Pray For Me.

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I really don’t need this coffee, I am so amped about speaking the Women’s Retreat this weekend. I was going to have a long beautiful post about it, but really – who has time for that? Not me, not you.
So, I am simply asking for a prayer covering this weekend: will you pray for me?

I am speaking tonight on “Unveiled Authenticity”.

I will be speaking on “Unveiled Intimacy” tomorrow night.

I will be speaking on “Unveiled Legacy”
On Saturday morning.

Thank you. Seriously- thank you.

Just the Way You Are

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One of the hardest things for me to do is write my own bio (description of who I am for a brochure, flyer or program). Long or short- it is my least favorite thing to write. First off, talking about myself in third person is weird and trying to paint an accurate picture of who I am is just darn difficult. It reminds me of the “self” you put out there on a first date and feels just as awkward.

Last week I found myself wrestling with having to do a bio for the workshop that I did at our WM Retreat. The workshop was titled “X Marks the Spot- Discovering Hidden Treasure in Your Life”, and I was actually really excited about presenting it. What I was not excited about was writing a short bio for the program on it.

I came up with this:

“There are hidden treasures in your life. Hidden truths that will enrich your heart and rejuvenate your spirit. You don’t see them but they are there, just waiting to be discovered. Join Cindy as she leads you on a journey through the map of God’s Word to uncover, reclaim and grasp the precious treasures God has placed in your life. You won’t want to miss it.

Cindy Grasso is the mom of two almost teenage boys and the wife of the Student Ministries Pastor of Bayside of Citrus Heights. She is thrilled to be on a journey of uncovering new treasures in God’s Word as well as rediscovering the joy in sharing them. Through her writing and speaking Cindy gets to share what God has done in her life and because of her part time gig at Charming Charlie’s, she is well accessorized while doing it.”

Now, while all the above is true, before I got to the “polished” version, I had to wade through the miry mud of the first one that came out of me:

“Cindy Grasso is a slightly overweight middle age woman who is in the throws of a midlife crisis half the time. The other half of the time she is loves her life as youth Pastor’s wife, the mother of two teenager boys and part time worker at Charming Charlie’s. She dreams of making a living as a writer and event speaker bringing healing and hope to women’s lives but until then will continue to blog inconsistently and speak for free. She has food issues, is shy and loves more than anything to curl up with her cat on a comfortable couch and get lost in a great book with chocolate and a cup of coffee nearby.”

Granted, I was in the throws of PMS when I wrote it but can I tell you that pre- polished version has really grown on me? It made me laugh and take myself less seriously (which MUST happen before writing a bio).

I ended up opening my workshop with it and it made everyone else laugh too. It isn’t as shiny or “professional” as the polished one but who cares? As of yet, I don’t live a “shiny” version of my life and I’m not a pro. I am….me.

I like me. I love what God has done in me and through me. He has taken a mess and made a message. He has mended my brokenness and broken strongholds in my heart. He loves me just the way I am and loves me enough not to leave me that way.

Thank the Lord, I don’t have to even attempt to be someone I’m not to fulfill the calling He has placed on my life.

And neither do you.

When God calls you to step out, it is more about obedience than ability.

The world likes a tidy image to categorize us in but God has no such desire. In fact, he is much more interested in authenticity vs “image” and reality vs the “picture in our head” of what and who we think we are supposed to be.

“So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you”. (1 Peter 5:6, 7 MSG)

Let go of the image of you think you need to be and embrace who you are. God does. Live carefree before Him. Start enjoying the reality of your life instead of being discontent that it doesn’t fit the “image” of what you think it should look like.

In fact, I find that the more I let go of that “image”, the more I’m able to thrive in the life God has given me. Since I am not spending all my time and energy trying to “shine it up” and make life “look right”, I can simply enjoy who I am and what I have.

Is there an “image” that you are trying to live up to?

Are you miserable because you are trying to live up to it (and it is impossible?)

What would happen if you let go of it and asked God to help you love who you are, where you are and what you have got?

Bios come and go, but the ability to love the reality of yourself is priceless (and only comes by God’s grace).

