Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

George calls her chapter on Faithfulness, “Following Through in Faithfulness”.  She has built this picture of how love, joy and peace change hearts. As a result, patience, kindness and goodness desire the best for everyone. Then, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control bring us victory in life’s “more challenging moments,” giving us follow-through by conquering self.

In Galations, the word for faithfulness is the Greek word, “pistis,” which refers to the character of one who can be relied on.

George teaches that a woman of faithfulness:

  • always comes through, no matter what
  • shows up for others, “whether a message or a meal”
  • keeps her word,”her yes means yes, and her no means no” (James 5:12)
  • doesn’t cancel out of commitments or appointments, and “successfully transacts business—carrying out any instructions given to her,”
  • “discharges her official duties in the church”–and is still committed to worship,
  • and is devoted to duty just as Jesus was in His example here on earth.

Elizabeth George also pointed out the struggle involved in being faithful… feeling tired or lazy ever get the best of you?

Or how about feeling discouraged?

Procrastination?  I might be looking forward to the devotional on self-control.

Rationalizing?

What about apathy… sometimes we just don’t care, even when we really do.  Life can get hard.  Some may drift from God.  Sometimes we just plain ole’ rebel, and we can develop a spiritual numbness.

As a Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is something God is responsible for cultivating in our lives. Charles Stanley, in his book, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, says that when we’re living life led by the Spirit, that these characteristics come about with little effort.   Yet reading over this list left me feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged.

But wait. . .

This word pistis, which is used in Galations 5:22, can also be interpreted as faith; that’s how the King James Version interprets it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galations 5:22,23 KJV

Faith is:

1.) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.

2.)  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

3.)  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same

Faith, like faithfulness, is provided to us by the Holy Spirit, and isn’t possible for us to experience in our own power.

“. . .  no one can say, “Jesus is [my] Lord,” except by [the power and influence of] the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Amplified Version

By the grace of faith, God grows the character of faithfulness, or reliability, in our character.  He helps us be faithful to Him, and faithful to our calling.

 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

That list of “works” that Elizabeth George explained personifies a woman of faithfulness… it’s possible, if our work is produced by faith in Christ Jesus.  Obedience becomes a labor of love for our Savior, and we can persevere even when we feel tired, discouraged, unmotivated or apathetic because of the hope we have in Christ.  That hope, Hebrews tells us, is anchored to the Throne of Grace in heaven; it pulls us onward.

Hands And Leaf Purpose

If you are a believing child of God, then you have been given Spiritual Gifts to use in whatever way that He has determined you should serve; God also gives each of us the faith to use those gifts.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

Do you know how God has wired you to serve?  If you’ve never given thought to this, you can visit www.spiritualgiftstest.com to learn more about the different Spiritual Gifts.  Your results will be based on your current experience, and can help you identify your areas of strength so that you can pray about how God wants you to use the gifts He has given you.  Don’t be surprised if different strengths rise to the top of the list in different stages of your life, depending on how your experience changes and on how God wants to use you at in different seasons.  He will gift you appropriately for your purpose.

God also wired you with personality, learning style, love languages, skills and talents, ministry style, resources and experiences to compliment your service within the Body of Christ.  They make you unique.  I would love to give you resources to explore each of these areas in a future post.  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Each individual is equally important to the function of the Church, and God’s plans.  Comparison is a trap that can discourage you, or it can lead to an inflated ego. . .  but, humility is what God requires.

If you struggle with following through on your commitments, it may be wise to prayerfully re-evaluate the tasks you have undertaken and ask God if what you are trying to do is suited to your gifts.

I’m not talking about the marriage covenant, responsibilities as a parent, or promises made–if you have made them, God will give you the strength to keep them.  What I do mean is, for example: that someone with a gift of helps, who likes working in the background, may not be cut out to be an up front teacher! The areas we choose to serve within need to compliment our Spiritual Gifts.  They also need to compliment the season of life we are currently in.  The Proverbs 31 woman did a LOT of good things, but I often think she probably didn’t do them all at once!

Be intentional about doing good.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

When you feel discouraged, remember that your help is always with you.  God poured His Holy Spirit out on you, generously!  And He will never leave you.  Being faithful does not have to be tedious.

Choose your commitments carefully, and don’t try to do more than is truly possible.  When we leave others in the lurch, we damage our testimony.  When we follow through, we are blessed too. (James 1:25)

 

Work produced by faith in a faithful God.

Labor prompted by love for a loving Savior.

Endurance, inspired by hope in Savior who gave what He had for the hope that was set before Him–securing your eternity. 

 

What Happens When Women Pray

What happens when women pray photo

Every year or so, there is a theme that God chooses to teach me.  One year it was Biblical Womanhood, another it was Gratitude, yet another was Being Established.  The past 2 years have been on the topic of Prayer.

Have you ever shopped for books written about prayer??  Oh, my goodness, there are SO MANY!!  I have not actually gone looking, but when God picks a topic, it pops up everywhere.  Before I know it, I’ve accumulated a shelf full of resources without even trying.  I’ve read a little in this one and a little in that, however, my all time favorites are

1) simply reading what God says about prayer and the examples we’re given in God’s Word, and

2) Evelyn Christenson’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray”.  I found this little book at a garage sale, full of notes (so it must be good, right?).  I’ve read it 4 times, and I learn something new every time.

