Leaving the Closed Doors

Here’s some Friday food for thought…

STOP FIGHTING CLOSED DOORS!

You’re so busy kicking that closed door that you (1) can’t see the one God’s opened behind you or (2) you’ve lost sight of God’s plan choosing instead to pursue things the way YOU think they are supposed to go. 

Here’s how I know:

“A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/pro.18.16.nkjv

See, the Word of God says your gifts will MAKE ROOM for you; not that you’ll have to fight for them.

So if that door ain’t opening, stop trying, start trusting, and put your focus back on God.

June 16 Leap of Faith Prayer Call

To hear the recording of last night’s prayer call use the credentials below:
Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 3

Below is an excerpt of the devotional I shared during the call.
For our topic tonight, I’d like to reference a hymn that actually predates me.  It came about in 1979 and was — and remains — quite popular.  The hymn is, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” sang by that anointed psalmist, Michael Jackson.
Ok, ok.  I’ll admit that “Don’t stop til you get enough” and Michael Jackson aren’t where most folks would find Christ-inspiration, but his song – specifically the hook of “don’t stop til you get enough” – is in fact reminiscent for me of a basic principle in the kingdom: don’t settle.
So tonight, for a few minutes, I want to encourage you to don’t stop til you get enough. Or in other words, to not settle for less than God’s best in your life.
The word of God says that we are to be in this world but not of it, transformed by a renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). Likewise, it says in Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for us to give us hope and a future, to prosper us not harm us. And then, in Psa 37:4, we’re told that God will give us the desires of our hearts. He’ll literally tell us what we should want so that His plan for our lives can be achieved.
So, for me, adding all of that up, nothing in that says to simply accept what’s offered to you. To go along to get along. Nothing in those promises says we should have low or no expectations in life.
So why then do we, especially women, continue to accept cookie-cutter lives when we serve a radical God who delights in blessing us and Whom the word declares gives us every good and perfect gift?
Why accept the world’s leftovers when God has prepared a table for you? Why accept anything less than God’s best when, as the daughter of the King, His best is in fact your birthright and inheritance?
 Why accept following someone else’s career path when you deserve – and were created to accomplish – so much more?  Why accept simply living, when you’re called to live life more abundantly?  Why accept simply having your “ends meet” from month to month when your God wants you to live in abundance?
Why?  Because sometimes we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough or we don’t deserve it.  We allow the enemy to tell us that we have to earn our stripes, pay our dues, like everyone else.  But I’m here to tell you that Jesus paid it all with HIS stripes so you and I could inherit the Kingdom and all that God has for us.  You’ve just got to be committed to not stopping until you get enough.  And you’ve gotta be patient until your breakthrough is delivered.
See, when we’re patient, the word tells us in James 1:12, that God will bless us. So if the key to getting God’s best is to be steadfast, patient, in waiting for what God wills, why not wait with expectation for His best instead of settling for what’s quickest or easiest?
See, we’re already told in 2 Cor 1:20 that all of God’s promises are yes in Christ. That means they’re already a done deal, ours to take hold of. If only we’d be patient and not settle. If only we’d make up in our minds to not stop til we get enough.
Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop hoping. Don’t stop expecting. Don’t stop planning.  Don’t stop working like it depends on you. Don’t stop praying like it depends on God.  Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
You know, there’s an Internet image going around of two cartoon men, both seemThree-feet-from-goldingly digging in the same diamond mine. It appears they’ve been swinging their pickaxes for some time; they appear disheveled, sweaty, and tired.  And they also both appear right at the edge of breaking though to an innumerable amount of diamonds right on the other side of a dirt wall ahead of them. Literally, we see them both only a few swings away.
But one of the men has given up; tired from all the digging and plugging away, he’s turned away from the inches of dirt that stand between him and a financial windfall. He walks away disappointed with his pickaxe over his shoulder, defeated. Above him the other man, who’s been digging just as long and as hard, continues to swing his axe. And that’s the motivation for you tonight.  Because there’s no way he can be sure of WHEN he’ll break through, but he knows he will eventually and he’s committed to swinging until that breakthrough comes.
If you’re feeling like that first man tonight – beat down, defeated, tired, second-guessing whether what you’re chasing will ever really come to pass – I want to say to you tonight you’re one more swing away from your breakthrough. You’re one more swing away from landing that new client or earning that promotion. You’re one swing away from getting that ring or opening the doors on your new business. Your breakthrough is an arm’s length away. And your pickaxe is your faith in God.  Your prayers and your confessions.  You are one more prayer away, one more swing away, from God’s breakthrough for you.
Don’t let this world and the people who are of it talk you out of your blessing because their faith is too small or their fear is too big. You must not settle for anything less than the God’s best that you’re pursuing.
You must not give up or give in. Even if you journey on alone.  Even if they can’t understand your passion or why it’s so important to you.  Even if you are starting to wonder if you’ll ever get it, if it worth it anyway, I say to you tonight…
Whatever you do: don’t stop, til you get enough.

