#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

Advertisements

Leap of Faith Prayer Call for Women

Please forgive me for the radio silence!  I’ve been super busy turning my passion for encouraging and equipping others into a luncheon series designed to do just that for women.  I launched the Leap Luncheon Series™ at the prompting of the Holy Spirit in January of this year to help connect women with other successful women thought leaders, business owners/runners, and game changers.

As God continues to bless this initiative with even greater speakers and more women in attendance each time, I feel compelled to agree with women all over that the desires and dreams that God’s give them will come to pass; that they will take LEAPs of Faith this year into the new territories God has claimed just for them.

So tomorrow I’m going to start a 5-week prayer call for women looking to make LEAPs this year.  I want to encourage, intercede for, and agree with women who are seeking and praying for breakthroughs in their lives.
The LEAP of Faith Prayer Call™ will be every Tuesday evening at 7pm for 45 minutes for the entire month of June (June 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30).  I’ll do a brief devotional at the beginning of the call, ask if there are any new prayer requests, and will then pray for everyone and the requests I receive. The line will be muted during the actual prayer.
I invite you to join us!  You may send in your prayer requests – either with your name or anonymously – via email to expectmore@radicalnewu.com or via my web form here.   Requests will need to be in to me by 8pm ET the day before the call (so tonight).
Here are the call-in details:

Dial-in Number: (641) 715-3580
Access Code: 859866

Whether you feel led to join us or not, I ask for your prayers for me in this endeavor.  Not for MY success, but for my complete erasure so that God speaks and moves for everyone who calls in.
I also invite you to invite women in your network whom you believe would appreciate some encouragement and prayer.  My prayer is that by getting support and encouragement, women as a whole will feel empowered to go after and live the lives they desire, the one’s God’s ordained for them, instead of just accepting the circumstances and situations they face.
And for those curious, the scriptural foundation (and purpose of my Leap Luncheons) – Hebrew 10:24 – is also my goal and compass for these calls.
I believe so strongly that God has more for women – for each of you and those who will join the call – and I’m committed to doing what I can to see that you all get the MORE God’s already named as yours!
Thanks in advance for your support!  I’m praying God’s blessing over the LEAPs you’re going to take this year as well!

Dealing With Disappointment

Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.

But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.

The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.

Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.

Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.

But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.

The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.

So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.

In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion.  It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…”  That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was.  Reminding God of His word and His promises.  (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business.  My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)

The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.

But I didn’t take this second spate of news as hard as I’d taken the morning news. And the reason why is because in between the two events I stumbled across the Feels Like Home blog; specifically this entry on 13 Bible Verses and 6 Steps to Deal with Disappointment.

Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:

13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment

Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.

“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

When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.

Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.

And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.

Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.

For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:

“Tara, God will heal her.”

“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”

“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”

Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.

Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.

Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.

Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.

Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.

Measuring Up

I love the Amplified version of James 1:17, the first half in particular. It reads:

“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above…”

The expounding upon perfect is the part that really gets me: free, large, and full.

How many times do we pray for a thing and, in our excitement and haste to see/get/have it now, we begin trying to make it happen?

We pray for a mate, so the next time a young man or lady catches our attention and gives us the time of day, we are already thinking forever…even though the signs are there that s/he isn’t the one.

We ask God to get us a new job with more pay, so we begin applying to jobs based on the salaries we want…even though something inside tells us we won’t enjoy the job or the people or the mission of the organization.

Or we ask God to grow our own business with more income, so we start chasing every person or organization with a bank book…even though none of what they do aligns with our gifts or interests or talents or capacities.

But what we find in the first half James 1:17 are some good parameters by which to measure our “blessings” to determine if they are from God, or just an attempt to distract us from God. Are they something we want to further our own plans, or are they a part of God’s plan advancing for us?

Let’s take a few minutes to unpack the parameters laid out for us in this passage of James.

