Posted: July 21, 2014

We're All Stars -- by Monica Steely

 

We took turns in what we affectionately called “the hot seat.” The five of us would gather around our sister, our friend…each laying a hand on some part of her back, her arm, her knee.

We’d speak scripture over her, or lift up a word of encouragement. Most often we’d sit in silence…waiting to see what the Lord would have us to pray. Those were the moments that were the most special…the moments where God seemed to shout from the rooftops,

“I AM, AND I LOVE HER!”

Often we’d enter into our meeting time without distracting pleasantries…we’d simply nod hello, sit down and begin to pray silently, unloading our baggage from the day, the week, the month. 

We’d exhale…often very, very loudly…and embrace the presence of the Lord in that place. We’d stay silent until it was time to speak; we always just knew when it was time — when it was time to meet, when it was time to pray, when it was time to speak.

God had it all under control.

And then God would speak. And when God speaks, He creates things. For us, He created hope and joy and peace and grace…tons and tons and tons of grace…and He created life where there were only dry, weary and tired bones in a so-called “hot seat.”

We didn’t limit our group to just us five, but most often it seemed that we were the only ones that consistently met together. It couldn’t have created a more eclectic group of women – different seasons of life, different careers, different strengths, different weaknesses and even all different colored hair.

But all the differences wove together in a beautifully tapestry of what happens when God uses all the parts to create one body.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. (1 Cor 12:25-26)

It almost was as if we were each a point on a star…shooting into opposite directions, but united at the core. We walked into each other’s houses and our identities, our personas and our facades just dropped at the doorway. We met together as nothing more than women desperate to hear from God Himself.

And that was always more than enough.

It’s been 13 years since we first met. Our lives are in different seasons once again…different careers, different states, different strengths, different weaknesses. Different directions, different successes and different failures. Yet, when it’s time to meet, we just know it — we’re united at the core. And we meet.

We meet and we pray as we always did, dropping it all at the door and simply walking into comfortable and welcoming silence. Praying what the Lord would have us to pray, allowing for moments for God to continue to shout from the rooftops,

“I AM, AND I LOVE HER!”

It’s an Acts-generation sisterhood. It’s small and seemingly insignificant…literally just a handful of us, walking side-by-side the best we know how. But it’s changed my world forever. And for the better.

There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed. (Acts 2:44)

It seems that often leadership is identified as one person leading the charge and yes, we do need that in life and ministry and business. But I think when it comes to the body of believers, sometimes we need to sit back and let God do the leading.

Sometimes the greatest example of leadership comes by sitting next to a friend and simply allowing God to guide a prayer. Sometimes the greatest example of leadership comes by shedding titles and position and leading them at the door, humbly sitting in silence and waiting.

Sometimes the greatest example of leadership comes from simply being and not doing – being available, being watchful, being ready to listen when He speaks.
* * *

Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Listen to BE’s podcasts on iTunes or Buzzsprout.

Photo © thinkstockphotos.com/mforc

 

 

 

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Posted: July 14, 2014

Unshakable -- by Nancy Backues

Kristianne's note:  Nancy's blog is an exercept from her soon to be released book, Unshakable

 

No one likes to hear the words, "It's cancer." But to someone who’s been down that road before, those words carry extra weight. They bring immediate defeat. They undo all the fighting, all the triumph, all the success of the battle and leave your emotions and your faith in a crumpled heap. 

I had beat cancer once; I didn’t want to have to do it again. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fight. I am not the first person whose world has crumbled beneath them. Nor will I be the last. There is a perfect example in the Bible of someone whose entire world fell apart, literally.

His name was Job.

Job is often heralded as the poster child of suffering, and rightly so. No matter what we face, it cannot compare to what Job endured.
Job was a picture of success. He had a large, loving family (seven sons and three daughters), a successful business (thousands of head of livestock and a large number of employees), and a thriving personal life (he was “blameless” and “upright”). In fact, Job “was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”

One day, a messenger arrived to tell Job a group of traveling merchants had attacked and carried off all the oxen and donkeys and killed the servants. Before he finished giving Job the news, another servant arrived to inform Job there had been a terrible fire, killing all the sheep and servants. Job didn't have time to process the news before another servant arrived to inform Job three raiding parties had invaded, stealing all the camels and killing all the servants.

Finally, one last message arrived: There has been a terrible tragedy. A mighty wind came and destroyed the house where Job's children were staying. There were no survivors.
In one single afternoon, Job lost his business, his employees, his livelihood, and all of his children.

That is one epic bad day.

But Job’s trouble doesn’t end there.

A few days later, Job’s health is pulled right out from under him. He was stricken with painful sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Although we don’t know the official diagnosis of Job’s ailment, we know it caused nightmares, scabs, disfigurement, weight loss, fever, and intense pain.How did Job respond? He responded like any of us would…he threw up his hands in despair.

After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. (Job 3:1)

Job…the man who was “upright” and “blameless,” the one who “feared God”…sat down and had a pity party. A well-deserved pity party, I’d say.

If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! ?It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas— (Job 6:2, 3)         

As a matter of fact, he grew quite vocal about his despair at times: 

Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, ?I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 7:11)

And sometimes he got downright depressing:  

I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; ?my days have no meaning. (Job 7:16) 

For 37 chapters Job wallowed in despair. He was not encouraged by his wife or his friends. He questioned God. He blamed God. He wondered if God had abandoned him. Then God answered: 

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. (Job 38:1)

God didn’t deliver Job from the storm right away, but neither did He abandon Job in it. He was right there with Job…when his world came crashing down around him. And God answered him.

For three chapters, God responded to Job's questions and rants. He told Job, “Where were you when I spoke the worlds into existence? Oh, right…you weren’t around, because you are mortal. And I am God. So, how ‘bout you just trust Me and let me take care of this for you, OK?” (my paraphrase).
What did Job have to say to that? Not only was Job OK with God's response, he took comfort in it:

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted… Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you but now my ?eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:2, 3)

Job didn’t have to know why he was going “through the fire.” He was content to know that God knew. He recognized that God was in control, and if God was in control, he was in good hands.

I can relate to Job.

I spent the weeks after my diagnosis wrestling with a range of overwhelming emotions. It took a long time for me to talk about it with anyone other than my husband and God. Even then, I rarely did so without crying. At first my prayers were simply, "Why, God?" It was several days, even weeks, before I could pray anything else. Trusting God does not mean you deny or ignore your emotions. God is big enough to handle our emotions, our questions, and even our doubt. Trusting God means you don't camp out there.

