Unhindered

So, what’s holding you back? From taking that next step? From moving forward. I’m sure if you are like me, you kinda know the answer already. The minute you read the question, you could picture just what it is. The big thing that holds you back. Is it fear? Is it doubt? Is it because you lack faith?

For me it has always been fear. The fear of rejection, and the fear of failing, of not measuring up to others, not fitting in. I always have this same recurring fear of not fitting in and people not approving of what I do. When we let fear control us, we get held back from our progress forward. I have written previous blogs on facing fear before, and like I always say, I am a work in progress. I write about what to do, but even for myself, those steps forward in facing fears, have never been easy. I think it is that way for all of us. We let ourselves and our fears hold us back. It isn’t really anyone else, but US.

We have dreams and goals and maybe even callings, but we can feel hindered from pursuing them. These dreams, goals and callings, are like small seeds when we first sense them. If we nurture them, they grow and produce fruit. If we leave them alone, they can become stagnant and lifeless. When we let fear, or whatever else that we know is OUR hindrances become larger than our dreams, the dreams will wither. It’s like the parable of the sower that Jesus taught. We can let the worries and cares- like the fear of rejection- steal the seeds and prevent them from growing. If you would like to read the entire parable it is from Matthew chapter 13, Luke chapter 8 and Mark chapter 4. Jesus is of course explaining how those that hear the Gospel can hear it, but not everyone will accept the message of the Gospel, and still others will fall away from faith and not grow. It takes nurturing and good soil. The principle is the same, however,

We need to continue to nurture and grow our dreams and callings. To press past the worries, pray about every step we need to take, make time in our schedules to pursue those dreams and believe that God has uniquely qualified us and hard- wired us with certain skills and talents for those dreams and callings.

We can also ask others to pray for us. I know I need prayer warriors, praying for me. I also find that I need to spend time reading the Bible and reading books that others have written who have gone before me in this faith journey. It renews my thoughts and renewing my thoughts, renews my mind. And my mind is my biggest hindrance to stepping out into my dreams. The fears I have tend to roll around in my mind, unless I decide to believe what the Bible says, over what I might be feeling, others are saying about me, or what the devil tries to tell me about myself. I have to choose to free my thoughts, to unhinder them from fears and move forward in faith. It is a journey, not a dash, but I am moving forward and so can you. God Bless- Nancy

The Fullness of God

For God was pleased to have all the his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.-

Paul to the Colossians 1:19-20

So, I have been feeling a bit stuck lately, despite understanding this process of life moving forward. See, even if we understand it and try to find our stride and run our race, we can get overwhelmed at times. We think there is something we should be doing and are falling short. Or it is something we should be doing better. Maybe its reading our Bibles more, or praying more, maybe being a better person, or saving our money better. There is always that “more” we could and should be doing and goals we should be meeting. We put guilt and blame on ourselves when we do not measure up to other people’s standards. So, we might feel overwhelmed and instead of pushing ourselves, we kind of allow ourselves to get into a slump. This is especially true when our goals are unrealistic, or we are trying to meet these goals because someone else is putting pressure upon us. It might be our friends, or our jobs or our family. But we find ourselves so overwhelmed by these “coulds” and “shoulds” and goals to be like others or be the best, that we choose rather to fall into a pit of self- loathing and condemnation. We feel bad for our feeling bad also, compounding our circumstances and well, we feel stuck. Notice I said we “feel” stuck, while the truth is we might say we are stuck, but what we actually should say is that we are feeling stuck. We do not desire to run our race for we believe it is impossible to complete it well. We give up. Our hope is gone. We cannot see ourselves as good, or as accomplished already, realizing all the distance we have already covered in this race. We only look at our shortcomings. We don’t see how far we have come.

It is difficult to get out of a slump like that. To find encouragement and make peace with ourselves about our shortcomings. We need a different perspective. A change of view to help us see who we are and how we are already good, and loved, and full of hope for the future. This race of life is not about how we measure up and whether or not we meet our goals. We are already loved and treasured by God. He has given us the qualities and characteristics he has by His design and purpose. And He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we will fall short. But, when we fall down in despair, feeling like there is no hope, no point in the race to be the best, he reaches down, grabs our hand, and picks us back up. We are weary of trying to be all we should be, tired of measuring up to the world, and He gets that. He knows we need Him, but He doesn’t wait for us to pick ourselves up, He offers a hand.

