Looking For Good

The young girl ran purposely across the wet sand of the beach. Her hair blew across her face, making it difficult to see where she was running to. Her smile was big and every so often she would laugh with happiness. Every once in while she would look back over her shoulder to see if the thin blue piece of plastic was sharing in her enthusiasm. She held tightly to a small thread in one hand and kept running. Soon the blue plastic rose up from the wet sand and lifted higher and higher. The girl kept running for a bit until she realized her kite was now actually in the air. She stopped and watched it dance across the sky over the beach. She held tightly to her little string, listening to the advice of her dad and mom ‘To not let go” Her joy was evident to all by her huge smile. She pointed upward, to make sure no one missed this glorious event that had just happened. Then. Just as quickly as the blue plastic had risen from the sand, it crashed downward in an uncontrollable death spiral. The wind had shifted. The kite crashed to the sand. The girl was heartbroken. She had gone from excited anticipation, to joy, to devastation in the span of a few minutes.

If you’ve ever flown kites at the beach, you’ve probably been through this many times. You know what to expect. You know you need wind and updrafts to make things fly. But, when we are young we expect flying a kite to be easy. We just run really, really fast and it will soar. We are heartbroken when our kite crashes. It’s worse if it gets broken when it crashes. The few dollars our parents spent on the bright piece of plastic- or if they were really ingenious- the time they took to make a kite- was all gone. It was now a pile of string and plastic. Sometimes broken kites can be repaired, but usually they can’t.

I thought about this today as God challenged me to “look for the good” in things of life. Life can seem like flying a kite at the beach. We can get excited with a new plan in our lives. We want it to succeed, just like the soaring kite. We pursue it like the running child on the beach. We want our plans and dreams to follow us and then catch the wind and fly. For a while they might seem to be working with us and soon they are making forward progress. But, suddenly, there’s no wind, or a downdraft, that sends our dreams falling down. We wonder how can we recover the flight? Will our dreams crash like the kite? Can we find a good updraft to help them soar once again?

Unlike crashed kites that usually cannot be repaired, life can be repaired. Yes, sometimes God might want us to let go of some plans and dreams because He has something better in mind. Other times, though, He wants us to keep trying and not be discouraged when we feel broken and our dreams seem far from flight. Hold on to the string and don’t let go. God can use broken dreams and plans. He can use the broken us.

And I believe He wants to use the broken us, because when we are broken is when we call out to Him for help. We need Him to fix our kites sometimes. To heal our broken hearts and help us with our dreams. We might not see His hand at work in our lives and we might get discouraged when our dreams look like a kite spiraling down from the sky. It is in those times we need to stop and look for the good. When you find it, you will find it is from God.  In Jeremiah 29: 13-14, God reminds Jeremiah and us,  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (NIV).

God Bless -Nancy

 

Drone’s Eye View

Do you like being stuck in traffic? Me neither. Have you ever been in one of those huge traffic jams on an interstate? When the traffic is moving along great and then all of a sudden a chorus of red tail lights appears up ahead like a wave at a baseball game. It starts in the distance and then it is right upon you, the car in front you and then follows with the car behind you. A sea of red tail lights as far as the eye can see. Everything comes to a stop. And you wait. And wait. And after a few minutes you begin to wonder how long will you be stopped? I mean you have places to get to. Everyone does. But you can’t get anywhere because all the cars around you have stopped and you’re stuck in the middle of this giant traffic jam. The worst is when everyone turns off their engines and gets out of their cars. My family and I were once stopped for two hours on the interstate while traveling. And it was in the middle of summer. It wasn’t fun.

The first question that usually arises in this situation is “What is going on, or what happened?” The second is usually “How long are we going to be stopped?” You can’t see far enough ahead to see what happened, but you can see behind you as the long line of stopped cars grows further into the distance. With social media and available apps, sometimes we can find out just how far up the road the traffic has stopped and if there are any alternate routes. But, what would be really nice to have is a drone.

My oldest son, Michael, has a drone and is an officially FAA licensed drone pilot. I am amazed at the photos and video footage he takes as a real estate photographer with his drone. As is commonly heard in real estate “Location, location, location” A drone can give potential buyers the perspective of what the house or land looks like from above. It can see how far the property is located from the beach, schools, restaurants, or what lies around it. This view is especially helpful when viewing parcels of land on which there are no buildings to photograph, just an empty lot. The boundary lines can be edited in later, but gives the overall size of the lot, that would not be appreciated as well if seen from a ground level perspective.

