A different type of blog post today: my first podcast!
Join me and my hosts from Ideas Out Loud as we discuss relevant topics in Women’s ministry as well as issues that women face in their everyday lives.
A different type of blog post today: my first podcast!
Join me and my hosts from Ideas Out Loud as we discuss relevant topics in Women’s ministry as well as issues that women face in their everyday lives.
If anyone serves, she should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 4:10
This past week I was blessed to use my gift of speaking seven individual times and it was truly one of the most fun weeks of my life. I woke up Monday thinking I would be exhausted, but instead I was invigorated. It felt so good knowing that I had used my gift to glorify God.
One of my presentations was a devotional for the leadership team of the retreat where I was speaking. Prior to the event we walked through the verses of 1 Peter 4:7-11, establishing our purpose to “Feed His Sheep” because the “end of all things is near.” When we serve with the gospel in mind, it creates a sense of urgency that Peter intended for us to have. It’s all for the sake of the Gospel!
However, the BEAUTY of serving lies in the various gifts that each of us possesses.
Peter makes the point that we all have our own unique gift. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” And aren’t we so thankful for that? Because who would really want to attend a retreat where the same thing was being done over and over again? No thank you.
But here’s where the trap comes into play. Sometimes we start comparing our gift against our sister’s gift and we believe the enemy’s lies when he tells us, “Your gift isn’t special. It’s not nearly as good as hers is. You don’t have anything to offer so you might as well stay home.” Don’t believe that for a single second! Without you faithfully administering YOUR gift, the blessing for those present will never be as great as it could be. Remember that Comparison is the Thief of Joy. Step up to the plate and play your position. You are essential to the successful administration of God’s grace!
I witnessed true beauty this past weekend. Each woman came with her own gift and she served it up faithfully. One had the gift of leadership. Another brought her gift of painting. There was an interpretive dance to “King of My Heart” that brought tears to my eyes. The women on the cook team brought their A-game (talk about “feeding the sheep”)! And so many more gifts contributed to this wonderful day of worship.
The women also accepted the challenge to take their gift of service to the next level when they resolved to do it in the “strength that God provides.” I think that’s the biggest difference maker in how a Christian woman serves. No matter what the venue (a Christian event or not), we always have the opportunity to serve in His strength and not our own. I can always tell when I’m trying to serve in my own strength because I will start to feel overwhelmed and little things will begin to irritate me. But when I hand those reigns back over to the Lord, my strength is renewed.
Lastly, in order to serve effectively, we must be willing to give the glory to God. When the retreat is over and the last of the decorations are put away, offer your praise to the One who made it all happen. Scripture says, “so that in ALL THINGS God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” I am not suggesting that every single thing will go smoothly (it won’t!), but praise Him anyway and ask Him to reveal any necessary changes that need to be made for next time. He deserves our praise in ALL THINGS. Praise is always the appropriate response!
And that’s how you serve up your gift, my friend. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not elementary either. Service requires preparation, but the cost is always worth it. Bring your unique gift and serve it up in the strength that He provides so that His saving grace may be administered to others and then give Him all the glory.
To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Happy New Year!
It took willpower but the final crumbs of the cheese straws have been thrown in the trash and all the Christmas candy has been consumed. And praise the Lord the kids are finally back in school! So now it’s just me and my double chin hanging out, ready to make some New Year’s Resolutions.
But really, what exactly are new year’s resolutions and how did this tradition get started? In 1813 a Boston newspaper ran an article where these three words were first mentioned:
“And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”
Yeah. I’d say that’s pretty much on target. Merriam-Webster seems to be in agreement with the above writer and says that the word resolution actually means “the act of determining.” With all that determining going on, some serious changes are about to be implemented and faults magically erased.
Yet, if you happen to say: Hey Siri! How many people achieve their new year’s resolutions? A disappointing answer of only 8% is given. What?! How could that be with all that determination we set out with on January 1st?
I am no psychologist, but maybe it has to do with our mindset and the way we go about trying to achieve our goals. Perhaps we should try a little New Year’s Reflection instead.
The word reflection is defined as “consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.” Hmmm. This definitely seems a more thoughtful approach of goal-setting. Reflection allows us to celebrate and continue what is working and implement strategies to improve what isn’t working. Let’s explore some scenarios.
Resolution: I want to lose weight in 2017.