Like Job, there came a specific moment when God answered me in the midst of my storm. He assured me He is right here, in the storm...walking every step of this journey with me. So I had to decide: Was I going to wallow in my sorrow and let my emotions drag me under. Or, would I trust God and lean into His strength and stand on His hope?

Faith is not the absence of emotion; it is the presence of Hope.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

I don’t know what you're facing right now, but if you're reading this book I imagine it's pretty big. Maybe it came as a shock to you, like my diagnosis did to me. Or, maybe you saw it coming, but it's still so overwhelming you don't know how you'll make it through. Either way, you're feeling shaken. Your world has crumbled beneath you, and you don't know what to hold onto.

God wasn’t surprised by your circumstances. The test results, the pink slip, the divorce papers, the diagnosis...none of it caught Him off guard. And He isn’t wondering what He’s going to do about it. He is still in control. And He wants to take your hand and lead you to the other side.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

 

 Nancy is an author, speaker, wife, mother, cancer-fighter, and lover of all things chocolate. When she’s not playing cook, chauffeur, maid, or referee to her family, she can be found writing about embracing grace at There is Grace. Nancy lives in Missouri with her favorite people in the world, her husband and two children. Follow Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, or Pintrest.

 

 

 

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Posted: July 7, 2014

The One Thing -- by Kristianne Stewart

 

My original intent was to write an article about forgiveness. I quickly realized that it wasn’t forgiveness, but unforgiveness that mires us to pain. Living in unforgiveness leaves Jesus out, and ushers in the dark side of human emotion.

As I sifted through the Internet one night, I came across a forgiveness program based on a series of studies. The forgiveness program was created to show people the ways to forgiveness. Through their research, nine steps to forgiveness were formulated. It wasn't the nine steps that grabbed me, but rather the "psychological disclaimer at the bottom of the page." “The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love." I was intrigued.

Really? You think true forgiveness can be achieved through nine steps and some intense seminars. You’ll have to read the rest, I didn’t. Instead, I’ve decided to tell you a story that I have permission to share.

Sarah had a hard life-pregnant and married at fifteen. Divorced, then remarried, two more children, divorced again. She was devastated when her father died, the only man who had shown her unconditional love. Sarah was very close to her two brothers, especially the younger one. So when he married, she wasn’t really happy about sharing him with anyone, especially with his wife, Kelly.

Kelly’s life was filled with brokenness and poor choices-saved at twenty-seven, married at thirty. Kelly envisioned gatherings with her in-laws like a Christian/ Norman Rockwell scene. Right? Wrong! Sarah was bitter and only tolerated Kelly because of her brother’s child, her only niece. Kelly was just as bitter and not any better. Her tangled heart was full of unforgiveness, just like Sarah’s.

Distance and time didn’t improve their relationship. One day, Kelly received a call that she would always remember. It was the day that Sarah’s cancer collided with Kelly’s Christianity, propelling her into action. Kelly picked up the phone and called Sarah. “Sarah, you will never be alone. I’m going to help you.”

They were an unlikely pair in the treatment center. They laughed and they healed together. On a surgery day, Sarah handed Kelly an envelope, “Open during Surgery”. Kelly waited and read a letter filled with a love that caused Kelly’s life to change, because there was no room for unforgiveness in a terminal diagnosis. At Sarah’s funeral, her small group leader read from her prayer journal.

“Forgive each other. Love each other. It all comes down to that doesn’t it?”

What the forgiveness program left out was the why. Why forgive? What compels us to forgive? Or rather, who compels us to forgive? You may be thinking, I did forgive. But I can't let go. How many times do I have to do this? Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22.

There may be some of you that keep the forgiveness tally, and have surely hit the seventy-seven mark and still counting.

Now, I know some of you are reading this saying, “I can’t do that. You don’t know what I’ve been through.” You’re right, and I don’t know. And you don’t know what I’ve been through-but God does. He even knew when it all happened. He still asks you to forgive.

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24.

I ask you to consider this, if you can’t forgive, have you ever really known the eternal blessing of forgiveness? “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15. It took me a while to understand it all too.

By the way, Sarah’s real name is Sonja, my precious sister-in- law. And Kelly, that’s me, Kristianne.

 Agape,

Kristianne

 

 

Kristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Do that follow thing on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Compassion That Compels on Instagram.

 

 

 

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Posted: June 30, 2014

What I Learned at Church Camp -- by Kristen Feola

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” – Psalm 56:3

A few years ago, my daughter Isabelle went to church camp. I volunteered to work inthe kitchen, which allowed me to spend time with her throughout the day. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from camp, so I was excited to share this experience with Isabelle.

Day 1 -- GREAT

 She was full of smiles.

Day 2 -- ANOTHER STORY

One of the games they played was tug-of-war in the mud. All the other girls jumped in, but Isabelle refused. She even got upset when someone accidentally flung two drops of mud on her arm! I encouraged Isabelle to join her team, assuring her that the mud would wash off. I even tried the approach, “Isabelle, you’re the only one sitting out. C’mon! Get in there with your friends!” She wouldn’t budge. There was no way she was willingly going to participate. For a brief moment, I considered forcing her, but I knew that would be a mistake. Instead, I said, “If you’re not going to help your team, you’re at least going to stand here and cheer them on!” She was mad at me, and I was frustrated with her.

This wasn’t the type of camp memory I wanted to make.

Isabelle isn’t normally a girly-girl. Of my two daughters, she’s the one who is more of a tomboy. While Jocelyn likes to wear dresses, Isabelle prefers shorts and a t-shirt. Isabelle picks up worms and helps her Daddy take fish off a hook. She also likes to dig in the garden. Why then, was she so reluctant to get in the mud? Fear, plain and simple.

Isabelle was afraid of the unknown and hesitant to try something new. She didn’t want to make a fool out of herself. I couldn’t be too hard on Isabelle because I often react the same way. I stand on the sidelines and watch when I should just jump in and trust God!
Whether it’s mud or missions or ministry, don’t let fear keep you from experiencing God’s best for your life. Put your trust in the Lord.

