Trust 

“In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  Psalm‬ ‭56:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I’m happy to report that I’m in a different place this year spiritually compared to this same time in previous years. Usually by fall I’m tapped out, drained, exhausted, you name it. I usually tried to keep that stuff to myself, or shared it only with a very trusted few because it didn’t feel safe to say I wasn’t ok.  And I was worried how others might interpret my weakness and frustration and misunderstand.
Holding hard things in silence can have disastrous effects on the body, mind and spirit. That’s where Satan can easily get a foothold. And when the yuck has been brewing for a while, when it finally comes spewing out it is BIG and GROSS and NEGATIVE. So one day, right before the lid was about to blow, I confessed my struggle and that trusted person suggested that maybe I was trying to do things in my own strength, not in God’s strength.  
Oh Yeah?   Huh.  Well, I’m not sharing anything with HIM again.  Sniff.
But truth be told, He was right. I SAID I trusted God. I constantly share scripture about trusting him. I truly love the Lord and want to give Him my best every day. So why did it often feel like I was pushing an elephant uphill?  Trust had to transfer from head to heart.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Seasons of growth can be painfully tough, but oh so good. To be able to sit here and tell you that I am in peace, and it be true? To be able to submit my will to His will daily and trust the Lord regardless of the outcome, and actually believe it?  Yes and amen!!  
One of the pivotal moments this past year was a realization that TRUST is a two way street. I know that God is trustworthy, His word is true and there is no falsehood or lie in Him. Then one day it dawned on me, when I was tempted to think that what I do doesn’t really matter, I saw myself in this parable:

““Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:14-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬
It blows my mind and truly humbles me to realize just how much The Lord has entrusted to my care.  If HE TRUSTS ME, as undeserving and unequipped as I am, then question then becomes so very serious and not to be taken lightly.

What will I do with the master’s gold? Will I be a faithful steward of those things He’s placed in my hands, or will I be found to be a worthless lazy servant?  

““Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  Luke‬ ‭16:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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No Place Here

In the previous blog I mentioned working through some tensions earlier in the year. It has been a journey of self evaluation the past few months.
Generally speaking, some people are driven by big dreams and reaching big goals. Others may strive after money, fame or positions of authority. Others seek approval from man and God.   Ahem.   We approval-seeking people-pleasers must constantly monitor what drives us (or limits us) and why. As I mentioned before, self evaluation, prayer, recognition, repentance and making appropriate adjustments have all been key to becoming the person God created me to be.  Work in progress, as they say.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a painfully slow learner. It took years working in my previous secular job for the lightbulb to turn on. And post 2010, now living my life for Jesus, I am still learning slowly yet steadily. If you know me IRL it should be no surprise to you that fear of failure (that is, the sin of pride) is at the root of all that hinders and causes me to stumble. There are real obstacles to growth as well as perceived ones. It takes work, but these can all be overcome.  
Thankfully, sometime in the past few weeks, my lightbulb came on again.  
And when it did I realized something critical.

More often than I care to admit, fear of failure causes me to wait to be told what to do, or what needs done, and even so far as how to do it. Furthermore, living in that “waiting” mindset breeds an inability (or reluctance) to take initiative. Just shift your car to neutral, hit the gas and see what happens. Nothing but a bunch of noise.  Getting moving when we’re stuck in neutral like requires a shift on our part.
Unknowingly and unintentionally, “waiting to be told” places our burdens or responsibilities on someone else.  There is unspoken expectation placed on another … be it your peers, leadership, boss, supervisor, elder, etc … that they don’t even know exists.   It’s a total cop out that can create all sorts of chaos, frustration, misunderstanding and delay. 
And worse, waiting to be told what to do can kill any creativity and innovation that might have existed. That one is still sinking in. But I do believe that in my life, the sin of pride created a fear of failure in me that eventually became so great that it killed my creativity …. and that is a real shame.

I will most likely go to my grave fighting the fear of failure, but I don’t have to live under it’s thumb.  Learning how to lead myself is a skill I am working on.  It doesn’t mean trying to do everything myself, or working independently of the team.  It doesn’t mean going rogue, and following my own agenda.   It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t seek direction from leadership or tap into the wisdom of my peers.  God has blessed my life with these relationships.

It does mean looking forward, identifying areas of improvement and coming up with viable solutions. It means anticipating those things that are coming, preparing for them well and taking the steps necessary to accomplish them. It means good communication, asking the right questions and being open to receiving feedback with humility.   It means fostering and promoting unity. It means taking ownership of what God has entrusted to our care, and boldly making the most of every opportunity.
It means growing ever closer to Jesus, through study, worship and prayer, and living in the fullness of His promises.  Fear has no place here.