The Christian Missionary Alliance Church also chooses a theme every year, and their women’s ministry piggybacks on that.  This year the Alliance Women’s theme is “MORE”.

In my home church, our own Alliance Women are specifically studying how we can experience “MORE” power in prayer.  I’m so blessed to be able to do this study with my own church family, and I am over the moon to see how God is going to use these women and their prayers in the life of our church.

Prayer Is:

*A privilege*  ~My husband’s grandpa taught me that.  He called me monthly, until the day he died, to catch up and find out how he could be praying for us.  I was so blessed by this man who was not a blood relative, but who loved me so strongly in word and in deed.

*A responsibility*  ~Did you know that it is designed by God as part of our relationship with Him, and the health of our prayer life is an indication of the health of our Spiritual lives?

*A gift*  ~Imagine if we could not go to God.  Or imagine if we still, like the Israelites of old, had to go through a priest as a mediator, offering sacrifices, in order to maintain our relationship with God?  When Jesus died for us, and conquered sin and death by rising again, HE became our mediator and now we can go directly to God in Jesus’ name.

What a precious gift, and yet, it is one of the most neglected privileges and responsibilities within the Church Body today.  The truth is that too often we do not give enough thought to how and when we talk to God.  What’s more, many of us are not aware of the stumbling blocks that prevent God from inclining His ear to answer.

As my Jesus Sisters and I go through this study together, I’ll be sharing what God is teaching me in a series of posts entitled, “More Power in Prayer.”

I hope you’ll join me!

Growing Grateful, and How to Love Wounded People this Holiday Season

growing grateful

It’s November, the month we adults dedicate to Thanksgiving.

I see friends on Facebook, sharing what they’re thankful for each day, and I wish we could continue the tradition 365 days a year.  What encouragement.

I am reminded of what God has lifted me out of, and I am truly grateful.

The Back Story:

I didn’t grow up in an atmosphere of thanksgiving and praise.  Rather, the atmosphere was heavy with pessimism, and there was a critical spirit.  The adults in my family were fault finders and worry warts.

Looking back, I realize I “inherited” many anxieties.  When my folks walked away from relationship with me, it was the beginning of a season in which the Lord would allow my list of “I could never survive if……” fears to come true, one by one.  I think He knew it was the only way to get me over myself so I could lead a fruitful life… He was pruning me.

I felt like I was drowning in a tidal wave at the time.  We were new to this camp and this town.  God surrounded me with people who didn’t let me wallow in the “Woe is me’s.”  Instead they politely acknowledged what I was going through, if I even dared to share, and they simply pulled me along, even when it meant I tripped over my own feet.

It was a season in which I dared not sit with my own thoughts.  I kept myself busy, always, and the radio was always on to distract me when I wasn’t working with the children.

Then one day I was sitting in the rocking chair of our camp living room with a nursing baby in my arms.  Music turned to an interview with a pastor who had lost his voice for years and was told that recovery was impossible.  He shared about his diagnosis, having to step down from his position at his church, his depression and process.  Then he shared about how he was eventually asked to speak to his former congregation in circumstances only God could have arranged.  Of course, he had a microphone, and his church family was listening carefully to hear him as he delivered a message about miracles today.  As he spoke, his voice came back loud and strong. The radio program replayed the recording of his message, and as I listened, in his voice I could hear him being undone as he realized that the prayer he thought would never receive a “Yes” to had just been granted.  You can listen to his story, and the recording, at this address.

And then he shared with the audience– with me–how God will heal me if only I ask, but this nugget came with the warning that healing would most certainly be a long and arduous process.

I sat and cried.  I didn’t care if it was going to be hard.  I wanted it, and so I prayed right then and there, and I begged God to heal my heart.  That was the beginning.

There have been so many beautiful people and circumstances God has used along the way.  One tool was the book, Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyers.  Her book shares how what we think dictates what we believe, and therefore how we live.  Our minds are the battlefield where Satan prefers to attack us first, in an attempt to derail us.  This book opened my eyes to recognize and be able to accept the wrong thoughts and attitudes I had adopted growing up, and I was able to become more intentional to change my thought patterns.

Several years later, I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.   I love this book.  I’ve lost count of how many copies I have given away.  One copy was returned to me with Ann Voskamp’s autograph!!  What joy!

In her book, Ann Voskamp shares that pivotal, heart breaking moment in her childhood which played a major role in shaping her world view and held her back from the full life God wanted her to possess.  She describes the process by which she learned to become grateful, and in sharing that with all of us, God used her powerfully.  She began a grass roots movement of precious people, recognizing God in the daily, and remembering to give thanks.  The whole book was good, but it was these 3 little words in the very last chapter that changed me: “Be the blessing…”

YOU BE THE BLESSING!!

And I began to recognize that all my discontent was rooted in SO.MUCH.NEEDY.

This is where I tell you that I’ve been wrestling with this post all week, and every time I get to this point, I end up someplace I didn’t intend to go with it.  There’ve been no few tears, and in frustration I put the laptop away.  Last night I told God I’m okay with not writing a Thanksgiving post this year… maybe we should table it until next year when I understand better what Grateful looks like.  He ministered to my heart last night, and as I started afresh today I realized that “HERE” is where God wanted this post to be.