 

Kristen Feola is passionate about helping others become more spiritually and physically fit. She is the author of The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. Her second book, Spiritually Strong: The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul will be released in January. Kristen lives with her husband and two daughters in Springfield, Missouri. Visit Kristen's websites KristenFeola.com and ultimatedanielfast.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

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Posted: June 23, 2014

The CAKE Test: Evaluating Your Women’s Ministry -- by Chris Adams

When it comes to ministry with women in your church, how do you decide what is working and what is not? Do you even evaluate your ministry at all? If not, how do you know if women are experiencing life change?

No matter how long we lead a ministry, we will never do it perfectly. But if we do not ask the right questions, we may wake one morning to find NO women are involved at all in ministry that is supposed to encourage spiritual growth.


At a recent meeting of women’s leaders, pastor’s wife and women’s ministry leader Elizabeth Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans shared a strategy she and her team use to evaluate ministry called CAKE (change, add, keep, and evict). Once they put everything they have done and are currently doing for women on a whiteboard, they evaluate each one for effectiveness. They also talk about gaps in ministry that they see.

Then they decide what steps to take for each ministry following the CAKE process:

Change
Is this ministry still valuable but just needs to be tweaked or even drastically changed to make it more effective?

Add
Is there a ministry that is missing that needs to be added to touch more women?

Keep
Is this a ministry that needs to be kept as it touches women and leads women to spiritual transformation?

Evict
Or is this something we need to evict, stop, no longer waste valuable time and efforts on?

These are great questions to ask periodically so that your ministry stays fresh and relevant. This type of evaluation also guides you as a leader to see where God is at work or if He is leading you in a different direction to reach women.

I recently read a three-part blog post from Gifted for Leadership called Raising Up Women for Ministry Leadership: Tales from the Trenches by Natasha Benevides. She had the role of evaluating a leadership team that was battling for internal control and crippling their ability to produce fruit for the Kingdom. It was her responsibility to guide them to a more kingdom-focused ministry. Again, she had to evaluate what had been, what was, and what God wanted for the future. Read all three posts to see how she worked through this process.

Remember that ministry that works today will not necessarily be relevant tomorrow, especially in our world of continuous and disruptive change. Although we never change the biblical principles that are foundational to ministry, we need to continually monitor current fruit or adjust the ministry so that future fruit is possible. How do you evaluate your women’s ministry? What do you learn when you practice evaluation?

Chris

Join Chris Adams at You Lead Events. Click here for conferences in your area.

 

This article was originally published at lifeway.com/womensministry on April 4, 2014. Chris is the Senior Lead Women's Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the content on this blog. You can connect with Chris at twitter.com/chrisadams4, and at www.facebook.com/LifeWayWomen.

 

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Posted: June 16, 2014

Who are you following? - by Carrie Rester

 I was traveling the interstate as the sun was closing in on the day. It had been a beautiful and cloudless day, which always makes for a prettier sunset. As I was gazing at the sun I couldn’t help notice a group of opossums coming along side the busy road.

I am not sure of their reason to be this close to the road, but it was obvious there was one opossum leading the other three into a dangerous area. I passed by and prayed they would recognize they were being led closer to unsafe territory and turn around.

Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but think about these little animals and how the “one” was leading them possibly to their death. It just broke my heart. But I also believe the Lord wanted me to reflect on my life and times I followed the wrong person or thing.

 I began thinking of the many people and things I had followed. My question to the Lord was why did I do that? He showed me there are areas in me which are weak and have lacked the confidence to move on my own, so I follow. I noticed how true this was, those I have followed in the past were strong, and they had experience and knowledge. So in my weakness I followed them and realized later, I was led in the wrong direction.

In my college years, I found myself being led to dark and lonely places. I lacked confidence in myself, so I believed I needed to follow someone to have that confidence. 

 I gave my life to the Lord in my early 20's which caused the course of my life to be changed.  I was no longer under the power of following others to dark places. He taught me that in my weakness I will find He is strong. He will supernaturally strengthen those areas for His glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.              2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Guess what though? It happened again. I found myself on the "following" track, but it didn't look anything like it did before.  It happened in church.  I saw Godly people with these incredible gifts and doing these fabulous things and I wanted to do the same.  So I followed, trying to emulate their gifts and following their desires and doing as they did. I had good intentions, but following those individuals and their purposes and plans was not what God had for me. 

It did take me awhile to understand what Jesus was saying in his scriptures, “Follow me.”  I am not called to follow anyone else but Him.  He has the purposes and plans for my life, not anyone else, not even me.  He is the one who directs my paths, not anyone or anything else.  I am to truly rely on Him, and not on any other.

I look back now and see the plans He had for me.  Were I still following others, the things Jesus and I have accomplished together wouldn't have come to pass, because He had them set for me before I was even born.  It is amazing how the enemy can use this simple diversion to keep us from fulfilling the plans the Lord has for us. 

The gospels contain over twenty references where Jesus personally invited people to follow Him. Here are just a few:

And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; John 10:27

 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 12:26 

These scriptures all refer to Jesus telling us to follow him, but really what does follow mean? The Greek word used here and translated as “follow” is akolouthe?. Which is a common word used throughout the Greek New Testament.While akolouthe? is almost always translated as “follow” in English translations, it has a broader range of meanings.  It can also mean “accompany” and “assist.” The word “acolyte” is derived from akolouthe?. An acolyte is an assistant or attendant. They perform rituals in religious services which may include lighting candles, carrying crosses, swinging censers and ringing bells.  

 When we understand that akolouthe? can have the meanings of ”accompany” and “assist”, as well as ”follow”, we can see that when Jesus was calling people to follow him he wasn’t simply saying “tag along behind me”.  He didn’t want people to just listen and believe in Him from a distance.  Jesus was inviting people to come close, to join Him and even help Him with HIS ministry.  He wanted people to be vitally engaged and involved with Him in both learning and doing the work of the gospel.

Jesus is still inviting people to follow Him and to personally join Him, learn from Him and help Him in gospel ministry. He has given each of us the necessary gifts and experiences to accomplish the desires He has for us. There is nothing passive about being a true follower of Jesus Christ. He is continuously moving in the hearts of people and He needs me and you to be His hands and feet in this earth.

My question to you is, “Who or what are you following?”