Perfect (verb) – I love this word used here. God is perfect. Jesus is perfect. And God made us perfect in His image to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and then sent his only Son to shed His blood so we could be reconciled back to Him and His perfect will. That means that in Christ every messy, uncomfortable detail of our lives is perfected, because only that which is perfect (the Son) can make perfection out of flawed materials (us).

So no matter how jacked up we think we are or our lives are, they — and we — are made perfect by Christ. This act, this action, of making the flawed as good as it possibly can be is the definition of the VERB perfect. So, literally, God is always WORKING for and through and on us. It’s the nature of who He is and what He does through his Son.

Perfect (noun) – When we look at the definition of “perfect” as a noun, it says: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.”

This is what God gives us. When He blesses us, His blessings, His gifts, have everything we need (and likely much of what we want!) and there is nothing better that exists. That’s why His will and plan for our lives is perfect: there is no better way. His love for us is perfect: it never changes, covers all of our faults, and is unconditional. Glory to God!

So if the “blessing” you are claiming isn’t in alignment with God’s perfect will or His perfect plan for your life, it doesn’t measure up.

Free – As cliché as it is, Jesus really did pay it all. So when God blesses, the cost has already been paid. There’s nothing you can do to earn it because God blesses us out of the character of who He is not out of what we can do. If this new “blessing” you are claiming requires you to pay in ways that aren’t in alignment with God’s character or His plan for your life, or asks you to do or say things that just plain don’t feel right in your gut, then it isn’t free and it ain’t measuring up.

Large – We serve a big God. He’s bigger than the vastness of space and time that He created. His word tells us in the latter half of Matthew 6 that He guarantees us the necessities of life – food, shelter, clothes, and their trappings. And the Word also tells us that He knows what we need (utility bills, maintenance on the car, tuition for the kids, down payments, etc) in Matthew 6:8 and will in fact supply all those needs as well (Philippians 4:19). So knowing this, and that His plan is to draw everyone unto Himself, if the “blessing” you’re claiming isn’t big enough to give God glory and credit and show Him to others (or just plain show him mighty in your own life), something there ain’t measuring up.

Full – Does this “blessing” you’re claiming require you to add to it, fix it, adjust for it, or otherwise do something to make it complete or to make it fit your need/prayer? If you answer yes, hold on — something isn’t measuring up. Full
means to capacity, no extra room, no free space. God-blessings leave no room (or need!) for us to add to it. Period.

The reality is that yes, it is necessary, that we make sure the “blessings” we claim measure up because we are called to a higher calling, a higher purpose.  If folks of the world are created to, expected to, conform and just take what the world sends their way, how much more do we, the children of the Most High God, have to be diligent to ensure that all that we allow into our lives meets the standards of the God whose delight it is to bless us?

The patience and faith it takes to let something that ain’t for you go can be tremendous.  But the energy it takes – the spiritual, physical, and mental energies – to deal with the consequences of trying to rush or force the Hand of God is far greater.

Let’s decide now this year we will take the time to ensure that every new person and opportunity that crosses our path measures up to what God has promised us.  And then let’s endeavor to support one another in letting some “blessings” keep right on going, because if we err on the side of caution and let something go that God did intended for us, it’s still ours and His word says that as long as we’re acting out of what we believe to be His will, He’ll bless us all the same.

 

Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.

Huffington Post Blog: On Being A Dictator

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

For the past few months, the Lord has really been working with me on one simple, yet significant, principle in my walk: trust My promise, don’t worry about My plan.

You see, my husband and I have been believing God for some very specific things and I found a few weeks back that what had began, for me, as bold, expectant faith, had somehow morphed into anxious, obsessive lusting after this thing.  So much so that I began trying to orchestrate for God how He could deliver said thing.

Needless to say, my plans never came to fruition.

But even as I continue to learn this lesson – the importance of guarding your focus when you’re waiting in faith – the Lord encouraged me to share it with you all, too.

I pray my latest contribution to The Huffington Post, “On Being a Dictator,” blesses you! (You can also just scroll down and check it out!)

And you can always check out my other posts here.