Wounded People

This time of year is dedicated to Thankful, but it is also a time when people gather together, and I lose track of how many times I am asked to pray for family gatherings and the interactions that will take place there.  That’s because we all need to remember this:

Grace is beautiful, but the process–this healing–is MESSY.  People are messy.

We are wounded, every one.

Wounded by sin.

We are wounded by the consequences of sin in the world, by other people’s sin… by our own sin.

The good news?  By His stripes, we are healed.  Jesus sweeps into our hearts when we invite him and he heals our sin laden souls by removing all the guilty stains.

But what about the hurt that remains as a result of all that sin?

Wounded people wound people.  It’s true, and it’s unlovely, and forgiven people still have to live with this–with each other.

Being Grateful looks like continuing to realize that we are the recipients of God’s grace, daily, allowing our hearts to remain soft and responsive to God and to others.

The alternative is to embrace the belief that we are victims, and allow our hearts to become hard and cynical.  Hardness protects us from being hurt again, but it also keeps out so much good.

But there is an in-between that so many of us fall into, at some point in our journey, and we can get stuck if we’re not careful.  Sometimes wounded people who are afraid of being hurt again haven’t learned healthy expectations.  Sometimes we look to others to fill the sucking wound we still feel when we haven’t learned how to balance grief and joy, and then we push them away when they. just. can’t.

…when other people don’t smile at us enough, reach out to us enough, invite often enough, give enough, do enough, be there often enough, and dare I say?–Be Enough.  We pull people in to try to fill our needy, and we blame and push them away when they can’t –and the wounded becomes the wounder.   We’ve all done it.  Sometimes we look to things, instead of people, to fill our wounds.  Again–healing doesn’t look like that.

Healing only happens when turn to this Jesus, who we have invited into our hearts, and invite Him into our hurts as well.  Ask him to sweep it out, even when the process is long and arduous.   We don’t get what we don’t ask for.  Jesus waits to be wanted.

“But You, O Lord, know me [and understand my devotion to You];
You see me;  And You examine the attitude of my heart toward You.”  Jeremiah 12:3 Amplified Version

Wherever you are in the process, now we pick up where we left off…

Be the blessing.  Yes, you, and me.

When You’re Wounded

Jesus wants to heal our broken places, but part of that healing involves being broken for HIM.  We only get well when we choose to start walking forward, even when it means we trip on our own feet–because we can’t make progress until we stop looking in and start looking up and out.  We must stop dwelling on our need–acknowledge it, yes, but not dwell on it– because that is when need becomes needy.

Instead, give thanks, even when you don’t feel like it.

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
 proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,                                                                                                    For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;

    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

                                                         Psalm 92:1,2,4

Ann Voskamp encourages her readers to begin a journal to chronicle the gifts God bestows in our lives, from great to small.

It could be the song of a bird outside your window, a delicious meal, a provision, or the kindness of a stranger…

… something that made you laugh, the sunrise, or your Salvation.

There are so many blessings that God pours into our lives, and when we begin to notice and voice our appreciation, our faith grows and we believe that Jesus has our needs covered, even now, and more, so that when we look up long enough to notice the needs around us, we can pour some of that “more” out to bless others.  This is growing Grace-Full.  It’s being Grateful.

Research has proven that people who record just 3 blessings a day for 2 weeks are happier for months after.

Record 3 blessings a day for a year, and you will have journaled One Thousand Gifts.  Do that for years, as I have encouraged my children to do, and you have, well, Legacy of Epic Proportion that will bring about a transformation in the way you view everything.  As Ann Voskamp shared, it became addictive, finding all the blessings and counting them up.

God is so Good, and He Loves Us So Much.

Our church Ladies Group is learning how to pray more effectively, and this has brought us into a season of repentance.  I hear a lot of questions about whether their responses to people who have hurt them, or who they have hurt, are okay?  It’s good to evaluate.

How Do You Love the Wounded?  

I honestly can’t give you comprehensive answer, but I can think of a few words.

Be a Comforter.

Remember when we talked about MORE?  This is it.  This is when we realize that God has given us so much comfort that we have enough to share with someone else.  We learn by experience how to hold others, and God gives us supernatural ability to follow through.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”            2 Corinthians 1:3-5 emphasis mine

Follow Christ’s Example: don’t enter in where you aren’t invited.

Remember that you can’t fix it.  Listen if invited, being mindful of that line called gossip.  Comfort, yes, but remember only God can fix it.  Point them to Him, always.  He is the only one who can heal.  And sometimes, God plans to use the hurt to bring about His will for them. This is sacred space.   It’s important that we stay out of the way, even if that means we aren’t invited into their pain.  Even when it’s through discernment that we choose to take a step back.  Even if that means we miss being close to them while God draws them closer to Him.

Forgive.

Wounded people often wound others.  Remembering that helps keep us compassionate.  At the same time, remembering all that God has forgiven us helps us to remain humble enough to keep our hearts tender.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13

Run to confession.

Yes, this.  If you are part of the problem, run to make it right.  Confess your sin and ask forgiveness.  This is what’s between you and them.  And then LOVE, even if they don’t extend forgiveness to you.  God forgives you and expects you to love on… this is what’s between you and the Lord.

Don’t let them wallow in it.

