Are you able to say no?

No. It is a simple word. Two letters, one syllable. Why do so many women have a problem saying it? Even when they are tired, even when there are more pressing matters, women seem to struggle in responding with, “no.” Why do we think our answer should always be “yes”? I wonder, do we have an issue with control? Do we believe we are the only ones who can do a given task, and therefore rarely say no? Or, maybe it is an issue of self worth, or lack thereof. Do we say yes to one more committee, one more item on our to do list because we are trying to fill a void in our lives? Is it to feel needed? Maybe we rely too heavily on the accolades from others. We all like a pat on the back every now and then. Is that what is driving us? What results from being unable to say no? When we shout a resounding “yes!” to everything that comes our way, we exhaust ourselves. With our energy depleted, as we serve and serve some more, we have little left to give those who matter most. Our friends and families are usually left picking up our tired pieces. Even more than how exhausted we become, saying “yes” too often may cause us to miss the “yes” we are meant for. It is not that we should pull away from our community or  stop serving altogether. Yet, we need to be more careful, more discerning, about who or what receives our “yes.” There are many opportunities that present themselves, but I know...

Are you in the belly of a fish?

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1: 1-3, NIV) The instructions were pretty simple. Jonah, go and preach. Yes, the city was wicked. Yes, the city and its residents needed a fresh infusion of Truth, with a side of Mercy. Go and preach. Instead, Jonah runs. Nineveh? No way. Jonah is out as quickly as a boat can take him. Did Jonah really believe he could deceive God? God sends a great wind, and a violent storm erupts at sea. The ship Jonah is hiding in is not at risk of being sunk. Jonah, in his first honest act, tells the ship’s crew he is the reason the storm rages. The crew asks Jonah what they can do to save the ship and their own lives. 2 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah tells the men to throw him overboard. I wonder if he thought he might drown at sea. Did he hope for his life to end? Was Jonah so unwilling to go to Nineveh that he preferred death? Instead, God sent a huge fish to swallow...

Will you rise?

54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:54-55) Jesus healed a woman with an issue of bleeding. A twelve year problem is solved with one touch of Jesus’ robe. The story is one of incredible faith. However, before the woman with the issue of bleeding arrived, Jesus had been approached by Jairus, a leader in the synagogue. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. (Luke 8:41-42). In the midst of healing the woman with the issue of bleeding, a messenger arrived to report Jairus’ daughter has died. Hope slipped through Jairus’ fingers. Then, hope is returned. 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Jesus entered the house and is laughed at when he states the girl is merely sleeping. They laugh, but Jesus speaks. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:54-55)   How do we respond? I have read this passage multiple times, always focusing on the woman with the issue of bleeding, or Jairus. Lately, I have been thinking about the twelve year old daughter. When Jesus says, “get up,” she obeys. As Jesus tells her to rise, she does...

Are you ready for action?

Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13, NASB) Peter is my favorite. I know, we should not have favorites. But alas, I have one. Of all the apostles, Peter is my favorite. While many people gravitate towards John or Paul, I find myself drawn to Peter. Peter, the fisherman turned apostle. He left it all to follow Jesus. Peter, the first to proclaim Jesus the Son of God. Yes, he was the one who walked on water towards Jesus. Passionate Peter who declared he would die in Jesus’ place, then denied knowing his divine friend. Although his foot was often in his mouth, Peter was often the spokesman for the disciples. The day after Pentecost, Peter is the first to preach. I am drawn to his passion. I read through Scripture and find myself shaking my head as Peter, once again, speaks without thinking. His zeal is admirable, but his words often tumble out in a jumbled, thoughtless mess. Yet, I also see the fierceness of his love for his Savior. Peter rejoiced in the day of his death because he would then be reunited with Jesus. He asked to be crucified upside down because he claimed he was unworthy to be crucified in the way Jesus was. Peter, the lowly fisherman became a mighty fisher of men. I too find my foot squarely in my mouth. I too have spoken with passion and vigor while forgetting the flesh and blood standing before me. Like Peter,...

He Knows My Name

But now, this is what the Lord says—     he who created you, Jacob,     he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;     I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1, NIV) For many years, I wondered if I mattered. I questioned my worth. I doubted I had value or a purpose. Certainly God had little use for me, even if He did love me. Lies spoken to me in my past rang loudly in my ears. They were sometimes deafening, sometimes silenced by truth. Yet, the lies remained. Even in the best moments, the lies swirled quietly in the back of my mind. I was made to feel I did not deserve the grand lives others were given. I did not believe I would measure up or accomplish much regardless of what I did. I would say I was determined, and I expertly developed a strong exterior, but inside I often crumbled. While I tackled goals with tenacity, I typically believed my efforts would amount to nothing, and I would fail. Failure became my identity. Have you come to a place of knowing there was more, of knowing there was something better, yet did not know how to obtain it? As I have dived into Scripture, I have found my answer. I have found answers to my questions, and the rebuttal for every lie. I have found how deeply God loves me. He knows me. He calls me by name. Jeremiah 1:5 says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,     before you were born I set you apart;     I...

