Monday, December 8, 2014

Gnawing on the Inside: Part 2

Now where were we (since it's been forever since I wrote that last blog post)? The women's event... Downpour... Aha moment.. I think I remember now.

The struggle was real. For months I'd watched people I knew and saw regularly struggle through their days, just waiting, hoping for a Word from God, desparate for someone to come and tell them what they felt they needed to hear. I thought my heart would burst most days and I could not figure out what my role in any of this was. Why did it bother me so? Deep down I knew why - because the word they needed, the message they grasped for in thin air was in front of them the entire time, or maybe on their night stand, or perhaps their mantle or coffee table. The Word they longed for wasn't necessarily one to be delivered from another person in God's stead, but from the Father himself, through his Word. They just didn't know it - the cause of my ache. 

So now what? That day at the women's retreat, I had an encounter with the Lord that opened up flood gates I thought might never close. When the Lord began to show me how he woud answer my prayer I started to cry and then continued on that way for the rest of the retreat as I wrote page, after page, after page of downloads. 

His answer was simple but a bit startling. "You need to write a devotional." Huh? What Lord? You mean like a blog? I already have one and I'm not very consistent with it. (Funny how the Lord often asks us to do things which we know we need to become more disciplined at in order to become more profecient at them.) That and the fact that I've been "working" on writing a devotional book for several years. I just don't have enough material written that "I like" to proceed past the writing stage.

Feels like I'm being pushed, kind of like others must feel when I push them to step out and do things they should already be doing. Yeah, yeah, yeah... What goes around... I hate it when your gift comes back to bite you! 

Another thing I found interesting in all of this is that often, the very thing we're praying for ourselves, God uses through us to touch someone else. He likes that humility thing which I tend to I struggle with. One of my consistent prayers when I stop to spend time in the Word is, "Lord, wash me today with the water of your Word." My prayer - his answer, "...and call it Wednesday's Washing." Then the devo ideas started  coming and they haven't stopped!

To be clear, I have no vain illusions that Wednesday's Washing will fix the problem I see. I am simply responding to the Lord's tug on my heart which ultimately originated in his own. I want to see every believer around me, the women that I lead especially, become people of the Word. When they need one, they go there first! They seek God's Word before they seek the words of men. I want to see us all become people who respond to others, not out of a place of urgency or driven by need, but instead out of wisdom that comes from being immersed in the Word and connecting with the Lord through his Word. How differently would our lives look? Growing deeper in love with Jesus, by going deeper in his Word. Will you come on this journey with me? 

Wednesday's Washing
"...Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word." ~Ephesians 5:25-26

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gnawing on the Inside - Part 1

Something has been gnawing at me for some time, more so because I didn't quite know what to do about it. Then I took some of my Ladies Council team to a ladies event at another church and there it hit me! Let me back up and share a bit of my story.
All leaders are driven by different passions, very unique to them. Those passions innately trickle down into their specific leadership style and become a part of their mission - their dream for those they lead. My style is more equipping and inspiring. I want to equip those I lead with the tools they need to do what God has called them to do and to make a difference with their lives.

I am constantly pushing people to go further, to try new things, to step outside their comfort zones and to just go for it. That's me. That's my passion. That's my leadership style. So what happens when I see something that concerns me and I don't know how to push, how to encourage or how to inspire others to make a change? Then I get several months of being pushed, being encouraged and being inspired myself in that same area before God decides, "Okay. Now you're ready to help others."

I know. You're ready to know what it is that got my innards in such a knotted mess. It's you! Not you specifically, although you may fall into this specific category. It's people.I watch people. I watch things happening around me. I am way more observant than I let on and more so than people suspect. Now you know. For the most part, I don't judge - just watch. God talks to me that way - through people watching, and in this case I had been watching people be tossed to and fro by words and people whose message was enticing. Now before you get all huffy about what I just said, please let me bring some balance.

I have no qualms with going to hear good teaching or following specific speakers or anointed men and women of God. I do that. I have my favorites whom I follow. What began to grieve my heart was when I realized that many of those I had been watching had no idea why they believed what they believed, nor would they be able to give an answer for the hope that was within them if those whom they trusted for a "word from God" were suddenly removed from them today. No clue. They'd be lost as a goose! That began to break my heart, but how do you pastor that? Where do you start?

I'll tell you where I started. I started with me. I had to look within and seek God for me to see if I could answer those questions for myself. I thought I could. I felt like I could, but I wanted to know that I knew that I could.

