Eight weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Bible study at Northside Assembly. I had no idea what I was in for. God brought some of the most beautiful, sweet and precious ladies into my life. I will forever cherish them. They may never know the extent of my gratitude for how they encouraged me, and lifted me up. I’m so grateful to have met each one of them.
The study was an eight week study and this was our final week. The book was about waiting. We all go through periods of waiting, and since we are not always the most patient, it’s usually frustrating to wait.
I myself have been in a waiting period in a couple of areas. I’ve been in this position of waiting, over and over again. You would think I would get used to it, but every season of waiting is different in its own way. Even though I travel and speak all over the nation, I still have a huge desire to minister in my local area. God has blessed me with a jail ministry (in a town other than my own) that has been such a huge blessing to me. I have been overwhelmed and amazed by all the things God has done behind prison doors.
But, I have been burdened for my hometown as well. At the beginning of February I started trying to get into the jail in my own town. It has been a long 3 months, and I finally decided it just was not going to happen. I contacted the jail chaplain, and he put me on the ministers list months ago, but nothing else happened. I called and left messages at the jail. No one would call me back. I thought I might have to rob a bank just to get in!
I was so frustrated. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has been with me in this ministry to inmates in the other jails. I believed with all my heart He would want me to go into my local jail to minister. So, why was this proving to be an impossibility?
You should have heard some of the conversations I had with God about it. I begged Him to open the doors so I could get in. I prayed and asked Him to lift the burden from my heart if it was not His will that I go there to minister. The burden never lifted. My frustration grew even more. I decided to give God an ultimatum. (Don’t act like you are holier than I am, and have never done it.) I prayed, “God, I’m going to call the jail one more time, and if I don’t get an answer today, I’m going to just accept that You don’t want me to go in there, and I’m going to forget it!”
I refused to accept the fact that God was just telling me to be patient and wait. I thought I had to have a “right now” answer. Isn’t that what frustrates us the most? We want right now answers, or right now results. If this is what You want me to do God, then make it happen right now! But, our demands do not move the hand of God—our patience and putting our trust in Him and His timing does.
As I went through this eight week study with these precious women of God, I was reminded of how faithful God is. He’s always ON TIME, even if it’s not the timing we are hoping for. So many times when we get tired of waiting, we start putting demands on God, or start giving Him ultimatums, when we should be giving Him praise, and thanking Him for the lessons He is teaching us in the meantime.
Of course waiting isn’t fun. But, when we offer our praise and do what we can during the wait, it becomes easier. This was the prayer I prayed at the end of April:
“Lord, I really don’t understand why it is so hard to get into this jail, but I trust in what You are doing. I know You have it all planned out. Even though I can’t see anyway to get in, I know that You have called me to this ministry, and no door is closed to You. Thank You for opening the right doors for me. I may not know what You are doing, but I trust in what You are saying. Amen.”
A few days later, I decided to contact the jail one more time. I went to their website to find their phone number, and a name and email address seemed to just leap off the page at me. It was like God led me right to it, and whispered into my heart, “Send her an email.” That is exactly what I did, and within an hour she had replied giving me the next steps to get into the jail. I would need to attend their orientation class. The class is only given once every six months, and it would be available in just a few days! Do you think that was coincidence? I don’t. God knew exactly what I needed to do to get in. He also knew exactly when the class would be available.
The whole time I thought He was ignoring my pleas to open the door, He knew exactly when it would be the right time. And when He was ready, He opened the door, and showed me exactly what I needed to do, who to contact, and when.
Waiting isn’t easy, but we can trust that our God knows what’s best, and His timing is perfect. We often feel like He is ignoring us, but He is continually working things in our favor. We don’t have to know what He is doing, but we can certainly trust what He is saying. If He tells us to wait, we need to wait. If He tells us to move, we need to move! And, if we feel He is saying nothing, keep doing what you are doing, and praise Him even more.
We’ve all experienced it—that one moment where someone has said something, or done something that has made us feel small, insignificant, or flat out rejected. It seems that all the blood in your body rushes to your face, as your hair seems to stand on end. You feel like you have been punched in the gut, and you wish you could disappear into thin air totally forgotten. Next, you start looking for a way to make a graceful exit.
The moment you are alone, your thoughts immediately return to the words that were spoken, the actions that were taken, or the body language shown by the one who made you FEEL the way you are feeling at this very moment; embarrassed, humiliated, insignificant or little. Your mind dwells on the hurtful event despite your best efforts to dismiss it.
Maya Angelou put it extremely well when she said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about the people in your life that you treasure. They may not have a list of great accomplishments under their belts, but I am fairly certain they have probably made you feel special at some point. Then there are those people we run into from time to time, and when we see them we immediately feel a tinge of despair, or discouragement. Most of the time, our thoughts rewind back to an incident (or more than one incident) where they made us feel, well, not so great!
It’s not like we haven’t forgiven them. They may have even come to us and apologized, and attempted to make amends with us. But, the feeling remains. We can completely forgive someone, but still remember how they made us feel. We then subconsciously, or consciously choose to “love them from a distance.” It’s a self-protective measure. We don’t want to feel the hurt, or insignificance they have showered upon us in the past.
I recently made a sweet friend in ministry that I can say, I truly would like to emulate. She inspires me. I haven’t been around her more than a handful of times, but I can tell you she has made me feel important not only to her, but especially to the Kingdom of Heaven! That has encouraged me tremendously.