Obsessed

appleofmyeyeFor the past day or so, I’ve been listening to The Walls Group album “Fast Forward” almost non-stop. (if you haven’t heard it, you should!  It’s awesome!)  And one song has been on repeat in my Spirit — I woke up singing it: “God on My Mind (feat. Brandy).”

Now, I’ll admit, a minuscule part of the reason why the song resonates for me is because it samples Brandy’s “Always on My Mind,” and hers was the first CD I ever owned back in middle school.

But this morning, when I woke up singing the song’s chorus, God gave me a revelation about its lyrics.  They go:

From the mountains to the seas, from the day that we believed to the beginning of time.
I can’t get you off my mind.
From the stars in space, to that empty grave, no matter how hard I try I can’t get God off my mind.
Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.

I’ve listened to the song so many times and found myself inspired by the aspirational quality of these words.  I aspire to have God on my mind ALL the time.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV to “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  And what more is prayer than thinking of and talking to God?

But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this epiphany: “You’re always on God’s mind.  He never stops thinking of you.  He’s obsessed.”

And suddenly, the lyrics had even greater meaning.

“From the mountains to the seas…”– No matter where we are or end up physically, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He loves us so big and so wide and so deeply, that even when we stray from Him – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, whatever – He’s still thinking of us.

“…from the day that we believed to the beginning of time..” — The Bible tells us in Jeremiah that before we were even in our mothers’ wombs, God knew us.  Even then, He was thinking of us.  And as we grew up, even before we chose Him, He was thinking about us enough to send his Son to die in our place.  From before our lives started and every moment since, we’ve been on God’s mind.

I can’t get you off my mind.” — The Psalmist tells us in chapter 139 that God’s thoughts on us are so numerous that they outnumber the grains of sand.

From the stars in space, to that empty grave…” — Everything that God has ever done for us, from stringing the stars in the sky to sending His only son to die, has been for us as an act of love because He was thinking about us.

“…no matter how hard I try…” — He keeps track of our sorrows.  He captures our tears in a bottle.  Our names are written on His hand.  He couldn’t get away from thinking of us if He tried or wanted to (don’t worry, He doesn’t try and doesn’t want to!).

Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.” — And His obsession with us is consistent.  It’s constant.  He is always thinking about us.  It, like Him, is unchanging.

Isn’t that overwhelming?  To consider that God is always thinking about me.  About you.  Your situation.  Your hardships and trials.  Your joys and successes.  What’s important to you.  What you’re worried about.  What you fear.  What you need.

Every moment of your life, God is thinking of you.  Nothing surprises Him.  No circumstance sneaks up on Him.  He knew.  He knows.  He’s thinking of you.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I hope you’ll know this: God is absolutely obsessed with you.  You’re the apple of His eye and, because you’re so important to Him, He’s made you more than a conqueror; He’s defeated your every foe; and He is always working things out to benefit you.  He’s thought about all you’ll ever need and want, and has created a plan to give you hope and a future.  To bless you.

