One Word…Advance

ADVANCE

You lord are my lamp; the lord turns my darkness into light.

With your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall.

– 2 Samuel 22:29-30

 

The winter months filled with rain clouds, dark skies and dropping temperatures often cause me to feel depressed.  I am at my best when the skies are blue, birds sing and the sunshine creates warmth.  Still, winter is a necessary season.

Leaning on God in a greater way during winter seasons help me to advance beyond my depressed “feelings” and lifts my spirit towards His truth.

With Your help, I advance…

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Crazy Love #3

Favorite line in Chapter 3 of Crazy Love by Frances Chan

If someone asked you what the greatest good on this earth is, what would you say? An epic surf session? Financial security? Health? Meaningful, trusting friendships? Intimacy with your spouse? Knowing that you belong?

The greatest good on this earth is God. Period. God’s one goal for us is Himself.

Crazy Love #2

Favorite line in Chapter 1 of Crazy Love by Francis Chan

“What if I said, “Stop praying?” What if I told you to stop talking at God for awhile, but instead take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word?”

*The author asked readers to take a moment to watch the “Awe Factor” video at www.crazylovebook.com

I did and it caused a stillness in my soul as I considered all that God has created from our vast universe to little ole me. Amazing!

Crazy Love #1

“I grew up believing in God without having a clue what He was like. I called myself a Christian, was pretty involved in church–drinking, drugs, sex, swearing. Christianity was simple,:Fight your desires in order to please God. Whenever I failed (which was often), I’d walk around feeling guilty and distance from God.

In hindsight I don’t think my church’s teaching was incorrect just complete. My view of God was now and small.” – Crazy Love by Frances Chan

*I haven’t even read chapter 1 and this book already speaks to me.

 

 

 

Reading & Sharing – Crazy Love by Frances

I know this book came out about 8 years ago but I’m a little slow to catch on 😊.. As I read through the chapters I will post quotes principals from the author that I feel God is impressing upon my heart to pay attention to…

God uses words to inspire… I’m sure the words in Crazy Love by Francis Chan will help grow my faith, and by sharing, perhaps yours too.

Can’t wait to get started!

crazy-love

Using Your Ears for God’s Good

I knew I was officially grown up when my aunt Gladys from New York called to say she was planning a visit to California with her friend Roseanne and wanted to know if they could spend a few nights with me and my family. For years, aunt Gladys would travel across country with different friends to visit all of the California family and typically would stay at her sister’s house, my aunt MaryJane.

As a child, I loved going to my aunt MaryJane’s when aunt Gladys came to town because I knew it meant all of the family would be getting together, eating delicious food, laughing endlessly and before the night ended some sort of trinket or present would be handed out. 
It was a wonderful time of my childhood but when aunt Gladys suddenly called to see if she and her friend Roseanne could stay at my house, I felt like I was no longer a child but a mature adult who could be counted on to accommodate a guest or two for the evening. I was tremendously honored.
There are two things I remember most about my aunt’s visit. One was the fact that as a young married couple my husband and I didn’t have a big house with separate guest rooms to offer aunt Gladys and Roseanne. We didn’t have firm beds, soft comforters and fluffy pillows for our guests but we did have the floor in our children’s room along with two tri-fold cushions about 6 inches thick, and a couple of sleeping bags. 
Aunt Gladys and Roseanne were both in their mid-sixties at the time and I wasn’t sure how comfortable they would feel sleeping on thin cushions with sleeping bags. Nonetheless, when they arrived and I showed them their modest accommodations they appeared genuinely pleased.  
I’ll never forget that first evening seeing the two women in their flower print PJ’s making their way down to the floor to sleep on their thin cushions for the night. It was adorable really, but the true challenge came in the morning when aunt Gladys and Roseanne each rolled off their make shift bed and onto the floor before wiggling, squirming, and maneuvering their way up to a standing position. I felt two opposing emotions as I watched their struggle, pity and outrageous humor as they were quite the sight to be seen. 
By the time aunt Gladys and Roseanne made it to their feet, they were breaking a sweat, yet neither one complained. Unfortunately, their challenges were not quite over as the two ladies had to hobble over a 3-foot high pet gate we had set up between the living room and our kitchen for our Doberman pinscher. As both women cleared the gate, without a murmur, using the wall for support, I realized these two senior women rocked.
Every time I think of what troopers they were in that moment with all their maneuvering, I just have to laugh out loud. As memorable as their maneuvering moment was, there was another moment, not long after, that has been stuck in my memory for more than twenty years.
We were getting in the car to take aunt Gladys and Roseann to the zoo. I decided to sit in the back with Roseanne and let aunt Gladys chat with my husband in the front. As I settled into my sit Roseanne turned toward me and asked a question, “What are you interested in, Monica?”  
I assumed she was just trying to create some polite conversation while we rode in the car and so I briefly shared with her my interest in serving God however I could in which she replied, “Reeeeally!”
The way she said it caught my attention because it sounded so much more enthusiastic and sincere than I had expected. She then adjusted herself to face me and purposely established solid eye contact with me before asking, “And what are some of the ways you like serving God?”  
She had an eager look in her eye as if she couldn’t wait to hear what what I was going to say next and so I casually shared things with her in which she again replied, “Reeeeally!” with an enthusiastic tone as if I had told her I had discovered a new plant or the cure for cancer.
Her enthusiasm over whatever I had to say was infectious. She didn’t once break her gaze from me as I continued to speak. Everything about her body language and her manner said she was fully engaged, she was fully listening to me, not just my words, but my heart behind them. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first because I had never experienced someone who listened with their entire being.
What was suppose to be a quick car ride to the zoo ended up being a life changing moment for me. Roseanne had a gift that I didn’t typically see in people, the gift of sincere listening. It didn’t matter what I was talking about, she listened from her inner spirit on out and caused me to feel valued which something you don’t find in our non-stop texting, Facebook posting culture.  
There was something about the way Roseanne demonstrated the gift of listening in that moment that made me feel exceptionally valued. By the time we reached the zoo, I knew exactly how I wanted to serve God from there on. I knew I wanted to help other people sense God’s love and goodness through the simple yet beautiful act listening.
During the rest of their visit, I purposely observed Roseanne as she interacted with my husband, children and others, and realized that this gift of listening was how she served God with everyone He brought her way. Her gift left such an impression on me, that I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to follow in her footsteps, using my ears to bring value to others and honor to God.
The gift of listening reminds me of the story found in Luke 24:17-20. Jesus approached two men walking along the road to Emmaus. He asked them and imperative question and then he listened.
“What are you discussing together as you walk along?” 