In a society where women tend to be so competitive, and jealous of one another, it is so refreshing to see a woman of beautiful godly character rise up and show the love of Christ to her sisters. This precious lady is so humble, not at all self-seeking. She thinks of others first, and it shows. Her ministry is blessed not only because God is honoring her character and faithfulness, but because I believe she makes people feel significant and valued. She is genuine--the real deal!
In life and especially in ministry, we must be very careful about how we treat others. Everyone is significant, and cherished by Our Heavenly Father. How dare we treat one of HIS children like they are not just as loved and cherished by us? We might not think it matters, but you can believe it matters to Him.
Ladies, body language speaks volumes! If you think your body language doesn’t affect the way people react to you, take a look at the picture below. Which of the ladies in the picture looks most approachable?
You can almost tell by looking which ladies would welcome conversation, and who would rather be left alone. As women, we often carry our thoughts and emotions all over our bodies. Rolling our eyes can mean we are exasperated, or annoyed. Crossing our arms in front of us can mean we are unapproachable, and would rather not be bothered. Placing our hands on our hips with elbows extended can mean we are on the defensive.
We don’t need a class on body language to detect when someone thinks we are not worth their time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a short answer, and turning the head as if the conversation is over. There are so many subtle hints that can make people feel as if we don’t value them.
Now, I realize sometimes we do things unintentionally and that’s understandable. Other times we can be shy, and it could appear that we are not being friendly. But, as women of God we need to be very careful of how we intentionally treat our sisters. I’m not saying we have to run around and gush all over everyone we see. That can be just as bad. There’s nothing more distasteful than people who run around gushing all over everyone in the room, but are just about as phony as a three dollar bill. We don’t want to be fake.
Be loving. Be sincere, and be transparent. We often worry so much about our own appearances that we lose sight of how we make others feel. Why do people want to be your friend? Is it because you are popular or hold a high position, and being around you makes them look important? Or, do you have friends that genuinely want to be around you because you make everyone around you feel loved and valued?
I’ve always heard you will attract the kind of friend that you are to others. Let’s learn to love well. We are sisters, and we need one another. Build one another up. Encourage each other. We all have issues to face, and we are certainly stronger together. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
Romans 12:10-11 ESV - Love one another with brotherly (sisterly)* affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
* Emphasis mine.
Is it possible to be convicted by your own blog post? Yes, I believe it is. Last week was an extremely busy week for me. Touring colleges with my daughter, getting ready for District Council, and planning, decorating, and preparing food for a Secret Sisterhood Tea Party were just a few of the activities occupying my time and attention. Not to mention I was sick and trying to recover from a cold during all of the above.
So, after trying for a few hours to clear my mind of all these distractions long enough to write a blog, I finally gave up and went to the archived blogs that were published on “Her Green Room.” I found one I had written a couple of years ago and decided it would do. (That is the blog I posted last week if you read it.) Finally, another thing checked off my list. Back to work on all the other important things that needed to be done.
After touring Tennessee Tech with Haley, we stopped by a bookstore and I picked up a copy of Francine Rivers’ book, And the Shofar Blew. If you are a pastor or leader, I highly recommend it. There is no doubt in my mind that I picked that book because God led me to it. Of all her other books I could have chosen, I knew this was the one I just had to read.
After spending a day in Chattanooga, we were off to District Council. After starting Francine Rivers’ book, I could hardly put it down. I was appalled and disgusted by the main character in the book and his ideas about ministry! How could anyone be so blind? He had become completely absorbed in building a mega church. Soon he was ignoring his family, and doing his best to attract wealthy members. He overlooked the sins of his board members just to have a group of yes men.
As he became more and more focused on the success of his ministry, he began to slip away from preaching the Truth to be more seeker sensitive. When he reached 5,000 members, he decided to build an overwhelmingly huge building costing millions of dollars. When funds got tight, he cut out missions. I was thinking all kinds of bad things about this fictional pastor as I continued to read. He was so far removed from where he had started.
Though this is a shocking example of one leaving their First Love, (Rev. 2:4) it is so easy to fall into the same trap. The sad truth is, though the book is fictional the same thing is happening all around us. Even though I’m not a pastor of a mega-church, I’m still guilty. Reading last weeks blog, I had to stop and think about the last time I stopped someone in Wal-Mart to pray for them. I wrote that blog two years ago. In the last 6 months I can’t remember stopping a stranger to pray with them.
Why? Some of my excuses were, “I don’t have time, I’m usually just so busy,” or “I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit impressing upon my heart to approach anyone.” “I was in a hurry, I had to get back to work on…” You get the picture. Jesus never let ministry get in the way of loving people. We sing, “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, Oh it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” (Luke 15:4) He will leave the ninety-nine to rescue one lost soul. But, do we?
It all comes back to our first love. When we truly love Jesus the way we should, we recognize our real purpose. Above any ministry we attempt to do for Him, our first purpose—the reason we were created—is to love and worship Him. When we put Jesus above every thing else, and He has our whole heart, ministry becomes a by-product of that love. It overflows from a heart like His. We have more compassion for the lost. We are more sensitive to the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit, and we are more than willing to reach out to one who is hurting.
I had to take inventory, and do some soul searching this weekend. In a society where people are constantly competing, and everything is results driven, measured by numbers—whether that’s offerings, ratings, people following our ministries, or people in the pews—where is our first love? Have we become so focused on the success of our ministries that we have lost sight of our purpose?
Do we want to have a church full of numbers, or a church full of people? Do we recognize our members by the jingle in their pockets or the Jesus in their hearts? Are we seeking to save the lost, or being sensitive to the seekers? We are not called to get people into pews, but to get Jesus into hearts. And God help us, if we feel like it's dependent on our talents, or abilities to do either!
