What would your Christian Experience Statement Look Like?

If you were asked to write a Christian Experience Statement, what would it look like? What would it say? What pieces of your life would it reflect? Would it include a future, a vision, or just the past?

When I applied to Alliance Graduate School of Counseling for their Mental Health Counseling program earlier this year, I was asked to provide a written Christian Experience Statement, using these two questions as a guideline:

Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If yes, please state your conversion experience, fundamentals of your personal faith and present pattern of personal growth as a Christian.

Present a personal biography including a discussion of significant events and influences which have helped develop your present values and approach to life. What is God’s call upon your life? How do you see Alliance Graduate School of Counseling fitting into God’s call on your life? What do you visualize your ministry/profession looking like five years after graduation?

Here’s what I found … when you’re truly living your story, writing a Christian Experience Statement is surprisingly easy to do. 

The middle of five children, I was 10 years old when my mama died. My dad pretty much shaped who I thought I was after that – small, insignificant, a child; and who I thought I needed to be – brave, responsible, self-sufficient, independent, submissive to authority, perfect. I got my value and identity from obedience, performance, achievements, accomplishments, recognition, and attention.

I didn’t grow up in a church or family where Christ was part of everyday life, where we sought out God’s help to get through hard times, or prayed through problems or struggles. We went to Mass Sundays, I attended a parochial school, and we prayed before dinner – that was pretty much it. If there was a problem, we fixed it ourselves or accepted that life wasn’t fair, we didn’t ask God to intervene. I was raised with lots of rules, a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, self-reliance, high expectations for achievement & behavior.

I’ve been hiding out most of my life … hiding low self-worth behind credentials and accomplishments, hiding loneliness and fears behind an outgoing personality, sense of humor, busy schedule. At 50 years old, I was the woman at the well, isolated, hiding out from the shame of two failed marriages. I felt alone, insecure, like I didn’t matter, and everything in my life seemed out of control. But I wore a completely different mask: I was a businesswoman, single mom with 3 smart kids – all good athletes, Youth Leader that led youth mission trips, took kids to soup kitchens, counseled parents of teens. I was a soccer coach & referee – that’s the me I let other people see, and the image I desperately tried to keep intact, hoping no one would discover the real me:  lost, broken & falling apart on the inside. My entire family was in WI, and I had distanced myself from friends, thinking they were judging me for not following my husband to Boston for a job he accepted on his own, and painfully, against my wishes.

My journey to redemption started in 2003 when a stranger sitting next to me at a Christian weight loss conference invited me to join her at a Women of Faith Conference. My randomly assigned roommate at that same conference happened to be a Community Bible Study core group leader in VA, and at confessing I had never done a bible study of any sort, she encouraged me to sign up for a local CBS class, which I did. Both Women of Faith and CBS were important steps in launching my spiritual journey, but more importantly they set me on a path of connection and emotional healing as others reached out to me. Being a part of The Plant core team, missional community leader, & later serving on the leadership team, all deeply affected me as I developed a relationship with Christ in everyday life, to look to Him in all things, devote myself to Him, and to grow in community. The heart of it was not in a salvation moment, but in being drawn into authentic relationships with others that led to a deeper relationship with Christ.

I have worked in a corporate setting by day, and done some type of ministry by night, for most of my adult life. My heart for teenagers and the desire for them to feel safe, seen, and valued has never wavered. Whereas I used to see teenage girls struggling with cutting & eating disorders, today I see a generation of overstressed, overcommitted, highly anxious teens with epidemic levels of depression, substance abuse & suicide. And I feel like the church should be leading the charge on mental health of our teens! We focus on spiritual development, cultivating a heart of mission & service, equipping them to know Christ & make Him known, and yet so many are hurting and wondering where God really is in their life.

