Didn’t See That Coming!

GGBlog

“I give you this charge, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:1b-2

It was only supposed to be a photo shoot to update my professional photo and the photographer, making small talk, says, “Any big plans for the weekend?”

Not expecting my answer to go very far, since I talk about it all the time, which usually ends with a sweet, “Wow! I couldn’t do that, good for you,” I answered his question with, “Yes, I am meeting with 3 inmates tomorrow for bible study at the jail.”

It was pretty obvious that the photo shoot got very interesting from there; Perhaps better words to describe it would be “weird”, or possibly “awkward” to be accurate.

He clarified, “I assume you’re talking about the Christian bible?” I responded, “Yes!” In the hope that this would open up a great spiritual dialog, but instead he said, “Well that’s interesting, since I have studied all the world religions and they all pretty much have their own take on it. At the end of the day they all say the same thing, so why Christian?”

I thought I would start with my testimony. After all, it is my own personal, “why Christian”. So I proceeded to explain that 18 years ago I was questioned, for the first time in my life at my daughters baptism, about my belief in infant baptism and I really wasn’t prepared for the confrontation. I was baptizing my daughter because I was raised to believe that it was the right thing to do; not because I understood why I was doing it. That day I surrendered my life to Christ and made a commitment to seek and know the truth. I wanted to raise my daughters in that confidence and to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how to get to heaven so they wouldn’t have to question what they believe if they are ever confronted like I had been.

He didn’t bite. He continued, “Well, if you are teaching your daughters what you believe and that is all they’ve ever known, are you – in essence – doing exactly what your parents did to you?”

I really couldn’t argue. He’s right! It’s not like I shopped religions and gave my kids an education in all of the ways the world practices their beliefs and helped them understand why Jesus truly is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through Him (John 14:6), but I know what I know because I KNOW Jesus! I have the Holy Spirit living in me (Ephesians 4:30), I have witnessed my own life transformed (Romans 12:1-2), I have seen miraculous signs of things I could have never thought or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).

At this point we just tipped toed off the subject and back onto the photo shoot, but this conversation is still lingering in my mind. Several thoughts are jockeying around:

1 – This man is going to hell for not knowing the truth and I wasn’t able to give him any reason to think otherwise. He is deceived by the belief that their are many roads to heaven.
2 – I was not prepared to give a reason for the truth that I believe. I am a student of God’s Word and my life is a continuous process of growing in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18b), and I was weak, at best, to be a disciple of all of the truths that I have learned and know.
3 – What would I have said if given the chance to do it again? (Personal growth opportunity)
4 – Should I invite him to lunch and ask him to allow me to share the gospel? Maybe no one ever took the time to explain it and if he approached world religions as an academic exercise, I am sure it would be hard to differentiate why Christian.

In the meantime, you can be assured that I will be praying for him. Also, I will be continuing to learn and grow. This conversation is evidence that God isn’t finished with me yet. I do need to continue to learn and run the race that has been marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1).

Listen here: 

 

Just Not Fair

GGBlog

One year ago, in the heat of my job search, I was asked the question, “What kind of job are you looking for?” Fast-forward to today and the exact job that I described starts in two days; the day after Easter. In an effort to leave my previous role in good faith, I gave a generous six week notice. To be perfectly clear about my intentions, I sincerely wanted to transition well. With over 80 stakeholders dependent upon me, I not only wanted to contact each one to complete any unfinished projects, but, I also wanted to leave that role, the company, my team and successor better off than when I started six short months ago.

TESTED:  One week into my resignation, the President of the company announced that the company will benefit from the recently passed Trump Tax Bill and decided to pass that savings along to the employees in the form of a bonus – Myself EXCLUDED. Even worse, one week prior to my last day of employment, He announced an incentive to which he denied me – AGAIN! A total loss exceeding $8,000. Ouch!

This news was such a blow. After all, I gave this company 110%. Since the beginning I went above and beyond the terms outlined in my job description. I accepted additional travel away from my family, adjusted hours to accommodate those who needed me outside of my normal business hours and frequently responded to emails/voicemail on off hours. Don’t I “deserve” this bonus?

Emotions aside, God has done a work in my heart over the past six weeks to the point where I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t deserve anything. I didn’t do anything that I did, or had planned to do, with the expectation of receiving bonuses. Since day one, I was wholeheartedly working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23), but isn’t it interesting that once money entered the picture, feelings of greed, selfishness and entitlement began to dominate my thoughts and motives.

The bible has a lot to say about greed and on this side of heaven, nothing is fair. Even King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”

Here are a few more:

Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Proverbs 22:9, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”

Luke 12:15, “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.”

