Sunday, June 30, 2013

Begin With An Audience Of One

Woman at the Well with Gelato
Photo © 2013 Kelly Grace



Have you ever noticed how often Jesus began His work in a village or region with an audience of one.


  • There's the Woman at the Well in John 4.
She became an evangelist and brought others to hear Jesus. 
Many believed because of her word and many more believed after Jesus had stayed and preached for several more days.
  • Further on in John 9 Jesus heals a man blind from birth.
Of course all those who had known him as a blind beggar wanted to know how he had received his sight.  This man was cast out of the synagogue for his belief that Jesus must be of God or He couldn't open the eyes of the blind.  But, Jesus appeared to him and revealed Himself as the Son of God.  He also used it as an opportunity to let the Jewish religious leaders know that they were blind and still in their sin.
  • Then in Luke 8 we are given the story of the Maniac of Gadara.
After his miraculous deliverance he begged to follow Jesus, but Jesus sent him back to his village to testify of the great things God has done for him.  This man obeyed Jesus and told everyone throughout the entire city of the wondrous things God had done for him through Jesus.  
Verse 40 gives us the result of his labors:  And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received Him:  for they were all waiting for Him.

You only need an audience of one.

Keep your eyes open for the one God will bring across your path next.



Friday, June 28, 2013

What Happens to Our Prayers?


The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem


And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the
 twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp,
and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8


God never forgets our prayers.  
He cherishes them.
He keeps them in golden bowls.
Heavenly Incense: that's what becomes of our prayers.

Years ago on a trip to Israel I left a prayer in the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
It was for a daughter who wasn't walking with God.
I don't remember what I wrote on that little slip of paper.
God remembers.

He has long since answered that prayer.
The beautiful godly woman she is today bears no resemblance to the troubled hurting young girl she was then.  Transformation, God's work in the heart and life of people.  

That's what God does with our prayers.
He answers them in spectacular ways.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Ephesians 3:20

I came home from Africa with a stack of handwritten prayer requests from the women who attended our conferences.
So the ottoman in my office has become like the Wailing Wall, a repository of handwritten prayer requests.  
It's in the praying for these women that I feel God's love for them growing in my heart.

God doesn't need a written reminder of the burdens we lift to Him.
He holds them in His heart and stores them up in golden bowls.
They are the fragrance of our faith in Him.

And, He acts upon them.

This morning I read about the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant.  He sent the elders of the Jews to carry his request.  They told Jesus he was "worthy for whom he should do this".  As if any of us deserves something from God.  

Jesus accompanied the Jews walking toward the Centurion's home, but the soldier sent word saying he wasn't worthy for Jesus to come to his house.  He hadn't thought himself worthy to come to Jesus in person to make his request.  As far as he was concerned he wasn't worthy.  He did understand authority, a chain of command.  He was certain that Jesus could just give the order and it would be done. 

He had faith and didn't need to see Jesus to believe he had the power to simply say the word and the servant would be healed.

Today I'm lifting up the requests these women made because I know Jesus can heal, save, restore, and spiritually bless.  
He doesn't do it because we are worthy.
He is waiting to work in your life and the lives of those you know and care about.

We know next to nothing about the servant, but he was healed.

Just ask.
He's waiting to hear from you.























Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stephen Colbert's Tribute to His Mother


The Colbert Report


This tribute reminded me that a mother remains a mother her entire life.

The fact that our children are grown doesn't mean our role is diminished.  Our love and support can and should endure as long as we live.  

Here are the lessons I learned from Lorna Colbert's example:
  • Make life in your home as much fun as possible.  
  • Hug your kids and teach them to hug each other.
  • Encourage singing, dancing, and play acting.  Approve of their silliness and participate with enthusiasm and smiles.
  • Teach them what you know.  She'd studied acting, but you might paint, garden, or write. Share it with them.
  • Embrace joy and resist bitterness when difficulty arrives on your doorstep.
  • Model faith and gratitude as lifestyle choices.
  • Pray for and with your kids.
  • Make it your aim to be a blessing in their lives for as long as you live.
Maybe like me you wish you could have a "do-over" with your kids.
Well, you can't.

But I've found the next best thing:
Grandkids.

Another chance to do it better.  
Even if it's not perfect, I know I can never go wrong trying to bring love and joy to the life of a child.

Her children rise up and call her blessed.
Proverbs 31:28






Looking Up


Church Steeple in Pienza ItalyPhoto © 2013 Kelly Grace



Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:  for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Psalm 5:1-3

This familiar passage has often reminded me to start my day with God.

It's been made popular as a Worship Chorus and that means many of us have actually memorized it by singing it often.

But this morning the last four words preached a little sermon to my heart about prayer.

, and will look up.

What do I do after I pray?
These four words give a simple and clear direction; and will look up.

It speaks of expectation.
It speaks of waiting.
It speaks of a burden transferred.
It speaks of a new focus.

  • Expectation because I've taken my thoughts, my worry, my anxiety, my problems, my hopes, my need, my confusion, my whatever to God.
I have a relationship with Him.  
He is my King and my God.
My Sovereign and my Creator.

I owe Him my allegiance and my life.