Reflection: It is important to be healthy for myself and for my family and even though I’m not a big fan of sweating, I like how I feel after I work out. I also feel better if I don’t eat large quantities of sugar. Therefore, I am setting a goal of lifting weights every Tuesday and Thursday and adding cardio activity 3 times per week. I will also fast from sugar for 21 days and then eat it in moderation, tweaking it week by week.
Resolution: I want to have more money by the end of 2017.
Reflection: I would really like to have the financial freedom to be able to buy our dream home in the next five years so that our family can enjoy it before the kids are grown. Therefore, I will continue to systematically save a set amount each month. I will download budgeting software and will keep track of areas where we can cut spending, evaluating it on a monthly basis.
Resolution: I want to grow closer to God in 2017.
Reflection: I absolutely love how my relationship with God has flourished this past year by making the commitment to rise early and meet with Him daily. I know that reading His Word and praying makes me a better wife, mother, friend, employee, and daughter of the King. Therefore, I will continue to practice this discipline, and I will put forth the effort to attend a routine Bible study with other women who seek Him first.
I like the purpose-driven nature and sustainability that a New Year’s Reflection provides rather than a New Year’s Resolution, don’t you? Whatever your goals are in 2017, my friend, I pray the Lord will bless them and that you will resolve to make the only real reflection that matters: to let your life be a reflection of the Light of Christ.
As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.
As we move into the month of November, our minds naturally start to anticipate the holiday season. We’re thinking less about our exercise routine and more about pumpkin pie, caramel corn, and the obligatory roasted turkey. It’s also a time when we are counting our blessings, and as Americans they are many!
I was the recipient of an immeasurable blessing this year when I was asked to attend a mission trip with International Care Ministries (ICM) to the Philippines. ICM focuses on serving the ultra-poor in the Philippines, meaning men and women that earn $.50 per day or less. You may be wondering, how is it even possible to support one person on $.50 per day, much less an entire family? The answer is: it’s not possible. Thus, the extreme poverty.
However, ICM has developed an ingenious program that they use to treat the serious problem of poverty that ransacks this beautiful land, and they call it Transform. Transform is a 12-week program that addresses the needs of those in ultra-poverty on three levels:
1. Values: ICM works with a local pastor to find those who need the most help in the community and when they gather weekly the participants are taught the Word of God by the pastor and are presented with a chance to hear the gospel. (I’m sure by now you know that this is HUGE to me and one of the main reasons why I am so attracted to ICM!)
(The Pastor bringing the Word out of Matthew 12.)
2. Health: This part of the Transform program focuses on the family’s wellness and sanitation. One of the leading causes of death in the Philippines is diarrhea. Such an easy illness for us as Americans to remedy, but dangerously lethal for those living in poverty. ICM gives health solutions and teaches the Transform participant how to guard against such tragedy. They also administer Manna Packs (a fortified rice and soy blend) which can provide the family with several nutritious meals for the week.
(I taught the Health portion on diarrhea prevention. Thank goodness for a good interpreter named Denzel.)
3. Livelihood: You’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is precisely what the Livelihood portion of the Transform program seeks to do. The goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among the participants so that they can have a sustainable source of income, whether it be by baking banana cakes and selling them in the marketplace or forming and participating in a savings group amongst themselves.
(A local savings group is being formed with the help of ICM.)(ICM helps the Transform participants start and maintain a garden.)
At the end of the 12-week program a graduation celebration is given for those that participated in ICM’s Transform Program and it is a true reason to rejoice. Not only are the graduates learning to fight poverty, but almost always new friendships have been formed within the group and the once unbearable weight of hopelessness is replaced with feelings of belonging and HOPE for the future.
Proverbs 14:21 states, “Whoever shows kindness to the poor will be happy.”
I love this promise in God’s Word for many reasons. One being that our happiness is directly dependent upon ourselves and the kindness that we give to others. But also because kindness shown to the poor creates a perfect triangle of happiness between us, those that we choose to bless, and our Creator.
This Thanksgiving it’s all about giving thanks with a happy heart. We have so much to be thankful for and showing kindness to the poor is one way that we can spread happiness and hope. Will you join me in partnering with ICM as they work tirelessly to provide serious solutions to serious poverty in the Philippines? If yes, then click below and allow your kindness to make you, others, and God happy!