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Perception vs Reality 

“Perception is reality”I disagreed with her remark, resisting the idea that what someone thinks (about a person or situation) is true. I have wrong thoughts all the time, so I know firsthand that just having a thought doesn’t make it true.

That comment, though. My daughter had interviewed for an exciting opportunity in her field of interest and after the final phase, had been passed over. She was heartbroken and confused. But my girl is tenacious and pressed for feedback. She got more than she bargained for from her interviewer …. someone completely unknown.
My daughters answers and motives during that interview were misconstrued by someone who had never met her before those crucial moments on the phone. In her case a strangers perception ultimately had enough sway to keep her from being considered for that next step in her career path. Perception is reality.  


I’ve come to realize that perception of self also has great sway. It impacts everything. What I say, what I do, how I do it, how I engage with those above me, with my peers and with those I serve.  

Is what I think of myself true, or am I buying into a lie from the enemy?

Earlier this year I tearfully confessed to my leader, admitting that I often lacked understanding. I was beyond frustrated. The fault wasn’t his, but mine. I recognized that and felt the tension not just to acknowledge where I was, but also the need to discover and work to resolve the issue. Simply admitting fear, lack of confidence and lack of education wasn’t enough. I may have well just quit right there and then. I had to discover the deeper what and why that holds me back from becoming all that God has created me to be and correct it.

Over the summer I’ve upped my prayer time, time spent in study of scripture and self-development. I have asked God to reveal those things in my life that are stumbling blocks, and help me remove them. An honest self-evaluation is downright scary because of what you might find out.  I went so far as to take a personality test and discuss the results with a third party. (By the way, it was right on point.)
Thankfully Jesus is in the transformation business. If we seek, we will find. He won’t leave us or forsake us. 
If you ask for wisdom and understanding, strength and courage for His glory and the benefit of others, He will provide.  

Friend, your broken past doesn’t predict your future or usefulness to the kingdom. Your failures and poor choices don’t define you unless you choose to lay down and give up.
Who does God say you are? What do you believe about His character? Is God who He says He is, and can He be trusted? The truth of these answers are at the very core of what we think about ourselves.  How we think about ourselves affects everything.
Don’t get stuck in your own potentially flawed perception, or it will become your reality.

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That First, Next Step

This girl is a technology and social media junkie. I love seeing vacays, family time, delicious meals, pets, baby bumps, date nights and such. Staying connected in this way provides opportunities to pray for friends who are going through rough times and learn ways we can help one another IRL. The drama, nasty comments and occasional bashing I can live without. My social media circle is small. Sometimes the ugly still sneaks in, but these days it’s less often and in much smaller doses.  
But summer! Summer is prime-time, short-term mission season and that’s a great reason for me to check Facebook and Instagram more frequently!
Many of my friends and acquaintances are either preparing to leave, are currently on the ground, or have just returned from the mission field. Social media allows them to share, in an instant, glimpses of what God is doing wherever they are.  Is that not amazing!?  This summer some of God’s people have scattered about the globe like dandelions in a stiff breeze …. serving in places like Japan, Romania, Spain, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colorado, Connecticut.  
This time of year my own TimeHop brings back images and memories of our first international mission trip to Jacmel, Haiti, and of our second trip closer to home to support the LifeSong church plant in Manchester, Connecticut. These trips compared side by side were different in nearly every way except for one, and that was to support ministry efforts to connect people to their local church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I really had no idea what to expect on a mission trip before we went. We had heard the stories. The challenges, the travel restrictions, the language barriers, the heat, the reason we have the Candice rule, the God-moments, the beautiful people and the projects. But those were stories told by my “experienced” missionary friends. People who (in my mind) had skills and training and relationships already established in the community.  
They were qualified, we were not. We were newbies to this mission thing, green as grass. Just making that initial decision to actually GO was difficult for me. Honestly, I thought I had nothing to offer and they would all be much better off if we just donated my trip fees directly to the ministry.   
Eventually we put our yes on the table. We prepared spiritually, physically and financially. And we went.
I’ve met people who have gone on a mission trip, checked it off the list, and simply resumed life where they left off. I’ve met people who God has called to make the move to full time ministry in foreign countries. Then there’s people like me …. who return home with new eyes and heart, forever changed.
Mark and I have talked about this many times. One of the most important aspects of our first mission trip was that 6-8 week period of time before the trip to get ready. Not just go through the motions counting time and attending team meetings, but honest and deep spiritual preparation. I think going away on mission is much like prayer, in the sense that often times the greatest take-away is the change experienced IN us, not necessarily any changes effected BY us.  
If you were to ask what God did on that first mission trip in July 2012, I’d tell you straight up that He used that trip to change me. Change how I see money and possessions and people and pain and joy and worship and grace.  Change how I see Him.  Clear up any confusion between needs and wants and blessings.  Change me for the right here, right now, everyday life on mission.   
Where will YOU go, and what will God do with it? The only way you’ll know is to take that first, next step and GO.