So I conclude on this celebratory Easter weekend that I am ever so grateful for Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, that assures heaven for all who believe. If you find yourself in a situation that just isn’t fair, like me, be reminded of Matthew 6:20, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Our eternal rewards far exceed the temporal things of this world.

If anyone doesn’t deserve something, Jesus didn’t deserve to die on the cross for me and I most certainly don’t deserve his ongoing gifts of grace and mercy. My past employer can keep my bonus money, because I know where my real treasure is. I now pray that God receives glory for my conduct this last six challenging, heart-tested weeks.

 

 

An Extra Seat At The Table

GGBlog

I crack open my bible to the book of Matthew this morning and in reading chapter 21, I read about Jesus’ triumphal entry on a donkey. Prophecy is being fulfilled, he’s revealing himself as more than a prophet, he’s a King! It’s purely awesome. Being “just” Thanksgiving today this story hits me – Where is Jesus today?  Christmas is flashy with the lights, trees, nativity scenes and stockings hung by the chimney with care. Easter gets the bunny and eggs and pastel decor and the remembrance of the cross and crown of thorns, but thanksgiving is nothing religious per se; it’s just a day of food and family and a lot of it. Granted, we do – and should – pause and give thanks by counting our blessings. I, for one, actually do an mental inventory of all that I am thankful for, but where is Jesus?

Of course he’s here. He’s always here, but do we make a place for him at the table? Do we invite him to fellowship with us and make this day Jesus centered?  We should! Yes I am thankful for a roof over my head, good health, a closet full of clothes, running water, beautiful children and adorable dogs, but all of this pails in comparison to what Jesus did on the cross for you and me. My sins have been abolished, I am given the assurance that I will spend eternity in heaven with him AND above all, He died for me.  My sin caused separation from a perfect and Holy God, He took it all onto himself and died. I’m so undeserving and today of all days I cannot take that for granted.

So I pledge, as I sit at the table today, I will pull up an extra chair to honor Him and to make Him a part of my Thanksgiving day. Today is an important and significant day to say thank you to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
    and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
    they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
    and tell of his works with songs of joy.

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

33 He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
    and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
    by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
    made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
    and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
    but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

 

 

 

5 Ways You Are Growing Spiritually

Woman hand in jail

Upon finishing an hour of women’s bible study at the local county jail, I got in my car, rested my forehead on my steering wheel and reminded myself to breathe. My heart was heavy as my mind replayed all of the conversations from the past hour and each woman’s face returned to my mind. With a huge sigh I silently prayed, “Lord, let them have ears to hear what You needed them to hear.”

Then my thoughts shift to, “Did I say the right thing?”, “I should have told them…”, and “Oh no! I completely forgot to say…”.

“STOP! What am I doing?” I then realized that I am pridefully limiting God. It’s like I have a Doctor Jekyll – Mr. Hyde conversation quarreling in my head. Regardless of what I should have, could have and might have said, God can use it; I have a confident faith that he will use it, but Satan certainly wants me to feel defeated and stop this jail ministry non-sense, trying to convince me that it’s a fruitless waste of time.

It’s a battle of the mind and I consciously have to take my thoughts captive and cancel out negativity, redirecting my critical heart to prayer, “Lord, I know you were there and whatever I did right use it for your glory, whatever I inadvertently excluded, give them a hunger and a thirst for your truth.”

Why is this a big deal? To be transparent, my love language is affirmation. If there is one place on this earth that you won’t get a pat on the back or an “Atta girl” for doing a good job – it’s jail. As I drove away, continuing to mentally duke it out, I felt a peace come over me; a peace in the confidence that God’s word spoken in that hour were seeds that God can use to grow. Claiming victory in this head conversation made me realize that I have grown Spiritually and I thought I would share this and other observable spiritual growth examples with you.

  1. God Fills The Gaps

This is progress for me. For so many years I gave myself a report card on my performance (for everything) and I inevitably came up short every time. Sure it earned me an impressive resume, some level of popularity and a cocky confidence that all of my combined achievements would somehow impress God because I was diligently using all the talents that He gave me and achieved certain levels of success. I now know that it was unimpressive to God. God created me a workman for His good works (Ephesians 2:10), not the other way around. When I was in achievement, advancement and self-improvement mode, what I was really doing was idolizing the world; chasing after false gods and ultimately building a pedestal that only esteemed me, not God. Oh how I used all of this ambition and missed the whole point. Yet, he used these things (success, achievement, accolades and rewards) as a way to show me that my way only reaps discontentment, burn-out and defeat. There is a gap between my ability and His and I now recognize that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