For real.  And yes, depending on the person, they may find it annoying that you aren’t going to sit around and feel sorry with them.  But I thank God for those people who drug me along when I was too broken to walk on my own.  Even if they trip along the way, gently urge them forward.  Invite them to joint the fun.  Pull them into your service projects.  Encourage them by occasionally praising some of those blessings in their lives.  Hopefully they will someday thank you, but even if not, enabling them to wallow is not going to help them heal.

Pray for them.

The most powerful thing you can do for them is to invite God’s will in their life.  You may not know all the off-roads God has planned for them, but you know the highways.

  • He wants them to be in a solid relationship with Him.
  • He wants to heal their hearts.
  • He wants them to obey Him.
  • He wants to use them to bless others and to point back to him.
  • He wants them to reach spiritual and emotional maturity.
  • He wants them develop Godly character,
  • He wants them to use their gifts and abilities to build and encourage the church, and to give Him Glory.

How many more can you think of?  Now, pray.

Be Grateful.

Yes, again.  It’s impossible to complain when we’re giving thanks.  And just like a negative attitude can be contagious, so can positivity.  Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.

From the bottom of my heart, I am sending you love this Thanksgiving.  Whatever your story, whatever your wound, wherever God is in your process,  let Thanksgiving become a lifestyle and not a holiday.   May you experience the boundless love and comfort of Christ in your life, and the healing that God holds for you and yours.  May you experience the wonder and fulfillment of learning to grow grateful, one day at a time.

Love hard, and be the blessing.

~Linda

 

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:2-8

 

 

 

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.  To find more devotionals on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit this page.~

As we’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, we’ve been acknowledging that it is only available through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Only those who have accepted Jesus’s gift of forgiveness and salvation have access to the Spirit.  This Fruit, or Godly Character, is the evidence of salvation and an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There is absolutely no way we can live the Christian life on our own.  It’s impossible!!  God knows it’s impossible.  That is why Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that he go away.  He explained to them, as they grieved the idea of his leaving, that if he didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.  “but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Holy Spirit dove photo

Jesus did return to heaven, after His death and resurrection.  Today, we as Believers are privileged to have this Helper, the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

I don’t remember the Holy Spirit being discussed much when I was growing up.  As an adult, I developed a hunger to understand who he is, and have intentionally studied to learn more about him.  Since scripture teaches that he is part of God, and a gift to all Believers, we really should want to be able to recognize Him and his handiwork.

There are several books out there that talk about the Holy Spirit.  However, the book that I have enjoyed the most is Charles Stanley’s, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life.  He basically pools the scripture that speaks about the Holy Spirit, and when taken in all together, it paints a clear picture about His personality and purpose, and Stanley focuses in on what it looks like to live out our faith with the Spirit’s help.

Charles Stanley uses this illustration to explain the Holy Spirit’s role:

Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches.  The Holy Spirit, then, is like the sap that runs from the vine into the branches, carrying the power of God into our lives to will and to work for His glory.  It is HE who is responsible for producing fruit in our lives, not us.  We simply bear fruit through ABIDING, and in yielding to His will.  

In other words, God bears the burden of responsibility for producing fruit in our lives.  We just aren’t capable on our own. Our responsibility is to remain in Him and submit to what HE wants to do in our lives.  A seed doesn’t bear a crop unless the gardener plants and tends it.  When the seed does germinate, it doesn’t choose what to bear.  Its fruit reflects the identity of what the plant is meant to be… it is what it is, and completely dependent on the gardener to weed, feed, and prune it to yield a harvest.

We are children of God, and we’re meant to reflect God’s character for the world to know HIM.

If the pressures and temptations in our life push us into reaction mode, it’s a sign that we’re trying to produce righteousness on our own.  If we’re trying to do the producing  instead of just being the vessels that do the bearing, we’re going to be frustrated by failure, and we won’t experience the Peace that God means for us to have.

So who is the Holy Spirit?

  • He was present when God created the world. “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2-3
  • He is part of the Trinty of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, in whose image mankind was created. Genesis 1:26
  • He is God’s official mark on us, as believers, when we are saved.  “After listening to the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…Ephesians 1:13-14

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit?  Being sealed is a sign that Believers belong to God.  It is a sign of the security and protection and inheritance (eternity with God in paradise) that we have in Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees the Holy Spirit.  So do all the other spirits out there.

What are some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s personality?

He is knowledgeable.  1 Corinthians 2:11,12 states, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit… The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God and imparts knowledge to believers.  He gives us the “mind of Christ”.

He has a mind and a will of His own.  In 1 Corinthians 2:11, the apostle Paul is teaching the believers at the church in Corinth about Spiritual gifts (this is different than the Fruit of the Spirit).  “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  emphasis mine.

The Holy Spirit has emotion. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  And in Romans 15:30, Paul mentions the “love of the Spirit, or love given by the Spirit.”  Grief and love are emotions.

What are the roles of the Holy Spirit?

He Convicts. ~  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.”  John 16:8-11

He illuminates. ~ “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:12-15

He searches the mysteries of God and reveals them to the saints.  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.1 Corinthians 2:10

He teaches and reminds.  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  John 16:12-15 AND John 14:26

He guides.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.“emphasis mine  Romans 8:14

He asssures.  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

He intercedes and prays.  He helps us and does the will of God.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 16:26-27

He directs and He warns.  The Holy Spirit directed Paul, testifying to him daily, and warns him of the suffering that he was going to endure.  Acts 20:22

He communicates with us“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2

How the Holy Spirit communicates with us today can vary according to the person and the circumstances, but He very much still does speak to individuals.