We must never lose sight of our purpose. We were created to glorify God, and to love Him with all our hearts. When we do that, ministry flows naturally from the love we have for Him. Any ministry that is not driven by our love for God and His people holds no benefit for us. Our reward is not on this earth. We can build 100 mega-churches, but if we have walked away from our first love, we have lost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mega-churches, and I’m certainly not saying they are all bad.
But we must choose carefully whom we put in the place of honor. The “look” of success can be deceiving. Don’t look down on small ministries, and don't feel less valued if you are in a small ministry. God loves the small churches who love Him wholeheartedly, just as much as the big ones. He doesn’t use the same measuring tools people use. God looks upon the heart. You are more than a number to Him.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
1 Samuel 12:24
Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
I don’t know about you, but I love ministry. There is nothing I enjoy more than pouring myself out for God’s glory, and seeing Him work in the lives of others. It’s humbling, and inspiring. Every day in my personal prayer time, I find myself asking God to open more doors for ministry and opportunities to share His love.
In my mind, I’m usually envisioning traveling to speak for a women’s event or an evangelistic service at a church. For so many of us actively involved in ministry, we can sometimes begin to get tunnel vision. At least, that seems to be my case. I often pray for God to use me, but then when He is trying His best to do that, I sometimes am distracted, busy, or just not listening.
The other day, I was grocery shopping. Let me just interject that I hate grocery shopping—no matter when it is—but when the store is packed full of people frantically trying to finish their holiday shopping, I really hate it.
So, here I was attempting this maddening scavenger hunt to find all the items on my list. I became frustrated and anxious to get out of the store. I stopped at the end of the aisle to check a couple of items off my list. When I looked up, I noticed a lady reaching for the nearest shelf to try and steady herself. She looked as if she might faint. People were scurrying past her, paying no attention, while others looked irritated because she had stopped in front of them.
I approached her, and taking her arm to steady her, I asked, “Ma’am, are you OK?” She looked at me, and said “Yes, I think so. I just have really bad back pain, and it is hurting so much right now, it’s almost making me sick.” Without a second thought, I asked, “Can I pray for you?”
She totally lit up. She looked at me with the most precious expression of love on her face, and said, “Yes, absolutely. That would be wonderful.” With her permission, I placed my hand on her back, and began to pray for God to touch her and heal her. As I continued to pray for her, I was no longer aware of the busy crowd around us. Everything and everyone just ceased to exist in that moment.
God had opened a door for ministry. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of grocery shopping, He had sent someone to pray for this sweet lady in her time of need. When I finished praying, she smiled at me, hugged me, and said, “Thank you so much!” I asked her if I could help her finish shopping, and with a big smile on her face, she said, “No, thank you. I am just fine now.”
She grabbed the items she had laid on the shelf, wished me a good day, and before I knew it she was halfway to the check-out. Pushing my cart down the next aisle, I began to thank God for the ability to do my shopping. I thanked Him for the opportunity to minister to someone in need, and I thanked Him for the open door.
All open doors do not look the same. Some open doors may be invitations to speak at big, grand venues in front of hundreds of people. That is great, and I love those opportunities! But some doors are seemingly small encounters, where He has put us in the right place at just the right time to be His hand extended to someone in need.
Personally, at times I have received bigger blessings, and a greater sense of His presence by just being obedient in the small things. We don’t have to view ministry as something that can only happen in a big church setting, or in a huge stadium. God longs to use us in big ways every day! We just have to be willing to look around us, listen for the Holy Spirit, and be obedient.
I can almost feel Him smiling down at me in these quiet little encounters. Every time I have one of these little “miracle moments,“ I’m reminded of something a beautiful friend, and popular women’s minister said to me years ago. She told me “Donna, God trusts you to be available for Him. He knows He can count on you, and that is no small honor!”
He trusts me! Wow, to think that the God of the entire universe trusts me to be there when He needs me! There could be no greater compliment or calling. Many times we tend to view our worth or value based on the invitations we receive to speak at large venues, or for large congregations. But, we have to look at the bigger picture. Does He trust us to be available when He needs us? If we can answer “yes,” that is a huge honor!
I’m sure you have heard the expression, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” Most of the time thats true. Sometimes it’s not true. But, one thing is almost always true. Most of us don’t like to be unpleasantly surprised, and many of us want to know how things are going to go before they go.
That seems to be my case most of the time. I have asked God countless times to reveal to me how a particular situation or event is going to unfold. There have been times when He has answered and did indeed reveal specific things. However, most of the time I have to wait and see!
A little while ago I was invited to speak for a church service. I had never been to this church, and didn’t know anything about the people attending. As an evangelist, I always give an altar call for salvation at the end of each service. On this Sunday, a few people responded and I began to pray with some of them. Some of the ladies in the church were praying with a lady that had responded to the altar call, so by the time I got to her, they had already led her to the Lord.
I asked her if she got everything worked out with God and if she felt brand new? She responded that she did. Before she could utter another word, I asked her if she would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. She gave me a half confused, half stunned look. I asked her if she knew what I was talking about, and she said she wasn’t sure.
I explained to her why we want the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I told her, “It’s not so we can speak in tongues, although tongues is the evidence that we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the main reason we want this precious gift is because of the boldness it gives us, and the power to witness.”