I have wanted to be an adolescent therapist for as long as I can remember, and this year as I prayed through the word THRIVE, I decided I would not take graduate school off the table because I thought I couldn’t quit my job – God would have to! He had awakened such a desire in me, not only to counsel teens, but also to advocate for mental health of our teens in the church. God has put people and circumstances in my life to affirm the call to Alliance Graduate School of Counseling and the vision for the church He has stitched in my soul, challenging me to trust Him for financial provision.

Five years after graduation, I see myself as an Adolescent Therapist at a biblically based Christian Counseling Center, helping teenagers to settle their worth, coaching youth leaders through current mental health issues in their ministries, writing and speaking to church leaders on awareness, education, and role of the church in mental health for teens.

For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long. –Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Standing on the Edge of Betrayal

Just about everyone is familiar with the “opening act” of the Passion story – Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, but Mark 14:10 gives us an unusual glimpse of that moment when Judas actually decides to betray Jesus.  The first word is key – Then. The sequence of events that precede it set the scene for the moment of decision.

Jesus was dining at the home of Simon, and a woman (John names her as Mary, sister of Lazarus in his account of the story) cracks open the seal of an alabaster jar containing an exquisite and fragrant perfume and pours it out over the head of Jesus. Some are outraged, thinking this to be wastefully extravagant – again Mark differs by referring to “some” objecting while John specifically names Judas as the one to object to this woman’s actions, citing the value of the perfume equal to one year’s wages and how that could be better used to serve the poor. Jesus goes on a bit of a rant telling them to leave the woman alone, and he praises her for the beautiful, worshipful act, saying the poor will always be with them while he will not, and predicts this anointing for burial will long be remembered.

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

What was it about what Jesus said in verses 6-9 that made Judas so indignant and triggered him, in that moment, to decide to betray him?  I can almost hear him saying “That’s it!” “I’m done here!”  “I’m outta here!”  Have you ever reacted that way when someone’s gotten on your last nerve?

We know from John 12 that Judas was in charge of the Treasury, and often helped himself to the money that was in there, so we might assume he wanted the perfume sold so the money – about a year’s wages, could be put in his care (more in the till to dip into). But it’s deeper than that.  Judas expected Jesus to lead a political rebellion to overthrow Rome – not to be talking about his death to come yet again.

So when Jesus praises this woman’s extravagant anointing and rebukes those who objected, Judas finally gets it – after 3 years of following Jesus, he realizes his kingdom is not a physical or a political one. He is confronted with the stark reality that Jesus is not – and will never be, the kind of Messiah he expects. In his disappointment, and feeling himself betrayed by Jesus, Judas decides to hand Jesus over to be killed.

How do we react when God is not the God we want Him to be, or expect Him to be, in our lives? Are we done with Him, outta here? Are we maybe standing on the edge of betrayal, too?  When we become disappointed with God, we have a choice to make – to desert, as Judas did, or continue to follow.

Following Jesus doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t assume we understand what’s going on.  Peter was disappointed and disillusioned, too, to hear that Jesus’ kingdom would involve shame & death – not power & glory as he imagined. Earlier in Mark, we see Peter pulling Jesus aside to admonish him for all this crazy talk about dying and then rising from the dead 3 days later, right after he declared Jesus was the Messiah. He was confused, and Jesus actually called him Satan in that exchange – harsh! But Peter overcomes his disappointment and confusion and lets go of the need to understand. With a simple trust, he continues to follow – not perfectly as we know, but he continues to follow nonetheless.

Life is just too tough to navigate in isolation – because that’s where greed, pride, and self-righteousness can so easily take root. In order to follow Jesus well in our disappointments requires us to be in the company of other doubting disciples.  The real tragedy in this story is that Judas was so isolated by his greed and desire for status, that he had no one to turn to in his disappointment, so he turned instead to the company of the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus.

What does this mean for us? Well, here’s what I think …

Unless you are anchored in a community where cracks in your character can be seen and filled by other imperfect followers, you are standing on the edge of betrayal at every disappointment in your life. Whether, like Judas, your disappointment is with God – not coming through as you expected or wanted Him to, or whether it lies with your spouse, your children, your boss, a friend, parent, maybe even your pastor for not living up to your expectation for them.