He produces Godly character in our lives.   “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galations 5:22-23

He apportions Spiritual Gifts to individual Believers, to be used in the building up of the Church.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-12

As we can see from scripture, the Holy Spirit is a thinking, feeling, and active person of God, working together with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ) to bring about their collective will in our lives.

What a wonderful gift God has given us in the person of the Holy Spirit!

Growing in the Fruit of Joy

joy bubble

 

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8,9

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

 

Of all the Fruit of the Spirit, I find at times, joy is the one most difficult to be deceived by a counterfeit.  When hard times come, and heart break is inevitable, joy cannot be pretended.

1~ Joy is Supernatural.

Joy is only available to the Believer who is living a life in step with God.  None of the Fruit of the Spirit are available without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, leaning in close to the Savior, walking in His will.

In John 15, versus 8-11, Jesus tells His disciples that when we bear fruit (lives oozing with Godly character) we glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples.  He explains how He loves us as God the Father loves Him.

He has been explaining our relationship with Him, using the analogy of a vine and its branches.  Can you picture Him, walking the disciples through a vineyard as He talks and points out the familiar vines, and paints for them a word picture they can understand and keep close to their hearts?

“Abide in my love.” He tells them.  “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

And then Jesus explains why it is so important that we abide (remain, tarry, be held).

 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  John 15:8-11

This word, full, also means full to the brim, so that nothing shall be wanting.  It means to render complete; perfect.

Just picture your heart, so full of joy that it can’t contain anymore.  It is complete.  It is perfect; but only if we are abiding. Obeying. Tarrying for Christ and his desire for us.

2~ Our joy is Positional, not Circumstantial.

Happiness the counterfeit we most often mistake for joy, but happiness is circumstantial.  The very word tells us it is so.  “HAP” means chance.  It is the root of happen, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), happenstance (a chance circumstance), and the word “happy”.

Happiness is an emotion that changes with our circumstances, but our emotions are not a reliable reflection of the truth of our position; our situation.

Before we believe in Jesus and what he did, trusting in Him, and relying on his death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sin–before that, we were enemies of God.  That was our position.

Praise the Lord, we don’t stay there, because when we place our trust in Him and accept the beautiful gift of sacrifice he gave on our behalf, our position changes.  He removes us from the position of enemy and places us in the position of friend of God.  And now our position allows us to experience the full life and full joy that Jesus wills us to have.

But only in Christ!

The New Testament word for Joy, or Gladness, is Chara.

  • the joy received from you
  • the cause or occasion of joy
  • of persons who are one’s joy

Jesus is our salvation, and we (Believers) are the recipients of the surpassing riches of His grace (that which affords joy! 🙂  )  Ephesians 2:4-8

Our joy doesn’t disappear, diminish, or change when hard times come calling.  It stays, because He stays.  Our joy is positional, not circumstantial.

3~ “Joy looks out and up, not inward.”

God doesn’t want us to dwell on our circumstances.  He wants us to look to Him, trusting His goodness and His faithfulness, and to stay mindful of our position and His promises.  When we focus on those things, a wonderful thing happens.  Gratitude.

The natural result of Grace is Praise.

Gratitude is an essential ingredient for joy.  And, it is a commandment.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Emphasis Mine

Psalm 50:23 tells us that the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies God.

How?  To borrow from Charles Stanley:

  • Giving Thanks strengthens our witness to unbelievers,
  • gives us eternal perspective,
  • motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstances,
  • keeps us continually aware that God is close by,
  • brings us our will into submission to God,
  • and it reminds us of our dependence upon HIM.

What about Sorrow?  What place does it have for a people of joy?

Godly Sorrow is Okay.

According to Isaiah 53:3, Jesus was “… a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Jesus felt sorrow over our sin, and grief over what He was to suffer on our behalf.  And yet, Hebrews 12:2 explains that “for the joy that was set before Him, he endured the cross.”

How should we treat sorrow?

In the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, Jeremiah sets an example for us.  He spends the first 19 verses acknowledging his terrible circumstances, like this:

verses 17-19,

“I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.”

But then, in verse 21 he begins to turn it around and he praises God.

“Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

And Jeremiah goes on praising the Lord.

It is okay to acknowledge our sorrow, just do not go on about it until it becomes toxic.  Turn it around and praise God.

“Although I am going through this _____________, the Lord___________________.”

When I was going through this last miscarriage, I was grieving.  I was sad… confused…helpless…frustrated.  I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to go through such loss, yet again.  But smack dab in the middle of the grief there was joy in knowing I was not alone.  God was right there in the middle of the grief with me, and he was holding me, giving me strength, and reassuring me.  At the end of the day I could say, “Although my heart is hurting, the Lord is good.  Although I don’t understand, the Lord is trustworthy.  Although I am helpless, God is my Helper.”

We will have bad days.  Some of us will have a bad decade,  but “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed”.  Because of his love, compassion, and faithfulness our hope is anchored to the throne of heaven, and we take joy, even in times of sorrow.

The Lord is our portion… our “possession, reward”;

therefore we will wait for him.

