Notes from the Concrete

This is so good- you should read it. Sometimes you need to look at your life from someone else’s perspective so you can see both better.

Thoughts from my Dark Chocolate Layer

*Context for new readers: Friday night I participated in the Moms Sleep Out event for Covenant House NYC (CH is a shelter for homeless youth)*

8am – Any day that starts out from an actual bed, in a home of any size, with indoor plumbing, is a great day. I lingered a little in the shower. I felt the luxury of it – not even the shower (I kept it on the cold side) as much as the option. Additionally, I know that, presumably, my next one will be tomorrow. I know when my next shower will be and I know where my next meals will come from. In fact, I’m looking forward to brunch tomorrow with dear friends.

My life is incredibly privileged.

I carefully folded up two different fleeces of two different weights, and a hoodie – each one for the purpose of a potential layer, but…

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Perpective

  
Sometimes you need a refuge, sometimes you need perspective and sometimes you need both.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (‭Psalm‬ ‭61‬:‭3‬ NIV)

Don’t limit God to only be a place of refuge when He wants to be so much more in your life. He wants to lift you up and be your guide. He wants to help move you from making decisions solely based on the next ten minutes to making decisions based on how that decision might impact your life in the next ten months or ten years.

A tower is the best place to get a good perspective. It allows you to get above the battle and see the world past it. To make decisions with far seeing eyes instead of knee jerk reactions to the battle at hand.

You see your enemy differently too- from above instead of face to face.

Run to God as your refuge and while you are there- ask Him to give you a new perspective on the situation, His perspective on it.

All that you need, you can find in Jesus.

The Daily Habit of Praise

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Attitude impacts everything
and praise impacts your attitude.

Praise automatically resets your perspective and lifts your heart to worship.

“Good-hearted people, make praise your habit. (‭Psalm‬ ‭64‬:‭9-10‬ MSG)

Make praise a daily habit.

Train your eyes to see the reasons
and your heart to see the whys.

Instead of trying to change your attitude, change your focus.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

“Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬ MSG)

Praise the Lord.

Quiet Waters

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He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (‭Psalm‬ ‭23‬:‭2‬ NIV)

Quiet waters and green pastures speak of rest. They speak of comfort and replenishing. God knows you need both.

He also knows that it doesn’t really matter what your outside environment is if your inside atmosphere is full of fear, strife, irritation and hunger.

A good shepard knows that his sheep will not lay down if they are afraid of attack or if they are hungry. He also knows that they will not rest if they are have relational conflicts for they are social animals. Before he leads them to the green pasture, he leads them to eat, he fights off the predators and he intervenes in their relationships.

If you are longing for rest, follow your Shepard.

Spiritually starving?
Eat.

Worried about an enemy?
Let God fight for you.

Are your relationships in order?
Ask God for help.

Then when He leads you to the green pasture, you can rest. When He leads to the quiet waters, you can drink deep and replenish your spirit.

God know that the hunger, the fight and the conflict come before the rest.

Yesterday morning, I didn’t get to go to church because I had to go to work. However, I did get to sit by quiet waters in the morning light on my lunch break (at 9:30am) for about 15 minutes.

I drank in the peace of God as I watched the birds take baths and enjoyed the sunlight bounce off the water.

I was able to rest because I have been through the fight. I could take in the peace on the outside because I have followed my Shepard through the conflicts and fears on the inside.

Inside work always proceeds outside peace.

And I appreciate it all the more because life is not all green pastures and quiet waters.

Life is a journey. One that you are not alone in navigating. You have a Good Shepard who loves you and laid his down for you.

He will lead through all the hills, valleys and when you need it, he will lead you to your quiet waters.

What do you need today?

Who Am I?

This is so well done, I HAD to share it with you. It will take more than a minute but don’t worry- you will not regret it. I’m going to read it a few times and let the truth settle deep in my soul.

Thoughts from my Dark Chocolate Layer

I asked you in my last post if you know who you are.

I asked for a myriad of reasons.

I asked because I am in relationship with countless women who have their identity tied up in their weight. I am in relationship with countless men who have their identity tied up in their finances. I am in countless relationships with people whose identity is bound to the opinions of others.

I asked because I had to figure it out, too.

