How are you going to love?

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: August 28, 2014

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  37  Then he said to his disciples,  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  38  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”                                                Matthew 9:36-38

Jesus had compassion for the distressed,  the dejected, the lost.  A few years ago,  I was so hemmed in by my need to serve on God’s personal God Squad,  handing out sin citations,  that my love for the lost was overridden by my prideful need to defend God’s truth.  I was still moved by the innocent who were maligned and hurt,  but immune to the sinners birthed from a corrupt culture.  It was then God showed me if I were to love the lost,  I would need more empathy for the “guilty” than for the innocent.  I would need compassion.  And slowly,  He gave me a heart of compassion,  a compassion that compels me to love in action.  A voluntary act of my will, a yielding to the Holy Spirit.

Compassion that compels forces your heart to pay attention with intention.  It kneels down to your child to listen with your eyes. It reaches across the table at that next family gathering.  It knocks on your neighbor’s door.  It extends itself at a ragged shirt sleeve and outstretched hand. 

Do not forget to entertain strangers,  for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.       Hebrews 11:12

Close your eyes and think about someone whom you love with your whole heart.  Someone easy to love. Then create a mental montage of those who may not have loved you in return.  Now stop,  and think about the family member you are called to love,  but just can’t?  If they died today would you know where they would spend eternity?  If you doubt it is in heaven,  do you feel that is their just reward?  Or do you feel compelled by the same compassion to serve the helpless, to leave the ninety-nine sheep, and seek the one that is lost?  In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus identified the needs and saw that the workers were few.  

Do you think he was only speaking to His disciples after a series of mega-picnics that fed thousands?  Or is His word living and active today and it includes us?

The answer is yes,  we are His disciples. In verse 38,  Jesus tells us to ask  (pray)  the Lord to send,  some translations say force,  the workers into his harvest field.  

What if,  just what if,  you were praying and God commanded you to harvest the field?  Could you do it steeped in the confines of judgement and condemnation with arms crossed?  Or suffused in His grace and mercy like those loving arms, outstretched on the cross?

... “Simon son of John,  do you truly love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said,  “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  16  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said,  “Take care of my sheep.”  17  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."             John 21:15-17

Jesus posed the question to Peter three times, “Do you truly love me?”  By the third time,  Peter was hurt.  How could Jesus ask him three times?  Peter said,  “You know that I love you.”  If Jesus knows all things, why was he asking?  He certainly wasn’t asking Peter because He didn’t know.  He was relentless in His questioning not for Peter to affirm his love, but for Peter to decide how he was going to love.  Jesus asked Peter and today He asks us to display His love through compassion.  A compassion that should compel us to feed the innocent lambs and take care of the lost sheep.  

The question remains, how are YOU going to love?

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. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

 

 

What are you afraid of?

By: Wendy van Eyck
Posted: August 25, 2014

I, I’m the One comforting you, What are you afraid of – or who? Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead? Some poor wretch destined for dust? You’ve forgotten me, God, who made you, who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth. Isaiah 51: 12-13 (MSG)

I am afraid of confrontation.

I know that confronting a small thing when it occurs is better than facing off about a big thing further down the line. 

This last month I forgot this and I ended up in a situation where I was feeling used and abused and alone. 

After another episode of being treated badly I yelled at my computer in frustration and then burst into tears. 

My poor husband has heard me ranting about the situation for weeks. While I stood there wiping tears away he told me to quit. 

He told me I needed to stand up for myself and if it meant that I lost the contract we’d find another way to make ends meet. 

And I knew: this man had my back. 

I’d forgotten that I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t need to solve this problem on my own. 

Later in the day I thought about what had happened and about how I do the same thing with God. 

I forget that God has my back. (tweet this)

I think that’s why God included verses like Isaiah 51:12 – 14 in the Bible, little reminders that he is bigger than all our problems

Cues that most of my worries are tiny 

compared to a God who made me, unfurled the skies, and founded the earth.

When I put it like that I wonder why I would ever think that God didn’t have my back?