I would like to have a drone of my own. Not the kind to view the traffic jams-although that would be sweet- but a drone for life. I do not like being stuck anywhere, including in the  valleys of life. When you are in a valley you can’t see up out of the lower level you are in. It is not a mountain top experience where you can see the path laid out before you. Those times when you don’t seem to be moving forward, those times of waiting and wondering, “How long will I be stopped” “I wonder what is going on?” I would fly my life drone up and on ahead to see what the stop was and how long ahead I need to travel until the jam is cleared. That would be awesome. Then I could just review the video footage and know confidently just how long this valley of stopping and waiting would be.

Of course, there is no such thing as a life drone. So, I just need to stop, relax, turn off the engines of my own plans and timing as I attempt to move forward. I can either enjoy this time or be miserable. Either way, the traffic isn’t going anywhere until the road clears. I do not have the perspective I need to see on ahead in life, but I do know someone who does. I don’t need an app for that. Prayer and seeking God’s perspective doesn’t need an app. It just needs time. The kind of time when I’m stopped in a valley of waiting. Waiting can be something God uses to slow us down long enough to stop, pray, and pick up the Bible and read. We can find the perspective we need when we stop and pray and read. God might not show us everything at once, but He might provide encouragement that will help us as we wait.

This morning I was reminded that God’s perspective is not mine. As Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Pr. 16:9, ESV). We might think we know what we are doing, the where we are going to and the when we are expecting to arrive, but we don’t. We do not have God’s perspective. As Solomon observes, “All of the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (Pr. 16:2, ESV). God’s weighing the spirit, is like the bigger perspective of the drone. God can see what direction we are heading on our own and what lies ahead of us if we continue on this path. He is concerned with our hearts and with our spirit, not just with a physical direction we’re heading. Sometimes the valleys of waiting and stopping are to help us become what God intends for us, not just to stop us from getting from point A to point B.

If you feel like you are stuck in a traffic jam of life let me challenge you to take a step back and trust God . He knows what is going on up ahead. If you want to understand His perspective, seek Him in prayer and in the Bible. That is my challenge for myself today- God Bless- Nancy

Don’t Abandon The Ship

Doubt has a way of sneaking up on you. You might be pressing on into the future with a great amount of hopes, ideas, and dreams. You’ve worked hard for several years towards those goals and kept hope alive. But, over time, your energy seems to wane a little bit. You’re finding the daily grind monotonous. Your dreams, hopes, goals and ideas seem to be moving farther away from you as each day passes. So, you find yourself doubting whether or not these dreams will ever happen. They always seem just out of reach. You begin to doubt yourself.

This might seem like too much for a Tuesday morning to tackle, but I just wanted to be real with all of you. When I began this blog my intention was not to tell you I have a five step plan for you that will make your life perfect, but rather that as we all move forward in life,  we can look to faith together for this journey. Faith in God is the only thing that can ever make sense of the crazy world in which we live. Faith brings hope. Hope is anchored in Christ and nothing else. God’s word, the Bible, encourages us and instructs us in our faith in Christ and I always want to share God’s word with you so that you might be encouraged.

So, if you are like me, and are honest with yourself, you doubt sometimes. You might even doubt your faith or doubt God.  You are not a skeptic, like those who do not profess faith in Christ, but just sometimes, you find yourself doubting. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, it sneaks up on you. It has snuck up on me.

It has been over ten years ago that I first received a call of God to full-time ministry while listening to my pastor at the time give his own testimony of his call from God into full-time pastoral ministry. I have been on the journey to discover what ministry God has called me to. I have spent several years completing my education and have seen many doors and opportunities present themselves and then disappear.

One of the most difficult challenges during this time has been the opportunities I have seen others get that I have not. It has grown me in many ways and I believe this has been God’s intention. It is still difficult though.

I have also experienced disappointment from churches and denominations who hold to the archaic notion that women must stay in the nurseries and not stand in behind  podiums to teach, encourage, and share the Gospel to everyone no matter the gender. I have been overlooked as a ministry partner with my husband and been the uninvited to small group planning sessions, where gender was the only prerequisite, not Bachelor of Science degree in religion, which I hold. My ideas have been shot down on more than one occasion to help military members with their marriages, as well as those in the civilian community. Mission trips, for which I was so excited to be a part of, have been cancelled overnight.  Disappointment and discouragement  has become the norm for me rather than the exception, yet I still press on.

But, I’ll be real all, some days I wish I had been called to be a nurse, or dental hygienist. Or something normal. Maybe it wouldn’t be so disappointing. And I question myself, whether or not I heard God correctly and I begin to doubt.

