The Humble Brag

I need to just take a moment to put the joys of my heart into text.

I’ve served in Girls’ Ministry for over thirteen years. In all those years, I have served with some incredible ladies! However, I just have to give a shout out to my current team. They are INCREDIBLE! These ladies serve each week with selflessness, passion and integrity. They give of their time, resources, and selves. Their fruit is a ministry to girls that, I believe, is like no other.

Each week, I watch in amazement as these ladies pour into girls out of the overflow of their own relationship with God. Each week, I watch in amazement as those girls blow me away with their own abilities to lead, teach and disciple one another.

I speak with girls’ ministers weekly. One question they always get around to asking is “what is the purpose of your ministry there?” As many times as I’ve been asked that question – my answer remains the same. My purpose is to disciple myself out of a job.

Let me explain. I do not believe that discipleship is complete until the discipled becomes the discipler. According to Christ’s command in the Great Commission it is the call of every believer to “make disciples.” The Gospel of Luke tells us that, “everyone who is fully trained will look like his teacher.” Those are both big tasks to consider and complete. Ones which I take seriously.

Therefore, my purpose is to literally make disciples who can graduate out of Pillars equipped to step right into a position of pouring back into Pillars. I am indebted to those ladies that walk beside me seeking to do the same…and to those that have graduated only to come back and serve. There is no greater joy!

Want to know how to get involved completing the call to make discipleship (and serve with the most amazing team ever?!)? Contact pillars @ gmail (dot) com.

Real friends

I have amazing friends. Really, they are incredible.

They are the kinds of friends that tell me about the piece of parsley stuck in my teeth. They are the kinds of friends that tell me to avoid a certain wedding dress fit because it produces unnecessary back fat. They are the kinds of friends that tell me not to reply to unkind words with unkind words. They are the kinds of friends that told me my pride and selfishness got in the way of relationships.

They are honest, and honest with me. That honesty has kept me from many a regretful situation. I also know it comes from a core of genuine love, care and perhaps sarcasm!

My friends and I may not always agree, but I love them and value their perspective and opinions…because I know they are sincere and they desire to see me succeed and grow.

In light of the recent VMA music awards, and especially the performance by Miss Cyrus, I come to many conclusions. However, the one sitting forefront of my mind is this: it is of the utmost importance to find genuine friends, real friends. Friends that speak truth. Friends that care. Friends that look out for your ultimate well-being. Friends that are honest and honest with you.

If we surround ourselves with people who just agree with us on everything, never challenge us, never hold us accountable, never show love with concern – then I fear we become like the students of 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

These people sought out sitting under teachers who only shared their beliefs and convictions.

We find ourselves in a dangerous position when we create a core group that charms rather than challenges. I dare say they are capable of flattery but not friendship.

So, now what?
Do some self evaluation. What kind of friend are you and I? What kinds of friends do we surround ourselves with?
Pray. Pray for your friends. Pray for your friendships. Pray for your own friendship abilities. Parents pray your children would surround themselves with not just “christian” friends but godly friends. (Shout out to my friend Christine for reminding me of the distinction)

Remember, a friend loves at all times.

Dream Come True

For over a year now, God has been teaching me a great lesson. He has been teaching me to dream.

He has been re-teaching me to step out in faith. I say RE-teach because I believe some of these lessons I’ve seen before in my younger days. However, getting married and especially starting a family, I find myself becoming ‘safe.’ Decisions that I make no longer effect just me but my family. I’ve been dangerously flirting with getting too safe. Two years ago I found myself so tightly gripping the illusion of safety that I said ‘no’ to God. I was afraid. Afraid of the faith and trust it would require. Afraid of the impact on my family. Afraid of failure.

God didn’t like my answer.

He made this clear. Thankfully, God had bigger plans for me than I had for myself. Plans that are so much larger and more extreme than I ever thought possible. He is teaching me to dream. Dreams that are detached from fear and a desperation for safety. Dreams that are not mine, but His. Dreams built on His plans that ALWAYS succeed. I watched some of my greatest ministry dreams come true this past year. Things that 2 years ago, not only did I think impossible, I ran from them. This coming year I have things on the horizon I personally am not creative enough to dream up. Without finally giving God a ‘yes’ these dreams would never have found their way to the inner chambers of my heart.