This word “wait”, it’s a different word than Jesus used for “abide” in John 15, but it carries a similar meaning… to expect, hope in, tarry.

Isn’t that beautiful?  So many years before Jesus walked in the garden with his disciples, Jeremiah vowed to do exactly what Jesus would command them to do.

Tarry for the Lord… abide, and he will give you His joy, and your joy will be over the top, greater than all you could ask or imagine, FULL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Funding for Missions in Unusual Places

The collection deadline for Samaritan’s Purse missional shoe boxes is fast approaching!  Our church collected the last of our donated boxes on Sunday.  My kids were SO excited to send ours on its way, and rightly so, because they played a big part in providing the funding to make it possible.

A few months back, I mentioned that we wanted to come up with funds for supporting missions.  We set a goal to reach by the end of the year, and the kids caught the vision that they could be God’s hands by helping send the gospel into the world, literally.  Excited, they went through their rooms looking for spare change.  They found a lot, actually.  I think they probably dipped into their hard earned spending money.  They caught the “giving bug”.

Being God's hands to the world

We joke that our 9 year old is a money magnet.  She loves going to town with me, and no wonder since she always comes home with change in her pocket.  It helps that she is very observant, but this kids finds money everywhere!  She began the habit of tucking it into my hand and telling me, “Here, you can put this in our missions money.”

I offered that maybe she should keep every other coin, and give every other coin (cuz honestly, some days she comes home with more than a dollar), but she wouldn’t be deterred.  She set such a good example that we all decided to do as she is doing.  When we find coins in town, we bring them home and add them to the mission fund. 🙂  Bring on all those nice Aldi shoppers who give away their carts when leaving the store!  They have no idea the good that they are doing!

Nearly all the contents of our Samaritan Purse shoe box was paid for with lost change.  We’re pretty excited, because we’re re-starting our mission fund now for next year, and I can’t wait to see how much we’ll be able to do.  I’m positive that we find far more change than we used to find, whether because we’re more aware of our surroundings (ulterior motives) or God is blessing our plans.  Probably both.  😉

I paid for our shoe box label/shipping donation online.  You can learn more about it at this address.  When you pay for shipping online they track your shoe box so you know to which country it has gone, and that knowledge is going to be such joy for my crew.  It will keep them motivated to want to do this again!

One thing I will do differently from now on is that I will more intentional when shopping this coming year:  I will notice bargain items that are appropriate to put in these shoe boxes.  I  will buy school type supplies ahead of time, when they are on sale in August/September.  EVERYONE was buying shoe box stuffers in November, and I ended up paying more for items like colored pencils and a pencil sharpener because the “deal items” were completely gone, even at the Dollar Store!  I did find a Ty Beanie Baby at the thrift store for 50 CENTS that was like new, tag and all.  Kinda the frosting on the cake!

Anyway, the purpose of sharing all this is not to show off, but hopefully to inspire you that it’s possible to give more… pray how God would have you do it.  Maybe it’s:

  • Buying less Starbucks
  • Buying a more affordable cell phone so the monthly bill is less
  • Contributing funds you save when couponing
  • Raising money with a garage sale
  • Have a bake sale!  One of the families we know sells cookies, pies, and other delectables to raise money for missions–their friends are very generous when they know where it’s going!
  • Or, perhaps you’re just a money magnet too, LOL.

Do you have ideas?  How does your family set aside funds for missions?  Please share them with me so all our mission funds can benefit from your creativity!

 

Let Them Imitate You

I was standing at the sink, scrubbing the residue of Keto-Angel Food Cake from the bundt pan, when I faintly heard the sound of someone miffed across the room.  It wasn’t serious, so I kept scrubbing.

And then I heard my 19 year old Angel Girl speak up.  Her tone was patient and kind.  “Ella, it’s okay for them to copy you.  You’re a big sister.  Get used to it.”

I paused and looked up, surprised by wisdom.  Then I smiled at her.  “Didn’t I used to say that to you?”

“Yes,” she chuckled, “and I hated it.”

Truth.  You just can’t run away from it.

That first born baby learns so much from following mama around.  I even had to teach her how to play… but then the next baby comes, and the next, and they watch how to learn and play from their older siblings, too.

BeFunky Collage

When we moved to this town and this camp, I remember being overwhelmed by the idea that I was the Director’s wife and should be setting an example of a Godly women for other staff wives and campers.  Whether I liked it or not, there were times I knew eyes were on me.

Some constituents of the camp were curious, or concerned, about who we were and what this new director would do with the camp.  Churches we visited were interested in our growing family and homeschooling adventure.  And you can’t forget the cute little girls who sang their way through every store… who can ignore that?

I remember being so self conscious.  I was young and I was living through the most devastating season of my life, emotions raw, and patience thin.  I was so afraid other people would realize how flawed I was, and that would somehow undermine my husband.  I think my worry was magnified by having supported him through an internship that stressed that families were evaluated, and would impact the intern’s final assessment.  Many times I wished I could hide.

And then one Ladies’ Retreat, after being here for a year, I noticed how the women were getting more comfortable around me.  They shared things that concerned me.  Women who were decades older than me were just as self conscious–more so, and I thought to myself, “I thought that by that age women had it together!”  Apparently not, and that was what concerned me.  I wanted to have it together (if that’s possible).  I didn’t want to be in the same place thirty, or forty, or even fifty years down the road.  I wanted to be, well, mature–emotionally and spiritually.