I'm not really a follower per say. There is no one person that I would simply lose my mind over if they were taken from my life today. I've simply learned over the years that people pass on and move on. Therefore, I should too.

But what about the hope within me? That seemed like a simple enough question to answer, and though I had one, I began to do something (the something that was really gnawing at me that I couldn't figure out how to get others to do for themselves), I began to search the Word. Sure being in the Word was already a part of my regular spiritual workout, but this was different. I wasn't studying. I was devouring passages and verses as though I had been starving. Maybe I was. Or maybe, that insatiable desire I felt to help others was beginning to manifest itself in the way that I would be instructing others.

Then I went to this women's event - the one I mentioned earlier, and it was like for a moment, time stood still. Smack dab in the middle of this awesome, can't stop taking notes teaching, I got a download - the answer to my, "Lord, what do I do with this," question.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hard Stuff

I keep coming back to my blog thinking, "Today is the day. It's going to happen. I'm going to write something and it will be profound!"

Instead, I stare at a blank page and see white space while thoughts of this and thoughts of that squabble for preference like kids in the back seat of a car, each one wanting to sit here or there and not one of them getting their way. Yep. It's been like that. FRUSTRATING.

Yet I keep coming back hoping that something stirring in me - something significant will push it's way to the forefront and just overtake me like a toddler's hissy fit! ...but in a good way - a productive way - a way that leaves you, the reader going, "WOW! You've gotta read this!" I know. STRE-----TCHING.

But all I've got is what I've had all year - weariness, exhaustion and the attention span of a nat! How's that for profound? Hello! Are you still there? Just checking because I probably would've stopped reading at around the second paragraph. 

In truth, this year has been one of the most emotionally and relationally challenging years I have had in a while. The sheer mental capacity I have had to engage in has been staggering. Before I go further, let me just say that it's all been good. I've had some extremely difficult conversations where I left knowing, deep down in my knower, that our relationship would never be the same. It would be better than ever!

Yet, the amount of work it took to get me to have those conversations, the emotional and spiritual preparation involved has been some of the hardest work I believe I have ever done for myself. MYSELF. Yes, I did this for me. 

I put myself through sheer agony for the sake of just a tiny bit more of relational and emotional maturity. Crazy, huh? It is, only if you are used to shallow, inauthentic relationships. I've had those. I'm not interested. I want something more and I want to be more. So for the sake of relationship, I needed to address some issues in me, in my relationships and more importantly in my relationship with the Father. 

Wow. That one was the hardest and I didn't see it coming. I'm pretty honest with the Lord about my stuff. I say what I feel (respectfully) because I figure he knows it all anyway. How silly to withhold from him what he already knew even before I did! 

But, whew doggie! When that gate opened and I was really honest with him about what I had been feeling, I almost feared for my life. Could I honestly take anymore emotional outbursts? Do I dare say what I think I might be feeling about what I've been experiencing these past few months? Not that he can't handle it but I DON'T THINK LIKE THAT, or perhaps maybe I do. I've just refused to admit it. That's probably closer to the truth.

Even then, outburst and all, getting that stuff out in the open did something amazing. The frustration I had been feeling which had been seeping out onto others and showing up in other less desirable ways, slowly began to melt away - not all in one day. No, that would've been nice, but over the next few days I simply felt different, less burdened and agitated. My attention span is still that of a nat but if you lived in my head you would understand, with all the balls I'm juggling up there and ideas drifting in and out from the nether regions and beyond... It's truly mind-boggling how I manage to dress myself everyday! Maybe that's why I pick out my clothes for the next day on the night before. See. Rabbit!

Pouring out all that stuff before the Lord, just letting it all go not sure of what would come out was scary and yet liberating. He's a BIG God! He can handle our frustrations, disappointments, fears, struggles and whatever else we can throw at him.

He's also a loving God. I remember him asking me, "Cheryl, what's really going on? What is it you're afraid to say?" I don't remember much after that. Thankfully!

Why is it we are afraid to say the hard stuff? What makes us think that if we keep it all inside it will just go away or maybe get better? Those are lies - big ones that cause us to hide a part of ourselves away from others, from ourselves and most importantly from the Lord. We're asking him to mold us into the image of his Son, but when he gets to that one little room in our hearts, we can't quite seem to find where we put that key. Hmmm... Odd isn't it? 