Dear 20-year-old Self,
Happy Birthday, Love! You look so cute today in your Kappa Delta party shirt strutting around ULM…oops, I mean NLU’s campus. Isn’t college so much fun? Yeah, I know. Maybe you should pump the brakes on those late nights out though. Just a suggestion. 😉
You’re a Junior in college now and it feels like you’ve lived a million years already, but I promise these next 20 years will fly by. Within the next year and a half, you’ll be entering the working world as a career woman. You’ll have to trade in your jeans and flip-flops for pantyhose and high heels. But hey, there’s good news in the fact that pantyhose will eventually bite the dust…thank God for small miracles, right?
Here’s a few things that I think will be helpful to you as you journey through these next 20 years. Take them or leave them, but just remember, I’m older and wiser than you.
That’s all we have time for today, Sweetie Girl. Believe it or not, your life is pretty busy at 40. I know you’re thinking that you will have achieved all your life goals by the time you’re my age, which makes me chuckle because I’m over here praying that the best is yet to come!
With much love,
Your 40-year-old Self
P.S. One last thing: you might want to pay attention to the cute drummer in your marketing classes. He’s a keeper. 😉
My mother always told my siblings and me that we better watch what we say to one another because “words are spirits.” She said it so often that I grew up believing that this exact phrase could be found word-for-word in the Bible and I was shocked when it produced no search results.
Yet the spiritual principle of our words carrying power remains. And not just any power, but the power to invoke life or death.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” Proverbs 18:21 (AMP)
I am sure that when Donald Trump spoke those extremely vulgar and sexist words eleven years ago, he was not thinking that they would bear the consequences that they have in October of 2016. He saw himself as a reality star with such popularity and fame that whatever derogatory statements he said against women in general was perfectly fine and acceptable. After all, it’s just “locker room talk.” Right?
Well, not exactly, Donald.
You see, when we allow our tongue to boast, we are not only considered immature, but also filled with corruption setting “the whole course of one’s life on fire,” (see James 3:6). Please hear me. I’m not saying that Donald Trump is going to hell for what he said eleven years ago, but I bet that he is feeling like his life has been set on fire right about now due to his lewd and loose tongue. The comments that he so carelessly spoke concerning women will have eternal implications for him, as they should. Women are not objects to be used and thrown away. They are precious in the sight of their Creator. But please also hear this: if we want the respect we deserve, we as women have a responsibility to carry our body in a manner worthy of respect. The halt of the vicious cycle of the objectification of women starts with us!
And therein lies the lesson for those of us who wish to reflect the light of Christ in our everyday lives. We must aim to control the things that we say and do. Will we get it right 100% of the time? No, not at all. In fact, James also said that we all stumble, but it is the mature woman who keeps her body in check in action and in speech.
That means that when we are tempted to want to speak that ugly word to our sister/friend we remember how just last week she played with our children so that we could go grocery shopping or listen to the sermon at church. It could also be that when we are arguing with our spouse, we take the high road and resist the urge to want to retaliate with hurtful words. Or if we have children and we are trying to get their attention on a certain matter, we speak words of life and encouragement over them instead of words of manipulation.
It’s a choice we are making to see that person as not only a human being, but as someone who has been made in God’s likeness. We treat him/her with respect and dignity. It does not mean that we are a doormat or that we accept abusive behavior. It simply means that we recognize that “words are spirits” and we attempt to speak life over those that we come into contact with, not death. We strive to let them be filled with fruit, such as kindness and gentleness, so that when we bear the consequences of the things that we have said, it will be a sweet taste in our mouth.
This is not intended to be a political post with a nod for or against Trump as the next United States President. It is simply a chance for us to learn from a man who allowed his tongue to get the best of him and resolve to not let that same mistake to happen to us. We will choose to remember that each and every word we utter holds the power of life and death. Words Are Spirits.
What a blessing it has been to be a part of Deep: A Bible Study Conference! Thank you to all those who came out to join us and Heartfelt Ministries for this amazing time in God’s Word. I pray that you left encouraged and empowered to go “Deeper Still” in your walk with the Lord.
Together we examined John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth.” Below is a recap of the steps you can use to get the most out of your time in God’s Word.
Bible Study Tools for Your Everyday Life:
Online Bible Study Tools:
What are your favorite Bible study tools? Please comment below.
Recent events have left no doubt that our country is broken and hurting. We are especially heartbroken in Louisiana today at the news that three police officers have been shot and killed and three additional officers are injured during a senseless ambush attack in Baton Rouge. This attack comes on the heels of the loss of Alton Sterling, an African American man who was shot and killed as he wrestled with two police officers on July 5, and the loss of five Dallas police officers in a sniper attack on July 7. Everyone’s emotions are running high. We respond with posts bearing hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter, each with extremely valid reasons of why these particular lives do matter. The #gaylivesmatter community is saying, “Don’t forget about us…we are hurting too.” So we come up with an all-inclusive #alllivesmatter. And, yes, all lives DO matter.