Thank you for cheering me on, my friend. Thank you for believing that the “polished” version of me is possible and loving me for the “unpolished” that I am.

I feel the same way about you.

Are We Flying Yet?

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On the way home a couple of weeks ago from a very quick trip to Vegas to celebrate my birthday with a dear friend, my plane was delayed. When I finally boarded 2 hours after the scheduled time, I made my way through the tight aisle amongst disgruntled passengers to my seat and sat down next to a 5 year old girl and her mom. Instead of taking off and heading home, we ended up stuck in the plane for another hour. Then much to my relief the stewardess announced that were were going to be unloading and getting on another plane. Seriously, if the plane wasn’t safe after an hour, do I really want to use it to fly home? No. I’m good, I was more than happy to get off that plane. The little girl beside me had actually slept through most of it , thank goodness. We got off that plane, waited another hour in the terminal and then finally boarded a new plane that would carry us home. For the second time that day I sat down next to the 5 year old girl and her mom. After about five minutes of waiting on the new plane, the little girl turned to her mom and asked,

“When are we going to fly?”

“Soon” her mother replied, “Soon”.

After another long ten minutes, the stewardess began her pre- flight prep talk. We looked at each other and smiled. Some people even clapped.
As the plane backed up and slowly turned around, the little asked her mom, “Are we flying yet?”

“Not yet, but soon” her mom said.

Then we had stopped to wait our turn in the runway . By this time, every stop and turn felt like an eternity, and the irrational fear that we were actually going nowhere teased at the very edges of our emotions.

Finally, the plane turned onto “our” runway and began to pick up speed as it prepared to lift off. The little girl looked out the window as the world blurring by and asked again, “Are we flying yet?”

This time, I chimed in, “Not yet, but you will know it when it happens, you won’t miss it”.

Just then, with the plane speeding down runway, that tell tale moment of take off happened: you are pushed into your seat and the plane feels heavy as it leaves the ground, tucks up its wheels and takes off. Then for just a moment you feel lighter than air then heavy again as the nose of the plane points to sky. Now…you are flying.

I turned to the little girl next to me and asked her ” Are we flying yet?”
“Yes!” She said with a big smile on her face, “We are definitely flying!”

As the plane leveled off and I settled down for the ride, I thought about how often I ask God the same kind of question in my life, “Is this it? Am I flying? Am I living in the fullness of Your purpose?”

I looked down at the precious blond headed little girl sitting next to me (who is already over the novelty of flying and now coloring in her book) I was reminded that “flying”is a part of the journey but not the apex of it. I am flying -living passionately and pursuing God daily. It though it looks different than I thought it would and sometimes it feels frightfully “normal” after things have leveled off. I have faced fears and taken risks. I have failed and succeeded. I have been hurt and been healed. I have seen miracles and cleaned toilets. I am living and indeed “flying”. So why am I asking the question, “Am I flying yet?”

I wonder how often am I searching for the “feeling” of lift off and misinterpret that as flying? The take off is just the beginning. Not only is it just the beginning but flying is transportation. It is meant to get you somewhere. You go farther faster and it is terribly exciting, but still it is just a part of the journey. There are times in your life you have been launched into a new arena or when the speed of life has reached a breaking point where you either take off or turn around. Though they are defining moments to be sure, they are not permanent. The point is not to spend your life looking for the next take off. By all means- fly! But remember that what matters in the long run is what you do when you land. How you live. Who you love. What you do with what God has given you.

When you are pursuing God’s purpose for your life, it can feel like that departing day in Las Vegas. You are packed and ready to go, checked into the right place and feel more than ready to fly. You know you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing . You are headed in the right direction but instead of going anywhere, you end up feeling like all you are doing is waiting. Starts and stops. Boarding and un- boarding. Waiting for your “turn” to take off.

Frustration and discouragement sets in and you begin to wonder, “When will it be my turn to fly?”

Just like that gentle mother who answered her little girls questions, so your Heavenly Father answers yours (and mine):

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

And

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “(Isaiah 55:8 NIV)

Instead of looking for the next take off, enjoy the wait, the ride and indeed the journey of life. Trust God. He knows where you are and where you are destined to be.

