Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Challenge

A few weeks ago, I offered a "simple" challenge to my few, but faithful readers!

I have another--possibly more difficult--challenge for you today. Or should I say, I'm inviting you to join me as I continue to strive to become the woman God created me to be.

I've mentioned before that I read a daily devotional from In Touch Ministries. And I was really, really convicted when I read today's.

The focus for the last few days has been Elijah's journey of faith as described in 1 Kings. Today, part of the Bible reading was 1 Kings 18:21 where Elijah says, point blank, to the people of Israel, "Whom are you going to serve? You know about God of Israel, the one who continually saved your forefathers, and now there's this false god. Are you going to serve the God you know to be true, or this other one?" (This is my paraphrase.) In a tragic understatement, the people were silent.

Choosing the true God or an idol.

I know today we don't often think of choosing between an idol and God. We think about idols as being small figures we have on a shrine, and few of us actually have such a thing.

But what about this definition? "When we depend on--or give priority--to anything besides the Lord, it becomes our god." (In Touch, 8.27.09, emphasis mine)

Hmmm. Anything besides God.

So I had to ask myself:

* Do I "cherish the gift rather than the Giver"?
* Do I "reserve a part of each day for God"?
* Do I keep my focus fully on God and seek His will--every day?

I want to answer yes to each of these questions. I want to, but I can't always.

"If we really believe that the God of the Bible is the only true God, we ought to give Him our whole life, follow Him faithfully, and serve Him with all our gifts and abilities." (In Touch, 8.27.09)

I do really believe, so I pray: "Lord God, please reveal to me anything--anything--that I'm putting above You. Help me to cherish You. Convict me to spend part of each day with You. Draw my focus fully on You. And do Your will in me, today and every day."

That's my challenge to myself. Join me if you choose.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Mountain and the Valley

We all know that our life's journeys take us to the top of the mountain at times and to the depths of the valley at times.

Yesterday, I made it to the top and the depths all in one day.

My day started with working at my God-given job that allows me the flexibility to work from home. I'd taken a few hours off the day before, so I really needed to get caught up. I love what I do, so even work sometimes gives me almost-to-the-top-of-the-mountain moments.

Then I took an early lunch to go speak and sing at a local women's club, something I always love to do. Afterwards, the Lord led me to the top of the mountain with some really affirming words from some of the women. Words that reminded me of the gift God's given me by allowing me to speak His words. Words that reminded me of how He uses me to encourage others.

A mountain-top high!

I came back home and worked some more, finishing several tasks ahead of schedule--always a good thing!!

And then the valley.

I've mentioned in other blogs that I've been part of an amazing cast performing a fun, encouraging play. It's been so much fun, and such a wonderful haven from "real" life.

I received a call last evening that the remaining performances have been canceled. It doesn't really matter why, but this call put me in the valley depths.

All that work. All the dedicated people. All the time invested.

It's all over . . .

I'm so sad for the leadership of the playhouse. I'm grieving for the cast and crew. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't the worst thing that could ever or will ever happen, but it's still a loss.

I know I'll get out of this valley relatively soon, but for now . . . I just have to pray for my dear friends and pray we'll all make it to the mountain.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will I Ever Learn?

Just last week, I wrote about how much God touched me and gifted me with exceeded expectations.

Then this week . . . I began to feel very discouraged. I'm in a play at a local theater, and we open on Saturday. For the last five weeks, I've had this off and on throat thing going on, and it's on again. My voice is scratchy, and my role requires some singing.

My desire is to always serve God with excellence, and I've been fretting about letting Him down. Letting my director down. Letting the cast down.

Fretting. Worry. Anxiety. Discouragement.

Things I know I shouldn't feel. Things I know I don't have to feel. Truly . . . when will I learn?

Fortunately, I have a very patient Teacher. I'm studying Isaiah right now, and yesterday, as I sat stewing, the Lord showed me this verse in chapter 41:

Fear not for I am with you;
Be not dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

(v. 10)

Aren't those awe-inspiring words? I don't have to worry about anything. I don't have to fear. God is (and always has been) my strength.

So, today, I know that no matter what happens this weekend, God will uphold me.

Now I'd like to say I've finally learned the lesson for good, but I know my humanity will kick in every once in a while.

Perhaps it's enough that I've learned the lesson a little better for this day.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Exceeding (Unexpected) Expectations

I'm sitting in the airport in Charlotte, NC, having just finished a wonderful weekend. I visited my brother and his family, had coffee with a friend I hadn't seen in about 15 years, and had an amazing time at the She Speaks conference.

I have to admit, I came on this trip with expectations. And some of those expectations were met. I had a great time with my family. I loved reconnecting with my friend. I enjoyed the beauty of one of my favorite places on earth (it's just so wonderfully green here!).

Then came the conference. I came with certain expectations for that as well. And my original expectations were met.

I learned about marketing my speaking ministry more effectively.

I connected with other women throughout the US who have a similar calling on their heart and made friends with a couple who will probably become true friends.

I had a chance to meet with a couple of publishers about a writing project, and at least, they're interested in seeing proposals.

Yes, those expectations were met.

But then a couple of expectations I didn't even know I had were not just met. They were exceeded--amazingly so.

The Lord used a couple of presenters to truly break my heart--in a good way. I spent time (more than once) on my knees, in tears. It was a blessing beyond, well, expectations.

I recognized yet again how great God is, and how weak and inadequate I am. And the fact that He chooses to use this flawed vessel to do His will is so humbling.

I don't know what the future will bring. None of us do. But what a blessing it is to know that He knows.

To all my sisters who attended this conference, to all my sisters who've felt God's calling on their hearts to serve Him in any way . . . I pray for you. I pray your dreams will be exceeded beyond your (perhaps unexpected!) expectations.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Quiet Time Enforced (or the Value of Plane Travel!)

On Thursday, I was sitting on a plane winging its way to Charlotte, NC, truly one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been blessed to visit this area several times, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’m here to visit my brother and his family, and to attend a speakers’ conference.

I spent several hours sitting in my tiny coach seat. Several quiet hours.

It’s not often I have time to just sit, quietly, uninterrupted. It was kind of nice! I had time to review my “talks” I’d be giving during a couple of evaluation sessions. I had time to think. And I had time to pray.

Wednesday morning, during devotional time at work (yes, we have staff-wide devotional times weekly—at work!), one of our executive vice presidents talked about solitude and focused time just listening to the Lord’s voice.

And yet again, I was convicted.

I advocate solitude. I talk about it. I encourage others to do it. And I know—beyond doubt—that spending focused time alone with God blesses me so much. God has spoken to my heart in amazing ways when I just sit and listen. I so often walk away from these times feeling refreshed.

So why don’t I take this time every day?

I’m committed to spending time every day in God’s word, and I rarely miss reading, studying, and meditating on biblical passages. I’m usually going through at least one group Bible study. I don’t write these things to boast; I’ve learned that I easily drift from an intimate relationship with the Lord if I don’t take this time.

And I pray a lot. I talk with God about what’s going on in my life and in the lives of those I love. I praise Him for . . . just being Who He is. I ask for healing for my hurting friends and family. I ask for direction and provision.

But I don’t listen to His voice anywhere near as often as I should.

So as I sat on the plane—with all that quiet, uninterrupted time—I tried to listen. And as soon as I finished writing this, I listened again. And I felt refreshed and blessed.

Can I encourage you to make time with the Lord a priority? Will you join me in a renewed commitment to times of study, prayer, and solitude?

Let me know how you’re doing! And I pray for you!