I bought a new Life Application Study Bible and began again at Genesis, reading every single study note.  I read books by Godly authors and blogs that modeled what I had never seen put into practice.

I prayed for a mentor, and God sent me my friend, Sherrill.  She took me through a book called Search for Significance.  It was only 13 chapters, but it was a very hard 13 chapters!  It took me a whole year because when God sets about changing a heart, it’s a process, and he is thorough.  I wrestled and cried through it, as God pried the lies that had shaped my character out of my sweaty hands and replaced them with the Truth of what HE said about me and this relationship I have with the King of the Universe.

Whenever I thought we were done, He would open a new chapter of refinement that  continues, even to this day.  Looking back, I notice how my gaze shifted away from the gawkers and onto HIM.

I stopped worrying what other people thought about me, and I developed concern for what other people think about HIM.

The Apostle Paul said this, in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

Paul is teaching the church in Corinthians what their conduct should look like, and then he tells them to imitate him, as children imitate their father.  Not only that, but he says it in Ephesians 5, and again in 1 Corinthians 11:1, modeling for us how to deal with being under the magnifying glass…

“Copy me, my brothers, as I copy Christ himself.”

There are always going to be eyes on us.  Jesus said others will know we are his disciples by our behavior.  Instead of viewing it as a burden, lets embrace the responsibility for what it is: an opportunity to reflect Christ to the world.

Whether at home or without, people learn by watching and by doing.  There is always going to be someone less spiritually mature than you are.  There is always going to be someone more spiritually mature than you are, as well.

Ask someone who is in the “more mature” camp to mentor you, and be blessed by their example.

Imitate Christ, and keep your eyes trained on Him instead of your audience, but take joy in every opportunity to help a less mature brother or sister grow up in Jesus.  Remember that there will be countless times you will not even know that, in letting the Holy Spirit work in you and through you, you touch a life in a powerful way, simply because someone is watching you.

Let them imitate you.

 

 

Recipe: Gluten-Free Sourdough Banana Bread

 

The fragrant smell of banana bread wafting through the house…

Warm bread with freshly spread butter, melting in your mouth.

And you feel good because you know, even though no one else can tell, it’s sourdough, and that means that it contains more readily available nutrition than traditional breads.

What better recipe, than a classic favorite, to add to your repertoire?

GF- Banana Bread 2

This gluten-free, sourdough banana bread is a simple recipe, easy to make, and delicious!

To download the PDF of this recipe, click this link: Gluten Free Sourdough Banana Bread.

I am all about eliminating unnecessary sugar from my family’s diet.  I use stevia in conjunction with traditional sweeteners to reduce our overall sugar load.  This recipe gives you options, if you’re working the sugar out of your diet.

Directions:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (half-melted, but not hot)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown rice sourdough starter
  • 2 Tablespoons of liquid (water or milk of your preference)

Mix butter, eggs, liquid and starter together.  In a separate container, blend:

  • 1 cup sorghum flour (also called Milo flour)
  • and 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • and 1-1/2 teaspoons of finely ground psyllium husk powder (7.5 grams)

Combine your wet and dry ingredients.  Cover and allow to ferment for 7-12 hours.

After fermenting:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place baking dish in oven to heat while you finish your batter.

To your fermented dough, add:

  • 2 cups of mashed bananas (approximately 4 medium sized bananas)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • *Honey (Either 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, or 1/2 cup; see directions below)
  • 1/4 tsp. white Sweetleaf Stevia Powder (concentrated)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix well.  Remove pan from oven.  Rub a stick of butter along sides and bottom of pan and allow to melt.  Pour batter in pan and bake as follows:

 

 

 

Banana Bread Loaf Pan

1 loaf pan, bake for 50-55 minutes.

9×13 inch cake pan, bake 20-25 minutes.

Banana bread should be firm, lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

After baking, like most breads, allow to rest several minutes before slicing.

Enjoy!!  🙂

 

* This recipe uses honey for its sweetness and its moisture.  Sugar will work, but it will result in a more dry loaf.  Traditional banana bread recipes use 1 cup of sugar per loaf. For similar sweetness, use 1/2 cup of honey (8 TBS) with 1/4 tsp. stevia.  If you are in the process of reducing your sugar intake, try 1/3 cup of honey (5 TBS) with 1/4 tsp. stevia.  If you are already accustomed to low sugar, you may enjoy 1/4 cup (4 TBS) of honey with 1/4 tsp. stevia, or adjust to your individual preference.

The Measure of a Good Father

When summer camps ended, hubby took a few days off to regroup and get things done at home, and we took the whole family down to the cities to visit Como Park.  They have a free zoo, live butterfly exhibit, and plant conservatory.

Como Park Collage

 

I took the driving shift going down, and I was pretty tired.  I found myself singing along with the radio to stay alert when the song, “Good, Good Father,” came on.  It’s familiar to me. We have sung it in church, and my own story makes it especially meaningful.

“You’re a good, good Father.  It’s who You are, It’s who You are.”

I have heard so many women talk about how they have a hard time relating to God as Father in any kind of positive light because their experience with their earthly father was so bad.  And yet, I ponder, what are we using as a measuring stick for determining what makes a good father or a bad one?