Remember that life is a journey that has more to do with who you are with than where you go.

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.” (Colossians 3:3, 4 MSG)

Walk with God everyday and enjoy the journey with Him. He will take care of when and where and how of it all.

After about an hour in the air, my plane finally touched down at the Stockton Airport. As the wheels touched the Tarmac, the passengers broke out in applause, myself included. We were so glad to be done with the flying and to get on with the business of living.

May your journey be filled with moments of take off, flying high and landing right where you are supposed to be. But most of all, may it be filled with His presence as you get down to business of living fully and passionately within the freedom of God’s great grace.

A Summer Storm

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I walked past the beautiful flowers of red and white on my way to work yesterday morning and breathed in the heavenly scent of rain. The pavement wet with it and the puddles in the street reflected the cloud filled sky. It is late June and we are experiencing a soft summer rain for a couple of days. The grey skies cast a soft light on everything and those pretty flowers between Whole Foods and Charming Charlie’s at The Fountain’s seem brighter than ever.

It is in moments like this when I think to myself, “I need to take some time and write”. But then the days blur by spent at work, at church, at home or on the road to somewhere.

I am always glad school is out for the summer and the task master of the 6am alarm clock is silenced for a few weeks. The first week is wondrous with everyone sleeping in until 7am and it feeling so luxurious. The second week is lopsided with late family nights and early work mornings. By the third week healthy habits slip to the wayside and housework suffers. I step over toys and shoes and clothes to make my way to a sink full of dirty dishes only to turn around and think, “Nope, ain’t nobody got time for that”.

Finally , I muster the energy to clean up a bit and wistfully think of the days a few weeks ago when I got up early and got so much more done.

Such is frustration of the human heart, always wanting what you don’t have. Or more: wishing for benefits of discipline without, well…discipline.

I was listening an Elevation Podcast this morning and Pastor Stephen Furtick said, “Today’s excuses are tomorrow’s regrets in disguise”.

It is so easy to let the valid reasons of yesterday (I don’t have time, I don’t have the energy) become the flimsy excuses of today. Too soon the days blur by and some important things slip by the wayside.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:4 NIV)

Begin again.

Surrender to perseverance instead of pessimism.

Enjoy the season you are in while still holding onto the important things of the season before.

Don’t get lulled into the blur, go boldly forward in God’s power.

Tomorrow is a new day, use it wisely.

Six Minutes

I have six minutes before the bell rings and the children pour out of the school to meet friends and parents to move onto the freedom of the afternoon.

I have six minutes to be thankful that I get to pick up my two little miracles from school today.

I have six minutes to breath in God’s presence and ask for God’s favor as I head to an 8 hour shift at a job I love.

No rush.
Six minutes is enough.

“The spacious, free life is from God, it’s also protected and safe. God -strengthened, we’re delivered from evil— when we run to him, he saves us. (Psalm 37:39, 40 MSG)”

Hope

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“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him”. (Psalms 62:5 NLT)

Let all that I am…

Daughter, wife, mother, friend, dreamer, detailer, realist, writer, speaker, cook, cleaner, charmer, inspirer, discipliner, frail, my own worst critic, speaker of careless words, depressed, worrier, stubborn, strong, passionate, fearful, faithful, wonderful, beautiful, worry-full, redeemed, restored.

Wait quietly…

Stop and don’t take another step forward. Hush anxious thoughts. Put down the to-do list. Quiet fearful eyes. Close the door. Rest with abandon. Embrace moments of peace. Breathe silence. Cease to think, worry, wonder or wonder and simply be.

Before God…

Not before your bills. Not before your responsibilities. Not before your failures and faults nor your achievements and success. Wait quietly before God. The Creator, Provider, Peace maker, Redeemer, Savior, Lord. He is sovereign and merciful, strong and gentle. Powerful and purposeful.

For my hope…

The tender expectations of possibility. Easily bruised. Unrealistic. Fantastic. Wonderful. Amazing. Hope is the vehicle of momentum filled with a gas tank of faith and moves you forward. Without hope, the tank is empty, you feel as if you are going nowhere with no indication of possible change. With hope nothing is impossible because with God all things are possible.