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory:  the rock of my strength,  and my refuge, is in God.  Trust in Him at all times:  ye people, pour out your heart before Him:  God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:5-8

  • Waiting because He is the one in charge of the schedule of events in my life.  
He is never late.  
He is never hasty or impulsive.  
His timing is perfection.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
. . .He has made everything beautiful in His time:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 11

  • A Burden Transferred because I've given it into His strong and capable hands and LEFT it with Him.  
And He cares for me.
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

  • A New Focus on the things above, not on the things on the earth.  
I need this reminder every single day.  
Have you ever had to recalibrate your bathroom scale?  
Or your refrigerator or oven?
The wear and tear of frequent use can cause them to "drift" from their optimal settings.
The milk gets warm and the cookies get burned.  
And I know something's out of whack.
That happens to me too.
I drift.
My perspective shifts to this earth instead of its optimal setting on heavenly things.
God and His plan for my life get out of focus and all the clutter of the world floods the viewfinder of my life.

But time with God resets me.
And when I remember to look up it all falls into place for me.
I come away in balance and properly calibrated once again.

Your eyes shall see the king in his beauty:  they shall behold the land that is very far off.
Isaiah 33:17

Don't forget the last step ~ Look up


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

Preparing for Battle
Marble Floor in Siena's Duomo
Photo © 2013 Kelly Grace

The smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, so let's talk about marital fights.

Recall the last time you and your spouse had a fight.
Was it in the evening, or worse yet, late at night?
Was it a completely new issue or were you having a new fight about an OLD issue?

After a recent and thankfully rare fight, Gary and I started our own joint list 
of rules and restrictions pertaining to disagreements.

These are uniquely designed to address our own weaknesses as individuals and as a couple.  
They are custom tailored to fit us and our relationship.
Each one is intended to help THE US prevail over THE ME.

Why am I sharing something so personal and unflattering as a marital spat?
Because this morning I read the following in my Bible reading:

2 Kings 13:25
And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz recaptured from the hand of Ben-Hadad, the son of Hazael, the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war.
Three times Joash defeated him and recaptured the cities of Israel.

Fighting the same battle over and over again means just one thing.

You didn't finish the job properly in any of the previous campaigns.
  • Maybe you both were so exhausted by the effort you just left the field of battle to nurse your wounds.
  • Or you created a sort of DMZ (that's a De-Militarized Zone for any under 50 readers) to keep a safe distance between the combatants  and prevent further hostilities from erupting.
  • Possibly one of you gave up the battle, but the two of you didn't sign a peace treaty with fair terms that brought a solution to the problem.
As believers we have a responsibility to do the hard work of maintaining the high ideal of a Christian marriage that reflects the relationship between Christ and His church.

Gods' intent is that two individuals are to love, encourage, strengthen, and support one another.  It's a tough assignment because we each still possess a sin-nature that constantly wants to put self first.  

After almost 30 years of marriage it's obvious that God has used our marriage in His work of conforming us each to the image of Christ.  (Romans 8:29)

Clearly we aren't there yet!  
But we press on---together.  
Marriage, Christian marriage, is bigger than the sum of its parts.
This thing is bigger than the two of us.

I don't know about you, but I suspect that you're not so different from me.
I hate covering the same ground over and over.
Having the same disagreement, responding in the same destructive way, and never resolving the CORE issue(s).
It's exhausting, discouraging, and maddening.

I want to grab the marriage remote and change the channel.

Let's face it.  There are certain areas that are universal in their potential for strife.
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Children
But if you peel back the layers you find that:
  • Fights about Money are struggles for Control
  • Fights about Sex are struggles with Intimacy
  • Fights about Children are struggles over Heritage

Here's our List.  We should have done this years ago!

1.  Do not begin any discussion of a difficult topic after 2:00pm.  
I'm reminded of the famous quote by Mark Twain, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day".  
Gary and I are morning people.  We have higher energy and thus better coping skills early in the day.  By afternoon and evening we both fray at the edges.  This means we have to do our frog eating early in the day.
You may remember that Ephesians 4:26 says, Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.
We remember it also, but we have agreed not to "nurse the hurt" or "feed the fire", but just to let the emotion dissipate and our calmer better selves discuss it in the morning.

2.  Be truthful with yourself and your spouse about the REAL issue.
This requires some soul searching and plumbing the depths of our own murky waters of emotion.  
Ask yourself, what about this really hurts me?  
Then give it a name.  
This feels like:  rejection, dismissal, isolation?
The most powerful emotional triggers are (1) not feeling loved (2) not feeling important and (3) not feeling connected.
We all know that the fight about who does what chore, or what car we buy are not really fights about those things.

So, if you don't want to keep having the same fight over and over---get to the CORE of the conflict.
I know it makes you feel vulnerable and maybe wimpy, but if you don't acknowledge the real problem and share it in love with your partner, you'll keep fighting the same fight, taking the city and losing it again only to have to fight another day.

