.  We love just because we are loved and because we can.  It’s fitting that it comes at the end of the list of things that we need to add to our lives.  Perhaps it’s because love is the hardest of all.  Maybe it’s because love is a quality that takes the strength and endurance gained from developing the other spiritual muscles.   Maybe it’s because it’s the thing that trips us up the most in our spiritual journey.

Teach me Lord, to love like you love.  Amen.

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Reflecting on Mother’s Day.  Moms deserve the honor for sure but in the past I’ve wondered if all those platitudes about the perfect and best mom in the world could possibly be true.

As I watched a program on OWN tonight about the Judds.  So raw and real! As the drama of their past wounds unfolded, it was clear that no matter what people see in the glitz and glam of celebrity success, at some point in our lives everybody hurts and parent children relationships can get complicated.

Wouldn’t it be great to say that nobody in our family ever hurt us?  I’ve yet to meet anyone who could. Wish I could say I’d never hurt my kids–that I’d never said something mean or made them feel like I disapproved of them instead of just some thing they did.

It would be equally nice to say my wonderful sons had never hurt me by something they said or did.  And any mom would jump up and down if they could say that even their grown kids were done making mistakes or would never have to face disappointment or pain in their lives.

My relationship with my mom wasn’t perfect.  In fact, when I was a young mom, we went through a season of real pain.  Truth is when either of our insecurity got the best of us, it got pretty ugly.

Mom needed to be loved unconditionally.  I needed a mom who approved of me and loved me for who I was.  In her insecurity, she couldn’t give that to me very often, even as a child.

I hope you don’t misunderstand.  You see, I love my mom and she had so many beautiful things about her.  It’s just that she’d been hurt herself in life and didn’t know how to be healed.

We eventually let go of our individual expectations, bitterness, and unforgiveness and things improved.  She began to share some of the hurts she’d experienced.  I began to understand her better.

A lot of the life lessons I teach I learned through my relationship with mom.  Especially how to let go of unmet expectations and needs.

My mom went to be with Jesus a few years back and though I remember some of those tough moments, I look at her now with a whole different perspective. I don’t see all her weakness, I see the strengths and the lessons she taught me.

So regardless how I learned them, these are some of the lessons and gifts I gained out of my relationship with mom.

Life will always have ups and downs, joys and sorrow.  We can’t avoid the bad feelings, mistakes, and injustice.  It’s not so much about the things that knock us down as it is about what gets us up again.

Life takes courage and boldness.  If we are going to break out of our own prisons or help others out of theirs, we must be strong and courageous.  We can’t retreat in the face of fear, discomfort, or pain.  There will be times when we feel weak but God is our strength as we open ourselves to Him.

Life is meant to be lived in generosity.  Giving more than we take, blessing more than we ask to receive is the secret to abundant living.  You be rich or poor financially, but what matters is that we have a generous heart and an open hand to those who are in need.

Finally, the lessons I cherish most of all.  It’s our heart toward God that counts.  We may not know all the right things to do, we may have not heard the latest teaching that will set us free.  We are flawed human beings on a journey. While it’s important to want to move beyond our imperfection,  God loves us just as we are.  He looks at is through the eyes of Jesus.

By example, mom gave me the knowledge that no matter where I’m at, a personal relationship with God is possible.  Mom wasn’t perfect but I’ll forever see her head lifted, and  hear her voice,  tears running down her cheeks, with a heart full of genuine praise, sing one of her many love songs to her Lord.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.  As you sing in heaven, I’ll join you on earth.  “I love you Lord, and I lift my voice……..”

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2 Peter 1:7: “And in exercising godliness develop brotherly kindness….”

Interesting that kindness comes after godliness not before.  Wonder what the reason for that is?

Kindness seems like a pretty straightforward character quality. doesn’t it?  Isn’t that what most of us are taught from the very first time we decide to hit, pinch, bite, or simply not share?

Yet, somehow, I can’t help but think there might be something a little more to it.  The first thought that I had was all the previous character words were about our personal relationship with God and our own selves.  The last two, kindness and love have to do with our relationships with others.

As I type this, I’m thinking how right it is to end with those two words.  The way we relate to others is linked to our knowing and loving God.

Yet, why is it we and many who call themselves Christians are not kind?  Even general common sense niceties seem to elude some of us.

What does kindness look like to you?

To me kindness is an act of graciousness and thoughtfulness of the other person.  It comes with a helping hand, a soft word, a generous spirit.  It is thinking of the other guy rather than ourselves.

What does it say about us when we are not kind?  Perhaps that we don’t understand God as much as we think we do.  I confess.  I’m not always kind.  Sometimes I just don’t like someone or at least something they do or say and I respond in kind instead of from kindness.

I wonder what could happen if:  All parents were kind to their children; all teachers were kind to their students; the government leaders operated under a law of kindness; and most of all those who call themselves followers of Jesus, resolved to show kindness to everyone?

What do you think?

Lord, help me to be kind.

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To Be or Not To Be?

To Be or Not To Be?

That is the question.  And in the equation for an excellent life, this question must be answered.

So you ask?  To be what?

