We serve a big God…

We serve a big God.

Some of you may be thinking, “Duh…that’s like lesson one in Sunday School when we’re 5 years old!”

But for someone like me who came to know Christ in my mid-20′s and is the daughter of a Jewish lawyer born during the Great Depression, sometimes I have to go back & analyze the facts and re-state the obvious so I don’t forget the truth.

And the truth is, we serve a big God.

How can I state that as a fact? Let me just share a glimpse of how my last 12 hours have transpired:

A series of events yesterday led me to question a lot of things in my personal and professional life. Obviously, the psychological burden proved too great until all of a sudden, around 11:30 last night, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

I’d allowed a couple of petty comments, texts & yes, even Facebook to eat away at me and for a little while, seriously started wondering if anyone liked me. (The enemy strikes best when it’s dark…have you ever noticed that?)

This morning, my husband blessed my by taking our son to school and our daughter (who I’m homeschooling this term) with him to help on a home decor job he had. (That’s how they bond…surely we all know she didn’t get that gene from me!).

All this to say, I found myself home alone for the the first time in about 4 months. My first instinct was to turn on the TV and drown out the voices in my head, but I felt like my soul needed the silence more.

I was literally about to sit down at my computer and type out a blog post entitled, “Am I a horrible person?” when my best friend from Florida called me.

This may not seem out of the ordinary for those of you that talk to your best friend or mom on a daily basis (or perhaps multiple times a day), but I’m not what you’d call a phone person…and neither is she. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we actually connected via the phone, but that’s ultimately not how we communicate love to each other.

But I digress.

The point is, before I could weep and moan and belabor over my keyboard about how I must be deluding myself into thinking people liked me and ultimately I must be horrible otherwise these things wouldn’t be happening to me, my sweet friend called out of the blue.

Thankfully, as only she can do with me, she gave me a ‘snap out of it’ talk and reminded me of the actual, verifiable, God-given truth that abounds in my life. (It is ultimately because of her that this post has transformed from, “Am I a horrible person?” to “We serve a big God“…)

While on the phone with her, I received a call from another one of my best friend’s in Atlanta who I also haven’t been able to connect with in forever.

As soon as I hung up one call, I got another from a local friend who I thought I had wronged because of the silence between us and realized that was in no way the truth, that they were in fact, like the rest of us, just insanely busy, but wanted to get a date on the calendar to get our families together.

THEN, immediately following that call, another sweet friend of mine (also equally difficult to pin down on a phone call) rang in, saying, “I don’t have much time, but just felt a strong urge to check in on you”.

Even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes thinking about the turn of events. 12 hours ago, I was believing a grossly-overexaggerated, nowhere near true thought that I was allowing to become my reality. Yes, I allowed it to take over my brain.

This morning, without me knowing, our big God orchestrated a series of events across multiple states, time zones, and work situations to allow some of the most important people in my life to converge on my heart all at once.

…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5b

So to all of you who think your life isn’t perfect (or worse, think my life is!), I wanted to transparently show you the truth: none of our lives are perfect, but we serve a God who is!!!

Life is too hard to waste time believing the lies of others. Ultimately, we shouldn’t spend even a moment worrying about whether people like us or don’t like us: our primary goal should be to live a live consistent in Christ that points people toward Him.

Yet how merciful is our God to know us so well that He would care enough to send His angels through our friends to remind us of His love when we need it most!

So to all of you out there struggling a bit like me today, know that I am praying fervently for you to receive blessing, peace and wisdom, much like I was gifted this morning.

And if you need a virtual ‘slap in the face’ to wake up out of your worry, just leave a comment below and I’ll send my friend your way icon wink We serve a big God...

we serve a big god psalm 30 5 We serve a big God...

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Access

Have you ever seen a picture of random celebrities together and thought, “They have no business knowing each other except that their both famous!”

I have.

And then the next natural question becomes, “How did they even happen to get to meet each other?”

There is a very simple answer: Access

A singer likes a certain TV show, so his people call their people and boom, he gets to meet the stars. Perhaps they’re both presenting at an awards show together. Or maybe they’re both hanging out in the same VIP lounge at Target (surely Target has a VIP lounge the rest of us normal folk don’t get to see, right???).