Is in him…

My hope is wrapped up in the arms of grace surrounding my soul. My hope is held securely in nail scarred hands. My hope is in him, precious him. Faithful him. Powerful him. Loving him.

Who are you (all of you)?

What are you waiting before?

Where is your hope?

What are you hoping for?

What is the Point?

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The point is to advance.

The word retreat is first and foremost a military term. It means to get off the battlefield, to quit fighting, back out and regroup.

In life it is better to lose the battle to win the war. In fact, fighting the battle when your exhausted, wounded and discouraged never works.

I didn’t necessarily feel like I was any of the above, but I used the opportunity to ask myself (well, ask God) the hard questions: How was I really doing?

The point of retreat is to advance. To grow, to gain territory, authority and move forward in your life with God.

“May God look you full in the face and make you prosper”. (Numbers 6:26 MSG)

The word for prosper in the original Hebrew is “shalom” and often translated as peace:

It means:
1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
a) completeness (in number)
b) safety, soundness (in body)
c) welfare, health, prosperity
d) peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
e) peace, friendship
1) of human relationships
2) with God especially in covenant relationship
f) peace (from war)
g) peace (as adjective)

When God looks you full in the face be prepared to be challenged. What will He challenge? God will challenge any area in your life where sin has grown like a wild weed that is chocking out the life out of your life.

I have come to treasure the gift of repentance.

There is no freedom without repentance. There is no freedom like the one that comes from recognizing your sin and being able to lay it down before God. There is no greater sense of peace than the one that comes the moment after receiving God’s forgiveness. There is no greater sense of purpose than accepting God’s power to make a 180 degree turn and change.

This doesn’t just happen once. It isn’t reserved only for “the first time” you recognize you are a sinner in need of salvation but is a privileged right of every child of God, no matter how long (or how little) you have walked with God. It is the ONE thing that keeps your relationship with God thriving and alive.

Get before God and ask Him to “look you full in the face”.

Every day.
Once a week.
Once a month.
Once a year.
Whatever it takes.

The more the better. One of the reasons I need to go away by myself is that I need the time and space to squirm, to be real before God, to mourn my own weaknesses, own my mistakes and get neglected areas of my heart right with God. I can’t do this with my family around- my husband would keep trying to “fix” me and my kids would be worried.

The point of retreat is to advance.

And that takes courage because after repentance comes life change.
God gives you the power but you have to apply it to your life.

Be brave.

I want God’s prosperity in my life. In my mind, my heart, my health, my relationships and my ministry. But that means some things must change. I love the quote that says “if you don’t like where you are at, change it. You are not a tree”.

No, you are not a tree, you are a child of God.

The point of retreat is to advance.
The point is to be brave and following through on the things God told you to change.

The point is to prosper.

When was the last time you asked God to look you “full in the face”?

What things to need to be brave about?

When was the last time you found freedom through repentance?

Press Pause

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You know how when you press the pause button on the DVR and it stops the action right there? Instead of watching a moving picture, it is a single frame, a single picture, a moment caught.

Something like that happened to me yesterday morning. Bobby and I were in the middle of filming a segment for the small group lesson on Sunday when I saw the prettiest little humming bird land on top of the fountain. The sun glinted off its green tinted wings that had just been folded on it’s little back. I watched him look around then dip his long beak into the water. A moment later, with an effortlessness I will never understand, those pretty little wings were moving so fast they blurred. He hovered a half inch from where he had just rested and then shot off into the sky.

For those few moments, the world stilled and my soul was filled with awe and the magnificence of creation. It was as if God pressed pause for me so I would not miss this magical moment.

The moment before I saw the hummingbird land, I had been thinking about how hot the sun was on my shoulders and that I probably should have put sunscreen on them. Then I was worrying over how I might be looking on camera and if I had muddled my words too badly.

The moment after this tiny miraculous flying creature zoomed away, I found that all my self centered thoughts zoomed away with it.