BeRadical. ExpectMore. ™

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

 

 

Huffington Post: On Being a Dictator

You’re a bit of a dictator. And I am, too.

The Holy Spirit gave me the revelation one day as I lamented why the blessing the Lord said He’d give me wasn’t coming the way I thought it would, or should.

Imagine that: I was trying to tell the Gift Giver how to give the gift.

It happens much more easily than you might think. The Holy Spirit confirms to you that indeed the Lord heard your prayers for a new house, a new car, a way out of debt, peace about that child, or whatever.

Excited, you begin looking at your circumstances trying to figure out how He’s going to do it. And that’s when the enemy slides into the conversation.

Well, Lord, I know you said I’m the lender and not the borrower, but I don’t make enough to pay off all of these credit cards.

My God, you know I need a new car, but with a credit score like this, it’s never going to happen.

I’ve been praying for a new job for weeks, Jesus, but they gave that job to someone else even though I interviewed. What gives?

Just that quickly, your focus has shifted.

Instead of keeping your eyes on the One who is your Source and Provider, you’re looking at what He wants to give. Instead of fixing your gaze on and pursuing the face of God, you’re inexplicably fixated on His hand.

Unavoidably, when what you see in your human life doesn’t look like what God has promised you in the Spirit, you then get downright depressed and indignant.

You question God, you wonder if it was really His voice, and you quickly lose the sense of peaceful and patient expectation you once had.

How did we get here?

God’s word is clear: we are to trust God.

In fact, the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

When we presume to know how God will bless us or deliver our breakthrough, we go from asking of God to demanding of Him. We move to telling Him how to be God, instead of through faith trusting Him to be God.

And there are many risks associated with taking our eyes off of God.

First, we run the risk of making a little-g god of the very thing God intended to be a blessing.

Second, for the God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we think and imagine, we also run the risk of limiting His move in our lives when we confine Him to blessing us in the way that makes sense to our human logic.

And, third, trying to force God to work within the boundaries of our plan can ultimately cause a delay in us receiving the very thing we so badly want.

It’s a no-win situation. I mean, why would we even allow ourselves to go down this path of trying to play God’s hand for Him?

We know from Isaiah 55:8 that His ways are not our ways, yet we somehow still try to plan exactly how and when He will move in our lives.

Well, as a recovering faith dictator, I share this word of hope: there is a way back.

Simply readjust your focus.

When you find that you’re obsessing about this thing, always trying to guess how and when God will deliver it, actively choose right then and there to offer praise to God for simply being God.

As your praises go up, your focus will be returned to the Gift Giver and away from the gift; and most likely your peace about that thing will also be restored.

That space – inexplicable peace in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – is where God wants us to stay, to live. He sent His Son to die for us so that we might have eternal life and unlimited access to the peace and joy that comes with not having to worry about anything.

Do you need to check your focus? Are you now consumed with the how of God’s blessing, instead of with God Himself?

If this is you, cut yourself some slack and decide to put your eyes back on God.

And if you aren’t sure if this is you, here’s a quick test: does the idea of how God is going to do that thing for you cause you anxiety? Do you feel like you’re obsessed with getting that thing, and you find it frustrating that the way you thought it would happen didn’t come to pass?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to FDA (Faith Dictators Anonymous). We’ve saved a chair for you.

Sick and Tired

The Lord asked me plain as day, “Aren’t you tired of being sick and tired?”

The question took me aback.  Here I was sacrificing hours of precious sleep before the kids awakened to “seek ye first the Kingdom,” and this was how my prayers were met?

After the shock wore off, I quieted down to listen and the Holy Spirit pointed me to 1 Peter 5:7 [Amplified]:

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

The Vincent Word Studies commentary went on to offer this footnote to the verse, giving greater context on “casting” and “all your care”:

  • Casting – participle denoting an act once for all; throwing the whole life with its care on him.
  • All your care – the whole of your care; “Not every anxiety as it arises, for none will arise if this transference [sic] has been effectually made.” Care. See on Matthew 6:25, take no thought.