Let us pray:

Father, it is so easy for us to fall in the trap of following people or things other than you. I pray for each person reading this, may you show them the areas they are not following you in. It may be a person, an ambition, power, money, status, etc, but make it clear to them. For we know we all have weaknesses, so cause us to realize they are for you to show your strength through. Thank you for the changed lives that only you can do. And may we fully follow YOU! We ask this in the mighty power of Jesus name, Amen.

Much love to you,

Carrie

Carrie rester is the founder, leader, and president of Gulf Coast Blessings. Carrie's lived most of her life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a BS in Elementary Education and received her Masters in Education from William Carey College. Carrie and her wonderful husband of twelve years, John, reside in Gulfport, MS. She has two very affectionate dogs, Grace and Ginger. In her free time she enjoys studying God's Word, running, gardening, playing tennis, reading and watching the Food Channel.

 

 

 

 

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Posted: June 9, 2014

Who’s Your Scheduler? - by Kristianne Stewart

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.                                       3 John 1:2 (NIV)

ONCE UPON A TIME, not so long ago, there was a woman who had great balance!  No, not like a circus performer but the kind who could extend grace and never consume grace.  THEN ONE DAY she found herself in the middle of saying something and wondered what her point was. 

THE NEXT DAY she started praying and finished with her grocery list  “What is happening to me? Do I need a multivitamin or more omega 3?” she asked herself.

THE NEXT DAY she was cramming her vitamins into her mouth and a one minute devotion into her spirit quicker than a two year old with candy just so she could be early to her meeting... when SUDDENLY she remembered the meeting was yesterday! OH MY!

AND THE NEXT DAY, she drove her car all the way to work and was surprised when she pulled into the parking lot because she didn’t even remember driving there.  She pulled her compact out of her purse and started to call her doctor.  “NO! NO! Not a compact but a phone is what I need, she cried. I don’t have time for a doctor today so WebMD on the way,” she thought.  As she listed her symptoms on the screen, the diagnosis was clear. 

She had a chronic case of TIME SLICING!  A symptom of having a faulty scheduler!

In the techie world, time slicing is where the single processor system or CPU, performs one part of a program and then returns to the first one. Each computer has a scheduler that determines which task is next and how much time to allocate. Think of your brain as the CPU and it’s like working on a report then stopping to text someone.  Time slicing is what allows us to multitask.

  If your brain is the processor, what part of you is your scheduler?  

Take a minute and think of the meanest mean girl you ever knew...mentally frame her and name her. Ouch! It hurts all over again, doesn’t it? But based on my life experience, I’d say her cruelest remarks knifed at your ego can’t outshout your own internal critic. So my friends, I’m going to ask you to leave her, your internal frenemy, wherever she finds you most vulnerable because she is the one relentlessly scheduling your thoughts and actions. Chain her to a fitting room where she forces you to try on clothing under fluorescent lighting and then critiques you in front of a trifold mirror! Ditch her in the grocery store aisle next to the cereal that looks like chicken feed! If that doesn’t work and she keeps on mentally chatting with you, then get your earbuds out and stick the plug in your pocket a la hands free cell phone. Then you can speak out loud and say, “Stop it. I’m not listening,” without anyone giving you a second look. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.                Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

The Holy Spirt should always be our scheduler.  Most online calendars have a feature that once you schedule an appointment, it allows you to note whether you’re busy and unavailable. Forget the multitasking and start multiASKing, “God what do you want me to do today?”  

Agape,

Kristianne

 Kristianne’s life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels and follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith

 

 

 

 

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Posted: June 2, 2014

17 Ways to Rest, Relax, and Recharge - by Chris Adams

As ministry leaders, it’s a challenge to balance work and rest. It’s easier for some than others. For type A’s who tend to be workaholics it’s much harder. At a recent gathering of women’s ministry leaders all types of women were represented and we shared how to strive toward a healthy balance.

We don’t always manage it perfectly, but here are some ways we take care of ourselves so we can serve as faithfully and diligently as God asks. Remember: Our goal is to be productive not just BUSY (Bound Under Satan’s Yoke).

Rest
1. Take a Sabbath every week. If Sunday is a “work” day for you, take another day as your day of rest.

2. Take a nap! Find the time. You need it.

3. Set aside time to rest after a major event, project, or training time. Work hard, then rest well!

4. Learn to sleep even when things aren’t finished.

5. Know yourself. Watch for indicators that you need to rest. Be aware of your breaking points.

Relax
6. If you get a day off, TAKE it! And don’t check your email.

7. Disconnect when you go home from a long day. Shut off your phone. Don’t log on to your email.

8. Engage with nature — get outside! Take a walk in a local park or go for a drive in the country. Enjoy an outdoor picnic with your family.

9. Take a break from people when you need it. Enjoy the silence. Hear from God.

10. Read a book, such as Christian fiction, for enjoyment.

11. Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, or play video games or board games — anything that helps you relax and “check out” of work and leadership temporarily.

12. Take a relaxing vacation with no decisions to be made — not even where to eat! Doesn’t a week at the beach sound nice?

Recharge

13. Serve until you’re tired but not weary. Listen to God. Ask, “What is He calling me to do?”

14. Get enough physical exercise. Let go of your stress.

15. Do something that is not ministry or work related. Embrace a change of pace.

16. Start a new hobby. Or revisit an old one.

17. Take a quarterly retreat for spiritual enrichment, setting aside time to pray and refocus. Turn your phone off. Share what God taught you with those who serve alongside you.

Chris

Join Chris Adams at You Lead Events. Click here for conferences in your area.

This article was originally published at lifeway.com/womensministry on May 2, 2014. Chris is the Senior Lead Women's Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the content on this blog. You can connect with Chris at twitter.com/chrisadams4, and at www.facebook.com/LifeWayWomen.

 

 

 

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Posted: May 26, 2014

5 Things I Want my Daughter to Know - by Nancy Backues

Last month we celebrated my daughter's birthday. Nine years ago, she burst into this world and stole our hearts. NINE YEARS!!

 

It's becoming increasingly evident that my relationship with her is shifting. We've squarely entered that phase where she needs me to be close, but not too close (especially in front of her friends). And as I watch her stretch her wings a little more with each passing day, I realize there are a few things I want to be sure she knows--really knows in her heart of hearts--before she ventures too far from the nest.