The choice is yours:  desert or continue to follow.  What I want for you is to choose community with other imperfect Christ followers!

  • Give them access to your life, invite their influence, allow the cracks in your character to be not only seen, but also filled.
  • Step away from the edge of betrayal and towards Christ who will never betray you, who will never be done with you, who will never be outta here, who will never say “That’s it!” no matter how many times you are disappointed in Him.
  • You are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do all the things he planned for you long ago. Ephesians 2:10
  • You just have to continue to follow … with a simple trust, and a band of other imperfect followers surrounding you, just follow!

What Season Are You In?

Remember the days when being “color analyzed” was all the rage? It didn’t matter if it happened at a home party, a department store counter, or a fashion expo – as long as you had your color swatches with you, and knew what shades of eye shadow, blush & lipstick presented the best you, you were ready to step out and rock it! Oh, and the best part was being able to toss out that question understood by every real woman in your circles – What season are you?

I actually remember praying before my first color analysis that I would not be deemed “a winter” (my prayers were for such simple things in those days).  I hated the color red for some reason.  It just seemed so basic and plain – my sister who was far more conservative than me always wore red or navy … nope, I wanted to make a splash, not some quiet unassuming entrance into a room – me & my season wanted to be noticed! Praise God, I was an autumn!

As I thought about the next link on the bracelet – Health, and what God may be wanting me to share with you about it, the topic just felt too big.  I mean, seriously, what are we talking here … physical health (ah, yah, that’s important to give attention to), mental health, emotional health (now there’s a cavern to get lost in), spiritual health (nah, always the risk that I’ll come off preachy), so what then? There was a momentary temptation to reverse direction and go the other way around the bracelet .. I mean who says I had to go right?  There’s that catchy song “To the left, to the left …” and everybody knows in a card game or board game, play always goes to the person on your left.  But if you take a look at the bracelet, you’ll notice, I’m sure, what I saw as a clear sign that I need to tackle Health – there is a circular piece of metal with a squiggly line that inexplicably links Serenity to Health.  Take a look!

So what about Health, and what does it have to do with seasons? Ecclesiastes 3:1 has always resonated with me “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”. If you live in the Northeast as I do, you know we are so ready to be done with winter! We are anxious for signs of spring, even as snow blanketed the streets and grass again last night while we slept, and a random snowfall with big cotton ball size flakes surprised us mid-day to taunt the still wet pavement that would not engage & allow the flakes to settle there. But did you know that, despite all appearances, even in the harshest winters, the trees don’t stop growing? Beneath the bark, their sap is silently moving to fortify the tree for the coming months. Life is still in process, but in different ways than during the rest of the year.

“Spring is for beginnings. There’s a freshness, hope and vibrancy to it. So in the springtimes of our life, we have the opportunity to see God initiate new things in us. Summer is a time for labor and growth. Fall is for harvest. Winter is for withdrawal from activity, rest, and even death of what has come to the end of its time. To be fully healthy, our lives require each one of these seasons at its due time. The key is to recognize what season we’re in and then embrace it to the full.

We all know that in nature, sometimes winter seems like it drags on forever. Some summers can seem extremely brief. Seasons vary from year to year. Sometimes God chooses to prolong them to fully accomplish His work. Sometimes so much needs to die in us before we can embrace spring that we need an unusually long winter. We have no idea how brief or long each season will be this time, but we can also learn to embrace and find the good in each season as it comes, instead of being impatient to move on to the next one that we think will be better.”  -Richard Blackaby

This has been a tough winter – not for me particularly, but for friends crushed beneath an all-consuming heartache of loss, unanswered questions, unrelenting pain, and unseen possibilities of hope, believing even the coming spring will be inadequate to mend their broken spirits. This is the perfect season to ask God to take this cup, as Jesus did, but also to remember that in order to accomplish His greater purpose, He may need you to linger in this season of  life, to discover what He wants you to learn, to fortify your spiritual health for the coming season where all things are made new in Christ.  Cry out to Him, confess your need for Him, believe this season of life is charged with divine purpose for you, sing along to Plumb’s song and let the tears wash over you like the waters of baptism.