The “once and for all” glared at me from my tablet’s screen.  Then I heard again, more gently, “Aren’t you tired of being sick and tired?”

The sad truth about Christians being “sick and tired” of things is that “sick and tired” is a consequence, a symptom if you will, of not casting all of your cares.

If you’re like me, a wife and mom trying to balance family life with a career and carving out some semblance of your own identity on the side, it’s easy to cast your cares as they arise – as the bank account is overdrawn, as the milk runs out, as the bills stack up, as the car needs repair, or whatever – and then, unknowingly take them back; swapping them for whatever the new crisis du jour is in your life.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is not casting all of your cares; this is placing them temporarily and then snatching them back.  This is tasting God’s peace instead of owning and walking in it.  This, my friends, is the definition of insanity.  And we all do it.

It can be easy to forget our need to minister to ourselves when we’re so focused on being everything for everyone else.  It’s a lot of work and someone has to do it.  But what the Lord reminded me of was that our faith cannot take a backseat to our lives.  In fact, our faith must be the driver. 

When we can’t get a moment of peace between tantrums, ear infections and sibling spats, we must cast our cares because the word says that God’s grace is sufficient for today.

When we can’t catch a break between the misplaced debit card, lack of luster in the marital bed, and the surprise ER visits to dislodge marbles from, well, places, we must cast our cares because the word says that no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

When we can’t go another day in that job, in that house, or even in that relationship, we must cast our cares because the word says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. 

And when we just can’t see a way through the dark despair and desperation we sometimes find ourselves in when we have to be so much to so many other people, we must cast our cares because the word says that God has a plan to give us hope and a future.

It is imperative that we remember to pray for, uplift, lay hands on and prophesy over ourselves.  Because if we don’t, when we don’t, the enemy takes that opportunity to whisper lies to us about who we are, our failures, our mistakes, and what we can’t have 

If we don’t speak life and truth back to him the moment he begins his mind games, we allow him to heap back onto our already-too-full plates the worries, concerns and cares we previously gave to God.

It can be incredibly difficult to find a few minutes of silence when you’re juggling a million other things, let alone string enough minutes together to read and pray, but I urge you all to find the time.  Not only do your peace, joy and even sanity rely upon you doing so, but your family’s welfare does, too.  After all, a sick, tired and worn out momma (or daddy) is no good to anyone.

Are you tired of being sick and tired?  Are you ready to have an extended season of peace and joy?  Are you ready to focus more on your testimony than your tests?

Take care of your Spirit. Take care of you, and then, as the Bible says, all these (other) things will be added to you.

Square Biz

Yesterday, something that my pastor, Pastor Mark Batterson, said hit home:

What possession are you holding onto, what thing are you chasing so fervently, that you’ve gone from possessing it to it possessing you.

That thing stung, y’all.  I mean, lower-your-head-rasie-your-hand-and-say-ouch kinda conviction there.

For the past week or so I’d just felt so tired, physically, emotionally, mentally.  Drained.

No amount of sleep was fixing it.  No amount of meditating was doing it.  Not even prayer did the trick.

And then Pastor Mark said that, and it all came together.

In the span of a few minutes God revealed to me the source of my fatigue: I’d somehow moved from chasing God to chasing other things and those other things.

Now, before you go and get all high and mighty on me, I’ll share that the “other things” were family things: more money to pay tuition; more clothes for the kids for the fall; more, more, more…stuff.

I’d somehow become so driven to give more and do more that I forgot that God is our source and our everything.  He knows what we need, what we desire, and if we seek him first, as it says in Matthew 6:33, then all good things will be added to us.

It was hard to hear that I’d gone from relying on God to provide to driving myself into the ground trying to do things on my own, but it was a welcomed revelation because after I repented and quietly sought God’s guidance to understand what my wrong priorities were and how I’d gotten then, I was freed from the fatigue and the heaviness and the burden.  I could go back to joyfully and freely depending on the one and only true provider, God Himself.