I asked her once again if she would like to receive this gift, and she said, “Yes!” I began to pray with her, and in less than a minute she was speaking in a beautiful prayer language. She was so thrilled to have received, and the ladies around her seemed to be even more excited than she was.
After the service had ended, the women’s leader began to tell me about this lady. This sweet lady had been coming to their church for a while, and then suddenly she just stopped coming altogether. She had been out of church for about four weeks, but the week before I got there one of the ladies from the church saw her in a store. She asked her where she had been. This precious lady told her that she had quit coming because she just wasn’t too sure about that speaking in tongues, Holy Ghost stuff!
I had to giggle a little. Isn’t that just like God? Little did I know, this lady had been a little confused about the Holy Spirit. Then, God sends me in to ask her—point blank—if she wanted to be baptized in the Holy Ghost? Looking back now, I’m so glad I didn’t know anything about her. I’m glad that I didn’t have a clue that this lady had quit coming because she was a little bit unsure of the speaking in tongues stuff.
If I had known the prior situation, I would probably never have asked her if she wanted to receive the gift. I would have been afraid that I might scare her off, or push her farther away. But, God knows the plans! He knew exactly when she would return to church. He knew I wouldn’t have a clue what the situation looked like, and He knew I was just bullheaded enough to ask her if she wanted the Holy Spirit!
So many times we think we would be so much better off if we could only see what God is planning to do. But, in my life I have seen repeatedly that I would have probably taken the wrong course of action if I had been given insight or hindsight about a situation. He knows best, and it’s much better for us if we don’t know the whole plan.
I think about the disciples, and how so many times they were absolutely clueless about what Jesus was about to do. We have one example after Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:9-10 “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.”
The disciples had no idea that Jesus their teacher and beloved friend would soon willingly go and die on an old rugged cross. Rising from the dead, He would become much more than just a friend and teacher but, He would become their Savior—the Savior of the world! We can see how much trouble the disciples might have unwittingly caused if they had known the whole plan. Just like we can get in God’s way if we know more than we need to.
We would like to know all the details, but God gives us just the information we need, at just the right time. If He showed us every detail, we would never learn to "walk by faith, not by sight." He knows what He is doing and exactly how He will accomplish it. He doesn’t need our help, He only needs us to listen for His voice, and be obedient when He speaks.
What you don’t know probably won’t hurt you. In fact, it could lead to the most amazing miracle you have seen Him do in and through you. Stop trying to figure out all the details, and just let the Holy Spirit lead you. Walk by faith!
I have found in my life, that most trials come with a lesson. Almost every struggle or inconvenient situation has something to teach us. I’ve been asking God to give me patience. I’m wondering if I can withdraw that prayer now. You see, at this very moment I’m on a camping trip, in the rain, with eight teenagers. Yes, you read that correctly. There are eight teenagers with me—and only me. It is Spring break, and we are certainly not experiencing Spring weather as it is only 30 degrees.
So, I’ve been trying not only to find a quiet place to sit and write a blog for this week, but I’ve been fighting really hard to find the sanity to do so. (If this weeks entry makes no sense, blame it on the teenagers. Hopefully I’ll be in the right frame of mind next week).
Camping in a pop-up tent trailer (and a tent outside for the boys) is not the most fun when everyone is confined to the camper during daylight hours, just to stay warm. We have every element of a dramatic teenage sitcom going on here. These high school best friends are all good until patience wears thin, and fuses get short. Me? I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what God is trying to teach me in this situation.
If its patience, I probably failed that test yesterday when I broke the camper sink while trying to get everything set up in the rain. So far we have dealt with wet sheets and mattresses, a hole in the camper canvas—reason for the wet mattresses—a broken door, slide outs that won’t slide out, a breaker that trips continually, a blanket shortage, a ketchup shortage, and drama, drama, drama. Did I mention freezing temperatures and rain?
Probably the biggest nightmare of all has been the fact that there is no cellular service here. No internet, no cellphones, no distractions from the drama, and I’m just talking about my own deficiencies now. So, I’ve been praying for more patience for sure. I keep telling myself I can survive just one more night.
I have heard these exact phrases, “I’m bored. I don’t like hot dogs. Do we not have ketchup? How can we not have ketchup? I don’t eat sandwiches. Can’t we just go to McDonalds? What are we going to do next? When are we going to start having fun?” That’s not even including the endless bickering and complaining about the weather. I feel like I’m stuck at Camp Granada! I’m seriously thinking about writing a letter to my parents and asking them to come get me!
But, with my oldest daughter Haley, graduating high school this year, and my youngest going into 10th grade next year, surely I can make it through this once yearly camping trip. I mean after all, we are here to have fun, but mostly its about making memories. And guess what? Some of the most interesting memories are made in less than perfect situations.
So, what can I do to make this trip more memorable, and —hopefully—survivable? Sometimes a change of scenery helps. We don’t have to be confined to this campground. So, I decided we would take a trip to the river. When I was a teenager, I loved going to the river to pick up drift wood, shells, and interesting rocks. So, I took the teens to Nathan Bedford State Forest and we drove up to Pilot Knob. Amazingly none of them had ever been here before.
My original intent was to let them peruse the museum. We could be inside, out of the cold and still have some fun. But, of all days, the museum was closed for training employees! Seriously? How many employees do they have on staff, three? So, no museum! But, we did enjoy a beautiful view of the river from that very high point. The sun finally came out, and other than the super chilly wind, it was turning out to be a semi-nice day.