Need You Now (How Many Times) Plumb

What about you … what season of life are you in?

Pathway to Serenity

I had no intention of waiting so long to blog about SERENITY, but the truth and irony is that I could not find a sense of serenity in writing, and I wanted that, I needed that to feel authentic.  Oh dear sweet, patient, readers, has there ever been a time when you just kept putting something off that you needed to do?  Can you relate?

Maybe a conversation -one of those “truth in love” talks, that you’ve been mentally rehearsing for awhile, or a resume that’s been haunting & daunting you. It might be a decision you’ve made about a relationship that you’ve failed to act on, a choice to do what is right & good and in alignment with God’s desire for your life – to stop enabling, set boundaries, take responsibility for what God has given you to steward & get the heck out of what God has given others to steward for themselves – in other words, land the helicopter, parents!  Whatever it is, if you’re there with me, you know the feeling of angst, the daily awakening of self-disappointment – and even shame, that you have not done what you intended to do for yet another day. Ugh!

My mind is no different than yours apparently as I think of images & feelings of serenity – peace, calm, stillness, a quiet hush that honestly I experience most often in aloneness, not in “the village”. Yes, the beach is there in my mind, too – isn’t it funny how we all think beach or ocean?  I know if I can stand at the water’s edge with waves crashing and the feel of sand underneath my feet, wind blowing across my face so that I have to brush hair back across my face, that no matter what’s going on in my life, no matter what grief or emptiness I’m carrying for a friend, I can let the tears flow, release it all, while feeling grounded and steady and loved and protected in the presence of God’s great creation. But where is the beach in the midst of my work day, in a disconnected relationship, in resounding unescapable grief ? How do I capture peace and calm and stillness and inject it into my day when I wake to a Things to Do list streaming live in my head, when the noise and demands to ready myself for the day tempts me to cut short my much needed time with my Creator, Redeemer & Guide?

I found the answer this week in the familiar – actually, one answer & one key.  The answer – ACCEPTING HARDSHIP AS A PATHWAY TO PEACE … it’s right there in the Serenity Prayer, but how many of us have ever read beyond the “wisdom to know the difference” line? And one of the most “calming” passages people cling to in times of struggle & worry, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10  follows verses about God bringing destruction on the world.  Mark 4:39 when Jesus calms the storm, how could I have missed that without a storm, God could not display his mighty rebuke to the wind, He could not have ordered stillness out of chaos and fear and unbelief. So the answer is that we have to walk through the hardships, the struggle, the everyday annoyances in the workplace, in messy unsatisfying relationships, in fears, dashed hopes, unmet expectations, our deepest longings.

But the KEY is to create periods of stillness to bring those hardships to the Lord, to allow Jesus to calm the storm, to receive the guidance, the steps, even the words the Holy Spirit longs to give you on the pathway to serenity.  Stillness begets stillness … you must have stillness with God to have stillness in your life.  Otherwise you might as well take up residence on the beach ’cause that’s the only Way to claim it.

My friend Curt offers this suggestion for reflection: Allow God’s Spirit to speak to you in the stillness of a moment today.  What message does he have for you? What risks are involved in the call Jesus is placing on your life in this season?

