October 16, 2012

Don’t Give Up!

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:26 am by Broken & Brave

This particular writing is a tribute to a friend of mine, and a friend to many of you as well. Her name is Debbie. Debbie is definitely one of those personalities that fits the category, “to know her is to love her”. She is always positive, always very upbeat and as energetic as a seven year old child! Debbie always has a smile on her face, even on the days that she doesn’t feel like smiling (yes, she has those days, too). Maybe you are wondering why I’d like to talk about Debbie? I have many friends and acquaintances who are absolutely incredible and their gifts, talents, abilities blow me away. I could write about them all day. Maybe even I could write about you…

Debbie is in Africa right now on a mission trip. Many are excited for her and anticipate her return and all the amazing stories she is bound to tell. Can you not picture her now…those bold blue eyes sparkling with delight as her freckles dance upon her rounded cheek (because remember I said she is always smiling) as she shares with an animated voice her tales so rich you get pulled right in as though you were there.

When Debbie is at home she is a pastor on staff at a local church and runs a ministry that reaches into the hurting city of Stockton and gives the Bread of Life (love, hope, encouragement, faith) along with a bag of groceries to hungry families. Her outreach ministers to countless thousands a month I am sure. She does backpack give aways in the fall, coat drives in the winter and faithfully (along side her just as amazing husband, Dan) gives out hundreds of bags of groceries to families in need every single Saturday. Debbie also goes into the most challenged of areas to reach out to families in their own neighborhood. But still, you are wondering why have I chosen to speak of Debbie today? Alright, here’s why….Debbie’s is a story of perseverance.

Have you ever heard the saying, “I went to the school of hard-knocks”? Debbie went there, as though it were Stanford and she got her Ph.D. in stick-to-it-never-give-up-on-the-vision-God’s-planted. Dan and Debbie had a vision in their heart (along with a few others) to take church to the neighborhoods. Currently Debbie is blessed with an amazing facility that has everything she needs to reach a lot of people. A warehouse with a big sign out front. Those of you who know can testify to how beautiful it is, with scriptures and beautiful murals painted on the walls by a local artist. It is an environment that is warm, loving and visually inviting to those who come for help. Sounds great, right? Here’s the thing…Deb didn’t always have all of this. I’ve known Debbie for close to 20 years and some of you have known her longer and are closer to her than I, so you can validate everything I am about to say and more.

I remember when Debbie’s biggest prayer request to me was to pray for help. She and Dan would go out faithful with a few others to talk to folks in their neighborhoods and do an entire Sunday School service in the area park for kids speaking hope in their little hopeless lives. But they got weary every single week because they had no help. I remember a few of the families that Debbie really connected with and their needs, physical needs, were so great but all Deb could do was ask them to write down what they needed and then she would pray for those items, because she didn’t have the resources to provide it. I remember Debbie had a brand new black Suburban that got completely trashed from use, because she and Dan started driving the kids from the neighborhoods to church every week as though it were the church bus. I remember her exhaustion. But, again, Debbie is never one to complain. Debbie would show up with a positive attitude, her smile and her intoxicating enthusiasm every single day. How easy would it have been on any given Saturday to say, “Hey, Dan, let’s not go out to the neighborhoods today, we haven’t gotten than many kids the past few weeks, we don’t have any helpers …let’s just sleep in.”  Or maybe she thought about her car and wanting it to stay nice. Let’s face it, cars are expensive and a huge investment, who wouldn’t want to be selfish about that. Who knows, maybe she even thought this a time or two, but every week, faithful, she and Dan didn’t do what their feelings dictated, they pursued the vision in their heart. The personal edification and satisfaction of meeting with those children and loving their hearts strong was all the pay she needed. Their faith and Belief fought their tiredness, their weariness, and at times even their discouragement. I am sure Debbie could tell countless more stories of disappointment, set backs, travail on this journey, not because of a doom and gloom mindset but out of a desire to encourage you to persevere in whatever it may be you feel lead to put your hand to.

The Bible says, ” And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

Debbie showed herself faithful and obedient to what God put in her heart to do. God saw it all and looked upon her perseverance and never give up attitude and he has blessed her ministry. One of the first things God did to lighten her load was bring a young and visionary pastor to the church who had the same vision to reach the hurting, the poor, the underprivileged of the town. He locked arms and added his own flavor to the vision and helped them get a facility and resources and promotion to the church and community for funding. This was huge because it afforded them some breathing room and resources to gain greater access to services to share, a local place to share it from and the help began to grow. Now you should see what they do! When they do a backpack give-a-way they don’t just line up and give backpacks…they have a party! They order jump houses, they offer free meals served right there, free haircuts, face painting, live music, clothing and the message of Jesus Christ. They may even do a give away of a bike or something every kid wants but doesn’t have. The pastor may do feats of strength (break a baseball bat with his bare hands or roll up a frying pan) to entertain the people and then tie a message of his strength into God’s love and strength. It is not uncommon for hundreds of people to give their life to Christ because they are loved, needs met and their hearts touched.

Your purpose may not be to do what Debbie does, but you have a purpose. The first step is finding out what it is. There are many options to discovering this, but I like to recommend John C. Maxwell’s book called, “Success Journey”. It has study questions that force you to probe your own heart. It is what God used to show me my purpose many years ago. Once you know your purpose you need to step out in faith, with a plan, to actively pursue it. But maybe it is hard, the successful days are less frequent than the days of discouragement and frustration. You may lack the resources to get it done. You may lack the physical energy or vision to make it happen. But God is faithful, and those days and seasons are inevitable in any journey of purpose and passion, it is the soil that becomes rich with character, good character,  as we endure and press in. So, don’t give up, keep the faith and know that in time your success will come.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

God is on your side and he has got your back. Every success story, every great accomplishment, every difference making attribute you’ve got within you is there for a reason but it comes through hard work, perseverance and a tenacity like you’ve never seen before. Your tenacity has to be such a good kind of stubbornness that it is “steel-toed” dig your heels in deep because you are grounded, rooted, planted. The water is purest down deep in the soil, so press in deeper than you ever have before and grow your roots in God’s power, God’s boldness, God’s love, God’s passion and compassion, God’s faithfulness, God’s provision, God’s people. You can do this, whatever it is, do not give up and never give in! If it is of God it is meant to be and he will, in His perfect timing, grant you Victory!