I've said some hard things this year, been through some hard experiences, had some hard conversations, looked at some hard places in my life and as difficult as all of that has been, for all the anxiety I've experienced, for all the tears I've cried and nights I've spent trying to figure it all out; I can say that I would do it all over again - every single bit because I. Am. Different. I'm not who I was on January 1, 2014. I've not arrived but I am still on the journey and making headway. I'm still exhausted. I am mentally and emotionally spent, at least until the next crisis comes along and God proves to me that I have way more in my emotional, spiritual and physical tank than I am willing to admit. I have seen Jesus show up for me in the midst of struggle. He has been present in my anguish and faithful in my weakness. Why on earth would I give up now?

Well would you look at that? I guess I did have something to say after all.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord 
in the land of the living. ~Psalm 27:13

Monday, July 7, 2014

Keys to Happiness - it's simple...

My life has been a roller coaster of  both good and bad, happy and sad moments, some of which I wasn't sure I'd survive. Yet each one of those experiences has taught me something of great value, a message inscribed on my brain and etched on my heart. Happiness is a choice I get to make. No one else is responsible for it. 

I often hear people say that they are just not happy. Life can be hard and full of difficult seasons. The passing of a loved one, the loss of a job, sickness, getting passed over for a promotion, being slandered - I've walked through them all. Hardships give us reason to mourn and opportunities to work through our pain. I know. I've had plenty of difficult seasons apart from those I mentioned and I've even suffered from depression. So I know the dark places life can bring you to if you allow yourself to go there. Hard times don't have to lead us down that road.

I have found that being happy and having real joy often comes down to this: choosing to love yourself and the life you've been given more than you covet the life you'd like to have and the things you'd like to see happen in your life. How can we possibly think we'll be happy when we finally get what we want if we don't like ourselves, our choices and the life we now have? We are responsible for our own happiness. It's not someone else's fault or their job to make us so.

Giving is also huge in breaking the cycle of unhappiness, and I'm not talking about casual giving. I'm talking about the kind of giving you really don't want to do - the kind that sometime hurts, like giving praise to someone who deserves it but is walking in the place we want to be. OUCH! I'm talking about the kind of giving that is forgetful and that doesn't keep record as though it should be repaid. Why must we hold others hostage to our "generosity?"

I'm talking about the kind of giving that is hidden. No one sees. No one knows. No one suspects and it can't be repaid. Giving for the sake of recognition or repayment is not a gift at all. It's a loan which the recipient was not made aware of and has no idea they owe.

And while we're on the subject of giving for what we want, just go ahead and get prepared to change your thinking. Always looking to when things get better or to what you would like to see happen, will only keep you living in the future which isn't here yet and therefore, can't be enjoyed! You may need to read that again.

Dreams are good! Having vision is helpful, but wishing your present away because it's not what you want will only create more discontent. Yes, we hope for the future but we live in the here and now. We are responsible for how we steward our emotions, even when life hurts.

Stop and take inventory of what is right in your life. Look at where you've come from to where the Lord has brought you, good or bad. My guess is, your life is good! You're probably not homeless if you're reading this. You most likely have plenty to eat. God has not given up on you, and even if those things were true (homelessness and starvation) this would still be true of Him because you're still breathing! You're still here.

Rejoice in the good! Celebrate the wonderful! Thank the Lord for his faithfulness even in the difficult seasons. Talk about a sadness killer! Do these things often. Focus on what's right, bless what's good, give thanks more than you lament and see if true happiness still eludes you. I'd be surprised because when we focus on the good, the rest doesn't seem so important. Thus our perspective changes and our thinking and feelings follow suit.

Oh, and here's another one. It's a biggie and it may cause you to stop reading this all together, but I'm pretty secure and can handle that. You ready? Here it is. Please, please, please stop holding others hostage to the dream inside your head of what you want your life to look like. What do I mean by that? It's simple but not easy if you fall into this category. Release and forgive. I just lost at least one person right there.

False expectations of what we want to have happen in our lives based on our own unrealistic desires, holds others in bondage to our unrealized dreams, at least in our own hearts. We therefore, build walls between us and may even falsely accuse because what we've imagined seems real, or at the very least, the way it should be. We're holding people accountable for wrongs they've not even committed! This needs to stop. Our arrogance and unforgiveness will keep us from experiencing the joy we so desperately desire. 

My heart aches when I see people who have so much yet are so disillusioned with life. They are missing it and missing out on the joy-filled life God intended for them. 