 You are beautiful

I know there will be times when you doubt that. Unfortunately, there will be times when you are made to feel anything but beautiful. Whether it's the airbrushed images in magazines or the hurtful words of others, remember that those images--those words--are untrue. When they say you are anything less than gorgeous, they are lying. Your beauty is more than your raven-like hair and chocolate-drop eyes. It's more than your body shape or your smile. Your beauty goes much deeper...it's in your heart, in your soul, in your purpose. You were crafted by the Master Craftsman, and He only makes the finest. So, my dear, always remember...you. are. beautiful.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! (Psalm 119:14, MSG)

You are smart

In a world that puts much emphasis on a woman's appearance and less on her knowledge, hold tightly to the hunger you have now for information. Feed that hunger, and never apologize for it, but always, always seek Truth, even above "knowledge." For there is no true knowledge apart from Truth. You may be tempted someday to hide your knowledge (or the Truth), to get the attention of a boy. Don't do it! Instead, do what I did...find a boy whose smarter than you. :)

“Let not the wise [woman] boast in [her] wisdom...but let [she] who boasts boast in this, that [she] understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth..” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24)

 You are strong

You'll learn soon enough that as women, we are often asked to be feminine or strong...tough or tender. The world screams at us to be tough while many well-meaning Christians are quick to call us back to femininity. It can become overwhelming and confusing, but God has created us with an unique ability to be both: to be soft (gentle, not weak) on the outside and strong on the inside. Not a strength that you have to muster on your own, but a strength--God's strength--that is there for the taking, if you simply ask.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong...Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (Proverbs 31:17, 25)

 You are clever

More than book smart, you are clever...quick-witted. You have inherited your mother's love for words and her gift for wit and sarcasm. (You're welcome and I'm sorry.) Fortunately, you have also inherited your dad's love of silliness. Learn to use them with grace, and they will serve you well. Always use your words, even witty words, to build up and bring life to others.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

 You are loved

You love deeply and want to be deeply loved. Your dad and I treasure that about you. Unfortunately, that means you will have your heart broken in the years to come...probably more than once. A friend will betray you for another friendship, and it will cut deeply. A boy will come along and crush your tender heart, perhaps without even realizing it. And you'll wonder if anyone will ever love you. In those moments, please remember you are already loved...deeply, unconditionally loved. You can't do anything to make us love you more, you can't do anything to make us love you less, than we already do. When all else fails, know this: we love you, but God loves you even more.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

So, dear sweet gir,l as you continue to outgrow your jeans and flip flops year after year, I pray you continue to grow into the beauty and the grace with which you were created.

Love,

Mom

 

Nancy is an author, speaker, wife, mother, cancer-fighter, and lover of all things chocolate. When she’s not playing cook, chauffeur, maid, or referee to her family, she can be found writing about embracing grace at There is Grace. Nancy lives in Missouri with her favorite people in the world, her husband and two children. Follow Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, or Pintrest.

 

 

 

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Posted: May 19, 2014

It started with a letter and a sweater... by Kristianne Stewart

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. 2 Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. 3 They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. 4 You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. 5 Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! 6 Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. 7 As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! 8 I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!                                       Psalm 119:1-8 (NLT)

I watched through the day as sunbeams moved across the waiting room like solar spotlights, settling along the length of a piece of furniture, highlighting its occupant’s emotions. The day had passed and I was alone in the hospital waiting room. I’d read and reread my sister-in-law’s letter. Her words were written in red.

“I want you to know I’m secure and very peaceful with you being here waiting on me to wake up. So while you’re in the waiting room, you show someone your heart and make their wait a little more peaceful.”

My thumb ran imaginary creases across the folds of the letter. Rather than waiting on a call, I made my way to the recovery room and slipped past the nurse’s station. The chorus of beeps and bleeps emitting from machines guided me to Sonja’s lone bed.
“Sonja, I’m here.” I watched her fingers pull lightly against the sheets. “Kristianne, I knew you’d come. I kept calling for you but I knew you’d come. I’m so cold.”

I pillaged every piece of wheeled furniture around me for a blanket with no success. My eyes fell to my bag and a wrinkled cardigan sweater. I picked it up and laid it weave-like under and over the tubes that disappeared within the sheets, and into my precious sister-in-law.

I didn’t know it at the time but what started with a letter, a sweater, and three women I loved diagnosed with cancer; began my Bible studies and ministry, Compassion That Compels.

BAG: Anyone who has walked through cancer or alongside a cancer overcomer has at one time stuffed their clothes into an oversized plastic bag, closely resembling a reusable cold bag.

JESUS CALLING DEVOTIONAL: God’s word reminds you, a cancer overcomer, that you are first an overcomer in Christ.

JOURNAL: To record those thoughts just between you and God.

SCRIPTURE TEA: Because hospital coffee at 6 pm is often thick as glue.

REUSABLE CUP OR MUG: For when even coffee glue can’t be found.

NOTEBOOK & PEN: To phonetically write down all those big, Latin sounding words that confirm this won’t go away with antibiotics and wish you’d paid more attention in science class.

SCRIPTURE CANDY SOFT MINTS: During treatment your mouth is always dry or suddenly becomes dry when you see a doctor approaching with your chart in hand.

SMALL THROW: To cover you with His love and besides, if you’re not freezing, the person next to you probably is.

CHICK-FIL-A CARD: Just to get away from a hospital cafeteria to a land flowing with sweet tea and nugget sauce.

I am a stranger and a temporary resident on the earth; hide not Your commandments from me.      Psalm 119:19 AMP

This life is just a waiting room. So while you’re in the waiting room, do what Sonja wanted everyone to do -- show your heart.

Agape,
Kristianne

  

Kristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels and follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith.

 

 

 

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Posted: May 12, 2014

Hidden Treasures - by Renee Magnuson

 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

In our home, I have deliberately placed hidden treasures under one particular mattress. Unlike those who lived during the Great Depression and who hid money under their mattresses for safe keeping because they distrusted banks, I have not hidden my treasure for safe keeping nor have I hidden my treasure out of distrust, for my hidden treasure is index cards with the Word of God written on them.

On these cards, I have placed specific scriptures God has given me for my youngest son, trusting that His Word will not return void in the life of this son who sleeps on top of the mattress. With this act, I am trusting Isaiah 55:11: “So it is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” And, with this act I am also expressing my faith in a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.

Being the mother of this son who has just entered adulthood has caused me to come face to face with a harsh reality. When he was a child, I could control his surroundings and somewhat protect him from the influences of the world. Now that he is an adult, I no longer have that same control over what touches his life.