There is an important footnote I need to add – it struck me shortly after I hit Publish to send the post your way, but it is more than an afterthought.  It really is the exclamation mark God used to punctuate my path in discovering serenity in blogging … it is the truth that IT TAKES A VILLAGE! I could not tolerate my day after day frustration & self-disappointment at not finishing & publishing a blog post … well, okay, so maybe I knocked myself around for a couple of weeks, and then took it to God in prayer, thanking Him for the gift of writing, asking Him to make me worthy of the influence He has given me, begging Him to reveal what was standing in the way of me getting His messages out.  The daily grind of self-disappointment began to weigh more as I took on the shame of disobedience – God has been very clear about His design & desire for me to challenge women to claim all He has for them, and I was letting Him down; I was being the downright obstinate child of God … pretty tough to write from that posture of failure.

The light went on in my morning prayer time on Martin Luther King Day – a day off from work, as I ask God to bless my friend and I over a planned catch-up lunch, and beg Him in almost the same breath to fill me in on what is keeping me from blogging.  I give God some options (love to do that!) … is it ego – am I afraid it will bring attention to me instead of Him & His message (oh Lord, I desire only to be your conduit), is it fear of failure or judgment, maybe expectation that I have to keep up a level of quality writing (as though that would be a problem for God, right?), am I worthy, do I deserve to have influence in women’s lives when I’ve screwed up my own life so badly in the past?  The soft, calming voice of the Spirit catches me off guard and arrests my high-pitched game of “Is it?” with the Lord … “Kathy will give you insight” I hear – whoa, are you talking to me?

And so it was that I came to this place of finishing & publishing my blog post this morning.  I shared the struggle with Kathy at lunch that day, she has been praying over the issue since, and on Sun. morning she gave me her thoughts – both on my blog and on the reconnaissance mission of the enemy to snatch what God has ordained for me to give to you, she prayed over me with two other sisters that God would release my gift of writing and that I could stand strong against the enemy.  There was that extra burst (oh minty fresh!) of admonishment that sealed the deal and made all things right and possible again in the blogging world when she looked me in the eye with her “I really mean it” pointer finger aglow and said, “You are to get up and have your morning coffee and blog first – nothing else until you have blogged!” Well, alrighty then!

SERENITY = ANSWER + KEY + TRUTH

The Bracelet

I get very reflective at the end of each year, looking back on the best & the worst, the people & events that changed me, the situations and circumstances that shaped me into a different person than I was one year before.  While Hurricane Sandy had the most impact in my community & circle of friends, and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting troubled me with a level of sadness I had never known, nothing held more power in 2012 than the suicide of my friend’s son.

Nothing held more power because it is where I saw God’s Power firsthand, where I took part in the master craftsmanship of His plan -though I only recognized that in hindsight.  God became real & present to me, His tender mercies evident at work in and among our little Charlie Brown group of women.   We began meeting to walk the pages of a “Parenting Prodigals” study together, became invested in each others’ stories & familiar with the pain and struggle of navigating relationships with our adult children.  When Nick took his life, we all lost a beloved child.

To recognize that if God had not pressed down on me to lead this summer study, that if He had not knowingly given me the exact names of women to invite, even that if I had not been obedient to respond (you all know I have a tendency to argue with God & can easily go rogue) … to think that my dear friend who is now both sister & confidante to me, would have had to walk the grievous unimaginable path alone makes me shake it is so unfathomable.  I only knew this woman for 9 months before the study, and not well at all. But God knew exactly what was to come in her life. He knew she would need us to know her story & guided by the study, that we would be the ones to encourage her to share her heart with Nick & ask for forgiveness for anything that stood between them.  Hundreds of times I have thanked God for the gift of that conversation, that healing grace, between mother & son.  God knew that deepening bonds between us, and a purpose greater than each of our individual selves, would undergird the grieving process, forging sweet & tender lasting relationships for some of us, built for growth and laced with His amazing grace.

So no, as I look back upon 2012 for the lessons God has taught me and ponder how I will apply those lessons in the new year, I will not be making any New Year’s resolutions.  Most of what typically comes to mind anyway is a list of things I will do – like exercise regularly or blog 3 times a week, and then there’s that other list of things I won’t do – like spend money I don’t have, eat junk food or stay up so late.  Nope, I don’t want to be bound by wills & won’ts, by shoulds & shouldn’ts, by what I do or don’t do.  I want to be harnessed into the place of “being” that God has for me in this opening winter season of 2013.