My own journey to this answer had the fire lit underneath it when I crashed and burned. It started as a desire and quest to “get healthy” — good ole’ diet and exercise. The more people commented, the tighter the chains got. Irony if there ever was any. The closer I got to that magic number, the more people were remarking about me, and the farther I got from…

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Foundations

A good foundation makes all the difference in building a house or in building a life. Years ago when we lived in Las Vegas and worked at a church right off the Strip, I would drive every day through construction zones. They are always building something in Las Vegas. For a year, I would drive by this one particular building in progress and watched it begin below ground level to being a finished condominiums 45 stories high. What was interesting to me was that the foundation is laid below street level and began by digging deep. Then layer by layer the foundation was laid and to me, it felt like it took forever. Then one day the foundation was sealed and concrete laid smooth right at street level. Had I not driven by every day I would assume laying a foundation was a shallow and easy thing. But it is not. It is a dig deep and layer it correctly thing. Once the foundation was done, it felt like the building came together quickly. It just grew upwards until it was done and finally, the construction zone signs were taken down and the crew moved onto it’s next project.

When building a foundation of faith for your life- God doesn’t start at street level. He digs deep. He begins in the dark places no one sees or even knows about. He digs up dirt and makes room for pipes of grace and a framework of trust. It isn’t easy or fun but it is absolutely necessary.

If you want your life with God to reach high, you have to allow Him to dig deep.

How? Invite him to be the general contractor of your faith and life. Let him in and ask him to build you up. He will and He is good at it. Then follow his directions and do what He says. It isn’t complicated but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Be brave and trust God. He wants to build your faith so that it will not be shaken by the earthquakes or destroyed by the storms of life.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24, 25 NIV)

Some Times

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Hello, my friend. How are your doing? Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week? I can’t. It rained here last night and the streets and sidewalks are all wet. They reflect the cloud covered gray skies above and all the trees are adorned in their fall splendor. I have one child at home sick (virus) and another at school but only for half days. This week is relatively quiet for me as I am only working three shifts at Charming Charlie. It is a blessing as I’m not stressing about having to be at home with Justin. He is not miserable, just uncomfortable with a sore throat and low fever. I am hoping and praying that no one else in gets sick. I think we have all been sick with something this last month and I’m done. No more, thank you.

So…how is your heart? It is a question that cuts through the pleasantries and dives right to the core doesn’t it? It is a question that I shouldn’t even ask until I answer it for myself: how is my heart?

Goodness, even as I attempt to answer that question, I am aware of the vulnerability it brings. Answering it isn’t as easy as a one word answer because our hearts are filled with more than one thing at time. I suppose I am even bold enough to ask this question right now because at this time my heart is full of gratitude and peace. I have been so fulfilled and blessed by being able to speak the WM Retreat last month and then a WM Bible study last week. I love the process of preparation as well as the sharing of it. I have been working on the website and finally began to put the notes from those messages up, slowly but surely.

Overall, I feel like my heart is in a good place but I don’t want you the assume that means it always is. It isn’t. There have been days in the last month that doubt has creeped in and fear has sabotaged my joy. There have been challenges in my relationships and I have over- reacted or under-reacted. There have been times when my heart has been sad, worried or frustrated for many different reasons. Life is complicated. It is unpredictable. The holidays especially can be emotionally loaded and highly stressful. Today, this verse was brought to mind:

“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14-15a NIV).

I suppose the point is that however your heart is at this time, you have a God who has not abandoned you to deal with it on your own. He loves you and wants to walk with you through all your times: good times, bad times or in-between times. Heart-wrenching times, peace-filled times, exhausting-times, and resting-times. Sometimes that is all in one day.

So,
How is your heart?

What is going on inside of it right now?

What do you need to trust God with?

What do you need God to walk you through?

Whatever it is, you can be sure that He is ready to work in it and work in you. He is ready to walk with you and work through you.

When you have a relationship with God, it doesn’t mean everything is suddenly perfect. It means that you are not alone. It means you have a Savior who has redeemed your soul and wants to walk with you through all your times.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20, 21 NIV)

He is able to do more than you can ask.
Sometimes, we forget to ask.