But, let me stop for a minute and share this thought with you. If you are finding yourself in this season of doubt, do not ignore it before you deal with it properly. Too often people think the key to defeating doubt is to get busy and wait for the feeling to pass. It isn’t always easy to stop and take time to face your feelings, but it is the best thing to do in the long run. Ignoring feelings of doubt, or any feelings without dealing with them, only let’s them intensify on the inside. They do not disappear, they just grow stronger until you have an adult meltdown. – That was your 30 second counseling session- I also have a minor in Christian counseling and membership in the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors).

Whenever, I find myself self-doubting, I realize that I have been busy keeping busy. I have not been spending time reading the Bible or in personal prayer time- the time when no one is home and I can just open up out loud to God and talk about things. Whenever I feel doubt creep in, I can always be sure it is because I haven’t been listening to God or talking with Him in prayer. Busyness robs us of hearing from God, who wants to encourage us to keep on with our dreams and hopes. He gives us our dreams and our callings. He has created us with the talents we have as well as the temperaments for the journey. And He gives us choices. We can choose to doubt or choose to believe. He’s not mad at us if we doubt and want to give up on our dreams, He just wants us to cry out to Him and seek His answers in the Bible.

I often share passages from the Book of Joshua because they are encouraging for those who, like me, are moving forward into new seasons and chapters of their lives. Here is another for you : “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (NIV) Joshua 1:5

I really needed this verse today and it came to mind as I considered what to write today .I pray that you will stop and take time out today from your busy schedule to pick up your Bible and read this passage in your own version. And I also hope you will take time to pray.

Just be honest with God about your doubts. Get real with Him and be honest, after all He knows what’s in your heart and what’s troubling your mind. He wants to keep you encouraged and He will not leave you or forsake you.

Just don’t abandon the ship of your dreams, hopes and goals. The rough seas of doubt might last for a bit, but eventually you will run into calm waters. Storms of doubt will pass, but sometimes you have to go through them as a reminder to call out to God.

-God Bless -Nancy

Reality Check

Mother’s Day is difficult for me. I enjoy all the well wishes and the gifts from my Husband and kids, but its  still difficult. It’s difficult because I lost my mom four years ago, and well, there’s just nobody to say Happy Mother’s Day to.  If you’re like me, and your mom has died, then you probably know what I mean. It’s easy to say it to strangers and friends, but when your Mom is gone, it’s not the same. There’s this missing part of you that can’t be replaced.

If your much younger and your Mom is still alive, then you probably won’t get it. I didn’t get it either. She was just Mom. The parent that knew what you were doing, when you wished she didn’t. The one who seemed to read your mind. But, also the one who called at the right moment when you needed it most. The one who hounded you to date and had the perfect person for you- make that her perfect person for you. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you have until its gone. I really understand that saying now.

The most enlightening and frustrating thing that I have learned is this; I now have a better appreciation for the difficulties she went through as a mom. While I was out conquering the world with my can do, don’t care attitude, she was missing me. While I tried to change the subject when she complained to me, she was trying to reach out to me and have me understand and needed a shoulder to cry on. When she said “Stop by when you can” she meant “Please visit me, I like spending time with you and I need your company, and I miss you”   Now that my adult kids are out of the house, I get it. I really get it. Why hadn’t I understood it before?

We all get busy with our own lives and think we will have time for everything- later. They’ll be time to visit our family later. Or, maybe we think we know better than our moms when we are younger. Yep, that was me on both counts. Now,  I see and understand her so much better. But, I can’t tell her that, at least for now, until I see her again. But, I can help you to get it, before I did.

Here’s a list for you to consider: Your mom probably has some good advice for you, she’s been through more than you think she has, she was once young too and faced the same or similar situations, she really didn’t know what she was doing and learned as she went, her parents disapproved of her choices too and didn’t understand her, she was once the young one with the can do attitude who wanted to conquer the world, her mom probably had the perfect person for her too, but then along came your dad, she likes you as a friend too, and she would do anything for you and wants you to ask her.

I can only hope that you will take time for you mom and listen to her. Time and experience has made her wiser. She’s fallen on her face a few times and picked herself up. She knelt by your bed and prayed with you and for you. And she probably stills prays for you. She wants the best for you and hopes you won’t make the same mistakes she did. She wants to protect you from the hurts and the cruelties of the world. She is worth listening to. And the reality of it is this; as she gets older she will need you more than you think you need her. Reality is, you both need each other for your whole life. -God Bless -Nancy

 

Live It

“Let it go, let it go….”   How many times have you heard that line from a famous Disney movie? Let’s be honest here, how many times have you sung those words? Now that I have that song stuck in your head, let me go on.