I want to follow the path of “the bracelet” and lean in to all that God has for me in the new year, all that He designed me to be.  And I want to invite you to journey with me. Now hold on girls – I know you don’t know what “the bracelet’ is all about … so cool your hormones & I’m gonna tell you!  I can count 5 influential women in my life right now who were mere acquaintances last year at this time.  Coincidentally, two of them gifted me with meaningful bracelets this Christmas, another with a heart-within-an-open-heart ornament that penetrates my soul, that I will surely blog about at another time because it’s not the kind of ornament you put away with the Christmas decorations.  The other two women in the ya ya sisterhood of God’s blessings in 2012 gave to me of themselves – one was a re-connection clearly orchestrated by God (of course, what isn’t?), & her infectious laughter is all that surpasses the insight and godly wisdom she shares so selflessly; the other, a more recent & concentrated developing friendship, has been a partner in community and in navigating the gaps & spaces left open in mid-life by grown children who have their own lives.

Back to the bracelet and the path I want to take us on!  I am captivated by the cuff bracelet my girlfriend gave me, not surprising since it represents all that I want in my life, but have not necessarily pursued.  It is made up of alternating gold & silver decorative panels with different words and symbols etched into the metal – it is poignant and rich in the invitation to pursue.  I promise to post a picture after we get a few steps down the path, but I don’t want to spoil the journey for anyone by laying temptation to rush to the next panel when the Lord is beckoning us to linger a while longer where we are.

Serenity is our first place to dwell.  What picture, thoughts, sounds does the word “serenity” trigger for you?  What do you imagine the Serenity link of the bracelet looks like?  Just play in it for awhile, stay in it for awhile.  I’ll share my reflections on serenity shortly as we set upon the path of the bracelet together.

Note to Self

So here it is – Day 3 of the working girl’s dream … a 3-day weekend!  There were just two things I wanted to make sure I “got in” this Labor Day weekend – catching some sun on these final days of the pool season at my condo complex, and some significant exercise – I’m talking a plan (well okay, maybe a thought) for 5 mile walks each day.

Now here I sit in my green chair, morning coffee right beside me, with a microwaveable heat compress on my lower back to warm & work out the stiffness that comes quite naturally from not stretching or doing core strengthening exercises, staring out in disbelief at a completely overcast,  not-a-break-in-the solid gray sky.  Aside from walking with a friend for an hour on Sat. morning, I pretty much have a big L across my forehead – LOSER!

What is it that Paul says in Romans about not understanding himself, “for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it … I want to do what is good, but I don’t”?  I’m with you, bro!  And now, there is no possibility of catching some rays – I should have claimed my spot in the sun on a chaise lounge poolside yesterday or the day before when skies were blue & the sun shone so brightly you needed sunglasses to see … a far cry from the need to flip the light switch this morning to illuminate my time with God in the green chair.  Darn it!  And with our Biggest Loser Team Competition final weigh-in at work on Thursday, my failure to exercise is gonna cost me … and my team!  Double darn it!  If only regret could burn calories!  I’m not even sure what happened, how I spent my time the last few days – like Paul, I don’t really understand myself.

Pretty hard to come up with my next move.  Hmmm … I could pray boldly for God to do what I know He can do – command the sun to crash through the cloud covering to give me the sunny day I want today, the one I’m ready for now, the one that I turned my back on yesterday because of something I presumably wanted more.  I could still take that 5 mile walk today, but what if the clouds unleashed rain when I was too far from home?  I could do a Leslie Sansone Walk-at-Home DVD right here in my living room, even without getting out of my nightgown, but I don’t really want to – I want to lay in the sun at the pool!