Just because I said ‘yes’ to God’s plans and dreams doesn’t mean I don’t have to armor up for the internal battle. Daily, I face off with that fear that paralyzed me several years ago. A few days ago, I found myself upset with fear, praying for God to send confirmation. (like He hasn’t already done this plenty already) I wanted my confirmation to come in a specific way.

God didn’t like my way.

Instead, my confirmation came while reading a children’s devotional to my 20 month old daughter. I tried to read into this a bit too much…do I need more childlike faith, He is probably speaking to me like a child because i’m acting childish, both, etc…but really, who am I to say if He wants to show up through the earthquake, stillness (read earlier post) or a kid’s book. Honestly, I’m just glad He is involved enough to give me the dream and then confirm them!

I share the words of the devotion so that some of you may be encouraged to embrace His dreams for you as well.
The devotional read:
Dream Come True
I have a dream. And God will make that dream come true, because my life is His. My dreams are His too-His to shape and mold into anything He wants. So I will let God shape my dreams. They are in good hands. He is making something beautiful.
“The parched ground shall become a pool.” Isaiah 35:7

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The Soft Talker

Some of you read the title of this post and knew the origin! You are not only showing your age, but your impeccable taste for good comedy! I hijacked the “soft talker” title from a Seinfeld episode.Two words for you: pirate shirt. Good stuff.

Remember the old 10 Commandments movie? I mean the OLD one that still plays on TV around Easter. One of my childhood memories is watching this on TV. I can clearly recall asking my dad if God really sounded like that. That booming, thunderous voice really captured my attention at that innocent age.

Wouldn’t it be nice if God did actually speak to us in that same explosive voice? If I am totally honest, I have asked Him to do this…once or twice :). In some of my darkest moments of doubt or at a crossroads of some great decision, I’ve cried out to hear His voice this loudly. An unmistakeable audibility.

I am loving studying the account of Elijah. There is one particular passage that I’ve been drawn too. It’s found in 1 Kings 19:9-21.  Elijah has just made a mockery of Baal, the prophets of Baal, and essentially this evil lady, Jezebel. Oh, and after he made a joke of the prophets he wiped them all out.  Jezebel wasn’t Elijah’s biggest fan. He fled into the wilderness and went hiding out and finds himself now in a cave. Scripture says the word of the Lord came to Elijah and asks him what he is doing. Elijah answers with a “I’ve been doing your work. I’m the only one left doing your work. Everyone else is evil. Now they want to kill me.”(my paraphrase)

I love God’s answer. It is almost as if He is saying, “Come here Elijah. Do you really think I’m not in control of this entire situation? Let me show you just how ‘in control’ I AM.” (again, my paraphrase). Then…
“a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it…behold a voice came to him…”

As that wind storm approached, I imagine Elijah was thinking, ‘okay, here it is. This is God’s grand entrance.’ Then nothing. After came the earthquake. I’m sure he was thinking, ‘okay, this HAS to be it.’ Again, nothing. The fire. Still, nothing. Elijah was looking for the thundering, booming, explosive voice too. He was looking for the BIG signs. God was present in the ground breaking, but He spoke in the calm after the storm. The Hebrew word for gentle translates small. The word for blowing is whisper/calm/still/silence. LOVE! God was a soft talker :)

Earlier in Elijah’s story, as he is challenging the prophets of Baal, scripture says that the prophets had exhausted all attempts to call upon Baal. They had been at it all day, “but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” Elijah then calls upon God. Needless to say, God shows up in a big way. Then here in the cave, God chooses to once again show up. But this time, He speaks. He was paying attention and He answered Elijah in a voice! All the things Baal didn’t do and COULDN’T do…God did. Yet, He doesn’t speak in all the fireworks, but in the still.

Why, after all the excitements of the earlier stuff, does he chose to speak in a whisper? It’s personal. It’s intimate. Whispering requires the whisperer to draw close to share. It’s a beautiful image.

I love what John MacArthur says, “the wind, earthquake and fire announced the imminent arrival of the Lord. The Lord’s self-revelation to Elijah came in a faint, whispering voice. The lesson for Elijah was that Almighty God was quietly, sometimes imperceptibly, doing His work in Israel.”