(From Dierks Bentley on WhoSay…P.S. If you can name all the people in this picture, I’m impressed – I couldn’t!- though Dierks, if you’re reading this, you are the ONE country singer I’d like to meet…but I digress)

So I may have a skewed view of celebrity and fame, but the answer stays the same: Access.

I remember a time years ago when I was absolutely convinced that Rachael Ray and I would be best friends…if only we could meet! This wasn’t when everyone knew her name and loved her, it was just me….well, just me and my then toddler. I remember feeding a newborn baby in my arms and having my 19 month old jump up and down at the TV screen saying “Wachael Way! Wachael Way!” As someone who didn’t consider themselves a pro in the kitchen (and still doesn’t!), I resonated with her humility and quirkiness.

I had a dream that we happened to be getting our hair done next to each other and my hairdresser said to her hair dresser that she thought we should be friends and POOF! That was all it took…but the dream never became reality. In fact, as is typical of my life, once everyone else starts liking something, I usually back away from it. So, alas, the world will never know the powerhouse duo that Rachael and I could have become.

But do you know who we do have full, unlimited access to? God
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” ~ Ephesians 2:18-19

When I worked at the Olympics in Atlanta back in 1996, I had an infinity level pass. That meant that even when I wasn’t working an event, I could pretty much get in wherever I wanted: the floor level of the gold medal women’s gymnastics event, the back halls of the tennis venue, even next to the Vice-President of the United States during the closing ceremonies (well, I think that one was a fluke, but once I was past the metal detector, I was in!).

I think that gig had something to do with the fact that I was young, diligent and spoke French (or just a brilliant stroke of good luck for me and my friends who also got the gig). Do you know what it takes to get an infinity level pass to God? Faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God.” ~ Romans 5:1-2

It’s that simple. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you gain an infinity level pass to His kingdom for eternity! How cool is that?

There’s not test. You don’t have to be famous. And God knows you don’t have to be perfect!

That’s the beauty of it. With faith comes access to God’s grace, mercy and unconditional love.

So the next time you feel like you’re being left out of the coolest VIP lounge (hint, hint Target…), just remember, we all have the potential for infinity level access to the ultimate heavenly lounge.

All you have to do is ask…

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16

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I Give Up Lord

780737 born to pray I Give Up Lord
The other day, I was praying and confessing to God and said, “Lord, I want you to remove ____ from my life”…to which He quickly replied, “I want YOU to GIVE IT UP!”

Our God is not intrusive.

He is a gentleman. He is not invasive, yet meets us where we are. He calls us not to be passive Christians, but active in our faith.

Just as when we first come to Christ, we cannot ask Jesus to come into our hearts until we first confess our sins and iniquities. God is present and might to save, but He needs believers that are strong enough to admit their need, while weak enough to know we cannot do anything without Him!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Looking to go deeper? Why not watch church online right now? I have several options for you…

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Radiant Glory

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So often we brush right past people that God put in our way for a reason. If God created everything, and everything He created reflects His glory in some way, then we should be able to find that radiance in every person we encounter!

This is one of the most difficult concepts for me personally as I truly struggle with understanding how to be genuine with people I don’t get along with. (Can I get an Amen?)

However, I once approached our pastor’s wife at our former church with this quandary, since she seemed to get along with everyone.

She confessed that her spirit was not always that way, but that her husband (our pastor) taught her that there is always something positive you can find in everyone and to simply focus on that until you can develop a relationship that leads you to uncover something else.

“For I was hungry and you fave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. ‘The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
~ Matthew 25:35-36, 40

God commands us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). Therefore, by loving our fellow man and looking beyond the external, we are loving God and giving Him glory!

We need not be quick to judge based on external appearances. Instead, we ought to learn to recognize the radiant glory of God and look for it in everyone we meet.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. ~ 1 John 4:11-12

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The Long Road Home

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We’ve started the long road home to Nashville…

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago I received the call from my husband that his dad had passed away and hours later I piled our two kids into the mini van to make the 13 hour trek down to South Florida amidst squalls from Hurricane Isaac.