Not a dramatic spiritual awakening to be sure, but here’s what ran through my head in the midst of my mini-tantrum – Snap out of it! (for full effect, you really must click on this link)

Note to self: There are some things I can control in life, and some things I cannot.  I have control over whether or not I exercise today.  I can choose when, what type of exercise I will do, how long I will exercise, if I will blow it off  – God has given me control over that area of my life, to choose wisely, or to sabotage myself.  Control over the sun belongs to my Creator and I would do well to – as my son once told me, “stay in your box” … how’s that for a boundary buster?  Funny how we often try to take control over things we have no business trying to control, but fail to take control over those things God has given us responsibility for.

What about you?  Anything going on with you these days that could use a little Moonstruck slap?




Forever Kiss

I got a tattoo yesterday.  Following aftercare instructions to leave my forearm wrapped overnight, I removed the covering and cleaned up the ink that had come to the surface this morning.  I kept staring at my forearm, taking in the beauty of the artisan text, wanting to hold onto it as though I was admiring a new haircut or a new outfit fitted to my size smaller body after losing weight, until it occurred to me – it isn’t going away, it won’t grow out or morph to a bigger size, …. it’s permanent!

How many things in our earthly life are permanent?  I remember the sweet good-byes at my son’s preschool on the last day before we moved from MA to NJ, and a silly little 4-year old girl in his “Chipmunks” class boldly kissed him on the cheek. As Josh brought his hand to his cheek to wipe off the cooties, the little chipmunk was quick to add “It’s a forever kiss!”  I’ve never forgotten that moment, that line “It’s a forever kiss!”, even though it happened 24 years ago last week.

Isn’t that what any of us wants, to be loved forever, to be marked as beloved in a permanent way?  Yes, my tattoo is permanent, but so are the promises that lay beneath the words on my arm.  I wanted to be branded as belonging to God, and so the forever kiss on my arms identifies what fruit the Spirit produces in me when I will give myself over to His forever love.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, & Self-Control.  Definitely the fruit of a forever kiss!

Let’s Celebrate Together!

I’ve read the Parable of the Three Servants countless times, in several different translations over the years, but this morning I discovered something new.  In Matthew 25:23, Jesus is telling us – yes, this is Jesus telling the story (sometimes I forget that!) of the Master’s response to the second servant, who had received two bags of silver to invest and earned two more.

The master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” NLT

If you back up to verse 21 – which I blazed by without noticing, the master gave the very same response to the first servant who was entrusted with five bags of silver and earned five more on that investment.  Let’s celebrate together?  Seriously?  I never saw those words before.  I imagine they have been overshadowed by the more familiar “shoot for the stars, you have arrived” spiritual quest in being graced with the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And then there is the underpinning of shame I feel at not having handled my personal finances responsibly over the years, and the fear that God will never entrust me with anything bigger.

The Message paraphrases Matthew 25:23 this way –

His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

Good work!  I love that!  It doesn’t have to be perfect work, I don’t have to master the job, prove myself completely responsible -whether we’re talking finances or career, ministry or personal relationships.  I just have to do it well, and that alone is cause for celebration with the one true Master.

And the best part of all?  God wants me to be His partner – He always has, always will.  He just wants me to do my part – my imperfect, sometimes irresponsible, miss-the-mark part, so that He can fill in the spaces and allow me to gain victory over even the smallest things in my life through Him.  That is great cause for celebration, and even in that our Master says “Let’s celebrate together!”

In what area of your life will you let the Master partner with you today, and then celebrate together?


All or Nothing

I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl.  When I don’t have time to blog “right” – that is, a well-developed piece of writing sparked by a Spirit-led connection I make in my prayer time that includes my thoughts, a Scripture passage, maybe a personal story or a song, and always a question for my readers – a “sanity check” really to make sure I’m normal, & then a challenge for you and I to look deeper at what God has laid on my heart, …. well, you know what happens – all kinds of lengthy lapses in blog posts.