3.  Remember your spouse is not the enemy.
Recently I spent 5 weeks teaching on marriage and family in Africa.  Teaching the same truth over and over in a concentrated time frame really etches the truth deeply into your heart and mind.  Proverbs 31 is an EPIC chapter for wives.  We all have a love-hate relationship with this exceptional woman.  One thing that stood out to me over and over is the simple statement in verse 11,"the heart of her husband safely trusts in her".
This woman is always "with" her husband.  She's not "against" him.
His heart is safe with her.
There is an enemy, but it's not your spouse. 
The next time you have a conflict look at your spouse and remind yourself, "This is not my enemy".  Take a deep breath and let your RESPONSE TIME slow down.  This is especially important if you're a hot reactor.  
You may have a short fuse, but you don't have to put a match to it. 
In The Screwtape Letters C. S. Lewis' creates the novice tempter, Wormwood, who is tasked with causing upheaval and engendering sin in the life of a christian.
It's fiction, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Ask yourself if there might be something or someone else behind the episode.

4.  Have some pie.
That would be Humble Pie.
Proverbs 13:10 Only by pride comes contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Pride---that stubborn concern for my self, my way, my wants, my priorities, me, me, me.
Pride is at the root of so many of our conflicts.
I don't feel loved, but I'm too proud to tell you that.
I don't feel valued, but I'm too embarrassed to say anything.
I don't feel connected to you, but I'm not going to ask for your attention.
Wise up.  None of us are mind readers.  All of us have a tendency to think others feel as we do and therefore know what we feel.  News Flash:  they might not.
You need to participate in Show & Tell
Show some humility and tell them your need!

5.  Remember the Love.
How do you think any conflict might be changed if you and your spouse immediately quoted 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to yourselves?
You know what would happen; it would vanish like fog on a sunny morning.
If you haven't memorized those verses---do it today.
Two phrases especially apply.
Love, is not easily provoked.
Love, thinks no evil.
Learn to think the best of your spouse.  
Believe in the purity of their motives and the sincerity of their actions.

James 3 should be required reading for anyone contemplating marriage.
Is it possibly time for a refresher course?
It's all about taming the tongue and the fruits of wisdom.

What about you?
What has God shown you that has helped you handle conflict and nurture a more blessed union?















Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chosen and Appointed for Fruitfulness

Lessons in Fruitfulness





























Do you worry about being fruitful in your Christian life?

For many years of my Christian life I did. 
I wanted to know I was "doing" everything I was suppose to be doing.
I'm thankful that God didn't let that go on.

Instead He kept bringing my attention back to the words that speak of relationship.

  • Children
  • Friends
  • Brethren
Fruitfulness is a result of relationship. 
In John 15 Jesus says it happens when, and ONLY WHEN, we stay connected to Him.

So how do I stay connected?

  1. Abide in Him.  Jn. 15:4
  2. Let Him abide in you.  Jn. 15:4
  3. Prayer.  Jn. 15:16
Jesus gives us the specifics of the "HOW TO" in Jn. 15:7-8

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, 
and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, 
that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Give His words a place, a big place, in your life each day.
Read it, listen to it, talk about it with others.

Then start praying.
Talk to God about what He said to you.
Then ASK for something.
Ask Him to use you in someone's life.
Ask Him for opportunities to bear fruit.

He's chosen and appointed you for this very thing.

What will you ask of Him today?



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Impostor Syndrome

The Parking Lot David, Piazza Michelangelo, Florence Italy


This is not Michelangelo's David.
I call him "The Parking Lot David".
He's a poser.  
He's a fake.

Have you ever heard of Impostor Syndrome?  

It's basically feeling like a phony.  
As wives, mothers, and even as Christians, we sometimes feel like we're not what we should be. 
We're definitely not what others think we are.

And sometimes we're right.

But that can be a good realization if we allow it to prompt us to make the changes we know we should.

Paul urged Timothy to ". . .set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity".

I don't want the opinion of others to shape who I am.

I want God to do that.  

Only He can make me a genuine example to others. 
Only He can give me the right motivation, the sufficient power, and the unique blueprint that results in my being what He intends for me to be. 

God is an expert at Project Management.  

When things get off track I often get a G-mail.
No, not the kind from Google's mail service.
These messages originate with God Himself and the Holy Spirit delivers them directly to my Inbox.

Here are a few I have received over the years listed by their Subject tag:

Speech

Psalm 141:3
Set a guard over my mouth O LORD;  keep watch over the door of my lips.

Ephesians 4:29
Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Life

Romans 12:1
. . .in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies (lives) as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---which is your spiritual worship.

2 Timothy 2:4
no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

 Love

James 2:8
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself", you do well

1 John 3:18
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

1 Timothy 1:5
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.

Faith

Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Romans 4:20
He (Abraham) did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God

Romans 10:17
So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


Purity

Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

1 John 3:3
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

1 Peter 1:22
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart


Do you trust God's design for Project You?

Over the years I've learned that I can trust without understanding.  
I don't have to know the answers to all my "why" questions.
I don't have to weigh in on every segment of the process.
I just have to show up every day.
I just have to do what's assigned to me.

It's a life of faith.
Faith is believing what God has said.
It's a life of trust.
Trust is acting on that belief.


Psalm 119:73
Your hands made me and formed me; 
give me understanding to learn your commands.

You're not a fake, you just aren't finished yet.