God can’t get you off His mind.

So walk through today in godly confidence that the Creator of the world, the King of all nations, the Alpha and Omega is thinking about you.  Right.  Now.


*YouTube courtesy of Stênio Nóbrega

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.

Huffington Post Blog: On Being Radical

I’m pretty sure my latest piece for the HuffPost is going to piss some folks off. I’m almost certain of that.

But, it had to be done.

I get so tired of Christians crying victim, living and walking a “woe is me,” “I’m just getting by lifestyle.” The reality is that God has more for us, gave us the power to get more, and wants us to expect more. Period.

The simple truth is: believing and asking God for small things isn’t noble or humble. That doesn’t honor the God who created everything. So do you really want to insult Him in the name of humility?

So, check out my latest post, “On Being Radical,” and share your thoughts with me. (And while you’re there, read all of my HuffPost pieces here).

You can also take a look below.

Huffington Post: On Being Radical

Timidity doesn’t honor God.

There, I said it.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how often followers of Christ find themselves – or more accurately, place themselves – in the role of victim.

Text messages change our moods. What someone said about us ruins our day. We pray fervently the same prayers, pleading with God to bless us in some area of our lives. Or, we allow ourselves only the most modest of dreams in a misguided attempt to be humble.

Yes, the Bible talks frequently of the blessings of humility. And Jesus Himself extols the virtue as one of the most desired traits of those seeking to live like Him. But nowhere have I seen a verse that says, “Think small, dream small and pray small. These things make God happy.”

In fact, I would venture to say that the opposite is accurate: big, bold prayers and dreams honor God.

On the basest of levels, followers of Christ, those seeking to model their lives after His example, must admit that our Savior was radical.

He flipped tables. He preached and healed on “forbidden” days. He hung out with the outcasts. I mean, come on: Jesus was our first maverick.

Yet somehow, centuries later, many of us have accepted a role of inferiority. We’ve come to accept mediocrity and “just getting by” as the life we should lead, and happily.

I disagree.

The Bible clearly states that the riches of the wicked are stored up for the righteous. In Psalms 35:27, we’re told that the Lord delights in blessing His children. And Mark 11:24 explicitly says that if the children of God pray, believing that they have received, God is faithful to do anything they ask in Jesus’ name.

Where in those scriptures does it say “accept whatever the world gives you”? To the contrary, we’re encouraged to command our day in Job 38:12, and we’re told that have authority over all the power that the enemy possesses in Luke 10:19.

Time after time, God reiterates through scripture His desire for his children to be bold, to have divine confidence, and to walk open to and expecting abundance in every area of our lives.

So, it’s far time those of us who aspire to be like Christ accept this simple fact: to be radical is to be like Christ.

Yes, be humble. Seek God’s will for your life, and walk that path with love and temperance. But don’t make yourself, your dreams or your abilities smaller than they are to make others comfortable; out of fear; or because you think that pleases God.

God knew what you’d be capable of when He made you. He knows your personality and the dreams He’s placed in you. He formed you with the express intent of fulfilling the purpose and dreams He placed in you.

So do it. Do you.

Be confident in your uniqueness. Embrace the big dreams God’s given you, and the great ministry He’s placed in you.

Accept that you’re different (Heck, we all are. We were made that way: to stand out, to be a remnant). Love you for you, and then live your God-given life out loud.

It’s what God wants. It’s honoring God by being and doing and dreaming all that He wants you to, the way He wants you to.

Last year for the Lenten season, I read “Draw The Circle,” a prayer challenge authored by Pastor Mark Batterson. I still remember the entry for day 31, “What Do You Want Me to Do For You?,” which talked all about praying and believing God for big, explicit prayers as an act of honoring how great and powerful He truly is.