Before I knew it, these crazy teens were entertaining themselves by challenging one another to roll down the steep hill, and see who could roll the farthest. It was one of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen, and I forgot to get video! I found myself laughing along with them. We drove down to the rivers edge, got out and walked around to look for driftwood, and other oddities that might have washed up onto shore. We explored a little and found some interesting items for sure.
In just a short time, the bad attitudes and short fuses had vanished and were replaced by silliness and laughter. Not a lot had changed really. We changed our location, and we changed our perspectives. But in the meantime, our attitudes were changed. I also gave them a job, or a distraction. Notice the photo for this blog? They helped me develop the title for the blog and even donated their artwork, and faces— although very reluctantly—to the effort. And, will they have memories from this trip? Oh, I’m sure they will.
The enemy wants us to focus on all the negatives. We then become frustrated, aggravated and ready to give up. With a shallow perspective we can take out our frustrations on others, and have bad attitudes toward each other. But a slight change of perspective, just looking at something through a different lens, a different location, or someone else’s point of view, can make all the difference in the world.
While we were at the river, one of the teens found a broken, blue glass bottle. Picking it up, she took out her cellphone and snapped a picture of that muddy old river through that blue glass bottle. The end result was beautiful. The brown muddy water was now an intense sea of blue, with a pretty pebble beach. It was completely transformed, just by viewing it in a different perspective.
When we change our perspectives, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the mundane everyday challenges become exciting adventures. We can go from being impatient to having a patient and loving attitude. Everyday we can choose to look at the trying times in our lives with a negative perspective and attitude, or we can choose to make the best of it. When we change our perspective it really can change our lives. Thanks Lord, for the lesson!
How many times has God asked you to do something, and you try your best to find a way to get out of it? *My hand is raised.* We don’t mind when He asks us to do something easy. But when He asks us to do something that we feel is beyond our capabilities, many of us try to find a way to reason or bargain our way out of it.
A few years ago, God impressed upon my heart to write a book. My first reply was, “God, I can’t write a book!” But, He didn’t relent. Over and over the thought came to mind, and before long I couldn’t quit thinking about it. I continually told God that I couldn’t do it, and I had plenty of legitimate excuses why it just wasn’t a good idea.
I said, “God, I’ve been out of high school for way too long. I have forgotten so much about writing!” I argued that no one would want to read anything I wrote. Then I checked into all the publishing routes and discovered that most anyone can self-publish a book, and there are countless companies out there who are willing to publish anything if you pay them enough money. But, self-publishing doesn’t offer much when it comes to marketing, especially when it comes to getting your book noticed by well-known book sellers.
I didn’t have an extra $10,000 laying around to spend on a self-publisher who would never try to sell my book either. I knew I did not want to go this route. However, I knew that the odds of being published by a traditional publisher were slim to none! And, I told God that I just didn’t have enough time because I travel and speak, etc., etc. I pointed out all these things to God— repeatedly.
But, still, God didn’t relent! So, what did I do next? I entered what I like to call the bargaining stage. I just knew this would work! I decided to tell God I would write the book if… Then I tried to drag out the most impossible obstacles thinking our God—the God of the entire universe—would give up and say, “No child, that’s too hard!”
So I said, “God if You will send me a professional editor and a literary agent that really knows what he/she is doing, AND if You will make sure that my book is accepted by a traditional publisher, AND if I have to pay little or no money out of pocket; then I’ll write the book!" That should do it, I thought. Surely now God would stop bugging me about a book.
About two weeks later, I got a Facebook message from a very distinguished, published author of several well-known books—L. Edward Hazelbaker. He asked me if I had ever considered writing a book. I looked toward Heaven and said, “God, are You kidding me?” Needless to say God was already putting the pieces into place. L. Edward Hazelbaker became my editor and literary agent and was unquestionably sent by God to make this work successful. God always sends the best! God also sent the traditional publisher I had prayed for, and my book was officially released on Feb. 1st.
However, the writing process was arduous, and many times I wanted to give up. I wanted things to happen fast. I didn’t want to wait. I became impatient, and I thought this should happen super quick because God wanted me to write this book! And, to be completely honest, at one point I just gave up. I started doubting myself. I doubted the worth of my message. I doubted that the book would ever be published, and I decided to put it aside and just focus on my ministry.
But, what if the thing God has asked us to do, is the ministry He wants us to focus on? I’ll tell you what happens. Everything around us comes to a screeching halt, or at least that was my experience. I stopped getting calls to come and speak. I had nothing on my calendar for at least six months! The other ministries I was actively involved in seemed to dry up and quit producing fruit. I was devastated.
I poured my heart out to God and asked Him why this was happening. He clearly whispered into my Spirit, “As soon as you finish writing the book I asked you to write, I will re-open the doors that have been closed. Stop running, and write!” As bad as I hated to admit it, I knew that He was doing this to make me focus on the one thing He had called me to do in that moment. And so, I started to write again.
I was so sick of waiting, but God was using that very thing—the waiting—to help me understand that we learn valuable lessons in the waiting process. One of the chapters in the book actually deals with the topic of waiting. If I hadn’t gone through that tough waiting period, I wouldn’t have learned what God wanted to teach me in that season. And, very likely, that chapter wouldn’t have been included in the book.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hold that first copy of “Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace” in my hands! I still catch my breath when it pops up in an advertisement from Christian Book online. I almost have to pinch myself. I’m continually humbled and amazed by the people who message me to tell me how the book has changed their lives, or inspired them—especially the chapter about waiting. It thrills my soul! And, you know what? As soon as I finished writing the book, those doors started opening again—even more doors than before!