So, maybe you, like me, find yourself asking for the big, strong, thunderous voice of God…and He could do that if He chooses. Or perhaps He desires to draw close to you and whisper; showing you He is in control – of the wind, earth, even fire – but speaking to you personally in the state of still.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

This One’s For the Boys…and girls too.

I haven’t written in a while.What God has been teaching me lately has been more for me to ponder and not post. However, today I felt led to speak to an audience outside my area of expertise, or calling…the guys!

Our culture has an interesting way of deciding what it takes to make someone a “man.”
I hear teen girls and many of my single friends alike commenting that they want a “real man.”  I always just assumed I knew what this meant, but I’m beginning to think I am quite aloof.  I realized that the picture of a “real man” might be tainted by  fallen-world-tinted glasses.

We joke that today’s male should be in constant possession of the illusive Man Card or have the coveted basement Man Cave. I suppose “real men” also frequent the freezer section at the grocery for their very own over priced and processed Hungry Man TV Dinner.

Real men apparently only eat meat and potatoes. They are never allowed to cry or show emotion. Disagreements are handled with swings and punches. According to the business world, men climb the ladder of success by taking out everyone in their way. After all, if they don’t fight for what they want then they must be weak. They apparently become powerless once they enter into a serious, monogamous relationship. This is because the elevated status of the man is culturally based on sexual expertise or their number of partners.

Simply, I want nothing to do with this “real man.”

I love the way God, in His Word, defines a man.

In 1 Kings 2, we see David at the end of his life. David has been a warrior, a soldier, a hero, a King, a Mighty Man of Valor…and even a ladies man. He has just passed on the crown to his son Solomon. Here David calls Solomon in for some final words.

“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. You, be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn…”

Slightly different picture of a man than what society today is teaching are guys…and girls.

David, scared with battle wounds, was a MAN able to share personal Survivor Man stories and beautifully crafted poetry of the same events. David, called by God a MAN after My own heart. Can you see him laying in a bed looking over at his son Solomon and saying, “Son, you better love God with everything you got, violently. Follow Him. Obey Him. Seek Him. THAT is what it takes…not to be a King. THAT is what it takes to be a MAN!” That’s good stuff right there.

As i’m typing this, I just got a call from my husband. He wanted to know about dinner…not because he is a man that demands dinner on the table when he walks in, but because he needs to know the timing before he leaves to go feed and minister to some homeless individuals in our city with his MEN’s bible study group…

I got a REAL MAN :)

 

Do you ‘know’ Him?

Reading through 1 Samuel 2 and 3 kind of raised my eyebrows a bit. I confess when I read it I thought the idea was crazy. Then I realized what was taking place back then that I defined as ‘crazy’ is taking place all over our churches today.

1 Samuel begins with the account of Hannah and her desperate desire for a child. God heard her cries and granted her desire and gave her a son, Samuel, who she gave back to the Lord for service. Samuel is under the care of Eli the priest.  1 Samuel 2:11 tells us that “the boy ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.” Another translation says he “served the LORD” with Eli.

Now the word “ministered” comes from the Hebrew ‘sharat’ which means ‘ to attend as a menial or worshipper, serving, waiting on.”
Samuel probably spent time cleaning, straightening up, holding the doors, and attending to Eli the priest.  On down in verse 18, we read again, “Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.” Once more, we see that Samuel is all about his church duties. He apprarently serves so well that he even gets to wear a linen ephod – which was typically reserved for priests – not attenders of priests. When I read this, I think Samuel most have been a boy of great integrity. He must have had a great work ethic. He even had a servants heart. Verse 26 tells us that as he began to grow in stature, he also grew in favor with God and men. He was a hard worker. Honest. Kept the rules. Set a good example.

Then we get down to chapter 3.  Samuel is lying down in the temple (by the Ark of God mind you) and all of the sudden scripture tells us that God called out to Samuel, audibly. So clear that Samuel went running off to Eli thinking his earthly master was calling him. Eli tells him to go back to sleep and that he didn’t call for him. Twice this happens. Then verse 7 pops up.

“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.”

Interesting. We have a young man here who spends his ever waking moment, and apparently his sleeping moments too, in the temple. We read earlier that he daily “ministered to the LORD” or served the LORD. The entirety of his life centered around serving the church and his church duties. Yet, he did not yet know the LORD.