That very day I decided I would seek God and write down (just like they tell us in Habakkuk) all of the visions He’d given me. And man, they were bigger than anything I’d allow myself to think of.

Almost a year later, I remain determined and passionate about living each day as radically as my Savior did: confident in who I am and what I’m gifted and called to do. It has given me a peace beyond my understanding and freedom previously unattainable.

The season of mundane Christian life is over. Be bold and be radical in whatever God’s called you to do. Evangelize with passion. Work with divine confidence. And live with Christ-like love and humility. Expect good things in your life daily, and decide right now that yesterday was the last day you’d take whatever this life gives to you.

You are an heir to the King. Walk in that power. It pleases God for you to do so.

How ya living?

During my reading and journaling this morning I found myself – dare I say it – complaining. ::gasp:: Yes, on the first day of the new year, I was rattling off all of the problems I was facing. I was quoting to God HIS own words and promises and demanding He tell me where He was in all of my problems.

Imagine my surprise when He literally cut me off mid-sentence, “I know about your situation. You made the decisions that put you in these circumstances. I did my part. I upheld my word. Now do your part!”

I sat for a while in silence. Ironically, or at least unexpectedly, I was grateful for His candor and response, even though it pinned the blame squarely on me. And as I sat there, repenting and walking through how He’d have me to right the ship, a peace washed over me.

But somewhere, in the darker recesses of my mind and heart, I still felt pangs of anger and frustration and accusation. A victim mentality that was bubbling up seeking to usurp the peace I’d just had restored.

So I asked God, “What about this anger? This frustration?”

I didn’t actually have to ask really. He saw me struggling and offered this answer:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

…and I read on, with verse 25 hitting me like a ton of bricks:

Galatians 5:25 AMP
[25] If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.

It said I IF we live by the Holy Spirit.

Look, this may not be the “new year! new you” message you were looking for, but the truth is that I don’t believe we can simply and cleanly walk into 2014 by forgetting 2013. There are people like me who still are learning from 2013. Who are still waiting on promises from 2013, walking through tests that began in 2013, and are still seeking truths and new direction from decisions we don’t want to repeat this year.

If this is you, you could be, like me, finding yourself feeling left behind, left out of the jubilant celebrating of the new year of those around you. You could feel frustration and wonder where God is in your new year when you lost sight of him last year.

If you aren’t seeing the manifestation of God’s promises in your life, I’ll ask you like God asked me this morning: How ya living?

Are you seeking his kingdom first, striving to show others and yourself the fruit of the Spirit?

Or have you, like me, found yourself mired in what feels like unending fatigue, frustration, impatience and overall blahness?

If we live by the Holy Spirit…

If you closed out 2013 feeling like God was far away, know that it is you who moved. Somewhere along the lines your focus shifted and we met a new calendar year stuck in our last spiritual year.

But we don’t have to remain stuck. I took God’s loving rebuke this morning, accepted that I’d stopped chasing him to pursue other things. And realized that those pursuits are what caused the distance and the darkness.

I am excited this morning to know that although I may not have rang in a new year in my Spirit when the clock struck 12, I have now turned the page on 2013 in my heart and can move forward in peace and with expectation now.

I walked away from my quiet time this morning with these takeaways:

    God’s promises and plans for our lives don’t change because we walked away/got off track. He’s still faithful and still wants to bless me.

    The only thing standing in the way of God manifesting me seeing God’s blessings in my life is me.

    IF I live by the Spirit, I am seeking Him first and He WILL add all good things unto me.

    God wants to demonstrate his immeasurable, limitless and surpassing grace and blessings in my life. (Ephesians 2:7,10)

    Per Joel Osteen’s I Declare, ” I will see an explosion of God’s goodness, a sudden widespread increase.”

You can have all of this, too. In fact, I believe God wants you to. But you’ve first gotta do some real soul-searching to find out…

How are you living?

Because how you’re living will dictate what you see manifested of God’s giving.