So, what is the solution to all the chaos we are currently facing and how can we do our part to promote healing? And where is God in all of this?
When Paul was writing the Book of Philippians, he was facing days of uncertainty and dire circumstances (think oppressive Roman imprisonment). Yet the over-arching theme of this book is for the church at Philippi to have JOY and UNITY despite their circumstances as Paul was striving to do in his own life. He gives these simple instructions that also applies to our current reality as much as it did to the early church. The solution lies in these words:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
Could it really be that easy? Well, I suppose it depends on what your definition of “easy” is.
Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, is used in this verse as an adjective meaning that not only are we to be considerate of others, but we are also to treat people in a manner that is “fitting, right, or equitable.”
The word for all is πᾶς meaning just what you think it does: each, every, whole, ALL.
God is telling us that we are to treat each and every person that we come into contact with on a daily basis with consideration and view them as equitable in God’s eyes. Whoa! Take a minute and let that soak in. If we are all equitable in God’s eyes, then why are we still stereotyping each other? And therein lies the rub. We all want to be viewed as if our life matters and we want to be treated in a fair and equitable manner.
But most definitely, killing is not the answer; anger is not the answer; retaliation is not the answer. Love is the answer; peace is the answer; gentleness is the answer.
But why can’t I just live my life and you live yours? Why do I have to be considerate of others and their feelings?
The answer is this: Because the Lord is near. This does not mean the Lord is near as in the Holy Spirit is among us (even though He is), but this is better translated as “People get ready! Jesus is coming!”
If we really believe that all lives matter, then we have an obligation to not only be considerate, but also to be the Light. Pointing others to Jesus, telling them of a Savior who values their life so much that He gave His own life. Ultimately, Jesus is the answer.
So, you see, healing is never “easy,” but you and I can do our part to show the world that all lives matter by doing these two things in our everyday lives:
He is near and He is the original author of life. His desire is that everyone (all) would come to repentance and know Him as their Savior (2 Peter 3:9).
He is a God who truly believes that ALL LIVES MATTER.
Now that I have made it through three years of seminary and have graduated with my Masters in Theological Studies, many of you have been asking me what my next step will be. It’s a valid question and one that my husband would like the answer to as well!
The spiritual answer is: I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to do. But the more accurate answer is: I don’t exactly know yet.
When I began this journey several years ago, I felt a calling on my life to be a Bible teacher to women. That call was confirmed by the Lord through people who I respect in the faith. I had already been leading a Women’s Bible Study at my church, but I felt the Lord calling me to go deeper. I felt that I needed to be better equipped if I was going to be a professional Bible teacher, which led to seminary training.
And now that I am trained and equipped, I am ready to hit the ground running and produce a little ROI (that’s a financial term meaning Return On Investment) for all those tuition expenses I incurred for our family. Yet, there is no job waiting for me.
Instead, my future is a wide open space with several different paths that could be taken. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. There are endless possibilities and opportunities, but knowing when and how to start is a little daunting.
It’s going to require (dare I say it?!) FAITH.
But isn’t that what walking with the Lord is all about? Taking that next step in faith, and then another, and then another. Sometimes we’ll stumble a bit, and other times we may fall flat on our face, but we’ll let our Savior pick us back up, dust us off, and set us back on the right path. And other times we will see so clearly the victories He has supplied us with and we will rejoice and celebrate. Step by step we’ll just keep exercising our faith until we’ve done all we can in this lifetime and then we’ll walk straight into His loving arms.
So for now, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other by writing that next blog post for Reflecting Light, sending devotionals to Lifeway Women and other venues for publication consideration, speaking at Women’s Conferences (contact me!), asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the path I’m supposed to take. Knowing that with each step taken I can stand on His promise with confidence that He who began this good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
What next step is the Lord asking you to take in faith? I’d love for us to walk together. We can encourage each other to press on in this walk of faith knowing that there is strength in numbers and that our faith is grown when we step out of our comfort zone.
Will you join me? Yes?! Then let’s go!
Do it, Lord. Illuminate the path You would have us take today. Keep us moving ahead, taking those next steps in FAITH knowing that You are faithful to complete that good work in us that You began all those years ago. Let us reflect Your light to the world and may You always be glorified with each step we take. Amen.
