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

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

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy

Inspire

What inspires you? Or maybe I should say who inspires you? If you’ve been a Christian for some time you might answer this question with “The Bible of course!” But aside from a typical Sunday school answer, let’s consider other ways we can be inspired: from each other.

Recently I visited my sister in law in her new home. As she showed my husband and I around the house, she pointed out all the improvements she had done. She had painted the walls, added tiles to her bathroom and kitchen and decorated each room carefully. She and my brother in law had recently moved in and she was taking the time she had while looking for a new job to decorate her home.  After seeing their home, I left inspired. I began to think of what changes I could make in my own home. My husband and I moved into our current home about eight months ago and we really haven’t done much to change what was already in the house. In our last home, we did many projects and updates in anticipation of downsizing and selling it. So, we were tired of doing projects and updates and our new home looks much the same as when we moved in.

Sometimes it takes a visit to a friend’s house to get inspired for change. Or, to a local home improvement store to get inspired for changes in our homes, but what inspires your faith? Do you ever find yourself just going through the motions in your faith life? It’s just the same old thing? Well, aside from reading the Bible which IS a great place to start to read about others who have gone before us and learn and be inspired from them; we can find faith inspiration from one another. An example of this is found in Hebrews.

The Book of Hebrews was written for a group of believers who needed inspiration. They had been recent converts from Judaism and needed to understand that their new beliefs were on track and that they could continue on hoping in Christ, even if their circumstances seemed difficult. The author of Hebrews writes; “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). It wasn’t just the author of Hebrews job to inspire and encourage, but he was asking the Hebrews to encourage each other. To spur each other, to inspire each other if you will.

So, maybe we should ask ourselves, “How are we inspiring others?”  instead of asking ourselves why we are bored in our faith. Sometimes we need to take the focus off ourselves and how we are feeling and examine how we are influencing and inspiring others. My sister in law might not have realized how she was inspiring me, but she did. As Christians, we need each other to grow and be encouraged in our faith. Be sure to share your ideas, your stories, and your own inspiration with others. You never know just how they might have needed to be encouraged today. God Bless- Nancy

Now Hear This…..

Originally I thought about titling this week’s blog “Reaping What You Sow”  but decided against it since it is more about listening and choosing to listen. Recently I watched a video in which a young mother is interrogating grandma over her failure to follow the mom’s rule book -a thick book full of appropriate bed times and allowable snacks. The grandmother had been babysitting and had broken all the rules. Now she was being interrogated. In her responses the grandmother was sweet, kind and offered bribes such as homemade cookies to her young parents and even offered to buy a cute outfit for the grandchild.

My blog today is kind of aimed toward parents, but can be applied to everyone. So here goes. As a parent have you ever broken the rules? I have. I mean there are no “real” rule books for parents, but  those of you who claim the title know what I mean. So, in my rule book, parents aren’t supposed to be scared. I mean we can be scared for our kids and even obsessively worry over them. But generally we are supposed to be strong and of good courage when it comes to ourselves. So recently I was in a situation in which I found myself scared and indecisive. And yes, of course, I prayed and sought God’s direction and His peace, but honestly we all want to be sure we are making the right decision. So often I ask others for their thoughts. Usually my soundest advice comes from my husband. But this time it also came from my children. Well my young adults. They are adults who have this adulting thing down pat. After calling each one up individually, I couldn’t believe my ears. Each one repeated back to me something I had said to them. Their comments were all similar and basically said “You got this! Go do it!, Do it afraid, but do it!, You gotta start somewhere!” There it was! Everything I had been saying to them for the past three decades. They HAD been listening! Even through those uncertain teen years when I would usually hear, “I KNOW mom, you don’t have to tell me” or “I THOUGHT you said…” So there it is; the reaping and sowing part of today’s blog.  Galatians 6:7 reminds the reader that we reap what we sow. If we plant strawberries we will get strawberries in other words. What I had sown before in the form of advice and encouragement to my kids when they were younger was now yielding fruits of advice and encouragement in my life. Just when I needed it most.

I think much can be learned from listening to those younger than us. Sadly, I think too many adults with many years under their belt, fail to listen to those younger. Maybe we’re afraid they might be right and they would prove us wrong. Or maybe we don’t want to take our own advice when we hear it coming back to us. My challenge for both parents and children is this; be willing to listen. Sow good seeds and you will reap good fruit. And remember what your parents said, and share it with them when they need it most. We are all in this thing called life together. There are NO generation gaps when we are all using the same book, the BIBLE. -God Bless -Nancy