I believe in you, love you, want to empower and encourage you and give you the courage to press in one more day, one day at a time. God’s with you!

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God….God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” Psalm 46:4,5

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October 9, 2012

Jealous

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:04 am by Broken & Brave

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” Nehemiah 2:10

In the book of Nehemiah we see a man who was tremendously gifted to lead, leave his place in the palace working for the King, to go to a people who were in trouble and needed help. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, where his people were struggling under the oppression of two men Sanballat and Tobiah. These men were local politicians (non-Jewish) who were taking advantage of the fact that the people in Jerusalem were struggling and they had no defense to protect themselves because the city walls were in decay. The above passage is referring to how these two men responded to the word that Nehemiah had come to town to help protect, bless and build up the Jewish people. Now, let me transition here…this passage, this book, can be a pivotal study piece for you if you desire to go deeper with God and your ability to recognize and discern his guidance and leadership in your life. I will take a snapshot look and try to help you start this journey to hearing the Voice of the Lord with greater clarity.

Imagine that you are like the city of Jerusalem. All of us are like a city. The basic blue print of you was laid out by God before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Psalm 119). However, the experiences and circumstances of life, how we were raised, who shaped our attitudes actions and thoughts as a child…all these factors make up the actual structure (strengths and weaknesses) of “our city” or who we are. Our perceptions are the filter by which we measure our encounters with other people and how we respond in certain situations.

The old saying goes that everyone has “baggage”, some more than others, but we have areas of struggle or “issues”. Sanballat and Tobiah were two men who proceed to harass Nehemiah, trying to intimidate, slander and destroy his efforts to help these people rebuild and fortify the walls of their city. Why? Because these two men were personally gaining from the lack of protection these people had. If Nehemiah helped them rebuild then they would be strong and fortified and Tobiah and Sanballat would no longer be able to roam the city pillaging as they please. The areas of our minds and hearts that have been damaged or have a skewed filter are the areas that we are like a broken down city wall with our own personal Tobiahs and Sanballats harassing us. Our defense minimal and the Enemy of our soul targets those areas causing us to stumble over and over. It could be any number of areas we struggle and some are greater hindrances than others. Allow me to give you a personal example.

My entire life I’ve been pretty good at getting along with people. I can blend in to most any crowd or connect quickly to others. I didn’t realize I had this ability until I was an adult, but looking back, it was always there. I am also able to help others get along with each other, kind of like I am relationship glue. I can aid others in mending wounds, etc. However, growing up I endured many deep, emotional blows from females. Over time, I became more removed and though I could still connect and get along, I began to distance myself and without realizing it, stopped letting friends into the deeper chambers of my heart. It wasn’t until I was a young woman that God brought a woman into my life who persisted to reach into that deeper part of my heart in close friendship. I resisted her love for a long time, trying to keep our friendship surface. I didn’t realize I did all of this until I had to make the choice, will I allow her in deeper and trust her with my heart? Or will I keep our friendship surface and then probably lose her altogether for lack of intimacy. I was so frightened. I was convinced that if I opened up to her, she was only going to turn on me and hurt me. But God’s gentle voice encouraged me to slowly trust her and I did. It was so hard for me because I had been hurt before. She was patient with me and I grew and she became close like a sister. My friendship with her is very unique and special.

This is how many people approach their friendship with God. We want more of him but we are afraid. We think he might punish us or make us give too much up or whatever makes us keep him at arms length. The Tobiahs and Sanballats of our mind have skewed what a healthy relationship looks like and so we become afraid. We measure our relationship with God by our experiences with human relationships. Trust me, it’s just not the same! God will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you and wants to be your best friend! He is Jealous. Have you ever had a person, boyfriend or girlfriend jealous for you? Someone who so wants your attention or affection and if someone else gets it, what do they do? They behave poorly toward that other person or thing that is taking the attention they want from you away. But God’s Jealousy is Pure. Anything that would hinder you from being close to him he is jealous of. He wants your undivided heart. He doesn’t want any man, woman, child, career, possession to stand between his love and you. He doesn’t want any feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, fear or worry or doubt to hinder his love form reaching the depths of your heart. He loves you and wants some attention from you!

So, how do you fortify your walls? You need to start with prayer. Make a commitment to talk to God everyday. Your words do not have to be formal or fancy. It’s like talking to a friend. Next, you need to be reading the Bible. Start with the books of John, Psalms or Proverbs if this is new to you. Then, when you pray and read ask God to show you the areas of your mind, thoughts, perceptions, feelings that are needing some building up. What needs to be cleaned up?  You will know because it will be the area or thing he repeatedly brings to your mind. This is how God can come in and rebuild the broken areas of your heart, mind, emotions. When we allow him to “clear the clutter”, then we can see him and hear him more clearly! This is what it means to have clean hands and a pure heart.

You can do this. God longs to lavish you with adoration, love, praise. He longs to build you up and bless and protect you. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with diligence, perseverance and time you can nurture a loving relationship that will never disappoint.

I am here for you, too. There is nothing  I want more than to see you succeed…to see you happy. I long to see you fulfill the Destiny that God has for you~ It is incredible and so are you.