It’s a blur.

In the past week we’ve planned a funeral, buried my father-in-law, sorted through his belongings, relived a lot of memories and hugged an entire community.

We are emotionally spent.

Yet through it all, we’ve clung to each other and learned so much from so many of you.

1. It’s not about me

I think this is fairly self-explanatory, yet it is something someone very close to me lovingly reminded me of icon wink The Long Road Home It’s easy to be offended when our expectations aren’t met…and I think it’s safe to say that when you bring a large group of people together who are all grieving in their own ways (not to mention exhausted and emotional), it’s not possible to meet everyone’s expectations. So the safest thing to do is to set your own aside. Max Lucado wrote a book on this very topic (It’s Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy The Long Road Home) that included the following:

“The brevity of life grants power to abide, not an excuse to bail.”

Yikes. I know I still have a lot to learn in this area.

2. Slow Down

We are busy. And yes, I recognize our lives are even busier than most (at least that’s what I keep hearing from all of you!), but through this we have learned that we need to slow down and make time for God and each other. I think everyone can attest to the fact that there’s never a convenient time for tragedy to strike, but when you’re living your life on fumes, it makes those times even more stressful. In Bill Hybels’ book, “Too Busy Not to Pray The Long Road Home“, he reminds us that true prayer can’t “happen on the fly”, especially in this time when pain & distractions seem to be on the rise. While this week may have been a forced ‘slow down’ for us, I’m grateful for the people we were able to re-connect with (and especially for our multiple employers being so gracious in understanding the need to be with our family to help take care of the issues at hand).

3. Receive Help

Though I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with asking for help in a time of need, I understand how difficult it is to bring yourself to that point. Luckily, we never even had to ask this week icon smile The Long Road Home But for some who are used to being the ones offering aid, it can be equally difficult simply to receive help. This week I learned that as much of a blessing as it is to be the recipient of such a gift, there are those who truly enjoy giving in times such as these…and to deny them that would be robbing them of their joy. Their is an art to graciously receiving and while I am still learning that art, I loved witnessing the act of all of you sharing your blessings with us!

4. Life is a Gift, not a Guarantee

When we found out on June 7 about dad’s brain tumor, we couldn’t fathom that he only had 6-8 weeks left to live. Can you imagine being told that? What would you do differently? But then we realized – none of us know when we will die. Although dad was given a rough estimate, the reality was that any of us could have lost our life before he did. We’re thankful for the memories we were able to make this summer, but also came to the bigger realization that we need to start living each day with more passion & purpose.

Listening to a Joyce Meyer podcast on the road yesterday, I was reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan and how he did exactly what he could do in the moment without shirking his current responsibilities. As we drive home today, I want the memory and lessons of these events to influence my day to day role as a wife, mother, friend, worker & volunteer, while not distracting me from my ultimate goal.

Our lives are fleeting, even if this car ride is not icon wink The Long Road Home

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What lessons have you learned in grief?

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I NEED you to do this, Lord

car window rain I NEED you to do this, Lord

image courtesy of www.sxc.hu

It’s not often that I asked the Lord for insanely practical things.

In fact, I hate to bother him with things that seem so trivial in light of all the world’s problems. But He does in fact want us to include him in all aspects of our lives and I was reminded of this in a very tangible way today

You may know that our min-van is currently stuck at home after breaking down Thursday night, so we are left having to share our 2001 Camry. Since my husband is typically the one that drives this car, I had forgotten some of its idiosyncrasies.

Case in point:
After finishing up at the radio station, I was on my way to drop the car off at his work since he has to be here late tonight. Our kids spent the day with friends, so Kristen was meeting me here to pick me up and take all of us back home.

Since I hadn’t had lunch and knew I wouldn’t be able to stop at the store today, I made a quick detour to get some chili in the Wendy’s drive thru. I knew the windows hadn’t been working well, but I had just witnessed my husband use them successfully the day before, so it never even crossed my mind to avoid this pitfall.