For 3 seconds, 3 minutes or 3 days, taking time to pause and see the miracles happening all around you fuels the soul and invigorates the spirit.

One thing I realized last weekend is that I am needy soul. My spirit was thirsty for living water and my soul starving for the bread of the Word.

While I fixed my meals in the little cabin, I listened to podcasts of sermons. While I wrote in my journals, I listened to worship music. When I took a walk down to a little wooden bridge, I breathed in the pine scented air and breathed out my prayers. As I stood on that little bridge, I closed my eyes to listen to the water rushing beneath me. I listened and drank in the presence of my mighty Creator.

I am a needy soul.

I am a leaky soul.

I am a hungry soul.

I need to press pause more in my life and press into His presence.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

The Greek word for “rest” in Matt 11:28 means:

1) to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength

2) to give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest

3) to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation

It is an invitation from the Savior himself to press pause and “stop and smell the roses”.

Take a minute or ten to breath.

Close your eyes so you can really see what is going on inside of you.

Open your eyes to see the miracles happening all around you.

It is not a one time deal. Jesus is in essence saying “come to me whenever you need to rest and as often as you need to rest.

When was the last time you pressed pause?

What did you see?

What did you hear?

PS. The little bird in title picture is not the humming bird I was talking about. I went back to that fountain this morning to take this picture and found this little bird enjoying the water. If you want to see the humming bird, we caught it on film when Bobby did his intro. You can go to Facebook and see it on the Bayside Student Ministries Page.

Retreat

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Well, I went away for a couple of days all by myself to a tiny cabin in Tahoe. It was tucked into the corner of a Christian campground and surrounded by snow dusted pine trees. I trudged through the small snow bank that lead to the covered patio and front door. A wooden sign that said “Retreat” greeted me on the barn red wall. I glanced at it as I put the key in the front door and prayed that this was the right cabin. What if it wasn’t? How embarrassing would that be? No one was there to see but I still would have been mortified if the key didn’t turn. “Please work”, I breathed as the key turned and I opened the door. A charming little living room greeted me, flanked by a small kitchen to the right and a bathroom.

If you would have asked me a month a ago, I would have said I didn’t need a personal retreat. I was doing great. I was preparing to speak a Women’s Retreat and excited to do it. The Women’s Retreat got canceled postponed due to a church crisis. The senior Pastor’s wife had a moral indiscretion and suddenly I found myself searching my heart and asking it “Are you okay?”. I hold no judgement for the Pastor’s wife, only heartbreak for her and her family. She is as human as I am. I’ve been in the ministry long enough to know that it can happen to anyone. So again, I asked myself “How are you?” Deep down, stripped of the nice answers you give others, in the dark corners of the soul where resentment gathers and fear breeds- “How Are You?”

I didn’t have an immediate answer to question. So I decided since I already had the days off and a friend had offered this gift of a cabin that I would go and find the answer.

After I brought in my things and locked the door behind me, I sat down the couch. I put my iPad on the end table set my worship playlist on repeat. Then I wrapped myself in my own softest white blanket that I brought with me and closed my eyes.

I woke up two hours later- at 3pm.

Hmmm…maybe I was more tired than I thought.

Rest.

I guess I needed to rest before I could even ask the question.

Come to me…and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

How are you?
Really deep down?

Getting Ahead

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It has been too long since I posted a blog. I have certainly fallen out of the rhythm of it and woke up early missing the words. So here are a few for you (and for me).

“Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” (Mark 4:24, 25 MSG)

It is so easy to slip into an “Americanized” version of the abundant life through Christ. We can mistake our own personal definition of success with “abundant life”. We assume that growing in God also means that He will give us everything we want. But then He would be like an over- indulging parent instead of a loving Father. No one likes a spoiled brat, not even the brat.

Getting everything you want doesn’t equal happiness.

Giving everything you want actually does.

Pastor Tommy Barnett preached a sermon back when I was in Bible School where he spoke of planting the kind of seeds you want to harvest in your life. He said,“What do need most? Do that for someone else, plant a seed.”

What do you need most today?

How can you provide it for someone else- give it away?

What seeds of joy can you sow today?