When I think back to how I tried to bargain with God, and I tried to get out of doing what He asked me to do all because I thought I couldn’t do it; I am so grateful that He didn’t give up on me. Has God asked you to do something that you think would be impossible for you? Have you been trying to bargain your way out of it? I have found that there are no obstacles too big for our God. Nothing is impossible for Him, and He will send you the people, equipment, and empowerment to do what He has asked you to do. Stop bargaining, and do it.
Write Your Story: Live Your Calling - as Published on "Her Green Room."
I am a sucker for all things “stationery:” notebooks, writing instruments, personalized, embossed, plain—you name it. I don’t know how many journals, ink pens, and brightly colored mechanical pencils I own. If you take me into a bookstore with lots of beautiful stationery, be warned! We are going to be there for a while!
The sad thing is, I have stockpiled all of these different journals; colorful, elegant, whimsical, journals of all sizes. However, if you open them, you’d find the same thing—they’re all blank. Why? Because, every time I get a new journal or a delicate new piece of stationery, I’m afraid to mess it up with my writing! I just know I’ll make a mistake, and who wants to dab white-out on their pretty journal?
I’m not really a fan of my sloppy handwriting either. It’s messy and uneven—not elegant or graceful enough to commit to the pages of these delightfully charming books. So, yes, most of them are blank. Honestly, if I lost one of these pretty books it would be no loss at all. They’re just empty pages.
But then there are the notebooks; plain, cheap notebooks. They have been written in all over the place, pages all out of order, doodles in the margins, scratches and scribbles, words crossed out and written over, sermon notes scattered throughout, with Scripture references here, there, and everywhere.
These are the books that get tossed into my bag at the last minute, lost from time to time, and even stained with coffee rings occasionally (Okay, maybe a little more than occasionally). They have dented edges, dog-eared pages, missing pages, and torn pages. These notebooks are where my life happens. I fly into a panic over these books if I can’t find them! They may be full of messiness, but they are also full of the priceless information I need to do what He’s called me to do.
Our lives are like those blank journals. We have the opportunity to dive in with our pens and pencils, and boldly scribble them up with the gifts He has given us. Or, we can leave them sitting on the shelf, while we wonder what the pages could have held. He has plans and purposes for all of us. We may think our efforts are not good enough, so we clench that pen tightly, and never write the first word. We may feel like we have made so many messes in the past, our entries could never be valuable enough to put out there for anyone to see.
And you know what? We will make mistakes.
We will have to do some scribbling, and we will even need to apply the “white-out” of His precious blood to fix our mistakes. But, to God it’s all beautiful—every dent, scratch, and stain. He looks down and sees us, mistakes and all, and loves us just the same!
When I stand before God, I don’t want to be a book full of empty pages. I want to be the book that looks like the cat dragged it in from the rain, but is filled with the scribbling of a life that has recklessly pursued Him— sometimes made mistakes and had to start over—but never lost its value. I want to be that book.
I want to be the book that has every experience inscribed, each embossed with His Name, a book that tells the story of reaching the lost in a hopeless world. He cares about all of the scribbles, redo’s, and ripped out pages. To Him, our story is beautiful.
So, what are you writing?
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”
Revelation 21:5 (ESV)
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
Acts 3:19-20 (ESV)
I’ve always heard that the adult female body is made up of about 60% water. However, I think it is much more likely to be maybe 20% water and 80% emotions! Not to exclude the men, we all are emotional people. And, because we all have emotions, we are all susceptible to having hurt feelings.
I don’t care how far along you are in your walk with God, none of us are immune. This is a point I was reminded of through an experience this past week. In ministry, I’ve always been told you have to develop a tough skin. But, still it must be balanced with a tender heart. Do you know how difficult that is? I thought I had come a long way in developing a tough skin and a tender heart—until it happened last week—my feelings were hurt.
Have you ever received an invitation to an event, party, or activity only to arrive and feel as if your name was accidentally included on the guest list? I’m not saying this is what happened, but when we get our feelings hurt we often feel just that way. We can feel insignificant and small, like we are at fault for showing up even though we were invited. People can often say hurtful things to us, or about us. Sometimes they ignore us or reject us. At other times the actions of another person whether intentional, or only perceived can slash us right across the heart.
Last week I realized just how much more sensitive women are to these feelings, and how great we are at hurting one another. Men don’t see things the way we women do most of the time. I’m thankful for my husband Bryan. Other than the Holy Spirit, Bryan is very often the voice of reason in my emotional out of sorts world. Even though I would often like to strangle him when he uses this voice of reason, I have to admit many times he is right. (And Babe, if you are reading this, I do take payment in the form of diamonds…just saying)!
But there is another voice that also vies for our attention, and that is Satan—the enemy of our souls. He uses his influences to cause us to dwell on the things that hurt us. Our feelings are very real to us, and we often feel justified in having bad feelings toward those who hurt us. But are we?
Jesus knew rejection to a degree that most of us will never face. Being rejected by His own, (John 1:11) He willingly went to the cross and laid down His life. As He hung there dying, He exclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus demonstrated perfect love and forgiveness through the ultimate sacrifice—giving His own life to pay for our sins, and giving the opportunity to experience eternal life to those who believe and accept His forgiveness.
But before Jesus went to the cross, He taught exactly how we should respond to those who hurt, or mistreat us.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
We forgive because Jesus forgives, and He requires us to forgive if we are to be forgiven of our sins.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
We forgive so that God will not withhold His blessings from us.
