Sunday, January 24, 2010

A New Bike and Mansion in Glory by Jan Darnell

If you read my last blog, you know that my father passed away on September 27th of 2009. It was an exceptionally solemn occasion for our family and a heart breaking experience for me. My dad was my life mentor who challenged me, and everyone he met, to live passionately and love wholeheartedly. We reflected on this zealous attitude in his memorial service, with a number of people sharing stories regarding Dad’s ability to capture ordinary moments and turn them into opportunities for adventure. He was an extraordinary man and we are definitely the beneficiaries of his loving and fun ways.

Over the subsequent months, our family celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year of 2010 without Dad. His walking cane took its place by our family fireplace throughout the holidays as a silent, but wonderful reminder of his life. And in Atlanta, mother is putting her house up for sale. She is getting rid of the things that my parents worked all their lives to attain. The majority of these possessions must now be sold or given away, and though they have faded in importance, they stir up testimonies of eternal significance. Allow me to share an example of one such possession.

When I was five, Dad decided it was time for me to master my bicycle. We went to the top of a large grassy hill where he removed my training wheels, set me on the bike and turned me loose. With great confidence in my dad’s ability to teach me the right way, I proceeded down the hill, wobbling right and left, hitting numerous telephone poles along the way. The poles, of course, were crash sites that drew me like magnets into their path. After each perilous encounter, I would get back up and continue on as Dad cheered me on from afar. By the time I reached the bottom of that hill, both my bike and my appendages were scratched, tattered and embedded with dirt and grass stains. Yet, what a feeling of accomplishment! Under adverse conditions, amidst an obstacle course of poled conflict, I had finished the course. There’s nothing like a sense of accomplishment. Or perhaps there is… that smile of approval on my dad’s face. I experienced both that day.

I have never forgotten that incident, perhaps because it was traumatic, but I believe more so because my dad reflected an important truth to me. God loves us and wants the very best for us. He challenges us to grow by designing obstacle courses that cause us to mature in gifting and skill. We see it as terrifying. God sees it as transforming. On these courses, we are being transformed from glory to glory, back into His image, which is one of righteousness, wisdom, grace and skill. Adam and Eve traded away God’s image for the toxic knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3). Now, we are given the challenge of learning the difference between good and evil, and choosing what is right (Deut. 30:19).

Along the way, we will be confronted by poles that seem to draw us. Not perfect, but being perfected, we usually suffer the bruises and scratches from colliding with these poles until learning to navigate the hills. Yet our heavenly Father is still proud of us when we trust His hand. Jesus taught in the parable of the talents that we exemplify faith by investing the abilities God has given us (Mt. 25:14-30). I trusted dad when he put me on that bike and turned me loose at five years of age. I trust God every day when He faithfully solicits the sunrise and turns me loose to face the challenges of life’s magnetic obstacles. What will the day be like? How many poles will be there? Will I crash and burn on site or know the sweetness of His victory in moving forward? David sang, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24). Whatever the day brings, our heavenly Father is watching with anticipation over a divinely designed transformation process for each of us. He smiles at our faith and willingness to learn of His goodness.

My dad bought me a new bike that afternoon because the previous one was bent and mangled. Scripturally speaking, our Father plans to restore our lives in much the same way. My earthly father bought me a new bike. My heavenly Father has on reserve an eternal inheritance in the Kingdom of God and a redeemed citizenship for me in the forthcoming Jerusalem. While I can’t possibly fathom the details of what that will entail entirely, I can operate in the realm of where He has me currently and do the best with what I have. The same is true for you too. Your heavenly Father has released you to navigate through each and every day with your gifting and abilities, learning from the mistakes and getting up to try again. May you be blessed as you live the “day that the Lord has made” for the glory of our heavenly Father. You have a new bike waiting at the end of the course. In Christ, you have a mansion in glory! (John 14:1-3)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From My Head to My Heart by Christina Darnell

I’m a reader. I am usually reading at least 3 books at a time. Over the years, I have acquired a lot of head knowledge - which is useless when it doesn’t produce fruit. Recently, God has taught me truth that has transported from my head into my heart, and I got to see the Word take action in my life.