Why I would stress for even one moment that if I stand up for myself God won’t back me up. 

My problems are nothing compared to crafting a human, or flinging stars, or speaking a planet into being but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. 

As long as I remember God has my back, all my fears seem tiny. (tweet this)

Even confrontation doesn’t seem so scary when I remember that God is standing right behind me saying, 

“I’ve got this. No matter what happens, I’ve got your back.” (tweet this)

Ponder: Do you ever feel like no one has your back? How do you feel about the idea that God has your back?

Prayer: Lord, thank you that I don’t need to be afraid because you are with me. Amen.

Wendy

 

Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon-a man who talks non-stop about cycling-and makes her laugh. She write for anyone who has ever held a loved one's hand through illness, or believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holdiay through a foreign land with just a backpack. - See more of Wendy at www.ilovedevotionals.com. Connect with Wendy on Facebook, Twitter
 

Do You Want a God Who Builds Skyscrapers or One Who Makes Stars?

By: Martha Bailey
Posted: August 21, 2014

I sat in the early worship service fighting tears that refused to be held back as we sang:

“Change my heart, Oh God.  Make it ever true. Change my heart, oh God; may I  be like You.  You are the potter; I am the clay.  Mold me and make me; this is what I pray.”

Afterwards I leaned over to Waylon and said, “Isn’t it amazing how those words take on a new meaning given our new set of circumstances?”

A few weeks earlier I had been faced with an option—to choose my own selfish desires or to choose to be more like Jesus.  It was a WWJD moment.  Opting for the latter would mean I couldn’t turn my head from hurting and needy people. Instead I would have to look them straight in the eye knowing it was going to rip my heart out and be very costly.

Acknowledging the Lord as “the potter” and me as “the clay” would mean He would begin to mold my mind so I could view the world through His eyes.  Matthew 9:36a tells us that “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.”  We say, “Of course, He did.  He is Jesus.” But in order to really understand the words Matthew recorded we need to know what the word compassion means.  It’s more than just seeing with our eyes and saying, “Aww, poor people.”  No.  Real compassion is something we feel—in the pit of our stomach or in our chest.

It’s an emotion that won’t go away and compels us to action.

Later in the service Sunday we sang, “Wherever He Leads I’ll go; Wherever He leads I’ll go.  I’ll  follow my Christ who loves me so; wherever He leads I’ll go.”

Allowing the words to sink deep in my heart I realized “wherever” means wherever He chooses not wherever I choose.  Weeks before God had said to me, “Trust me.  Don’t try to figure this situation out.  You’re not smart enough.  You are in an IMPOSSIBLE situation.  But if you will believe I am sovereign, I will make your path clear.  Clear—not easy.”  I knew He was asking me to demonstrate I genuinely believed what He said—that I really would trust Him.

Toward the end of Week Three of our ordeal, some precious friends gave me a book entitled Perfect Trust, by Charles Swindoll.  Knowing that was what I desperately needed—not a little bit of trust, not a kinda sorta trust, but p e r f e c t  t r u s t—I devoured every word of the book.

Making his case for trusting God, Swindoll compared what man can do as opposed to what God can do.  He said that when people do something it has the mark of humanity on it. For example, when people build a skyscraper, “You can follow the logic of it and see the meaning behind it.  You can even read what they paid for it. And how they pulled it off and the organization that made it so slick.”

However, Swindoll went on to say, “God doesn’t build skyscrapers; men build skyscrapers.  And they all have the touch of genius.  Human genius.  But you cannot find a man who can make a star.  And when God steps in, His working is like the difference between a skyscraper and a star” (Perfect Trust pp.32-33).

Isn’t that profound?

Have you like I many times settled for what I can do when we have access to the Sovereign Lord of the universe who “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name?” (Psalm 147:4

Lately, the Lord has made it clear to me that while much of life can be handled by human ingenuity, there are situations that can only be handled by the wisdom mentioned in James 1:5-8.  It comes from God who gives it generously to those who trust Him.