2. It’s Not About Me

Any control freaks out there? I’m a recovering control freak thanks to Christ. I have come to realize that not only can’t I control everything, but when I do try I am just getting in God’s way. God gave us His Word with instructions on how to live. If I try to create an outcome or impose what I think is best for the situation, that now sends me a red flag. If I force my kids to play a certain sport, instrument or take certain classes because I think it will help them get better grades, earn scholarships or help them get admitted to a better college – I’m causing interference in God’s plan. He knows what is best for them and if I trust Him (like I tell Him and others that I do), then I need to pray for my kids, but I shouldn’t tell God what “I think” is best for them. In the end, I don’t know God’s big and mighty and sovereign plan for their lives and chances are whatever He’s up to is going to be 10x better than I could ever ask for or imagine.

3. God uses ordinary people

If we collected the resumes of the twelve disciples we would realize they didn’t “qualify” to be in Jesus’ inner circle. Truth is, neither are we. That is what is so beautiful. If we bring Him our whole heart and let Him do the work; on us, in us and through us. What has truly baffled me lately is how many people and situations God has placed me in now that I surrender my will. I see ways to serve people EVERYWHERE. At the grocery store, at church, at work, on the streets and in my neighborhood. I just have to make myself available for Him to do His work. John MacArthur, in his 6/26/2017 sermon titled, “The Necessary Components of Saving Faith”, he says, “The longer I’ve been a Christian the more I realize that I don’t do anything for the Lord. I not only don’t do anything for the Lord, but I can’t do anything for the Lord and the wonder of wonders is that the Lord can do what he does through ME!” Me! That statement completely turns my idea of service for God upside down, or should I say right side up?

4. Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’

God’s plans are not our plans (Isaiah 55:8) and sometimes I find myself feeling a bit defeated when outcomes don’t happen the way I expect them to or (maybe worst) has fast as I expect them to happen. I am a happy person by nature, but I have to admit, if you could spend even an hour in my head you would be shocked at the negativity. It’s grumbling mostly. Thoughts of hating my clothes, wishing the kids would put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or questions like, “Why can’t they… [fill in the blank].” Because of scripture, I can re-think these thoughts and put them into a healthier, more positive, perspective. Thoughts of blessings for the roof over my head, clothes in my closet and a wash machine to keep them clean. Instead of wishing for my kids to be responsible enough to clean up after themselves, praising God for good health, the ability to serve them and knowing I’m honoring God by not nagging and complaining about it. Then the question elimination. If I find myself asking why questions for things that are not done, are inconvenient for me or causes me to search for answers that only God really knows, I just submit and accept that the why comes back to why I would want it or expect it to be another way. If they don’t want a clean house, but I do, guess who can take the steps to keep a clean house? Me! So if it’s important to me, I can just do it and feel like it’s my act of service, demonstrating my love for them.

5. I’m Not a Prisoner to Satan

He made me perfect. What artist shows up to an easel an plans to do a mediocre job? Not one. Artists show up to create a masterpiece and that is exactly what God did when he created us, but Satan doesn’t want us to believe that. He fills our minds with self-doubt and plants lies. Those ladies in the jail that I minister to may be behind bars, but the devil entraps us in a prison cell of our own. Bondage to never having enough, being enough, making enough or anything enough. BUT WE ARE! God says that he knows every hair on our head and in Ephesians 1:11-12 Paul writes, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”

It doesn’t get any better than that my friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.

His truth produces growth, transformation of character, renewing of our minds and strength to overcome. So read, grow and see that the more you love Jesus, the more clear and content you will be.

To The God Girls In My Life

ggblog

Sing it with me, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me.” I’ll spare you the rest because I have no intentions of making this about Sister Sledge or worse, getting this catchy lyric stuck in your head. However, I do wish to recognize that today was a day that I particularly appreciated having my sister’s in Christ alongside of me and for those of you reading this, I want to remind you of what a beautiful gift God has given to us in our godly girlfriends; read on…

The best part about a life surrendered to Christ is that God gives us this amazing peace and if we keep our eyes on Christ, it is truly amazing how it can seem as if our world is falling apart, but there is still the assurance that God is sovereign over it all.

I say “if we keep your eyes on Christ” because it is so easy to take our eyes off of Christ as the apostle Peter shows us in Matthew 14, Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Are you getting this? The dude was walking on water, but when his eyes started to look around at his circumstances, he sank!