Take the Next Best Step

The opportunity presented itself and I could not refuse. A risk, maybe, but it was one I was willing to take. This was an opportunity to draw closer to seeing dreams become a reality; a risk worth taking. I found myself on stage, sharing with others my heart, my story, and my encouragement for them. The negative voices that had coursed through my mind moments before were silenced. I had done what I was called to do. I had taken the next best step. One step led to a vision coming to fruition. Genesis 12:1-3 speaks of a man who chooses to take the next best step. The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation,     and I will bless you; I will make your name great,     and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you,     and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth     will be blessed through you.”    Abram, who will later be called Abraham, is not told where he is to go, only that he should go. Do you know what I truly love about this? Abram’s response. Verse 4 begins, “So Abram went.” No questions, no prayer meeting, no asking what his mother thought, he went. When God directs our steps, we do not need to question if we are headed in the right direction. We simply need to go. As Abram goes, God shows him a land that will be given to Abram’s offspring. Abram’s...

Boundaries of Love

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:4) You don’t love me! You don’t trust me! I remember the words, the phrases I shouted at my parents during my teen years. I was absolutely certain they would prefer me to stay inside the house, talk to no one, do nothing, go nowhere. Surely I had the cruelest parents on earth. The fact those words escaped my lips or that I had those thoughts is ridiculous now. Many years have passed and I know they were protecting me. A parent who sets boundaries for their child loves deeply. Having a child now, I understand. Even at her young age, she has questioned why she cannot do certain things. She asks why I will not let her go to various places. I explain that her father and I are doing our best to keep her safe while also letting her grow. I have to ask her to trust our decisions. A few temper tantrums are worth keeping her protected. She has more freedom, and more safety, within the boundaries we have drawn. I recently read a study which found that, when a playground is surrounded by a fence, children tend to use the entire playground area. Without a fence, children confine themselves to a particular area and will not use the space allotted to them. Fascinating isn’t it? While we may outwardly rebel against the fence, inwardly we are comforted by its presence. In the book...

Walk through the chaos and find the calm

  The line of cars extended beyond what we could see. We were not expecting so many people. In my head, everything worked out so perfectly. We would arrive, easily find a place to park, and walk inside. We would have enough time to settle in before the concert started. The picture in my head and what was happening did not match. We wound around streets, around parking lots. Every spot seemed to be taken, and time would not cease to wait for us. I had not considered simply entering the arena being such a challenge. Maybe it was the volume of vehicles, the long lines, or the unfamiliar campus, but my nerves became rattled. Friend, I promise I tried to take my thoughts captive and tame my tongue. I tried, and I failed. Taking an alternate route, we found a place to park much closer than we could have anticipated. Climbing the stairs of the arena, we entered and found an unoccupied row of chairs to sit. Away from the crowd, my husband, daughter, and I sat together. The large screens were enough for us. We were there to hear a phenomenal group, a group that drew us into the Father’s presence. Everything worked out better than the what my mind had imagined. God seemed to gently whisper, “If you will trust me in the chaos, I will lead you somewhere better.” We could not avoid the chaos; we simply had to keep going to find the calm awaiting us. A man named Lazarus fell ill. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus. How the women...

This year, I quit

And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:10b-12). Sarah laughs as God tells Abraham of a son that would be born to them in the coming year. Upon hearing God’s words of a promised heir, old Sarah laughs. The childbearing years had come and gone, yet God says she and Abraham, in their golden years, will conceive? How insane! How ludicrous! In her disbelief, she laughs. After denying she uttered a giggle, God confronts her. “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” No, nothing is too difficult. The next year, Isaac lays nestled in Sarah’s arms. The promised son has come. Sarah quit laughing. 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75) Peter: bold and passionate Peter. He had been warned. Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus three different times. “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Peter proclaimed. Yet there you stood, Peter, hours later. The rooster was crowing and three times you had denied Jesus. Peter peered into the empty tomb. He later saw Jesus stand again in their midst. While out fishing, Peter began throwing off his clothes and jumping into the sea...

Finding peace

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. (Psalm 94:19, NLT) Stockings no longer adorn the mantle, lights have been carefully folded away, and a sparkling tree no longer lights the room. The holidays have past, and a new year has been rung in. There is something peaceful about one chapter closing and another beginning. Last year’s chapter was a hard one. I found hope wavering and peace elusive. Last year rattled me in many ways: ways I was not prepared for. In the midst of it all was the reassuring hand of God, His steady hand, His unchanging love. Yet even now, I know the stress of those moments remains; the emotions long hidden away need to be faced. Like Peter, I longed to leap out of the boat, then quickly found myself sinking. Precious Peter may well be the disciple I most identify with. He is passionate, bold, and well-intentioned, and often speaks or acts before thinking. After a day of teaching and feeding five thousand, the disciples have pushed off from shore while Jesus retreats to pray. Before dawn, Jesus walks on the water, toward the boat. As Jesus approaches, the disciples are frightened, but Jesus tells them to “take heart.” Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come come to you on the water.” Jesus beckons Peter to come (Matthew 14:22-29). The fierce winds are too distracting. As he begins to sink, Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” Faithful Jesus takes hold of Peter’s hand, lifting Peter from under the water. “You of little faith, why did...