At least, this has been my experience. Like this morning as I picked up my Bible to read. I found this passage in Colossians. Well- I didn’t just discover it- I was reading through the letters of Paul and this was the verse that stood out to me. “The fullness of God” these words just stood out. I have studied the Bible, read the passage, wrote papers on the deity of Jesus, but in that moment, it was as if God was reaching out His hand to pick me up, the fallen runner on the ground. As I read the beginning commentary in my Bible about the letter, the commentator wrote that the letter was of concern to Paul and he wrote it because several people of the church in Colossae believed that they had secret knowledge beyond the Gospel and that somehow Jesus dying on the cross was not enough. His letter was sent them to explain that salvation was complete in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that Jesus was fully God, divine and died and rose again.

This right here is reason alone to get excited, that salvation is complete, nothing else needed- no secret works, or knowledge, but divinely orchestrated and completed. But…. after I read the passage I also picked another book I had been reading (Paul Copan’s Is God A Moral Monster?) Copan explains what happened on the cross as Christ gave up His life. See, I had been taught that when Jesus was taking on the sins of the world, God the father could not watch, that’s why Jesus cried out “My God why have you forsaken me?” But, according to Copan, God was there. In the lightening, thunder, earthquake and the tearing of the temple curtain. As Copan explains, look back at God’s meeting with Moses on the mountain. There was thunder, lightning and an earthquake. Whaaaat? Like I looked it up(Exodus 19). Yup, right there! How could I miss it? God didn’t just send Jesus, the son and leave, preferring not to watch His son suffering, He the father was right there. In that darkest hour.

For me that was so encouraging this morning. We forget sometimes how awesome Jesus really is. he is the fullness of God, not less than. I am encouraged this morning at the greater perspective I now have about the cross. it has lifted me up, just as a hand up from God, to this fallen runner. -God bless Nancy

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

 

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

Handling The Press

What do you think of when you hear the word press? Probing news reporters asking pointed questions trying to trip up or incriminate a politician? Or maybe you picture the paparazzi trying to catch a scandalous photo of the Hollywood celeb. We’ve all seen the tabloid pictures staring at us at the grocery store check out lines. There is always a picture of a celebrity donning a hat and sunglasses out an about in public without hair and makeup done to perfection. They are usually trying to avoid having their photo taken.

But, the press I want to discuss today is the press necessary to keep moving forward. Not long ago I heard a message on the subject of Paul’s pressing on as found in the Book of Philippians. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he had established there ten years prior, he himself was in prison in Rome. He had gotten word that the church he had planted there was still meeting and growing. They had, however been facing opposition, but not from where you would have thought-the secular world. Instead it was from fellow believers who were attempting to make the new believers follow the customs of the Jewish synagogue. Paul’s letter to the church was to encourage them and use his own life as an example for them. Paul wrote “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12b, NIV). He had explained his standing as a firm Jewish leader prior to his conversion and how now he considered it rubbish. He left that all behind and much like a runner in a race he was pushing himself toward the finish line.

Without an object to press against there would be no effort, no pressure required. For Christians today as in Paul’s day, there will always be a pressing on needed. We will all experience opposition in our faith walk. And unfortunately, that will sometimes come from others in the church. What kept Paul looking forward? Many scholars believe he had experienced a near-death or death experience in which he saw Heaven. We know form the Book of Acts, that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. He had seen the future and was certain of it, so the momentary discomforts and sufferings were not as difficult. They still required pressing against, but he kept his focus on the goal, on the finish line.

We likewise can keep our eyes on the goal and keep pressing forward whenever we face pressure. There will always be naysayers, trying to discourage us or trying to get us to change our goals to become more like their’s, but we can handle the press, when we keep our focus on Jesus and what he has called us to do. But, just like diamonds that only form when lumps of carbon are put under pressure, we too can become diamonds for God as we press on.-God Bless-Nancy