Today let’s trust God when He said,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,  so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)?

Let’s don’t settle for wisdom that can only build skyscrapers.  Let’s take our petitions to the top–to the One who can make stars.

Dear Father, help me to believe that nothing is impossible with You. Help me take great comfort in knowing You don’t build skyscrapers, but You are the  omnipotent Lord of the universe Who “determines the stars and calls them each by name.”  Help me to trust You with all my heart.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 55:8-9; James 1:5-8

 

Martha

Martha is a pastor's wife, author of two books--Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away and It Hurts but I'm Okay (available at Amazon and insight Press)--and blogs Wednesdays at marthabailey.comTo find out more about Martha's: Treasures, Past, Christian Service, Publications and Passions, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.

Let it go, Let it go, That perfect girl is gone!

By: Dianna Salciccioli
Posted: August 18, 2014

Since last November lots of young girls have been holding their hair brushes and singing at the top of their lungs, "Let it go, Let it go"!!  Parents, teachers, and even youth leaders have expressed weariness to hearing this sung over and over and over again!  Knowing this I have taken time to listen to how young girls sing this song and I have been amazed!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evey time I hear a young girl sing this song, she revs up her emphasis and volume when she sings the verse, " Let it go, Let it go. I'll rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, Let it go! That perfect girl is gone!! Here I stand in the light of day! Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway!!  Why do you think this is?

Let me share some insights.  As women, young or old, we want to be accepted; to be liked.  We get wounded when we are rejected or misjudged.  Often we hide who we really are in order to appear perfect, and judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else when we feel we don't measure up to the perfection we expect from ourselves.

It makes sense that young girls love to "shout" the words to the song, "That Perfect Girl is Gone" because it feels freeing to act like we simply do not care what people think, but we do!!

I have written about this before but it bears repeating; we won't please all the people all the time!  We won't always measure up to the expectations of others, and as hard as we try we will not achieve perfection!

So here's what is true~~ God has poured good gifts into us all.  His love is laced with grace, forgiveness, and hope. Every day is a new beginning and we are saved by grace --not perfect works!!

So, my ladies~~ young and old~~ you don't need to be perfect to be crazy loved by your Lord!! He thinks you are precious beyond measure! Embrace these thoughts today!!

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins 1 John 4:10

These thoughts were on my heart today; I pray you are encouraged by them!!

Dianna

Dianna Salciccioli co-founded and leads alongside her husband Greg, at Coachwell, Inc.- Coaching & Consulting Company. Dianna's been a pastor’s wife, pregnancy resource director, teacher’s aide, youth pastor’s assistant, and coach in her life but her highest calling is being a quality wife to her precious husband, as well as a hands on mom to her incredible sons!  Over the past five years she's been blessed to add to her “roles” that of mother- in- law to two of the greatest young women she knows! This year, Dianna's role grew to grandma and her heart swells at the thought! Follow Dianna on her blog.

Everybody's Love Smells Different

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: August 13, 2014

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.         2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Grace’s ringlet curls wrapped around her spangly bracelets as she leaned across our bubble gum tea party. She wiggled her index finger in the space between our faces. “C’mere, mommy…real close and breathe big with me” and we did as if together, we could breathe in tiny moments like solid molecules. “Mmmm…I love you. You stink really good today, mommy.” Of course, I completely understood that it was the scent of my perfume but what Grace really smelled was my love.

Everybody’s love smells different.

My Italian grandma was never a gushing geyser of sentiments but I do remember the endless flow of Little Debbies that grew within the pockets of her flowered, polyester housecoat and sent me on cream filling waves across her kitchen linoleum, to the gold shag carpeted guest room. I never knew what treasures waited behind the real imitation wood closet doors with their shiny brass knobs. There were always stacks of toys, games, and primary colored striped clothes that if they were too big for me, I could pass to my older sister and too small, given to a younger cousin.

My grandma’s love smelled like a mix of garlic and mothballs.