Abigail with butterfly

I was one of the lucky kids.  When all my class mates talked about their parents divorcing, I was one of the few whose parents stayed together.  Through thick and through thin, through disagreements and arguing behind closed doors.  Through depression and repentance.  When other marriages would have failed, their commitment to perseverance kept them together, and they still are (together).

Mother and baby giraffe

My dad was present.  If not emotionally, he was there physically, and he always provided well for us.  As a child, I felt safe when I was with him.

He took me for a motorcycle ride when I was 6 or 7.  Somewhere, mixed up in those memories, is a conversation where he told me how much he loved me.  He said that he would cut off his hand for me, if only . . .

It’s the “if only” that stuck with me–that little conditional add on that squeezed my heart.

He said it more than once over the years.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember the feeling I experienced when he said it.  I cringed at the thought of my dad suffering for me, and yet I felt doubt that I could ever meet his expectation.

If only _________. You fill in the blank.  If only I could be obedient enough.

Be good enough.

BE enough.

How does a child that age even translate that kind of doubt in their ability to be what someone else wants them to be?  In his words, his willingness to give for me depended upon me.

When I was 30 my parents became offended and my dad told me to have a “nice little life”.  It was the day after Valentines Day, and only one of 2 occasions I have ever seen my husband tear up over anything.

“Little”…this is what the value of my life, not meeting expectations, had been reduced to.

Ouch.

My kids were 5, 2, and almost 1.  The next 5 precious babies were born after this, and my parents have never met them.

I grew up with the head knowledge that God’s love is unconditional, but all my examples had been of conditions.  When things were going well, I subconsciously thought it was because I was doing “okay.”  I thought I must have been reading my bible enough, praying enough, being good enough. When things were not going well, I felt like it was because I was messing up.  I wondered what area of my life needed to improve.  “Not good enough” was the lying voice in my head.

I was abandoned, even though I was an adult, by people I was supposed to be able to trust most in this world.  I was wounded.  I was angry.  I had that plum sized lump of grief in my throat for so many years that I thought it would never go away.  They were really. rough. years.

Looking back I know God was ripping out the faulty foundation in my life.  That’s a big job.  It’s a lot easier to lay a right foundation to begin with because everything is built on that foundation.  Remove the foundation and the whole stinkin’ house comes down.  Yet, that’s not how God works.  Because God can do anything,  He held the house together, but while He was laying a new foundation He was also putting up new supports.  He has been teaching me to live, as Nancy Leigh De Moss puts it, with the roof off and the walls down. That is “open and humble before God (roof off) and open with other people (walls down)”.

He turned my gaze away from what other people thought of me and my desire to please others, and taught me instead to keep my gaze on Him.  What He thinks of me is really the only thing that matters.

God has had to help me redefine who He is and embrace who I am in Him…begin to align my version of truth with what God declares is truth.  When we do that, a really spectacular thing happens. You begin to live loved, valued, and accepted.

blue butterfly at Como

My life is hidden in Christ.  That is where my worth lies.

And where do we get that measuring stick that determines who is a “good father” and who is not?  God is the measuring stick.  He is the ultimate Good Father.  He never messes up, He is fully present, His provision is generous . . .

His love is exactly what you and I need.

God is the Perfect Father.

And while I listen to others say they can’t stand to think of God as Father because their own father broke their heart, I say it was because my father broke my heart that I understand how good my heavenly Father is.  If I had not been rejected, I would not be able to experience my Father God’s love in the same way I can today.

I used to read the verse where God says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” and think it was just saying the same thing two different ways; but these two things are very different.

People leave us.  They move away from us.  They die.  But that’s not necessarily rejection. They still call, write, etc.  God will never leave.  He will never move away from you or from me.  We may sin and choose to move away from Him, but He will never leave.

To be forsaken?  Well, that is something altogether different.  That is rejection.  That is “leave” on steroids.  No phone calls.  No letters.  No, “See you on the other side.”

Forsaking is renouncing.

Forsaking is rejecting.

Forsaking is abandoning.

Forsaking is turning your back on.

That is what happened to Christ our Lord when He laid down his life for us.  “By this, we know what love is.” (1 John 3:16)  He was forsaken in order to write us in on His inheritance as a Child of God.

When you’re a Child of God, he will never forsake you.

He will always, always, always be with you.

Always intercede for you.

Always sing over you.

Always provide for you.

Always love you.

God is a Good Father.  He does not punish his children; He disciplines them, gently and lovingly, for their good.

He will never hurt your heart.  He is not harsh with his children.  He will heal your heart.

God will never try to control your actions.  Instead, He will transform your heart . . . your actions will automatically follow.  People will start to notice how much you resemble your good Father.

His love for you is not dependent upon your performance.  He never loves you more because of what you do right, and he will never love you less because of what you do wrong. His love for you is not based upon you at all.  His love for you is completely dependent upon who HE is.  It is UN-CONDITIONAL.  In Lysa TerKeurst’s words,

“His love isn’t based on you, it’s placed on you.”

He will not instill fear . . . He will cast out fear, and replace it with His peace.

He is enough.

He is everything, our “exceedingly great reward”.

He is a Good-Good-Father.

It’s who He is.  And I’m loved by Him.  That’s who I am.

Linda at Zoo

 

 

 

 

The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

IMG_6938

It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.