Yet sure enough, in the middle of a storm, the window went down perfectly fine, but did not respond at my attempt to roll it back up after paying. I dodged rain drops to get to window #2 and worked fervently to fix the wet situation.

No luck.

Knowing I couldn’t very well hang out in the Wendy’s drive thru for longer than 3 extra seconds, I jetted out and wildly went the wrong way into a neighboring bank’s drive thru (luckily, it was closed at the time).

Thankful for the dry oasis. I turned off the car and decided to let it “reboot”, so to speak (can you tell I spend too much time on a slow computer?). After another five minutes of trying every Jedi mind trick I could conjure up, I finally stopped, closed my eyes and prayed for God to help me in this situation.

After finishing the prayer, I opened my eyes, paused to take a deep breath and then said in my most convincing voice possible:
Lord, I NEED you to do this.”

I waited a few seconds just to make sure He heard me and then turned the car back on to try the window again.

IT WORKED!

Without over-spiritualizing the situation, it reminded me that all too often I try to do things on my own when God is ready, willing and very able to help…if only we’ll get over ourselves long enough to ask!

I was reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 that essentially teaches us that when we simply trust God, He will supply all our needs, from the most critical to even the very trivial.

Our mini-van may not be operational yet, but at least we’re not left with a very wet interior for our one vehicle that does work!

Is there anything you need  to ask the Lord for today?

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Don’t give up on God

20120124 102446 Dont give up on GodI just finished co-hosting the family-friendly morning show with Doug while Jaci Velasquez was off promoting her new album. It was an amazing experience and in the excitement of the morning I realized my gas tank was almost on empty. So I left the station and promptly found a place to fill up.

After pulling in, I watched a homeless man selling papers at the intersection. I felt voyeuristic as I sat in my car talking on my phone paying for expensive gas.

There was something very unassuming about him. Sometimes people in that position seem desperate.

Not him.

I didn’t feel sorry for him as much as I felt compelled to help him.

Not long after that thought, as I still sat in my car waiting for the tank to fill, he walked to his backpack propped up against a nearby sign.

In that moment I felt God say, “don’t give up.”

Was that meant for me? Should I not give up on helping him?

Perhaps I was supposed to tell him to not give up. Should I tell him,”don’t give up on what God has for you?” who was I to be giving any sort of advice in this circumstance?

So instead, after my tank filled, I put my receipt in my wallet and I pulled out a single dollar bill. I went out of my way to drive up to him so that he was right next to my driver side window. Since he had left his post and was hunched over his backpack, I had to summon his attention.

“excuse me sir, may I buy a paper from you?”

If I had startled him, he didn’t show it. Instead he looked up at me with a genuine smile and simply said, “Of course.”

As we made the exchange, I returned the smile and said “don’t give up on what you’re doing.”

I don’t know if that was the right thing to say. In fact I don’t know if I should have said anything at all. But I do know that that was what came out of my mouth in that moment, and I know that God can do more with my words than I ever could dream of.

Have you given up on God lately? Have you given up on what God has for you?
Have you put yourself in a position that you think you know better than God?

Whatever the case may be just remember this: there is someone watching over you every moment of the day and He’ll give you exactly what you need when you least expect it… and He will never give up on you.

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Family New Year’s Resolutions: Tommy Nelson Blog

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I’m back on the Tommy Nelson Blog today with a post about Family New Year’s Resolutions!

Does your family set New Year’s Resolutions?

I realize the New Year is typically a time for people to reflect and re-evaluate, but how often do you include your kids when you set such goals? After all, aren’t we supposed to model God’s standard of behavior when it comes to health, wealth and happiness?

I think one of the fatal mistakes we make when it comes to setting goals and changing behavior is that we try to go it alone. Whether it’s an accountability partner to help protect your relationships or a running buddy to help you lose weight, teaming up has proven to increase your chances of actually sticking to your goals.

Read the entire article on the Tommy Nelson Blog….

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Kids Prayer Poster

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Cone Kids Prayer Poster

If you’re looking for a tangible way to help your family pray together on a consistent basis, consider making a Kids Prayer Poster.