When I first read that it bothered me that Samuel could work so hard and so favorably for someone he didn’t even know. He was trained in sacrifices, the law, offerings, and certainly even the temple set-up and rituals. He knew all the facts but God was not familiar. He knew ABOUT God but he did not know GOD – personally. Then I began thinking how many people that must walk the hallways of our churches that this is their same story. They teach Sunday School. They sing in the choir. They go on the mission trips. They do great things. They serve in great ways. They are trained up in all the right answers and rituals. Their lives minister to the LORD, but a LORD they do not know.

They follow formalities not the Father.

May we be ever so careful that our duties, services and even our ministries are not done out of ritual or expectation. May our actions come from discerning His voice and replying with obedience.
Do you know about Him or do you know Him?
Do you know His voice when He calls your name?

1 John 10: 26-27
“But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.”

 

That ‘Certain Woman’

Came up on this priceless jewel the other day and i’ve been stuck thinking about it ever since.

And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.
Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him,
“Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’”
And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
Judges 9:53-54

Now, this Abimelech fellow was pretty evil. Given God’s history up to this point, it was only a matter of time before God put an end to his destruction. Earlier you can read that he used money to “hire worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.” (Little side note: if you have to buy people off and bribe them to follow you, it’s probably a good sign you ARE NOT a leader.) Basically, this guy was bad news. He had been ransacking other cities, robbing and murdering. He gets to the city of Thebez and everyone flees to a tower in the city. Abimelech, who has seen this scenario play out in his favor before, begins preparations to burn the tower with the people in it. Then these two priceless verses change up the outcome.

You have to love God’s humor. Woman throws a grain grinding stone off roof. It lands on the head of the gang and fatally wounds him. He begs young boy to finish him off so it can’t be said that a woman killed him. God records that a ‘certain woman’ threw a grain grinding stone off the room that lands on the head of the gang and fatally wounds him. Now, everyone knows he was pretty much killed by a woman. The story gets recorded in the best selling book of all time, God’s inerrant Word. Abimelech is probably not laughing about how this turned out.

This ‘certain woman’ was never called by her specific name. Her name wasn’t important (Do you know the Proverbs 31 woman’s name?). But, the task she performed played a significant role in God’s plan.

This story, it isn’t about me. It isn’t about making me famous. It’s all about HIM. It’s all to make HIM famous and to bring HIM glory. May we never exhaust ourselves trying to make much of something so silly.

Oh, that God could look down and see me, His servant, and find me worthy of a role in His plan. Not to be named, but known. Known as the ‘certain woman’ God used in mighty ways.

Not again!

Last week I got a call from a church that is currently planning a Girls Retreat. We began talking about what theme or direction they wanted to go this year. Her comment to me was:

“We are open to anything but the ‘Dating/Relationship’ topic. It’s just so over-done!”

I laughed at her comment. The fact is, I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I’ve struggled with it in leading a Girls’ Ministry myself. I’ve heard girls say “ugh, not again” to the relationship series or “we hear this all the time” to the annual February “Dating” sermons in the youth service. However, I also know dating and relationships are a HUGE part of the life of teen girls (let’s be honest, it’s important to any age female). We are hard-wired for relationships. As females, our very existence hinged on the concept of being a part of a relationship. We were literally created to be in a relationship, to be the helper for the man. Therefore, we MUST conclude that relationships are important. But those relationships are not MOST important.

We listen to sermons and series, articles and blogs about dating and marriage. We enjoy the topic. It’s fun. Maybe it’s familiar. It is certianly a topic that is always relevant.

For those of us that minister to girls, we must be EVER SO CAREFUL that we are not promoting this false idea that relationships are the MOST important thing. As a leader, I cannot let this topic consume me. If dating and marriage direct my every lesson, bible study, and over-coffee conversation, I am guility. I TELL these girls it’s not the most important thing, yet IMPLY that it is because it is the core of my every conversation.

Are relationships important? YES! Is teaching biblical principles on relationships important? YES!!

We ARE to teach on relationships every chance we get, but not earthly relationships. If girls only get dating instructions from us, we fail. We must teach the reasons relationships exists in the first place. Get this – God created the concept of the relationship. It is His plan that a relationship would redirect the outcome of your life. It is His desire that a relationship with Him be THE MOST important thing in your life. The earthly relationship is just to serve as an example to our relationship with Him (Eph. 5).

Dating and relationships are not of the greatest importance. May our teachings reflect what is.