It’s just one of many phrases that I’m sure you have heard before. Just let it go, or it doesn’t really matter, or you gotta pick your battles- usually advice from older wiser parents, and the classic whatever is good for them is good for them and whatever is good for me is good for me, it just doesn’t matter. But, what if it does matter? This morning as I got up, I thought about whether what I did mattered. Like does it matter if  I write my paper for class. Does it matter what I believe? Does it matter what I do? And I believe I have an answer. Yes, it does. We need to start living life like we mean it. Intentionally. We have been bombarded with so many cliches and phrases to just let it go, don’t worry about it, let them do their thing, that I think we have applied it to our lives too much. I know I have.

We do need to care about things. The things that matter in our lives. Like social justice and what we believe. We need to be change makers and not just complacent Christians who take whatever is given to us to believe by others. We need to know for ourselves what we believe. We should change what needs changing and when we can’t make changes, we should speak up about the problems, to the ones in authority who can make changes. We should not be settlers.

I have realized that recently, I have been settling, and just letting things go too much and what has been robbed from me is my passion. And that is what challenged me this morning. Was I really living my life like I meant it? Am I being intentional? Being intentional is important as it can change lives and change history. Being passionate and caring about others and in what I believe matters.

Recently, thanks to my Aunt Betty, I learned about a distant relative of mine who lived in England in the 1600’s. She was locked up in a tower for speaking out against the church of England. She wasn’t beheaded, but I applaud her for her courage to not just let it go. She and several of my other relatives, boarded small wooden boats and left home, family and the life they knew to risk going to a place where they could raise their children with religious freedom. How many of us would do that today? But… It changed history. The people on that boat became the foundation of the United States. They must have believed in something better, and lived their lives like they meant it. No holding back, no settling, no compromising and just letting it go. I am thankful for their decision as I sit here now in a country where I can still worship freely.

Let me leave you with this verse from Ephesians 5:15- 17;”Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (NIV).   This whole chapter, chapter 5 of Ephesians, has much to say about intentional living as Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was an interesting place, full of commerce, and tourist sites, including one of the seven wonders of the world, a temple to a 50 foot goddess. The Christians there could have gone with the flow, but they too had to make a choice to live like they meant it and be intentional or just settle. It was Paul who courageously set the model for them to follow as he caused riots and destroyed their marketing of goddess replicas for the tourists.

     So, my challenge for myself is to live like I mean it. I need to stand up and speak up more about what matters, because it DOES matter. May that be your challenge as well. -God Bless Nancy

 

Location, Location, Location

Where’s your there? Have you ever thought about that? Confused? Don’t worry, let me explain first and we’ll come back to that question in a minute. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in the south east part of the United States where I live. So, to enjoy this nice day of warm sunshine without any clouds in the sky, my husband and I went out for a coffee date. We went to our usual place that offers regular coupons allowing us to buy one coffee and get one free (we are very cheap with our dates!). It also has tables outside where customers might sit, talk, and enjoy their coffees on beautiful sunny days.

Coffee dates like this one are great times to talk with your spouse. You are away from home for a short time and free from distractions. On this beautiful sunny day we were out sharing the highs and lows of the past week. We also shared new challenges upcoming for our lives. I share this scene because I want to encourage you to do the same. Spending time talking, away from distractions is a benefit for relationships. Second, I wanted to share with you some of our conversation so that you might understand my question; “Where’s your there?”

As I was sharing my concerns with my husband, who by the way is a great listener, when we are away from the distractions at home, a subject came up. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my personal, educational, professional and ministry information on a website. My first thought when I saw this opportunity was “Wow, this is great” and “This could be a great opportunity for getting my self out there!” Immediately though, my second thought was “Is this where I want to be?” Is this organization the right one for me, that would represent what I believe in and am trying to promote?

Have you ever been the recipient of great advice that tells you “Just get out there!”or, “Put your name out there!” Maybe a coworker was encouraging you, or your best friend, or your mom. I admit I have said this many times to my own adult children. A few years ago there was even a marketing campaign for a cruise line that said “Get out there!”

I admit, I don’t always like the marketing and platform building done in ministry. It is common now days for ministries and churches to build marketing strategies and branding themselves. So, there are many who offer the advice to “Get your name out there” But, let me ask once again, “Where’s there?” I suspect that there is inhabited by they. I’m sure you’ve heard of they. “They say drinking coffee is good for you. They say drinking coffee is bad for you. They say this is in style.  They say this is out of style.They say you should go to college. They say you do not need a college degree” Have you ever thought who are they and why do they have so much to say? And just where is there that you’re suppose to be getting out to? That’s why I suspect there is where they live.