2 Peter 1:7 continues: “…..and in exercising endurance and patience, develop godliness.”

To be Godly?   Me?  That would probably what most of us would ask when challenged.  And our answer would perhaps be…..” Yea, right!!!!!!”

For me thinking about being godly raises an image of perfectly, pious Penelope *smile  (named just for the sake of alliteration).  You know, she’s that perfect girl you think about who never makes a mistake.  She probably is the epitome of beauty, at least on the inside.   She no doubt spends hours of her day in prayer and Bible reading.  She’s involved in the church, is a fabulous parent, and a super women wife.   She is never concerned about her needs and always focused on others.  She puts herself last.

Sound familiar?

I don’t think that’s what God meant by godly.  The  word for godliness in the Greek speaks of devotion and reverence.  It seems to me it’s a matter of the heart.

When you think about it from a child’s perspective, we all want to make our mommy and daddy proud.  Why?  Because we love them.  It amazes me to hear stories of little ones whose parents treat them very badly yet the desire to please them is still there.

As a good parent, what is your greatest desire for your kids?  Is it that they make you look good or that they are good?  Is their goodness dependent on them doing everything right, or on what’s important to them in life?

I know my joy is full whenever I see them live up to their potential and when what they do expresses good character and love for others, especially God.

So how do we add or develop a heart of  godliness?  Here’s what I think.

A.  Open yourself up to a personal relationship with God.  The key words are open personal!   It’s about you and God not you and church or religion or another person’s experience.  This is your walk, your journey. The more you know Him the more you’ll want to be like Him.

B.  Become a student of God’s character.  You want to become like the people you admire.   In order to do that you study them—who they are and how they live.  So don’t be afraid to ask God to show you who He is.  That’s also the reason I study scripture.  To understand God and myself.

C.  Don’t resist growth.  Let’s face it.  Being Godly is not a one time event.  It’s a process.  Understand that for the rest of your life, you are becoming who you were meant to be—the reflection of God! A key to excellent living is being able to not only desire change but embrace the steps to make it happen.

D.  Live to express worship.  If Godliness is devotion, then our entire lives should be an act of worship.  The longer I follow Christ, the more I understand that our life is sacred.  It’s a gift to us, a gift to others, and ultimately it is Christ’s reward.  I have to ask myself then in every area of my life: Do my actions reflect my worship and devotion to God?  If the answer is no I need to change.

What do you think?

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How Far Will You Go?

If you were going to run in a marathon, part of your training would be increasing your endurance.  Life is like a marathon.  Too many times we get discouraged because it seems the change we want is taking to long.  We aren’t going fast enough or far enough or perhaps we aren’t maintaining what we want long enough.

2 Peter 1:6 continues:  “…..and in exercising self-control develop steadfastness (patience, endurance)….”

In the race for living an life of excellence, endurance is a key.  There are two ways to lose the race.  Don’t run.  Quit before you reach the finish line. 

Here’s a few things to consider in building endurance.

1.  Each step we take builds on another.   When we choose to do something, the next step will follow naturally.  To walk you put one foot in front of the other.  To run you do the same. Take the first step and the second step and soon you will have built up enough strength to run the complete race.

2.  It’s what we are looking at that determines how far we’ll run.  If a runner focused on the pain of conditioning, the muscle burn or discomfort, or some other race his/her race would no doubt be effected. In life, we may go through discomfort and feel like we are never going to succeed, but if we keep our eye on the finish line and keep running we will eventually get there.

3.  We run a better individual race when we don’t run alone.  Every one needs a coach, a mentor, a partner, a cheerleader in this race of life.  If you don’t have one, find one.  And to find one, you must be one. When all else fails,  encourage someone else to keep running and you’ll be encouraged to keep running yourself.

4.  Plug into the right energy sources.  Just like an athlete needs good food, and plenty of water, etc.  to maintain endurance and energy, we do too.  Our relationship with God empowers us.  Who and what we surround ourselves with will either strengthen or weaken us in the race of life.

What is your target or finish line in your race of life today?  What can you do to build endurance and patience as you run life’s race?

If you want to finish life well, you must run with endurance with your eyes fixed on the prize.

Let’s run together!

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Hope for Tomorrow

I thought you might enjoy this report from some of my favorite beautiful young women.  They give me such hope that tomorrow will be in the hands of  devoted followers of Christ, unpretentious and willing to serve.  This is why everything we do matters–especially being a mom.