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Joshua 13:14, 33 – If We Paid Our Pastors Today in Food, Would They Starve?

Dear Reader, allow me to share this with you. Not my words, but those of my husband who is Passionate (with a capital P) about living out biblical financial principles and teaching others about honoring God with your finances.

I confess that we didn’t always live this way, trusting God and honoring Him with the first fruits of His blessings. But choosing to do things Gods way, first in our relationship and then with our money, has led us places I can’t describe.

If you’re a giver, awesome! If you’re a tither, fist bump! If you’re not, I encourage you to Google what God says about money, giving and the tithe and pray about how to start becoming generous.

Blessings to you!

A Work In Progress

Joshua 13:14, 33

An Allotment for the Tribe of Levi

What if we paid our preachers today in food as were the priestly clan, the Levites, were paid in ancient Israel? Would they starve to death? In ancient Israel, the Levites subsisted through the remains of the offerings brought to the altar of the tabernacle and later, the Temple. The Levites would receive the tithes (10% offerings) required of the Israelites, be they oil, wine, grain, or anything else. [Numbers 18:11-18] The parts of the sacrificial offerings not burnt up were also for the Levites– the choice meats and grains. While the Levites would have no inheritance in the land, they had something better promised: “The priests, who are Levites–indeed the whole tribe of Levi–are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, for that is their inheritance…

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Swayed

I’ve been deceived, or rather I allowed myself to be fooled, wanting to believe that something was true when it sounded good, plausible and true.
Ready? I thought cooking with coconut oil was healthy and good for you. Natural, organic and better than the other stuff on the market. Many popular recipes call for it, so there had to be truth to it, right? So a couple of years ago I switched to coconut oil for everything, in place of butter and olive oil. I made a big mistake.
Recently I read an article that explained the saturated fat content in coconut oil compared to olive oil. This time, I went to my cabinet and pulled them both out, compared the labels and I was stunned.  
How could I have made such a serious error? How could I have so easily been deceived?


Lies are all around us. Little ones like cooking oils, and bigger ones that have the potential for greater impact on our souls. If we aren’t careful and diligent in seeking truth, it’s easy to be tricked.
Think of your spiritual life, your understanding of who God is and your relationship with Him. Are you being swayed by ideas that sound good and plausible but don’t match up to His Word?  
The only way to avoid deception is to know God, His character and nature, His truth,  purpose, promises and plan which is revealed in scripture.  
Only by due diligence, checking it out for yourself, can one guard against false teaching and sweet sounding half-truths. The more we are grounded in Gods word and in prayer, the better we can detect deception before it becomes a snare.

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Mountain Memories 

I took the scenic route up to Dad’s new place in Brevard yesterday.  Not intentionally, but Siri decided we needed to go a different way and I didn’t argue.


It is a breathtaking drive along Hey 11, also known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway.  I wanted so badly to stop every time something spectacular caught my eye, which was about every 2 miles the whole way.  But the 11:30 appointment at his facility prevented any detours.

It’s late spring going into summer here in the south.  Gods creation is in full majesty and splendor.  I can’t believe how beautiful it is here.

From here, if you go up Hwy 11 towards Brevard and Asheville you’ll pass signs that lead to places like the Greenville YMCA Camp, home of Symmes Chapel aka Pretty Place.  It’s right at the Eastern Continental  Divide.  Then there’s Table Rock and Cesar’s Head, two more can’t miss places to explore.  Transylvania County, Dad’s new location for now, boasts I don’t know how many amazing waterfalls.  And Brevard itself is a quaint, college  mountain town, with a lively arts community and bustling downtown area full of neat shops, hangouts and restaurants.  Surrounded by amazing mountain beauty.

In a different time Dad and Mom would have loved poking around a town like this.  They did, back in the day.  Lenior, Boone, Blowing Rock were places we visited frequently as a family.  Those were simple sweet times, going to spend time with the Lepperts, my Tia Lulu, uncle Billy and cousins.  Mumi was still alive then, a lovely southern lady.

Yesterday was hard, but the beauty of this place and the memories of good times past made it …. joyful.  I am reminded to treasure every moment and take time to thank God for all good things He has given us.

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