I bet if you were honest with yourself there are times – or have been times – where you too have strayed.  Perhaps your story is like mine where you sought God consistently and earnestly for godly promotion, and when you got it you all of sudden thought you had to make things happen, achieve greatness and success, by yourself and in your own might.  But how many of you know that there’s no way to succeed alone in what God has ordained and divinely gifted to you?

I know that now.

Or maybe that’s not your story.  Maybe you started out genuinely trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman, or a man after God’s own heart, on a path closely tied to scripture.  But somewhere along the way the competition of arriving “there” first and better overshadowed the journey of traveling in trust with God, and now you feel overpowered by a spirit of drive and competition and acquiring more stuff: more titles, more money, more things, more status.

Whatever the origin, chances are that you are now feeling a heaviness and a tiredness that you can’t put your finger on.  You’re getting more sleep.  Exercising.  Trying to eat better.  You’re trying to take time throughout the day to be quiet, to unplug.  But you just can’t shake this feeling of…burden, desperation.  This feeling that no matter how far you’ve come there’s still infinitely farther to go and you’ll never get there.

See, that is evidence of being overtaken by a maverick spirit.  A spirit of discontent (remember Paul who famously learned to be content no matter his circumstances in Philippians 4), selfishness and/or covetousness have befallen you and without revelation from God you won’t be able to shake it.

That’s what the enemy does best I think.  He waits along the wayside, watching us follow God blindly and joyfully.  Then he waits until God gives us a taste of that which we’d sought Him for before starting to wedge himself between us and God.  He’s discrete about it at first: the job we prayed for doesn’t pay EXACTLY what we wanted so now we want to work harder to earn a bonus or get ahead faster.  Or the car/iPhone/thing we couldn’t wait to have just a few months ago is now yesterday’s news, so we’re unhappy, focusing now on getting the next best thing.

Or even in our relationships.  That husband or that wife that we prayed for forEVER is, we later find, HUMAN (shocker) and it looks easier to start anew somewhere else than to put in the work where we’re planted.

It can happen to any of us.  And if we’re honest, it has happened more than one.  But the great thing about the God we serve is that He’s merciful, always extending His grace to us.  He’s patient, waiting for us to want to come back to Him.  And He wants nothing more than the absolute best for us.  But He wants us to want it, His way.  And in order to ensure that we do, He’s willing to wait.  He’ll wait until we open our hands to release that thing we’re holding on to, pursing recklessly, obsessed with achieving on our own…He waits.  And when we’re ready, He unfurls His beautiful plan and blessings before us inviting us to once again follow Him.

There is someone reading this now who all of sudden realizes that my story, this story I’ve just shared, is your testimony right now.  You somehow became so blinded by what you wanted and were working for – which could very well be a God-given dream/goal – that you’ve stopped following the One who gave you the dream chasing the dream itself instead.

Well, I have good news for you: it’s not too late to get back on track.  It’s not too late to say, “Un-uh, promotion/boyfriend/girlfriend/new car/new phone/new thing/stuff, I want you, but only if it’s what God wants for me.”  And once you repent, and let God show you where you went astray, you’re restored to right standing with Him, just like that.  Seriously, it’s that easy!  Then that heaviness, that burden, that discontent, that discomfort, they’ll all melt away and the joy that God promised us, the peace He said was our for the taking, it’ll come back.

Today I am a new woman because I repented, God forgave me, and I’m back on track.  The reality is that I’ll never feel like I have enough money or am giving enough to my kids.  That’s the way life in this world is; we’re conditioned to feel inadequate so we can constantly consume the “stuff” the world is forcing on us.  But today, right now, in this moment, I am content in knowing that my Father in Heaven wants the absolute best for me; He has a plan to give it to me; and I don’t have to do anything extra to earn it other than love and follow Him.  Period.