For the past few years, I was treading water. What is my purpose? What does God want to do with my life? What kind of job should I pursue? These questions created a whirlwind of confusion in my mind. I prayed and offered them to God, but instead of comfort and peace, I experienced indecision, frustration, and a general lack of contentment. I looked around and saw people my age who were happy, stable, and moving forward and I wondered What’s wrong with me? I was so consumed with figuring it all out that nothing else mattered. Things had to change. I thought that my circumstances needed to change, but God began to show me that it was I who needed to change. I needed to live in faith instead of fear, so I began praying for focus and confirmation.

I started selling Mary Kay back in April. I love skincare and makeup (always have), so it’s a great fit for me. I have been half-committed, though, and undecided about making it a career. Does it fit within God’s plan for my life? Is it stupid to build my own business instead of getting a traditional job? Does this even utilize my skills? The first weekend in November, we had our 2009 Beach Retreat, and hundreds of women from the Charlotte area traveled to Myrtle Beach for training, motivation, and camaraderie. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I specifically prayed that God would confirm that weekend whether I should continue. I don’t want to spend my time doing things that won’t have lasting value in my life.

When I arrived, I entered a raffle to win some fun goodies, one of which was a one-on-one coaching session with the guest speaker, Kirk Gillespie. Kirk is a National Sales Director, one of the top positions within Mary Kay…she knows what she’s doing. She also happens to be a Christ-centered woman, and her commitment to Him shined through in all of her training. I wanted to talk with her. I prayed for that one-on-one coaching session – I even had my roommates praying for me. Usually, my prayers are more like, “Lord, change me. Let your will be done.” Vague things like that. It scared me to pray for something so specific, because it was either going to be answered or it wasn’t. But I knew I was at a crossroads in my life, and I needed counsel. Well, the raffle came and went…and I didn’t win.

After training on Saturday, we had a break, and five of us went for a walk on the beach. I was determined not to show my disappointment. Instead I chose to enjoy the wonders of the ocean and focus on the writing ideas I could glean from the weekend. As I studied the rifts in the sand, Kirk Gillespie ran up and fell into step with us. Okay, keep in mind, there were hundreds of women there, and the guest speaker decided to join us. I ended up next to her and, after giving myself a pep talk, asked her one of my questions. Before I knew it, everyone else was a hundred feet behind us, and I was pouring out my heart about the dreams God has placed on my heart and my doubt about how Mary Kay fit into them. Her genuine heart for God was evident in all of her advice, and suddenly I realized that God had given me my own miracle.

He answered my prayers for that weekend. Not only did He send Kirk my way, but He also reminded me that He sees me, He hears me, and He loves me. I have been focusing on scripture passages about trusting in the Lord and Him making my paths straight. After meditating on those scriptures and praying them, I actually saw God do it. What did I learn? Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” It isn’t my job to create my path. The Lord has my life in His hands, and He will perfect it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Father's Voice by Tammy Blackburn

I know all of you who are parents understand about toys cluttering the floors. It only seems like yesterday that Lego sets, Barbie dolls, and video games were a huge part of my home’s décor. Well, my children are grown up and it is not their toys I find myself tripping over anymore. I have an adorable little Maltese dog that is absolutely spoiled to death. He thinks we were placed on earth for him alone. His name is Cooper and he is the most loving little dog I have ever seen. He will climb up beside me and put his head under my hand and insist that I give him a good belly rub. Cooper has no idea what size he really is. He tries to curl up in my lap as if he is a tiny little thing, then the next thing you know, he has puffed out his furry chest and is barking at the doorbell like a German Shepherd. He has an unending amount of energy and will play fetch until my arm is worn out. However, my little fur ball has very picky tastes when it comes to his toys. He prefers soft cuddly toys that squeak. Even with those, he has certain ones he likes more than the others. When one of them wears out, we have to go find one just like it for a replacement or he will search for days to find the missing toy.