For whatever is going on in your life and heart, I pray that you would be blessed with a clear awareness that God is with you. I pray that you will ask for his hand to hold and to guide you during this and all your times.

Fresh Fruit

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On my way home from the Retreat last week, I swung by The Nugget and picked up some bright red beautiful strawberries. Sunday flew by and Monday I was sooooo sick. No food for me. By the time I re-entered the food eating world, those strawberries sitting out on the counter had begun to grow mold. I tossed them.

As I mourned the loss of those strawberries, I thought about the fruit of the Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

I thought about how often we are living our lives in “moldy love, old joy, last weeks peace, etc”. Fruit is best when it is fresh. It is the same with the fruit of the Spirit.

– Fruit isn’t achieved by working, but is birthed by abiding.
– Fruit is fragile.
– Fruit is beautiful.
– Fruit nourishes.

If I want fresh joy to infuse my spirit, I don’t get it by trying to be joyful- I get it by abiding in God’s presence.

I can’t walk in God’s peace until I get God’s perspective.

When I focus on God’s faithfulness to me, a desire to be faithful is birthed in me, and so on.

How is your spiritual fruit looking?
Are you holding on to moldy love? Jaded joy? Puny peace?

Let it go.

Sink your roots deep, lift your limbs to heaven and drink in the Light of His Grace.

Fresh fruit is best.

Don’t settle for less- you don’t have to live that way.

I Wasn’t Expecting That.

I woke up yesterday morning, rolled out of bed excited about waking the boys up and getting them ready for school. I wanted to let Bobby sleep in since he shouldered all the work while I was away at the Retreat.

By the time I finished getting Kyle all ready and out the door, my stomach started rolling. I ignored it, of course. Maybe I’m just over tired from the weekend, I told myself. I stepped around the overflowing laundry baskets on the floor, mentally began to pick up the living room as I walked out the door to take Justin to school. I swung by Starbucks on the way home as we were out of K Cups and everything else. As I sat in line, I began to feel downright green. I was rude to the Starbucks guy and waved his extra questions off and gave him my card, took my order then sped home.

I was sick. Full blown flu sick and spent the rest of the day on the floor next to the toilet. My to- do list suddenly shrunk to an item of one: be sick.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I haven’t been THAT sick in a long time.

Some observations on being sick:

– we never want to admit how sick we actually are until it comes to the point of being undeniable.

– nobody plans (or chooses) to be sick.

– plans and to do lists must adjust to the reality that you are sick.

– you suddenly have to depend on others whether you like it or not.

– you must give yourself permission to rest.

– grace is required by all.

This morning I listened to Stephen Furtick’s newest message “How to Love Mud”. It was just what I needed to hear. Life is messy. Unexpected. Perspective is paramount. I highly recommend it.

Thank you for praying for the Retreat. What a treasure you are. We were unable to record my messages from the retreat but I will be setting up a page for the notes, if you are interested.

I hope you have a wonderful day and that the unexpected things you encounter today does not include the flu.

Last Night

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This is my front view and the amazing worship team that has ushered in God’s presence. I took this pic this morning because I didn’t take any last night! I totally forgot too.

Thank you so much for praying for me and this retreat. Last night was amazing. What an absolute delight it is to get to be a part of this.

I feel like the preparation of these messages has been a lot like giving birth: it grew inside me for a long time, God did the work, created it and I got to “house” it. Then when it was time, labor kicked in and I had to push through some pain right up until it was time for the delivery.

When I got up to speak, the podium/table I was planning on using was being used for something else. So, I decided to take my Bible up and just preach it. I left my notes, timer (on the phone) and most if all I left my trust in myself and went for it.

I have never preached without notes but I felt God’s power all around me and in me. I didn’t have to look at notes, I have lived them. They are in me. God had burned them into my heart and then poured them out of me.

The altars were full of ladies who responded and wanted God to “take off the veil” that was keeping them hidden and keeping them in bondage.

The place of authenticity is the place of honesty and vulnerability. It was amazing and God showed up here in a powerful way.

Please continue to pray. I feel the covering of your prayers and you are a part of what God is doing here because of it.

Tonight I am going to be ministering “Unveiled Intimacy”. It will be interesting to see what God will do!