When I first became a Christian in my 20′s, I quickly realized I couldn’t possibly pray for everyone all the time. So while I knew there would always be spontaneous and continuous prayer in my life, I also knew I needed to get some sore of system going to make sure there was consistency in my prayer life, especially surrounding the people and causes I care for.

So I created categories I would pray for each day, week by week. Again, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t verge from or ad to my prayers, people and categories, but it simply gave me a nice template to structure my prayers around. Which made me think, why couldn’t I do something similar for my kiddos?

Since they don’t carry a planner or smart phone around yet (thankfully) and are more captivated by pictures than words, I though a prayer poster would be the best solution. Plus, I had also been trying to devise a way for them to remember extended family that we didn’t see very often, so this fit the bill perfectly!

Here are the step by step directions for our kids prayer poster (you’ll want to supervise, but make sure your kids do as much of this as possible so that they know it’s theirs!):

1. Take a plain old sheet of white poster board and turn it horizontal.

2. Have the kids write a title across the top and then skip a space and write the days of the week across under the title.

3. Under the days of the week, write the category of what/who you’ll be praying for that day.

4. Find and print pictures to represent those categories/people, so you have a visible reminder of who/what you’re praying for.

5. Display the prayer poster in a prime area and reference it during your designated family prayer time (before school, before bed, before nap, etc)

You can come up with your categories any way you see fit, but for a point of reference, here is what/who we pray for each day:

Sunday: Church (including pastors, missionaries, non-profit causes we support, etc)
Monday: Work (our jobs, co-workers, etc) & School (teachers, classmates, etc)
Tuesday: Our Family (this is just our nuclear family)
Wednesday: My husband’s extended family
Thursday: My extended family
Friday: Friends (including other couples, kids’ friends, etc)
Saturday: Our nation (and issues surrounding our government and culture)

Again, this is only a template, but it works for us. It’s also been fun to have the visible reminders and go down picture by picture to pray for individuals, especially extended family and long-distance friends.

Does your family do anything like this? What categories for prayer would you add that I missed?

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Family Prayer Shield

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Cone Prayer Shield

I’ve been getting asked about our family Prayer Shield a lot lately, so I thought it only fitting to share about what it is, how it got started and how we plan to refine it for 2012.

I first learned about having a prayer shield from one of my mentors and colleagues, Catherine Hickem.  Though I know we are to called to cover each other in prayer, it was the first time I’d seen someone be so intentional about rallying others in protective prayer on a consistent basis. While she asked others to cover certain areas of her ministry in prayer, I thought it fitting to do something similar for our family.

Thus the Cone Prayer Shield was born! What we decided was to find someone (or a family we knew, loved and trusted) to commit to praying for our family on the same day of each month. In return, we would commit to pray for them and their family on that same day every month.

It’s as simple as that. We sent an email out (this was before Facebook) asking if friends, family, co-workers, etc would be interesting in committing to do what we described above for one year; that’s right, we asked for a 12 month commitment. I also promised to send out an update at the beginning of each month with what happened in our family in the prior month and what we coveted prayer for in the coming month (something I’ve been woefully behind in doing and hope to get better at in 2012).

We then filled out the names of the parties who agreed on a form and posted it in an easily visible, highly trafficked area (for us, that meant the fridge, as seen above). I also made smaller copies of the shield for me to carry in my purse organizer and put in the car (though I may now make one for my iPhone in 2012).

I’m also purposing in 2012 to contact the people we’re praying for in some way on the day we pray. I’m not pretending to think I’ll be able to call them each time (since I’m a horrible phone person), but it may be a text message, Facebook wall post or a quick email.

I’ve gone so far as to create a very basic (VERY basic) family prayer shield for you all to get started as well, if you wish. It’s simply a Google doc, and some of you would be able to create something much prettier on your own, but for those of you without computer software or know-how, I wanted you to have something you could simply and quickly print out today.

You would be amazed at what can happen in your life when you know your family is covered in prayer each and every single day of the year. it doesn’t cost you anything: only faith and commitment. So what’s stopping you from starting today?

Download your free family prayer shield

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