In truth, that was me this morning. I was having one of those heart-to-heart’s with God on my morning commute. I started out pretty well, but instead of telling God all the things that I am thankful for and focusing on all the blessings that are so overwhelmingly evident in my life, I adopted the “wandering in the desert like an complaining Israelite” attitude instead, and starting whining about “stuff.” By the time I got to my first meeting, my attitude changed from gratitude and joy, to discontentment and discouragement. Of course I walked into my meeting imposing all of my woe’s onto the first set of ears that could hear. “Oh wretched man that I am”, to quote the apostle Paul in Romans 7:24.

Fortunately, my meeting was a group of strong, God-loving women and they could tell I was metaphorically drowning and guest what they did? They prayed! Not only did they pray, but they prayed in a way that helped me get re-centered on truth and put my head back on straight. It is so beautiful to have that kind of acceptance, support, love, encouragement and concern without judgement and rejection.

Solid, Godly, Christian friends are like medicine to the soul. Thank you Sonia, Trish and Heidi for being there and putting my eyes back on God where they needed to be.

 

 

 

Perspective

ggblog

Over the past year my life has been taken a detour. I started the year with a great job, in a great company and thought I had a promising future. As I begin the new year I am filled with hope of finding a new job and am wrestling with that mid-life question, “What am I going to be when I grow up?”

I thought I had it figured out, but HA! God obviously has a better idea. He just hasn’t clued me in on what that is yet.

If you are a student of God’s Word you know about detours. One of my favorite characters and stories, is Joseph’s. The poor guy was sold to be a slave by his brothers, was falsely accused of raping Potiphar’s wife, was then thrown in prison, then forgotten (for two years) and when he was finally remembered, he was summoned because Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream and FINALLY he is  promoted and put in charge of Egypt. Talk about the most ironic turn of events and most unexpected outcome…  that’s not even the end of the story. Unbelievable!

There are many stories in the bible that prove that life is unpredictable and the best part is… they bring us hope in our circumstances. God also gives us confidence that He will make all things work for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

But here’s the thing, detours take us down roads we otherwise would not travel. Especially in our fast-paced world when our google maps (career, relationships, fast-food etc…) take us on the fastest route from point A to point B; we miss out on so much.

A couple weeks ago, my daughter and I found ourselves on a literal detour. We had the opportunity to see things we never would have otherwise seen. We also learned that it may have taken us longer to get to our destination, but we got to enjoy more time in the car enjoying conversation.

I’m not sure where this journey will take me and I’m not sure how long it will take before I see God’s plan revealed, but I am so grateful to have been given this time. Time with my family and the dedicated time needed to train a new puppy in our home. With each passing week I am getting the opportunity to catch up with people that I miss and friends I have not been able to stay in touch with. Not to mention, the pleasure of having quality time in my bible and uninterrupted, focused prayer time. I get to sit and read books, schedule middle of the day work-outs and increase opportunities to volunteer in my community and church. I see blessings everywhere and every day. With that great job that I had a year ago, I was missing out. Missing out on some pretty neat things.

So if you are on a detour – be encouraged, not discouraged. God allows detours, He has a plan for it, He is in it  and He will most certainly be on the other side of it. It will not last forever and while your waiting, seek Him with all of your heart. It brings you peace that surpasses all understanding and is a gift to be embraced.

Holiday Havoc

ggblog

If you are ridden with anxiety as Christmas events begin, I want to point you to a convicting story and remind you (and me) of those heart cutting words of Jesus in Luke 10:42, “but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this scene Martha, Mary’s sister, is frantically stressing out over the preparations and there’s little Mary, distracted and sitting around at Jesus’ feet. Martha pipes up, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Allow me recite the voices in my head… [Insert whiny voice]… “How come you guys are sitting around watching that dumb football game when I’m stuck with all the cooking, cleaning, serving and garbage removal. How come for the past month I’m the one doing all the shopping, gift wrapping, tree decorating and cookie making?”

Yep, that’s me. Embarrassing isn’t it? I imagine God sitting on His mighty throne shaking His head. “Oh Sarah, when are you going to learn?”

So, just as God is God, he shows up in scripture at just the right time to remind me about what is important and how He wants me to conduct myself today and every day.  Which one of these verses speaks to you?

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jeremiah 4:18 ““Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!”

Galatians 6:4 “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Titus 1:16 “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

So if you needed to hear this, as I did today, I hope that you and I will remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s son. God did not send His son to increase our stress, turn us into nagging, selfish, crabby wives and mothers. On the contrary, He wants us to mimic the thoughts, words, actions and deeds of Jesus so we can bring glory to him today and be a blessing. Let’s pass this chaotic Christmas finish-line with joy in our hearts, love in our actions and kindness on our lips.