This bugs me, because the Holy Spirit still fires up those ideas daily, and sharing my thoughts with you when I blog deepens my growing relationship with God, so I’m missing out on all that God has for me.  I may even be cheating you in withholding the everyday challenges God brings to my attention during my quiet time in the green chair.  I’ve tried to get a little bit of that spiritual bounce going lately by posting a quote from my morning devotions as my Facebook status, but the occasional Like at sharing someone else’s words doesn’t really make me feel like a disciple of Christ.

Today’s daily devotion from The Word for You Today had a quote from Richard Wumbrand, who wrote Tortured For Christ – “What a person really believes is not what he says in his creeds, but what he’s willing to die for.”  The devotion goes on to say that the odds are that I will never be called upon to die for Jesus – right, so believing that’s true, this “all or nothing” God’s girl wouldn’t normally think much beyond that.  But here’s what hit me hard, the line that followed –

“But the question is, if you’re not willing to die for Him, what are the chances you’ll really live for Him?”

Whoa!  Now that gives me pause, seriously, because living for Him should definitely not be thrown out with the unlikelihood that I’ll ever have to face dying for Him.  My all or nothing thinking has to stop here!  I want it to stop here!  I want to live for Him every day.

I have gone through seasons of my life when exercise was an all or nothing venture.  If I didn’t have an hour to go to the gym or a personal trainer or even take a walk outside, I would do nothing at all.  But I began doing Leslie Sansone Walk at Home DVDs almost a year ago, and have been amazed at how easy it is to slim down and tone muscles with a 1 mile walk in just 15 minutes, right in my own living room.  There is a lot in between “all” and “nothing”.

How about you?  Do you have “all or nothing” operating in any areas of your life?  Are you really living for Him?

There is Always Hope

I have on several occasions spoken “lightly” of the hold food has had on me, and the season of my life when I was in treatment for an emotional eating disorder.  It is an ongoing battle not to medicate or self-comfort with food – my “go to” for quick relief in times of anxiety or upset.  I have only recently learned that all types of addiction, without exception, are a non-relational way of dealing with a relational issue, but the pull is fierce and the power is unmistakeable when you can reach for something that won’t abandon, won’t reject, will quietly fill in the spaces and soothe with a constancy that never denies, even though it is a momentary fix.

I am fortunate that I don’t experience anxiety much in my life, grateful that my need rises up only randomly now, yet I am painfully aware that there are many engaged in the battle daily, even hourly, who live in and through the struggle as a lifestyle.  I would like to share the writing of one such friend, Matraca Taylor Moody, as a guest post today.  Will you pray for her, that she stands strong against the lies of the enemy, and keeps her eyes fixed on the One who offers victory in Christ?

Orchestrated bodies move in melody with a harmonious heart, beautifully conducted by the angels themselves. Billowing waves amongst the shoreline of our sanity they test us every living day. Every breath that is lucky enough to make it to our lungs and back out into the conspicuous world is a breath worth breathing. Breathing every day towards the satisfaction of being free should be enough motivation for even the tiniest mind. Treacherous wind builds up towards the galaxy to its highest extent until no more stretch can the arms configure. Outstretched to the maximum Satan becomes angry, jealous that the arms reach and grasp onto the heavens rather than his own purgatory hell. Satan built up ED, constructed him perfectly to fit into our lives at first without notice, but as the hours tick, he becomes more and more boisterous. Arousing any problem he can into the deepest battle known between body and soul. They work coincidentally, ED and Satan. Hand in hand they walk the path of corruption, perpetually destroying lives of the loneliest pursuers. ED strives on vulnerability and turns uncommon scenarios into the most triggering situations. Institutions were built up against him, supplying the needy with classes and tools that everyday citizen’s use. But just as we battle, he matches our integrity. I’m ready to challenge ED, challenge him in battle, war, replicating wounds to use towards my offense. I can take on ED, but as history books and classrooms teach us, wars do not end overnight. Some take months and many take years. I’m fighting the war of my life.

Matraca Taylor Moody