The cool thing I have been noticing is that Cooper knows the different squeak of each toy. I noticed one day that when I stepped on one of his toys, he came running straight to that particular toy as if to see if it was okay. I thought to myself that it had to be a coincidence. So, I began to test him. I would take several toys into another room and squeak one. Sure enough, he came running straight for the exact toy I had squeaked. “What if there were lots of other noises going on,” I wondered? I turned on the TV and some music and even took his toys to another floor. I placed them all in a pile and squeaked one. That dog came running and picked up the exact toy and took it out of the room. Now don’t laugh that I seem to live such an exciting life, but I was truly amazed. I have been watching and testing him ever since and he never gets it wrong. He knows the sound of each toy even though they all sound exactly the same to me.

God spoke to me through all of this. John 10:27 tells us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (NAS) There are a lot of voices in this world and I wonder if I stay close enough to my Heavenly Father that I can pick His voice out from among all the others. When I hear His voice, do I come running straight to Him or do I question the origin of the voice? I often hear people say they wonder if God is telling them something or if it is someone else. I began to search the Bible and found at least a hundred references to listening, hearing, and obeying the voice of God. I feel sure there are more, but I stopped looking because God had made His point to me. I want to know His voice. I want to know it so clearly that I immediately can pick out His voice from among the voices around me. I also want to come running with an open heart and willing spirit each time I hear His voice.

"You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice.” Deuteronomy 26:17 (NAS)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

From Resolution to Revolution by Emily Carter

I am the self-proclaimed queen of goal setting. I start in November reviewing the year’s goals and begin praying about the next year’s items. You see, I don’t want to have simple resolutions: declarations written to be accomplished at a later date. I want revolutions, complete change, to take place. So this year I have five areas of my life for which I have written goals: Spiritual, Family, Personal, Financial, and Work. Every area does not need a full overhaul, but change does need to occur. For instance, under Family, one goal is to speak with kindness to my family even when I am stressed out. This past year, I noticed that when I am overwhelmed, my tone of voice becomes harsh and my words short. I do not want to talk this way to the people I love most. So, the resolution is to speak kindly, but the plan is to pray, seek Scripture, add accountability from my husband, and commit to keep trying even after I blow it. There you have my #1 family goal for 2010.

As you consider your goals for this New Year, I want to encourage you to write a plan to reach them. Begin with prayer. Jesus did it early in the morning (Mark 1:35). He prayed when he was exhausted (Mark 6:46). He prayed when he was grieved and unsure
(Luke 22:41-42).

After asking God to reveal what your goals should be, add Scripture study to make sure the resolutions line up with God’s Word. Whereas you may not see a specific word about whether or not you should change jobs; there are many verses about work. You will not find the latest diet scheme in the Bible, but you will find Daniel’s example of eating fruits and vegetables and drinking water in order to please God with his eating. His appearance was “beefed” up according to God’s plan. When we seek out the scriptures, we will have more hope (Psalm 130:5), we will know God and His ways (Psalm 25:12), we will have wisdom (Psalm 119:98-100), and we will stay away from evil (Psalm 119:101). Those are great added benefits!

Thirdly, we need accountability. We need someone who loves us and will hold us to completing our goals. Do not be afraid to share your goals with your spouse or a friend. Just make sure that person you share with will periodically be willing to ask you the tough questions.

Finally, we must be committed. Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” You and I can do anything with Christ! No matter how tough the goal is, you can do it! As long as it is a plan that originates in the plan that God has for you. Remember as you write your goals, God already has His plans for you for 2010, so begin with prayer, add Scripture study and finish with accountability and commitment, and you are sure to run the race well in 2010.