Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Truth ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Last time I wrote a little about ReNEWed Life Women’s Event where speaker and writer, Lisa Whittle, shared. I knew I had too much to share in one post. So, here’s part 2 in this series of 4. (To read my last post, click "Last time" above) 

Lisa Whittle’s first message of the day was titled “Wholeness Starts in the Heart”. She pointed out how we tend to “put on masks and conceal our truth”. She said what God is looking for is truth in the heart (Ps 51:6,10). It starts from the inside out. Sometimes the devil makes us afraid to share our truth. She says when we face it, there is freedom.

My truth is not pretty. I will share a little bit about it with you in a moment. Before I do I want to share some other truth with you. Something that God has been showing me, that I didn’t hear at ReNEWed Life that day, but something that I think you might need to hear before you hear my truth.

The truth is, your truth isn’t that different than everyone else’s. For some reason most of us tend to think we are a “special case”. Unlike everyone else.

Guess what? Those people you think are so much different than you, are more like you than different. Think about it.

Most people want to be happy. Most people want a family. And those who have them, love them…especially their children. Most of us want our creature comforts to be satisfied. We like to be comfortable, and avoid situations where we are not. Most of us are insecure in one area or another, and spend a substantial amount of time trying to make everyone think that we are not. We want to succeed, and we want others to see us as successful. We’ve been hurt and experienced loss. We want to feel needed and important. We work, eat, sleep, clean, talk, listen, etc. Getting the picture? We’re alike.

We especially tend to think our dysfunctional family is unique. Guess what? Everyone’s family, even the most seemingly functional ones, have some dysfunction. We all have our things. Most of our families have quirks, disagreements, black sheep, secrets and even a shady present. Yet, no matter how dysfunctional, our family is we still love them. We can say what we want about them, but no one else better. A thought: perhaps what we label dysfunction is merely reality kept quiet by some.

No matter how we try to “pretty up” the outside, we have holes on the inside that leave us feeling empty. Whether we’re carrying a Gucci handbag or wearing flip flops from Dollar General, we tend to find ourselves stuck in unwanted ruts. No matter what our skin color or hairstyle, we are broken. No matter where we live or what kind of car we drive, we feel lonely, restless, and anxious sometimes.

The truth is: We’re all a mess! Lisa Whittle said it and so do I! 

As I said before, my truth is not pretty. It looked kind of pretty at times. Despite divorced parents and low income, I grew up in Christian school, church and home. I was the “good girl”, smiley, eager to please…everyone. I accepted Jesus at an early age and had a strong faith. I knew all the right verses and holy sounding words, and threw them around quite often.

I believed, but the truth was, this “good girl” had some real heart issues. I was self-centered (which led to insecurity), self-reliant and rebellious (which both turned me away from God). I hadn’t fully submitted my life to God.

As an early 20 something I tired of trying to be perfect. I felt I could never be good enough for others, for myself or for God. Instead of turning to the Lord for help, I turned away. Although I knew it was wrong, I ran after the things the world offered that I thought would make me happy. I could still talk a good talk in the right circles. But the truth was my heart was distant from Him.

One day I came to the end of myself. All of my striving for happiness had left me in a deep pit. Although I had gone looking for happiness, what I had found in the world was more brokenness and disappointment. I fell on my knees before the Lord, crying. This time, I submitted, really submitted, my life to Him.

Things didn’t change overnight. It’s been a process of growth. I keep learning. But I can truly say today, that life is so much better lived submitted to Him, than it ever was on my own. By giving up “my freedom”, I gained it. True freedom.

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. 
But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 
Matthew 16:25
The truth is, I’m still a mess. But I know it…and it drives me to Jesus even more. I have given my messy life to Him, and I keep doing so over and over, day after day. It is a choice. I keep asking for His help, for His Spirit to fill me. Less of me, more of Him, I pray. I am a forgiven, deeply loved work in progress.

Your “truth” circumstances might be different than mine, but the truth is the same. We’re all messed up…and in need of a Savior. Not just once, but over and over, moment by moment each day. Your mess is not beyond His reach. You’re not that different than me. As Lisa Whittle said, when we face our truth, there is freedom. But I also believe when we realize that we are more like the person next to us than we are not, there is also freedom in that. When we face our truth and are honest with others about it, it influences those around us.

But more about that next time. J

Next time I will share my thoughts on Lisa Whittle’s message “Your Story Matters”.

Check out this "truth": a couple of unposed photos snapped at ReNEWed Life Women's Event. Not quite as "put together" as the other posed photos, that's why I like them. They make me smile every time. Shows we're real women, in need of a real Savior. Perhaps we all need to be a bit more "unposed" more often. What do you think? :)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Compelled ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Have you ever had something so big happen in your life that you have a hard time summing it up? I have…yet again. Too often I get caught up in writing the “perfect” words, in telling it all. Today, I’m going to be easy on myself, and simply write what I have on my heart. What better?