1 Peter 3:9
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
We forgive because we love one another. Real love forgives others of wrongdoing. And God commands us to love others even as we love ourselves. If we cannot forgive others, we do not love.
1 John 4:7-8
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
And 1 Corinthians chapter 13 tells us what love is, and what it looks like.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
So, while we are all susceptible to having our feelings hurt, and though we are all tempted to hold grudges, we can see it is Biblical to love and forgive. The flesh would have us to give in to the temptation to get mad, and pout about how mistreated we are, but the Spirit encourages us to let it go, and be free.
That being said, we don’t have to accept the invitation to put ourselves in situations where we know we will feel “uninvited” or left out. Sometimes resisting temptation requires us to protect ourselves (and our hearts) from situations where we know we will be hurt. So just remember, we must love and forgive, but sometimes we can do that from a distance. We don’t have to accept every invitation!
As I sat down to begin my Bible study for the day, I noticed a small ladybug crawling across the top of my desk. Or, was it a ladybug? I would have assumed it was, but a few years ago I was introduced to the name “Asian Beetles.” They look exactly like ladybugs. The only real distinguishing quality they have, is the shape of their heads. These Asian beetles seem to have multiplied overnight, and are invading the homes of people everywhere.
Still they never were at the top of my list of unwanted pests until I took a closer look at the seemingly harmless insects. After a little investigation and reading various sources of reputable information, I have come to find that these pests are not completely unassuming. Though ladybugs, and asian beetles have many similarities, they are totally different.
Ladybugs are good to have around. They eat other soft bodied pests like aphids, mites, and white flies—all of these cause damage to plants. Ladybugs do not eat plants, bite people, or do other damage. In fact farmers and gardeners welcome them.
Asian beetles are a different story. They eat ladybugs, plants, and even bite people! When threatened they release a yellow substance that smells bad, and stains walls, windowsills, or anything else they come in contact with. They also cause allergic reactions in some people, resulting in swollen eyes, itching, or asthmatic symptoms. So, as you can see, they are not the best house guests.
I’ve never been a fan of having any kind of insect in my home, but I never really paid a lot of attention to the occasional ladybug. Now that I realize the pesky intruders are not really ladybugs but a cleverly disguised imitation, I’ve become more aggressive in ridding my home of them.
Thinking about these pests this morning, I had to ask myself what other kind of harmful intruders I have permitted to come into my home, or my life, disguised as innocent and unassuming? How quickly we can become de-sensitized by the things around us! Then its easy for an imitation to come in and take up residence with us.
As I was scrolling through the news feed on Facebook yesterday, I noticed a story about a couple of “devout Christian Swingers,” who were spreading the Gospel by swinging (spouse swapping)! Seriously? How absurd! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’m not sure what they are actually spreading, but it’s certainly not the Gospel that is recorded in my Bible! Jesus warned us about false teachers, false doctrines, and false prophets. Some are blatantly obvious—like I would think these two swingers are. But others are much more subtle. Jesus warns us about these things.
“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Paul warns the Corinthians about false prophets/apostles.
2 Corinthians 11:10
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
2 Peter 2:1-3 says:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
This is why now, more than ever before, we must know the Word of God. The enemy of our souls works his way in by introducing near truths that sound good. He has always twisted Scripture to make it more palatable. It may sound very similar, so if we do not have a solid foundation we can begin to accept wrong doctrines.
Peter says the false teachers will secretly introduce destructive heresies. They don’t make it obvious, they use deceptive tactics. And we know that Satan is the Father of Lies. (John 8:44) We must test everything to see if it is truly from God.
1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
We must always be on guard. We can’t become complacent, and blindly accept what sounds good. We must be observant, and make sure everything we see, or hear lines up with the Word of God—the Holy Bible.
I truly believe we are living in the last of the last days and the enemy is trying harder than ever to lead Christians astray. Let us not be easy targets. If he comes after me, I want him to regret it! Know the Word of God, and quote it. Saturate yourself in the Truth so you cannot be led astray. Even the seemingly innocent can bring destruction!
2 Peter 3:17-18
“Therefore, beloved, since you already know these things, be on your guard not to be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure standing. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
Flu season has hit and is in full swing here in Tennessee. Many schools are closed because of the high number of students who are already sick, and to minimize spreading the flu among those who are not. Scores of people are staying home to avoid the risk of contracting the flu virus. Some wear medical masks to keep from breathing in any potential germs when they go out in public.
Hundreds have received a flu vaccine that has had little to no benefit this year—some say it is less than 10% effective. All kinds of precautions are being taken to avoid the horrible sickness we call the flu. Anyone who has ever had the flu understands exactly why it is best to take precautions. In older individuals or those with compromised immune systems, it can even be life threatening sometimes resulting in death.
However, in most cases it proves to be a couple of weeks of misery. Bad to say the least, but not a permanent situation. It does come to an end, thankfully! I’ve had the flu a couple of times in my life, so I can attest to how miserable it can make a person feel. I also understand the reasons for taking precautions against it—of course no one wants to be sick. But, still I’m amazed at the measures we will take in an attempt to prevent something that is temporary.
I can’t help but think of how truly horrible it would be to experience eternal pain and suffering in Hell, and yet so many people choose to take no preventative measures to avoid it. Hell is real. It is not a myth we scare our children with to make them behave. Hell is a reality and it is not a couple of weeks of misery. It is eternal pain and suffering and total separation from God.