Hey guys, Essie here. Guess what?? We’re back!!! I had a blast in Mexico!!! God worked in so many ways; through me and in me. We were able to bag 400 sacks of food to deliver to 400 hungry families. We also built a church!! It wasn’t huge, only two rooms, but it blessed the pastor and his wife so much. Plus, we did it in five days; that’s pretty sweet. Haha. I did get to help paint the church, but honestly, I think Sarah had more paint on me than the building. 🙂  One of the things that touched me the most, was how open the hearts of the Mexican people were to us. They always listened patiently to us, allowed us to pray for them, and were gracious about our “no-comprendo” language barrier. God was with us, though the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.
Thank you all for your support. God bless you, me, and the


Ok, Essie, move over…it’s my turn (my being Sarah). Well, first off I want to thank all of you!!! You guys are awesome, and made this trip possible with your financial support and your amazing prayers. Mexico was awesome. God did so many amazing things, in such a short amount of time. We did alot of activities, and God moved throughout the whole week. What I want to share with you guys is a little more personal. So, it was like the fourth day we were there, and I had been getting up earlier than everyone else to get myself ready for the day and have my quiet time. It was a regular morning, same ‘ole same ‘ole. I was looking in the small mirror, alone in the bathroom; fixing my hair and trying to hurry so that I could go have my quiet time with God. The Holy Spirit just filled the bathroom, and Jesus began to speak to me quietly.
“Are you expecting me?”
“Yeah, God, what does it look like? I’m trying to finish up here so that I can have quiet time with you.”
“What’s wrong with right now, Sarah? Are you expecting me to show up right now?”
“Um…no, not really. I’m expecting you to show up during my quiet time, and when I speak at the rehab center tomorrow.”
“Sarah, what’s wrong with right now? What if I want to visit with you right now? Are you expecting me to show up when you’re ready, or when I’m ready? What if I don’t show up in the rehab center tomorrow?  Are you going to continue expecting me in moments like these?”
It just totally hit me. Why was I waiting till “quiet time” to expect God to show up?  Why did I have to come all the way to
Mexico and then set a designated time to expect Him to show up?  Why wasn’t I expecting Him when I was working, sleeping, fixing my hair, or even when I was at my home church?  I was trying to control the Lion of Judah.  Without meaning to, I had put a “restraining order” on God. The God I pray to for healing, is the exact same God I pray to when I’m blessing my food. But which situation did I expect Him to show up in?  So…back to the bathroom. I just stopped and began talking with Him, and it was such a sweet time. Needless to say, both of us (God and I) didn’t quite make it to the “quiet-time” appointment. 🙂 Haha. So, now I’m doing my best to expect God everywhere, in every situation. My challenge to you is this; expect Him.  Don’t just wait for Sunday morning to roll around, or the next conference with huge speakers who promise to deliver, or your next “Mexico
” trip. Expect Him to show up–on your drive to the grocery store, in your dreams, in your work cubicle. And yes…even in your bathroom mirror 🙂 Love you guys,

Hi, everybody, this is Rachel. I was definitely excited when God sent me, my sisters, and my dad to Mexico over spring break. I had so many adventures while I was there. For example; we blew out a tire on the way there, so we got to spend almost two hours running around the desert with our newly found friends (oh, and hunting for scorpions :). But what really touched my heart, was when we went to a place called “Cardboard City” to hand out food. There was a momma and her little girl there who were going though piles of garbage looking for things to sell and possibly eat. Whatever they found, they would put into and old dogfood bag and drag home. I looked at my feet, and then at the little girl’s feet. I had on two nice closed-toed shoes. The little girl had on only one broken plastic shoe. After we were done praying for that family, I went behind the van and started to cry. I was confused how that little girl could have so little and still be happy for what she had. I sank to my knees, and I felt God kneel down beside me and say, “This is my favorite place to come and just sit.”  God gave me a piece of His heart that day, and gave me an experience I will never forget.
Thank you all for supporting me, and making this possible,

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Control is a funny thing.  And for women like me, who want to fix everything it can be even trickier.  I want to control the things I have no control over! As a mom, I tend to want to control my kids choices or my husband’s behavior.  I’ve known women that want to be in charge of every little detail of every segment of  their family.

Unfortunately, when we try to control something that isn’t ours to control, the result is disappointment, hurt, and even anger.

2 Peter 1:6 goes on(my paraphrase):  In being diligent in your effort to exercise your faith, develop excellence and develop your intelligence.  And as you exercise your knowledge add to it self-control.

When one looks at the issue closely, a discovery is made.  When it comes to control, the only thing we have the power over is ourselves!

Imagine that!  It’s a different thought for some of us. We might believe we can control  someone else’s action or the circumstances of our life but when it comes to us we tend to fall back on the old, “That’s just the way I am.” excuse.

We are quick to blame the circumstances or the wounds of the past for our behavior in the moment.  As Christian’s we might even consider it “holy” to believe that only God is in control and we can’t do anything on our own power.   We are blame shifters for sure!

Our life takes on a new dimension when we recognize that we have been given authority and power through the Holy Spirit to control “self.” That doesn’t mean we never make a mistake.  It does mean we are aware of our actions and the consequences for them.  We  understand that whether it’s our attitude, our thoughts, or our actions we have to make the decision.

So how do we increase self-control in our life?  Here’s a few steps.

1.  Ask for God’s help to know what is in your control and what isn’t.

2.  Study scripture for God’s principles and record His promises if we follow them. Then ask, “What step can I take today to live that principle?”

3.  Always ask yourself this question when making a decision.  “Will this bring life or death?”  Life is freedom,  peace, joy, love even in the middle of difficulty.   Death is guilt, shame, and anything else that holds us back from the liberty and beauty God put in us.

We were made to be free and beautiful expressions of God and His love.  It’s our choice whether we are going to be diligent in our faith expression by exercising self-control.

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