You know, there’s something else that Pastor Mark said yesterday that still sticks with me.  He said, “If God loves you and plans to give you life and life more abundantly.  Then the devil hates you and he has a plan to harm you.”

We are spiritual beings living in a natural world.  As Pastor Mark said, we were born right in the middle of a battlefield between God and the enemy.  It’s the devil’s job to make our life hard, to get us off track from time to time, because only when we realize that we’re off track can we experience the renewal of being restored, redeemed and rebirthed into God’s light and goodness for us.

So shake off the weights that are weighing you down!  God’s waiting to restore your joy and peace and contentment.

This may not be a typical devotion, but it’s the square biz folks.  Because I love you and I want God’s best for you!

Pulling a Peter

I pulled a Peter, y’all.

Somewhere in the last month I went from walking on water, completely focused on and trusting in God, to panicking and shouting out for Him to save me.

Somewhere along the lines I got so mesmerized with what was before/around me, that I took my eyes off of the one who was keeping me afloat, and now, I’m crying out for a dingy, a life preserver, something.

It’s like I woke up and what were the peaceful waters of my life were all of sudden lapping aggressively at my face and neck.  I’m flailing y’all.  And had God not shown me how close I was to going under…BUT GOD.

Are you overwhelmed?  Did you wake up one morning and all of sudden the burden of debt, or responsibilities at home or work, or challenges in your relationship, or the struggle of bad habits were all heaped on your head?

That’s where I am.

But this morning, the Lord showed me Psalm 119:147.  It goes like this in The Message version:

Psalm 119:147

145-152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
“God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
that you meant them to last forever.

I read that, and here are a few things the Holy Spirit told me that may be an encouragement to you:

1. You’ve gotta rise early to find direction.  You cannot expect to hear the small, still quiet of the Lord once the cacophony of your life has begun.  Set aside some quiet time – for me it must be early, but for you it could be over lunch, or doing your commute, or whenever – and dedicate it to seeking God, praying to Him, and (most importantly) listening for instruction for the day.  And it will be JUST FOR TODAY, because remember, tomorrow will have troubles of its own.

2. God isn’t going to waive a magic wand to make it all disappear.  Nope, if you read this scripture, what you’ll come away with is peace to sustain and endure and to accomplish whatever is before you.  Nowhere does it say He’ll take the burden away.  Rather, what it says is, if you seek Him, He’ll tell you how (not if, but how) you’ll win this battle.

3. God hasn’t changed.  He is the same God of our quiet and peaceful and faith-filled season as He is when we feel like we’re drowning, in over our heads, or too far gone for saving.  His promises are still true.  His word is still true.  If something’s different, the only thing that’s changed is you/me.

4. Once we put our eyes back on him, it’s not that our enemies/challenges disappeared (sometimes they will, but…), no it’s just that the change in focus makes them seem less imminent, less menacing, farther away.  The moral? The closer we draw to Him, the more insignificant all the other drama becomes.

5. Even though you’re going through, being pursued by challenges on every side, God is still there.  In fact, He’s closest during your times of peril.  I remember being told that the teacher is always silent during the test.  That seems an appropriate reminder right here.

I’ll be honest with you.  Even after this revelation from the Holy Spirit, there’s still a small, infinitesimal part of me that still feels overwhelmed, but God told me very clearly: write down all you have to do (make a to-do list) and together, you and I will, work through it.

Bottom line?  Life won’t get easier when it’s hard.  LOL.  I know that seems like common sense, but it’s often what we’re looking for: a secret escape from the hard times so we can mystically teleport ourselves back to peace and reassurance.  It doesn’t exit Family.  How else can God grow us and stretch us and deepen our dependance on Him if not by going through things from time to time?

But even though you can’t escape the tough times, he will give us the strength to endure if we seek Him, listen to/out for Him, and remind ourselves through the Word and our memories (because as Tye Tribbett said, “If He did it before/He’ll do it again/Same God right now/Same God back then) we’ll live to have HIm fight for us another day.

Isaiah 50:4

New International Version (NIV)

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.