You see over the past 40 plus years, I've looked around and here is what I have observed and figured out based on my own life lessons. The happiest people are not the wealthiest, the most prestigious or even the most popular. They are the ones who are the most content and who consistently live with a grateful heart. I am a lifelong student of those people.

The beauty of this life which the Father has given us, is that we get to choose which life we want to lead - one of joy and peace or one of discontent and unfulfillment. I know which one I choose. How about you?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Living in the Knowing

Have you ever been in that place in your life where you know that you know something about yourself, your life, your calling, your giftings but then you step out and do something beyond yourself and pretty soon you're not so sure of what you know or thought you knew. You're confused and somewhat frustrated. You ask yourself, "Why isn't this working?" It's big or it's hard and takes more effort than you imagined but you know that you know, or thought that you knew God gave you some very specific direction. 

Yep, I was there last week. Then I went to a women's conference with some girlfriends. I went into that weekend seeking confirmation from the Lord on what I thought I knew so that I could continue on with the thing I thought He'd spoken to me about. I didn't have to wait long.

In the Friday afternoon session I received a word that affirmed me and the path I had been heading down. It was a charge and an encouragement to keep focused in that purpose and to not doubt what I already knew to be true. If that weren't enough, the worship and the message reinforced the word I had been given. Prayer answered right? I could continue in what I knew regardless of the fact that I had no idea how to get there. That was okay! 

But that's not all! Our God is so much more gracious and extravagant than that. Here I am three days later, and in my time with Jesus this morning, He goes and does it again! Now mind you, I'm pretty bold. I ask for what I want. I go after the things I desire which are important to me, although my path to getting them is often not obvious to most. 

So after my encounter with the Lord on Friday, I continued to ask Him to confirm and to give direction on this thing I thought I knew, which I had been somewhat disillusioned about but now knew that I knew that I heard correctly. Did you follow all that? In other words, I was still praying, "Lord, continue to confirm this word in me." He did so this morning. He also did so last night as I was preparing for bed. I started reading one of the books I purchased at the conference. The very first chapter... Confirmation! He's just good like that!

I think we often toss dreams aside or delay them because we come to a point sometimes where what we thought we heard no longer seems right or like God because the journey to that destination becomes shrouded with obstacles and detours. We begin to doubt. We lose momentum and we let the distractions take over our dreams and often our destiny. 

What have you been called to? What has God put in your heart to do that you have been sitting on or waiting to suddenly have manifested in your life like a rabbit being pulled out of a hat? Beloved, it's not going to happen like that. 

If God said it, if He put it in your heart and set you on that path, He will see it accomplished. Only don't let go and don't shrink back when it gets hard. Be faithful to the life He's called YOU to lead. No one else has your calling and assignments. So it doesn't matter that yours may look unlike others around you and that your journey may seem different. You are different by God's design - a lesson I continue to learn daily.

Just last night I was asking the Lord, "Why do you continually ask me to do the hard thing?" His answer... "Because I know that you can." 

Beloved, it is in you. Don't stop now.

"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him."  1 Corintians 7:17

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is That You God?

Many struggle with hearing God and knowing his voice. Here's a little hint that might help. His voice sounds a lot like your own. 

I was thinking about a friend recently. So I sent them a note regarding the thoughts which came to mind. Seconds later they responded, telling me how encouraging my words were to them because of something that happened that very day, which I knew nothing about. I think God was nudging me to send that note. He sounded a lot like me.

After getting in late one night this week, I was sitting at home relaxing when I felt lead to pray for a friend. The next day I was communicating with their spouse and I asked them about some issues I felt lead to pray for their spouse. Those promptings were right on.

Last week I didn't do so well. I had an idea of something nice to do for a friend but I let it pass, thinking it was something they didn't need and/or which they could provide for themselves. I found out later some details which I wasn't aware of about my friend's current situation. I realized at that point that I had been hearing from the Lord earlier, and I should have followed those gentle nudges. You know, God sounded a lot like me. I repented and moved on, determined to live more aware and sure of His leading.

Hearing God's voice requires being in God's presence. If we want to be more sure of when He's speaking, then we need to cultivate a listening ear. That will come by spending time with Him, and allowing Him to have a say in the conversation. I miss a lot, but I also get it right sometimes. I don't know about you but I'd like to increase those moments until they outweigh the misses. Daily, I'm learning.