Last Saturday, August 11th I was at
ReNEWed Life Women’s Event. If you missed my last post, this is a little of what I wrote about it beforehand:

Just a few months ago, this event didn’t exist and, as far as I know, nothing like it has ever taken place in our small community. My friend, Jill, and I had helped organize a big women’s retreat in a larger town an hour and a half from home for a few years. Although it was such a blessing, at different times, each of us had felt God leading us to step off that leadership team. One day afterwards, we discussed a prompting in our hearts to “do something” more for the women right here in our rural community...As we prayed about it, the Lord clearly opened doors for National Speaker and Author Lisa Whittle to come to our rural area, small town Cresco, Iowa.

I’m leaving out many details and many displays of God’s faithfulness…I can hardly wait to watch Him display His glory (again) next Saturday at this women’s event that two farmer’s wives and others in rural Iowa envisioned at His prompting! And we will give Him all the praise and glory!

The ReNEWed Life Leadership Team with guest speaker,
Lisa Whittle: Kim, Teresa, Lisa, Jill, Rachel (me)

What a blessed day it was, from small details to big! His presence was strong and sweet. The words He spoke through Lisa Whittle were powerful. He also spoke through the two local gals who shared their testimonies. The worship music was harmonious. In fact, I still can’t get the song “10,00 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” out of my head. He even ministered to us through the food and d├ęcor.  He showed up, answered prayers and did His work, as I knew He would.

I have found myself in tears of rejoicing several times since. I am thankful that we were obedient and did the work He called us to. That we chose to step out in faith. We are beneficiaries. HE is exalted!

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
I Thessalonians 5:24   

The joy of being part of something like this goes way beyond that one day. In the preparation and praying beforehand He displays His greatness. We realize that we can not exhaust His resources and the things that He does through us are so beyond our abilities without Him. We get to praise Him for all the things that the one attending never gets to see, His sanctification starts in us. Although it’s work, it’s the greatest joy to have a “behind the scenes” view, to see and bask in His glory! Afterwards, I stand in awe of all that just happened…in small town Cresco, Iowa!
The night before the event, we got to meet and sit down with the speaker, Lisa Whittle, someone I’ve respected through her blog and books. And, yet, I wondered would her words match her life? Turns out she is an absolute gem, someone who ministers to your heart both with and without words. Down to earth, personable, authentic, Christ driven. 

That night, we followed Lisa to a local rehab where she spoke. A foretaste of what was to come at ReNEWed. That night and the next, the words God spoke through her pierced my soul, left my heart aching in a good way. The words caused me to think deeper. They stuck with me beyond that day and God began to change me (again) from the inside out. He's still doing it, days later.

Before she left, she asked if the day met my expectations. I stumbled over my words, but the answer was "Yes!" You see, we did all of this preparing to minister to women in our community, to impact lives with the Truth. Turns out, I’m one of those women.

Lisa encouraged me to keep on, in a way that is rare. Then, she wrote in my copy of her book
{w}hole to keep being brave. I thought she was the bold one, now she calls me brave? I felt the boldness rise up in me even more. I need to be, want to be, must be brave! She leads by her example.

I have several things from the event that I want to share with you, my blog friends. Instead of trying to cram it all in one post, I hope to spread it out over several. My first series! :)

Lisa Whittle spoke to us about Holes and the God who makes us Whole. I want to share how God spoke to me through each message. And, yet, today for my first post about ReNEWed Life Women’s Event ‘12, I feel compelled to write about this (to be honest, it kind of surprised me):

After Lisa’s last message, she shared with us about
Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry. She said something that spoke to me in more ways than one, God wants compelled believers, not just ones that are stirred. You can be stirred and never do a thing, we must be compelled to step out (this applies to so many things in our Christian lives...including starting women's conferences). She said we need to open our eyes to the things going on in this world.

The words of the Casting Crowns song instantly started ringing through my head, “Break our hearts for what breaks yours”. The truth is, it’s easier to live blind. I realize children wait in orphanages, ravaged with fear, head lice and disease, bellies empty and hearts hollow when they lay their head down at night. Other children get sold into sex trafficking and their little bodies are sold over and over, day after day. Some suffer in war-torn countries, barefoot, thirsty, hopeless…with no one to tell them where real hope is found. Others live right under my nose who mock His name with their words and actions. Does it break my hear, really?  What am I doing about it? What should I be doing? 

I already sponsor a child through a different organization. How often do I even remember to pray for her? Am I so busy building my happy, plush lifestyle that I forget how others blessed I spoiled really? That this life is not about me. I pour money into new furniture, paint, landscaping, yet another toy for my children who have an ample supply. Never thinking of the one without…or to give thanks to the Giver who supplies all of it, or at least not nearly enough.

It’s easy to get stirred up about these things at a women’s conference. How compelled am I? Enough to do something, something that might cost me something or push me beyond my comfort? Do I truly want to be His hands and feet? Not only to throw a little money at it, but to do the Jesus work, even when it's hard and not so glamorous?  