While that can be a frightening place for me as a parent, reality tells me it is the best place for me to be. For in this place, I give up any illusion of maintaining control, plus I exchange my will for the Father’s will. I know God loves our son more than we ever could, and I know He is able to take care of him as he ventures into the new-found freedom and responsibility of adulthood.

As I tuck the index cards containing the Word of God under his mattress, it’s as though I am undergirding him with the Spirit of God and I am trusting that something supernatural will begin to take place in the heart of this son. Fully recognizing that God’s Word is powerful, I am reminded that: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

Since God’s Word has the power to affect change in a person’s life, plus it contains the power to penetrate his innermost being in order to accomplish His purposes, I am expressing my faith in this manner. I know that anything that truly counts for the Kingdom of God will only be done by God Himself, and it is out of obedience that I am following through with this exercise.

It’s tempting for me to wring my hands and to worry about releasing this son into the world, wondering how he will navigate its many twists and turns and worrying about his walk with God. My mind asks, “Will he fall into the traps Satan will most assuredly place along the way to lure him away from his God?” and “Will he be able to remain on a firm foundation in face of temptation?”

I remember one particular conversation I had with the Lord over this issue. As I confessed my worry to Him, He gently reminded me of something I had not considered. He reminded me that I had not been raised in a Christian home, and yet shortly after my graduation from high school, He used external circumstances to reveal my need for a relationship with Him.

He loved me enough to do whatever it took to bring me into that relationship in order to refocus my attention off of the world and on to Him. He also loved me enough to bring me to the point of salvation and an ever deepening walk with Christ.

Knowing that, couldn’t He be trusted to get our son where he needed to be as well? After all, this son had a head start for we had diligently covered him with prayer from the moment we knew of his existence in my womb. Couldn’t I trust God, the Creator of the universe, to correct, to lead, and to complete the work He had begun in him?

As that truth touched my heart, any illusions I might have had of retaining control over our son’s life were quickly put aside, and in light of that truth, a great burden was lifted. I realized it was not up to me to write the rest of his story in order to assure a satisfactory ending. That remained God’s responsibility.

With that realization, I was freed to release our son into the hands of God, trusting in His power to keep him in His care. With confidence, I officially resigned from playing the Holy Spirit in his life, knowing God would go before him and watch over him. While I wouldn’t be going away to college with him, there would be no limit to the distance my prayers could travel. 

Later, after having discovered the scriptures under his mattress, our son shared with us how much this act of trust and obedience had touched him and how the verses directly related to situations he was facing at the time. God’s love was even evident in the way He had handpicked words of encouragement in order to refresh our son’s spirit as he slept. As I continued to pray the Word of God over our son, I could trust in its power to defeat whatever might come against him because God’s Word would not return void. It would achieve the purpose for which He sent it. The truth is that God can be trusted to bring our children where He wants them to be. Our faith coupled with obedience, moves God to powerfully respond to our prayers and to a place where we experience a peace that's free from worry.

Blessings,

 Renee

Renee Magnuson lives in Titusville, FL with the love of her life. She is mom to her six grown children and  grandma to five of the cutest grandchildren. After 32 years of parenting, the freedoms of an empty nest allows Renee the time to share her love of God's truth in her discipleship to women and mentor to young mothers.  Renee's passion for reaching women through her inspirational stories brings God into our every day life and makes Him real to the reader. A perfect day includes sharing heart-to-heart with a latte loving friend at their favorite coffee shop.

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Posted: May 5, 2014

A New Normal - by Monica Steely

I’m reading Holley Gerth‘s book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You.  Every single page is highlighted.  I can’t devour it fast enough.

The other day I read the chapter on the disclaimers about God-sized dreams once they come to fruition — disclaimers like you’ll never feel ready.  You won’t like your dream sometimes.  You’ll feel alone at times.

And then the disclaimer that leapt off the page and has shaken my shoulders and has been riding piggyback since I read it:

ONE DAY THIS DREAM WILL BE YOUR NEW NORMAL

Those words have rolled around my brain like quarters stuck in the dryer,  making noise and banging against every corner of my thoughts.  And as I ponder that one sentence,  God brings to my mind the past God-sized dreams that are now my new normal:

-The husband I didn’t feel I deserved.
-The daughter who has blessed my socks off and is growing in grace and wisdom.
-The son I waited two miscarriages and years to have.
-The job that gives my husband freedom to work in his giftings and succeed.
-Friendships that edify, encourage and build me up…not tear me down.
-A household of peace and laughter and freedom to fail.

Each of these were a mustard seed of a God-sized dream long before they became my new normal.  They were passing thoughts at first. Then they became prayers.  And then blossomed into full-fledged dreams.

And now, with another God-sized dream becoming clearer and getting a little closer, it scares me in the best possible way that it might one day be my new normal, too.

The weight of it pressing in on me is strangely comforting like a heavy wool blanket on a cold night….hearing Him whisper to get ready…feeling an incredibly calm peace yet not understanding it at all…it makes me shake in fear and leap for joy all at the same time.

One day this dream will be my new normal.

I know this current God-sized dream might look different when it comes to pass than I originally thought, and that’s okay.  My husband and my family and my friendships have all turned out differently than I once believed they would.  In the best possible way, they are different than I thought they would be.

And God, in His infinite love, made them perfect for me.

-My husband is everything I wanted and also everything I had no idea I needed.
-My daughter challenges everything I thought I knew about parenting, and makes me a better mom.
-My son brings so much joy and laughter after years of pain and tears.
-My husband has the confidence and courage to pursue God-sized dreams of his own.
-My core friends don’t live nearby and I see them very irregularly, but the residue of our conversations and time together linger with me for weeks and months until we see each other again
-The chaos and messiness of my house is what brings the peace and laughter, and the freedom to fail also brings freedom to succeed.

No, it’s not what I expected. But I suddenly could never imagine any of those dreams being any different than exactly how they are right now.

One day this dream will be my new normal.

The funny thing about our dreams is that while you’re dreaming them, nothing seems as big as that dream at that time.  Praying and waiting for a husband is Everything. Having children is a Soul Ache. Strong friendships are a Desperate Plea not to drown alone.

And then one day they’re just a normal part of your life. You forget what life was like before them. It’s so crazy.