So, why did I have hesitation about putting my name out there? Well, I have often found that opportunities that do not give me peace are best avoided. It is the Holy Spirit giving me caution about what I am about to do. My husband and I often refer to it as the yellow or caution signal. Sometimes it is obvious and we refer to this as a red flag. But sometimes it is about questioning the there asking whether this is where God wants me to be. Other times it requires asking myself about my own motivations, like “Am I calling attention to myself or pointing others to God?” These two questions, coupled with prayer are essential to test whether something is from God and beneficial.

The Bible tells us we are to test things to see if they are from God. One example is found in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New International Version Bible).  Paul, like John, offers this from Romans; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2, NIV).

The Bible also tells us that are works will be tested. This is where the motivation question, my second question, that I ask myself comes into play. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this subject as well; “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will  be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). If my motivation is solely for myself then it is like adding straw to the fire; it’s going to get burned up, in other words, its not going to last into eternity. It’s basically worthless.

So, in this combination of questions, the where and the motivation, helps me to decide if this is the there I want to be. So, let me ask you again; “Where’s your there?”  Is it a place where you will be in God’s will? Is it a place where you are pointing others to God, or just to yourself?  Location is important. God has something good for you and listening to Him will put you in the right place at His right time. We can get ( and give) great advice to help others grow and move past difficulties and “get out there”. Let’s make sure we know where the “there” is. Is it in God’s will, or somewhere else? -God Bless- Nancy

Brand Ambassador

So, looking for a job is tough. Sometimes it can be down right depressing and at other times it can be confusing. I have been casually looking for a job and check my inbox daily to see if anything has popped up. Sometimes I notice what sounds like an amazing job by its title, click on the link, and then find out its for something totally different than what I expected. Recently I saw a job posting for a brand ambassador. Wow, sounds impressive, right? I mean ambassador, that conjures up the idea of a dignitary from a foreign country or something. And branding, well when I hear that I think of advertising and the creative types who come up with all those catchy graphics and slogans. But, and I say a big but, what this job was involved handing out food samples at groceries stores. Yup, my big bubble of high expectations burst! Well, its a good job, don’t get me wrong, just not what I expected from the job title.

Have you ever been let down like that? When something sounded great in name, but in reality it was a big let down? A big disappointment? But, what about us? Have we ever been a disappointment to others? Were they expecting something else? I’m sure I can guess you answered yes to a few of those questions, but have you ever realized that as Christians we are brand ambassadors? We are the faces of Christ followers in the world. We are in the world as His ambassadors. Now,  have you ever thought about how you are representing the brand? When people think of the word Christian, do they think of you? And more importantly, is it in a good sense of the word?

See, the word Christian was not first used by Christians as a title or job description, but by the unbelieving world. It was a slanderous term. It is said that the first use of the word Christian was used at the church at Antioch and was a nick name created by the people of Antioch, not the Christians themselves. In fact, it was a large commercial city where persecuted Christians fled after the death of Stephen. The estimated population of the city was half a million people at the time. So, with such a large population and with fear of persecution on their minds, you would think the Christians would try to blend in, not stand out. But, they must have, for it is there where the first time the term “Christian” was mentioned. The first branding if you will. And the name has stuck since the early first century.

Why would the first believers want to stand out and get a ribbing for their nick name “Christians”? Well, that is what their job was. Not to blend in, but to stand out, to shine, not hide. In Matthew 15:14-16 Jesus tells His followers that they are the light of the world and they are to let that light shine. His exact words are: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV).

We have the Good news, the light of the world to share and the hope to offer a world that is looking for hope and answers. I have to admit, I feel like I don’t always do that well. Sometimes I am not a very good brand ambassador, handing out hope and the Good news to all I meet. Sometimes I’m sure I have let others down and shown them something less than Christ, something that deserves being labeled a hypocrite or given a slanderous nick name like “Christian” as the people of Antioch did to the early believers there. But, I hope with Easter coming soon, we can all be challenged to remember who we are as Christ’s ambassadors and share the great news He is risen.As Christians we are not perfect, but that is exactly why we need a savior. Being a Christian is not about being perfect, but realizing we can never measure up to God’s standards, and must rely completely on Christ’s substitutionary death for us.We can’t earn our way to Heaven by our behavior or religious rituals or traditions,but only by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…..For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV).

This news is for everyone, not just a select group. And if you have received Christ as your savior, then you have been given a job. You are a brand ambassador for Christ. Unsure what this job entitles? Let me assure you its not always easy, but it is everything.For a complete job description consult God’s Word. Happy Easter and  God Bless You- Nancy