Matthew 5:29 ESV says:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
Matthew 13:49-50 ESV
“So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Revelation 20:15 ESV
“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:8 ESV
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
I don’t think there is a flu virus in the world that can compare to that kind of misery. The truth is, we don't have to be incredibly evil to go to hell. For all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The awesome news is there is a Perfect preventative measure we can take. It is 100% effective. It is only by applying the blood of Jesus Christ to our lives that we can totally avoid the eternal punishment of hell. When our names are recorded in the book of life, we have no fear of eternal damnation.
Jesus became the Perfect Sacrifice for our sins and mistakes, when He laid down His life for us. We simply need to repent and turn from our sins, ask Him to forgive us, believe that He IS the Son of God, and confess Him as our Lord and Savior. Then we must strive to follow Him and seek His will for our lives, with all of our hearts. Seems like a really simple preventative measure to escape the flames of hell if you ask me. Yet so many people refuse to acknowledge that they need a Savior.
You can believe the enemy of our souls is spreading his nasty germs and his viruses to trap us in torment and misery with him. Misery loves company, and he knows how the story ends. He will be thrown into the lake of fire. His only desire is to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus has come so that we might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
We must fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We must spend time talking to Jesus, just as we would talk to our best friend. He wants to be your best friend. We must be careful to avoid the deceptions of the enemy and do our best to stay away from the things we know will cause us to stray or be tempted; just like avoiding germs.
One of my sweet ladies in the jail has repented and given her life to Christ, but as a baby Christian, she struggles with using profanity from time to time. As we began to talk about it last week, she shared that when she was busy cleaning the jail she would put a Rap CD into the CD player. The rapper uses a lot of profanity in his lyrics. I asked her if she thought that might have any effect on her using profanity when she gets frustrated or upset?
Just like we can breathe in germs from a flu virus, we must be careful of other things we allow inside our heads, and in our lives. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “garbage in—garbage out.”
Luke 6:45 ESV:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Let’s be careful to take the right preventative measures in our lives. There’s nothing wrong with doing what we can to avoid temporary discomfort, but let us never forget that eternity is FOREVER. Let’s make every attempt to avoid eternal suffering, and plan for an exciting destiny with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our Heavenly home!
I love how God moves when we trust Him with the smallest details of our lives. And I love how sometimes when we pray simple prayers, God comes along and does something even bigger than we were expecting or even asking for. God positions, repositions, and meticulously places every piece of the puzzle until all the pieces fit exactly as they should. He never wastes opportunities to train, instruct and guide us until His will is accomplished.
The most amazing part is how He often answers our own prayers by answering someone else’s prayer in the process. This is something I have experienced a couple of times this week, and I love watching the way He works!
As most of you know, I travel and speak for women’s conferences, retreats, church services, and revivals. I also lead the Embrace Sisterhood (women’s group) at my home church, which meets the first Thursday night of each month. Next month I’m speaking in Arkansas for a women’s retreat, and Sunday service. I didn’t realize the next Sisterhood meeting was the night before I leave for Arkansas, so when I looked at my calendar last week I started to panic.
I didn't want to overextend myself so I started praying and asking God what I should do? Should I ask someone to fill in? If so, who? Needless to say, God was already working on it before I asked. In fact He had been working on it for over a month. As my hubby tuned into the Super Bowl on TV Sunday night with his dad and brother, I tuned out the Super Bowl and went to my room to pray. I began to ask God once again who I could get to fill in?
As clear as a bell, God spoke to my heart, “Jacqueline!” Jacqueline is on my Sisterhood leadership team, but I haven’t known her very long at all. She has always seemed really quiet. However, I knew God had spoken, so without hesitation I sent her a message and asked if she would pray about speaking for our March meeting. She immediately replied, “We need to do lunch!” I sent her another message and said, “God has already put it on your heart hasn’t He?” She said, “It has kept me up at night!”
God had already asked her to talk to me about speaking for a meeting. Then He also planted the thought into my head as well. I am thrilled to see what God is doing in Jacqueline’s life, and I have no doubt He is going to use her in wonderful ways! It is my desire to help others step into the calling God has placed on their lives, so this was especially thrilling to me.
I also do jail ministry every Thursday, and this was another area I had been praying for God to help me out with. I never want to just leave those ladies hanging when I have to go out of town to speak. They count on me to come and minister every week, and I don’t want to let them down. So, this was another matter I had taken to God. Sunday a week ago—Kelsey—another one of my ladies on the Sisterhood leadership team contacted me because God had put the jail ministry on her heart. She also said she hadn’t been able to get jail ministry off her mind. I took her in with me last week, and as the tears rolled down her face, I saw the love of Jesus and His compassion flowing from her eyes. This Thursday, she will be speaking to the ladies for the first time.
I am so excited to see these ladies stepping out in obedience to God, and I believe they are equally excited that God is providing opportunities (obviously answers to their own prayers) to do so. God is faithful to answer our prayers, and when we listen for His voice we sometimes find that He is answering multiple prayers at the same time! Without any of us three ladies knowing what God was doing; He was working out every detail for each us behind the scenes. Nothing is too difficult for Him! When I think about multi-tasking I start feeling like I need a nap. But God loves multi-tasking.
I’m continually amazed by how very little we can comprehend of the magnificent mind of God. Our human minds can never wrap around the complexity of who God is, and how He orchestrates even the smallest events of our lives. The world with billions of people, and billions of situations big or small, can never tire or exhaust the patience of our great God. He is on it—always. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to understand how, but I can trust that He will always have the answer when I pray, because He already knows my thoughts, and knows my need. You can be assured of that as well!
Psalm 139:1-10 NIV
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
As published by "Her Green Room."
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.