As long as I’ve been waiting for this current God-sized dream to come to pass (seven years and counting)…at some point, it will become a distant dream added to the list, and a new God-sized dream will take its place.

It really is the weirdest, yet holiest thing ever — standing on the edge of a God-sized dream and peering down into it, it seems as big as the Grand Canyon and impossible to cross over.

Then one day you simply check it off the list and move on.

How can you imagine moving on when you’re standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon?

But it happens.

Because each dream God gives is simply a stepping stone to a bigger dream. And once in a while He reminds you to look back and you see that the two of you — God and you — have built a bridge and you’re already halfway across that canyon.

One day this dream will be my new normal.

What God-sized dreams have you staring into the vastness right now? What dreams seem impossible? Don’t lose heart, or give up hope, or give up at all.

Keep standing there on the edge. Look back every once in a while and remember the stepping stones that have brought you to your current dream.

And soon you’ll see the bridge, spanning across a magnificent landscape.

ONE DAY THIS DREAM WILL BE YOUR NEW NORMAL.

* * *

Monica

Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Find BE on Facebook and Twitter, and listen on iTunes.

Photo ©ThinkStock

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Posted: April 28, 2014

5 Things I Want My Son to Know - by Nancy Backues

"Did you see how strong I am, Mama?"

We were on a walk in the woods...just the two of us. He had just defeated a near-dead limb with ninja-like movements and a walking stick bigger than he was. I smiled to myself and affirmed his feat of great strength.

His increasing sense of adventure is matched only by his passion to be with, and be like, his Dad. I love and encourage that endeavor, even though it means I take the back seat for awhile. So I treasure these fleeting moments when he seeks my acknowledgement and approval. In that brief window of opportunity, it dawned on me that strength is not the only thing I see in him. And I want to make sure he knows it.

 

1. You are strong.  Yes, Son, you are strong.  You are growing stronger (and taller!) every day.  But more than physical height and brawn, I hope you always remember your greatest strength comes from Christ. The day will come when you face challenges greater than sticks and leaves. You'll face choices that could potentially threaten your innocence and your character.  When that time comes, remember that in Christ you are strong. No matter what your friends do, no matter what the world says you should do, be strong.  Because your strength comes from Someone greater.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you
is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

2. You're smart. In a world that insists on "dumbing us down" by feeding us a steady diet of entertainment, ideologies, and philosophies they deem important, I pray you always seek Truth. I hope you love to learn, but not just for knowledge's sake. Remember where true knowledge and wisdom are found...search out that Truth, and always, always speak up for it. Determine to choose what's right, even when it's not popular (and especially then).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise
wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

3. You have a purpose. God has has given you specific abilities and talents for a reason...there are things He created you to do. It's OK if you make some mistakes along the way, everyone does. Learn from them, and grow from them. As much as you can, learn from the mistakes others have already made. Run hard after God. Discover what He created you for. Then pursue those things with great passion.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might  (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

4. You're funny. This one isn't too deep, but seriously...you are funny! You have brought such joy and laughter to our family, and we are happier because you're here. Your humor and silliness will serve you well in the years to come if you learn to use it well. It can keep you from taking yourself too seriously. But remember to never use it at someone else's expense. As a great philosopher once said, "with great power comes great responsibility!" ;)

A joyful heart is good medicine  (Proverbs 17:22)

5. You are loved. Of course Dad and I love you. Your 6-year-old self never questions that. I pray your 16-year-old self, your 26-year-old self, and all the "selfs" between and beyond never question it either. I pray you also know that God loves you. He loved you before you were born. He loves you when you mess up and when you get it right. Nothing you do can make Him love you any more, or any less, than He already does. In the years to come...when you wrestle with what you believe and struggle to understand all that you've been shown and taught...remember this one thing: God, and Dad, and I all love you more than you know.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you  (Philippians 1:3)

Yes, Son, I see how strong you are, but more than that, I see how strong you will become.

Love,

Mom

Promise me you'll always remember:  You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”~ A.A. Milne

Nancy is an author, speaker, wife, mother, cancer-fighter, and lover of all things chocolate. When she’s not playing cook, chauffeur, maid, or referee to her family, she can be found writing about embracing grace at There is Grace. Nancy lives in Missouri with her favorite people in the world, her husband and two children. Follow Nancy on Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest

 

 

 

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Posted: April 21, 2014

The Story Behind the Bracelets -- GOD HAS THIS! - by Carrie Rester

It seemed to be an ordinary church Sunday.  I was up early and began my morning routine of coffee, quiet time, and a scroll through the television channels to find a good sermon to listen to as I was getting ready.

When I arrived at church I learned Rick Pasquale, an international evangelist would be our guest speaker. I treasure these times when we have missionaries and evangelists come to our church. It gives me the opportunity to peep into their lives and see what the Lord is doing around the world. Rick gave an update on his ministry and what the Lord was doing, but he was really there to express what God was doing in his life.

He shared that morning of a tumor that was in his brain, one that was deteriorating his bone and causing him hearing loss. This tumor was in a very difficult place and would eventually be fatal to Rick if something was not done and soon.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.       Psalm 46:1-3

There were several doctors that gave Rick little hope and wouldn't even pursue surgery.  Rick never ceased to pray and God responded with, "I've Got This." He knew God was in control of the situation, but there still wasn't a doctor who would take his case.

Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."     Luke 18: 27

Rick was blessed to live in a city with a teaching hospital, where doctors travel from all over the world to study and share new surgical techniques. An Asian doctor just happened to be in the United States and just happened to be at this hospital and just happened to be in the room while doctors were evaluating Rick's situation. The doctor spoke up from the back of the room and suggested a technique he believed would be successful.

Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be moved.      Psalm 55:22

Rick's personal meeting with the doctor resulted in informing him the technique may or may not work. This caused Rick to once again turn to the Lord for guidance and direction. Again, the Lord answered him in saying, "I've Got This!" He agreed to have the surgery and it was successful, without any deficits.

He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved.           Psalm 62:6

Three months after the surgery, Rick was giving his testimony at my church. He informed our congregation the tumor was no longer growing and the bone was regenerating. Wow! What a testimony! In response to Rick's successful surgery, he decided to have bracelets made up which said, "God's Got This!" He was selling them at his book table, but I was unfortunately unable to get one before they sold out.