They stood still, their faces downcast. Cleopas asked the Lord, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 

“What things?” He asked.
Jesus really didn’t need to ask questions of these two men. He obviously was aware of what was going on being that he had just fulfilled prophecy with his death and resurrection. But He knew these men needed to express themselves, they needed to be heard and feel valued, particularly in that moment. Therefore, Jesus asked a sincere question “What things?” and then he listened with His whole being.
Similarly, Roseanne didn’t have to talk about her faith during her visit. She understood the value of Jesus asking the question “What things?” She understood what his listening meant and how it added purpose and so she simply used her ears and followed His example and so can we.

With God There’s Always a Fish on the Line

A fish on the line   I was having one of those days where I was questioning my spiritual influence in this season of my life, wondering if I was having as much impact on people as I once had.

Years prior I could pin-point the things I was doing for God that might be considered inspirationally impacting.  At the time, my kids were young and we were involved with different activities through church, work, school and sports and therefore I had a large circle of influence. I was busy serving God by carrying for my husband and children, while writing faith-filled books, articles and newsletters. I also regularly spoke at ladies Bible studies and would share how God was working in every day life.   I pursued my purpose with passion, and often did so by keeping up with the hectic pace of society but I felt my service for God was useful and significant.

But what that was then and this is now.  My kids are older, life is less chaotic, my sphere of influence has dwindled as people have moved away, grown up, changed jobs or have just become busy with life.  Of course I know I am still useful to my growing family and to a much smaller circle but I don’t feel that I can pin-point specific things I’m doing for God in the same way as I use to and a times it makes me feel a little unsure.

All of this was weighing on my mind recently when we went on an overnight camping trip and stayed in a small cabin that overlooked a man-made lake.  In the morning before anyone else got up I decided I wanted to do a little fishing so I poured myself a hot cup of coffee, grabbed a chair, a devotional, my fishing pole, and container filled with worms and headed to the lake.

A beautiful morning midst hovered over the water as the sun slowly began to rise.  Crickets creaked and birds chirped as I set out my chair and prepared my fishing pole.  With hook, weight and worm ready, I cast my line out to the center of the lake reeling it in just enough to keep the line taught so I would be able to feel even the slightest nibble or tug should a fish catch my worm.

It wasn’t hard to get in tuned with God as I read my devotion lakeside and sipped on my coffee and as I spent time reflecting, I began to voice my concerns to God in prayer.  What type of spiritual influence do I have in this season of my life, God?  How can I best serve you now?  Or did my service peak years ago? Can I still have a ministry of encouragement and spiritual impact even though I have no desire to rush around at a hectic pace as I once did?

For nearly thirty minutes I sat there, thinking, reflecting, posing questions, dumping it all out before God. Can you still use me to make a difference God?  

After awhile I took a break from all my pondering and then realized that my fishing pole hadn’t budged one bit since casting it out and it might be a good idea to check the status of the bait.

I lazily began reeling in my line and for a moment I thought I felt the tiniest of tugs.  I paused to see if I had a bite but there was no movement at all.   Again I began slowly reeling in my line and once again felt the faintest pull. I paused once again and waited. Still nothing.

Now anytime I’ve gone fishing in the past and had a bite the fish, whether big or small, always let me know he was there by the pulling, tugging but there was none of that but when I finally reeled my line all the way in and pulled my pole up, I was surprised to find a nice size catfish tangling on the end of my line.

I have a fish?  I said out loud and at that moment God brought an instant clarity to my earlier concerns.

I had a fish on my line and didn’t even know it because I didn’t see or feel the normal tugging and pulling yet beneath the water things were happening.  Just because I don’t see the influence I have the way I maybe once did, and just because I can’t label or pin-point what I “do” doesn’t mean things aren’t happening.

My sphere of influence may seem smaller now but the size of influence has always been God’s choosing not mine.  I suddenly realized that we don’t really have to pin-point what we “do” for God, we just simply have to be willing to show up every day with a heart for God and a heart for others and He’ll lead the way.  In that moment with the fish still dangling, I knew that If nothing else, I can show up.

I suppose the irony of it all is that after catching the fish, I released him.   Nonetheless, I will forever remember the revelation.  We don’t always know how we impact others.  God doesn’t call us to be fishers of men only in certain seasons, it’s a life-time calling. He will always bring fish on line whether we see it or not, we just need to keep showing up with heart for Him and a heart others and trust Him to lead the way.