 

 

 

 

Unchanging

I started reading the bible through for my personal devotional time back in January. As of today, I’m about halfway through Deuteronomy. I’m right in the thick of Moses’s recap of where God has brought the Israelites. A lot of it seems redundant. I keep wondering, how many times must Moses repeat himself?!?! Then I realize that the repeat words are in response to repetitive actions.

The Israelites keep up the same cycle. Return to God, start complaining, cry out against God, suffer consequences, cry out for God, experience God’s forgiveness, return to God…and then back around they go. Their heart condition changed more times than can be counted.

I have no problem admitting that I want Moses to use that staff to beat some of the complainers. Seems to me he has a perfectly good, sturdy, miraculous rod that shouldn’t be spared. It’s clear in scripture that he grew weary with the people too.  These people, this nation, had seen SOOO much.

Here are just a FEW of the things they have witnessed:
the Red Sea parting
the entire Egyptian army drowned
manna and quail falling from the sky
water flowing out of rocks
armies defeated
they have seen the earth swallow up those that rose up against Moses
they have heard the very voice of God
they have seen God’s handwriting
they have seen God’s presence through cloud and fire

Moses told them, “with your own eyes you have seen all the great work of the LORD.” Deut. 11:7

Yet, still they question. Still they doubt. Still they fear. Still they complain. Still they lose faith.
And the thing that bothers me most…I’m just like them. No different. Maybe worse.

I KNOW I’ve seen God move. I know I’ve been in His presence. I know I’ve heard His voice. I’ve seen the work of His hands. Yet I still fear, doubt, and even question.

BUT He continues to move. He continues to come near. He continues to speak. He continues to work.
Because Praise God, He is faithful. He is unchanging. Which means His LOVE is unchanging. I can never do anything for Him to love me more. I can never do anything for Him to love me less. His love is perfect, intrinsic.

The God that SO loved Adam and Even in the garden BEFORE they sinned, loved them exactly the same AFTER they sinned. Yes, there were consequences to their sin – but His lack of love was not a consequence, nor will it every be.
While I could use a good beating every once in a while – He proves His character remains.

 

 

My Ways are Higher

“His ways are higher” from Isaiah 55:8-9,  is a phrase that God seems to want as my constant companion these days.

Inside every girl, every person, God has put desires, stirrings, dreams and even direction. I’ve seen His faithfulness and fruitfulness in everything He has led me too.  None of His plans fail. His ways are truly good. I can hear Him even now, “My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

However, sometimes His ways are scary. “My ways are higher than your ways.” I’ve been at the crossroads of this one place for a couple of years now. I can now say that I KNOW which direction He wants me to take.  Knowing His plan is great, but knowing is not enough. Obedience does not come through knowledge or awareness. Obedience comes through action.

See, I KNOW all this, but that first step of obedience – of action – seems to be a bit of a drop off. Has God ever asked you to walk off the edge?  The idea is ridiculous, extreme and unsafe. It’s nothing I would think up by myself. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts .” It has to be Him. He isn’t really a ‘safe’ sort of God. I mean, in Him is refuge and all that - BUT He loves asking us to do things He knows we cannot accomplish. He loves to put impossibilities before us and then asks us to move. That way, we cannot take any of the credit.

He is the hero. Not us. This can be taught all through scripture. Think about Job – he overcame so much and never waivered in his faith. But Job is not the hero in that story – God is. Just read Job chapters 38-41. My Sunday School class is studying the book of Jonah. This past week someone raised the question: Why didn’t Jonah just jump overboard instead of making the men throw him off? The question bothered me. I’m no theologian, but here was my thought. If Jonah had sacrificed himself and just selflessly thrown himself into the sea, it would have been real easy for those men on the boat to look at Jonah as the hero who saved their lives. Jonah wasn’t meant to be the hero of that story. God was.

That’s why He asks us to do these things that he knows we cannot accomplish. In the end, only He can get the glory. HE is the hero.

‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

Whether the way He directs you is exciting, unknown, scary (or maybe all three) - if you hear Him say “this is the way,” then action is the only possible way to obey.

Right now I’m learning that as He reveals His ways I must rest in His proven track record of faithfulness. My mind cannot fathom or think up ways that His plans succeed. I just know it always does.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” Numbers 11:23

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