Days passed and I couldn't stop thinking about Rick's powerful testimony. I was moved by the three simple words God shared to encourage him. I thought about all the people I was praying for; those who are fighting an illness, a financial burden, a troubled marriage, wayward children, the list went on and on. These individuals needed this encouragement from this powerful message.

I woke up one morning with someone heavy on my heart. The thought then came to me...I could create a bracelet order on my own. Then share this simple but profound statement with those I knew who were in need. I immediately jumped out of the bed and on to the computer to design a bracelet.

Since I was an elementary school teacher, I wasn't fond of the word "got" so I decided to use "has" instead. I had my color of bracelet selected, the wording and now to the font style. Can you imagine my excitement when I looked at the fonts, the one I was instantly drawn to was called, "Covered by Grace." Can you believe that? Not only is there a message in the words, but on the words!  I purchased 500 bracelets that morning, thinking it might be too many, but there was a discount on a larger number, so why not?

I encouraged our Bible study group, Gulf Coast Blessings, to pick up a few of the bracelets and pass out to those going through a difficult time. I wanted this to be a reminder in the midst of their chaos, God was in control. He is not surprised by the events in their life and He is not unsure how He is going to take care of them. There is a plan and a purpose for what they are going through. I believed these three word's would give them that encouragement.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.       2 Tim 1:7

The bracelets have been and continue to be a blessing to so many, we found immediately the original order of 500 wasn't enough and had to order more, many more. As of now, our girls have handed out thousands of bracelets, with each one serving as a constant reminder that God is in control of their lives.

There are so many stories to share about the encouragement, comfort, peace and even salvation this message has brought to people. It has allowed many the opportunity to minister to people in grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, on the tennis court, on airplanes, everywhere. I have been amazed at what happens when people see you wearing the bracelet, the questions they ask and how open they are to invite you into their lives.

Lisa Goodman, a sweet sister who lives in Dothan, AL  learned about the bracelets from a friend. Lisa placed an order for a large quantity and passed out bracelets to all she came in contact with. She was so moved by everyone's response that she established a "GOD HAS THIS"  Facebook page. This page has become a clearinghouse for over a thousand followers who want to testify of God's sovereign involvement in their life. I encourage you to "like" this Facebook page and share your story.

You might notice some pink GOD HAS THIS!  bracelets for a ministry, Compassion That Compels. "GOD HAS THIS" quickly became the battle cry for brave women battling cancer and a reminder these BEAUTIFUL cancer overcomers are never alone. 

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”       John 16:33

Love and blessings to each of you,

Carrie 

Carrie rester is the founder, leader, and president of Gulf Coast Blessings. Carrie's lived most of her life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a BS in Elementary Education and received her Masters in Education from William Carey College. Carrie and her wonderful husband of twelve years, John, reside in Gulfport, MS. She has two very affectionate dogs, Grace and Ginger. In her free time she enjoys studying God's Word, running, gardening, playing tennis, reading and watching the Food Channel.

   

 

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Posted: April 14, 2014

THE PLAYGROUND AND THE MEADOW - by Monica Steely

The playground has a castle and a drawbridge and three slides and a climbing wall. There are tire swings and baby swings and regular swings and even big red chair swings the adults can sneak onto if there aren't a lot of kids around. 

When we're at the playground, my kids are wild and rambunctious and run around yelling and playing and leave every ounce of energy there. The surrounding fence keeps them IN and they swing and slide and climb and run and there's just so much to DO there. 

The Meadow is a wide-open space with exposed granite and a gentle stream.  It was made to be a 'backyard' for our mountainous neighborhood full of wild hills and forests of trees. There's one pond and one picnic table and six Adirondack chairs. The stream has tadpoles and the pond has rocks at the bottom from two summers ago when my littlest toddled over, crudely tossing in every pebble he could find. 

An army of trees circle the Meadow – more a protective shield than a boundary line – and cast long, lean shadows over the stream and the pond and the exposed granite. In the late afternoon, the sun peeks through with a wide smile like it’s trying not to get caught in a game of hide and seek.

In the Meadow, my kids imagine they are Susan and Edmund exploring Narnia, defeating the White Witch valiantly. They chase butterflies and bring me dandelion bouquets and pretend the big oak is their secret hide out. He chases after her, desperate to be big like she is, and she holds his hand as they cross the slippery rocks so he doesn't fall and scrape his knee yet again.

In the Meadow, there isn't as much to DO – there are no swings, or slides, or castles – but there's so much to BE. In the Meadow, they are free to Be imaginative, Be together, Be relational, Be intentional. 

They have fun DO-ing together at the playground, but love BE-ing together at The Meadow. 

“He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.” Psalm 23:2-3

I get caught up in the doing of the playground, too. My playground is ministry and work and friends and family and home. It’s joyous and blessed and holy and necessary. It can become a playground of To-Do’s though, if I’m not careful.

I see the fence surrounding my playground, and it’s the only salvation that keeps me from crossing over into chaos. Though it tries to beckon me to stay in, seeing it is a reminder that sometimes it’s necessary to leave.

“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!”    Psalm 23:1

The playground ceases to be fruitful if I haven’t first sunned myself in the Meadow. I can’t run and jump and slide and swing through all the To-Do’s if I haven’t first sunned myself in the To-Be’s.

When I escape the pandemonium and go to the Meadow, I am still and calm. My soul is restored and my mind is free to imagine once again – to dream. I'm free to take someone's hand and help them over the rough places. I’m free to Be intentional and build relationship and explore. 

“Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.” (Psalm 23:4)

The trees that encircle remind me that God doesn't desire for me to be trapped IN, but rather, seeks to protect me and keep things OUT. The Meadow is green pastures and still waters and a reminder that I do not want for anything. It’s the place I find courage in the face of evil and the place where my cup is filled to overflowing.

“You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow!”    Psalm 23:5

The Meadow is my refuge – my place to BE.  Sometimes I forget that I can't DO the necessary work of playground until I've first taken time to BE near the still waters of the Meadow.  I can't leave every ounce of energy on the swings if I haven't first been fueled by sunning myself on the Rock. 

I forget this often. But in unsolicited grace and love, He nudges me as I watch my children.  He whispers Truth to me yet again and I lean back to face the Son and relax into His arms and remember,

“Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.”    Psalm 23:6

Monica

 

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Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Find BE on Facebook and Twitter, and listen on iTunes.
Photo ©Monica Steely

 

 

 

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