My graduation from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was just a little over a week ago and in case you couldn’t tell from my social media posts, I’m just a little excited to be done! I thought I would share with you, Dear Reader, a few things that I have learned these past three years while obtaining my Master of Theological Studies.
#10: A Theology Class is NOT a Bible Study. At the beginning of my very first class the professor had us stand and give a brief explanation of why we were in seminary. I remember that I was excitedly telling everyone how I had led a Bible Study for years and I felt like attending seminary would help me go deeper in my walk with the Lord. And then I felt like an idiot when the first slide on the lecture was: This is a theology class. Not a Bible study (open mouth, insert foot). But, the good news is that I did indeed get a chance to “go deeper” into God’s Word…even if it wasn’t in the way that I was expecting.
#9: Sometimes the appropriate theological answer is “both/and.” Is Jesus fully God or fully human? Is the Lord a God of wrath or a God of mercy? To these questions and many more, the answer is “both/and.” It is confusing, I know, but remember when God said this in Isaiah 55:8-9?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Yeah, sometimes you just have to reconcile the answer to “both/and” and let God be God.
#8: Learn to see Jesus in the Old Testament. News flash for ABR over here! For all my thirty-some years I had kept the OT and NT completely separate: Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant; Law vs. Grace. Not realizing that Jesus is written all over the pages of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Not only was He spoken of in the OT, but He was there! At the creation of the world, in the Garden of Eden, in the fiery furnace, just to name a few. I’m telling you, this was an exciting revelation for me.
#7: The key to passing is usually just to turn something in. Seriously. I am a perfectionist and it was killing me to get everything turned in on time and and in perfect Turabian format (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself blessed). But the more I progressed in my studies, the more I realized that the professors had their own lives too (gasp!) and they only wanted to know if you read/understood the material. I’m not saying don’t do your best, especially on the big assignments, but I wish someone would have told me that the majority is just busywork and if you turn something in, you’ll pass.
#6: The difference between mercy and grace. Mercy is when God DOESN’T give us what we DO deserve (i.e. death). Grace is when God gives us what we DON’T deserve (i.e. eternal life with Him). Isn’t that beautiful?
#5: When interpreting the Bible, context matters. Oh my, did they ever drill this into us. This is an entire class in itself, or at least a separate blog post, but the main point is this: when you see that inspirational Scripture hit your news feed, be aware that there was specific author who wrote to a specific audience during a specific time in history. Yes, God’s truths are timeless, but if you will read your Bible in context, you will be able to draw out so much more for your own personal application. That said, if all you can manage right now is a quick verse/devotional, then check out the First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries and do that daily! Let God’s Word permeate into your spirit and you’ll be surprised how the Spirit will bring it to mind when you need it.
#4: Get yourself a mentor. Quickly! It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed someone more seasoned than me to help me pull my head out of the clouds and keep my feet on the ground. This person for me was Brother Jerry. Over several cups of coffee he reminded me to cultivate an intimacy with the Almighty (see #1 below for more info). But you don’t have to be going through seminary to have a mentor. Find someone who will invest in you spiritually and then be willing to pass that knowledge along as you grow.
#3: It takes a tribe. And lots of screen time if you have young kids. No kidding, there is absolutely no way I could have done this without the support of my family and friends. For every single one of you who prayed for my papers/tests, listened to my sermons, watched my kids, or shared my blog, please know I am beyond grateful for you!
#2: You don’t have to “be in ministry” to have a ministry. I mean it, Y’all! You do not have to have a seminary degree to lead a Bible study on your lunch break at work, to start a prayer group at your kid’s school, to volunteer at the women’s shelter, to write a blog/Facebook posts to encourage others in their walk with the Lord, to be a mentor to the younger generation, etc. You have a specific calling and purpose. Pray about what God would have you do for His glory and then step out in faith and DO IT.
#1: Spend time WITH God. There’s a little joke out there that the word seminary can be interchanged with the word cemetery. A tragedy can occur in the way that what is meant to be an opportunity to teach students the deep things of God sometimes results in the driest spiritual season of his/her life. This happens because the student is so busy learning ABOUT God that he/she fails to spend time WITH God. I’ll admit that this happened to me. It wasn’t until my last year of seminary that I carved out a specific hour each day to read and pray, and I am convinced that it made all the difference in the world. Especially with how the Lord helped me finish. I’ll tell you like Brother Jerry told me: take time to cultivate an intimacy with the Almighty and prepare to be amazed as He opens your minds to great and mighty things!