Break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord. Compel me to help. Then, make me brave enough to follow through.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and
to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:27

Next time: what God showed me about facing my truth through Lisa’s message “Wholeness Starts in the Heart”.  

Until then, live compelled, be brave and do the work!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wasting Time

If there’s one thing I hear every day, many times throughout the day, it’s, “Mom, watch this!”  Sometimes it’s, “Mom, look at this.”  Either way, it’s often and coming from both boys.  The two year old follows after the five year old, watching his every move and seeking to imitate it.  He even calls me “Mom” (rather than “Mommy”) just like big brother.  They are busy, rarely sit still, and they want me to take notice, “Watch this.”  Sometimes they mess up that cartwheel, perfect move or rock throw.  That calls for a “do over”.  I watch again.

(My boys throwing rocks in the creek)

There are days when I almost get tired of hearing, “Watch this” yet one more time.  But I remember how fleeting these days are, these days that these two precious little boys are most often under my feet,  wanting my every attention and seeking after only my approval and admiration.  They are growing quickly.  In a blink they will be out of the house, spending time with others that interest them more than dear ol’ mom and entertaining a much larger audience.  This season, my time with them as little boys, is slipping by.  So I watch and admire and say, “Wow, good job!”  I’m not wasting time, I’m building relationships with them, relationships that I pray will last well into their adulthood.  And I am teaching them along the way.  It matters.

God’s been teaching me some things lately (when is He not?!) too...about time.

 I detest wasting time, yet I do it more often than I care to admit.  It’s so easy to spend time.  Once it’s spent, there’s no getting it back.  I have one life.  There are no “do overs”.  I need to be intentional.  I need to spend my time wisely, doing the things He’s called me to do. 

“…lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”  Ephesians 4:1

I make excuses.  I look at life circumstances.  I get caught up in the daily things of life and lose sight of heaven.  I waste the time God has given me.

Sure there is a time and place for relaxation and leisure.  But more often I want to be busy, kind of like my boys, full of energy and zest, rarely sitting still.  Not for busyness sake, nor for the world’s admiration.  I think sometimes in our culture people seek to be busy in order to appear fulfilled and in an attempt to prove their life matters.  I don’t want to be busy just to be busy.   I simply want to  live intentionally, doing the work He’s called me to.  I want to say, “Watch this, Lord” as I seek to obey Him, desiring to please and honor Him with my life.  I want to look ahead to eternity and the rewards awaiting there.  Not striving in my own power, but living in His. 

When I do sit, I want it to be in His presence, building relationship with Him.  Not only for our relationship sake, although that is important, but also so I can teach my sons how to do the same.  They follow in my footsteps, even more closely than my two year old follows big brother’s.  And I’m finding that my sphere of influence is even greater than I originally thought, reaching far beyond the confines of my home walls.  The world is watching…my friends, neighbors, loved ones, even acquaintances.   I want them to see Him in me.  I want to follow His every move, to imitate Him as I build relationships with others.  The only way I can do this is by getting to know Him intimately, being still before Him in prayer and Bible study.  It takes time.  But that is never wasted time.

I want to listen as He says, “Look at this” when I’m in His Word.  Or “Watch this” as He clearly displays His glory in my very ordinary day and life.  Then, I can give Him adequate thanks and praise. 
My time here is so short, fleeting.  It won’t be long before this season has passed.  I don’t want to just spend time, I want to cease every opportunity!  And I believe God takes notice of it. It matters.

Maybe this post is only for me, but I wonder if there are others out there who feel convicted about wasting their God given time.  How about you?  Are you living a life worthy of your calling, living intentionally?  Maybe it’s time to make some changes.  Maybe you need to let go of some excuses.  Maybe you need to take some time today to seek after Him and His best for you.  I will do the same.  Because that is never a waste of time!  

“…Stay away from believers who live idle lives…”  II Thessalonians 3:6

A short story: Next Saturday I will be at ReNEWed Life Women’s Event.  Just a few months ago, this event didn’t exist and, as far as I know, nothing like it has ever taken place in our small community.  My friend, Jill, and I had helped organize a big women’s retreat in a larger town an hour and a half from home for a few years.  Although it was such a blessing, at different times, each of us had felt God leading us to step off that leadership team.   One day afterwards, we discussed a prompting in our hearts to “do something” for the women right here in our rural community.   Normally, women around here would have to drive 1½ to 3 hours to attend a women’s conference.   As we prayed about it, the Lord clearly opened doors for National Speaker and Author Lisa Whittle to come to our rural area, small town Cresco, Iowa. 

I’m leaving out many details and many displays of God’s faithfulness.  But the reason I am sharing this, is to share this point: no matter who you are or where you are, God can use you if you are obedient and willing to do the work.  Do not waste time making excuses or looking at life circumstances, your lack of ability, resources or talent.  He will do things beyond your wildest imagination if you seek after His will and trust Him.  I can hardly wait to watch Him display His glory (again) next Saturday at this women’s event that two farmer’s wives and others in rural Iowa envisioned at His prompting!  And we will give Him all the praise and glory!