In the Old Testament around the time of the battles between the "ites" and the ambivalent Israelites, animal sacrifices were pleasing aromas to God. I’ve read the New Testament starting with the red letters enough to know what Jesus saw, heard, tasted, touched but what did Jesus smell

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.                                                                                                                                                                                           2 Corinthians 2:16                                  

 Lazarus was dead for four days

A woman with an issue of blood for 12 years

Legion and his tomb dwelling demons

And how about that mid-dinner pedi Jesus did for all of his disciples?

Let’s face it, what Jesus had to smell would leave us gagging. Nowhere do we read about Jesus priming his hand sanitizer bottle or getting into a Febreze spraying frenzy after each encounter.

Not a mention of what He smelled, because maybe what Jesus smelled was love.

Live a life filled with love following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.       Ephesians 5:2

Retracing the steps across and around the decades of my life, I see first my 20’s “if God loved me."  30’s “when He loves me." Now in my 40’s and no longer an “unsecure person," but firmly rooted in faith and realizing that grace isn’t acquired like a scouting merit badge, it’s because He is love. God loves me because God is love and to Jesus, I hopefully stink really good.

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. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

God Is Enough

By: Sabrina Nelson
Posted: August 11, 2014

 

Have you ever stopped and wondered if God had a bucket list? Would He have made a list that included watching His only son Jesus be tortured, crucified, dead and buried? I am sure if He did make a list it would include all of the wonderful things that He accomplished. Feeding 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish from a little boy (John 6:5-13), parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:18,31), restoring sight to the blind and the lame able to walk. All just a day’s work for God!

There are wonderful places to visit and things to do, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have decided that a bucket list should actually be a short one for me. I may be able to go places and be blessed enough to do things I might desire to do in this life, but I want my main focus to always be Christ centered and all of the things on my bucket list be only things that would result in His glorification

Sabrina’s Bucket List:

 1. Live for God, solely for Him and have a relationship with Him that HE desires.

 2. Share His name, His word, His works with others. This is something He desires and asks of us.

 3. Lead others to Him. This is what we are called to do as children of God and yet another of His desires.

 I truly want my bucket list to be the things that God desires of me.

I want... to always be one with a servant’s heart, a willing vessel and spirit that will do whatever it is He calls me to do at any moment.

I want…His love to shine from me and for others to know without a doubt that when they see me, they see Jesus.

I want…to share His word with others so that they may come to know Him.

I want…to praise Him all of my days, both the good and the bad for after all, any day given to us is from God.

 I believe if I am able to do all of these things, all of the places I may want to go, or things I may want to see will all just be blessings granted to me by God for being a good and faithful servant. Nothing in life is free and the price Jesus paid on the cross for our sins certainly is the biggest price of all.  How hard should it be for us to attempt to repay such a debt? It shouldn’t be. We should all wish to live for Him just as He was willing to die for us. In my eyes, that is not asking too much at all. In fact, I feel I could NEVER do enough but God is enough!

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.   Philippians 4:13

Why had I waited to really see this now? Due to my own serious health issues and suffering losses all around me, it made me begin to wonder...

Be still and know that I am God   Psalm 46:10

God was writing my bucket list this entire time. I learned to trust Him and have faith that He was working all the while for my good. And I learned to be still. Trusting Him and having faith in His plan led me straight to Compassion That Compels. He brought me right into exactly what He wanted me to be doing. This ministry has become so close to my heart and a huge part of my life that I could never thank Him enough for the trials I endured. I am grateful for those valleys He led me out of, only to lead me straight to Kristianne and Compassion That Compels! He knew what He was doing all along. He only needed me to trust.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Isaiah 41:13

I will never doubt Him again! And in return, my bucket list-my priorities have completely changed for the best! I challenge you to do two things. Sit down and write your bucket list and see where God ranks on that list! If He isn’t at the top, put Him there. At the end of the week, sit down and write your list of things you’ve done for God that week. It may not be a long list but it’s a start! Remember, every page starts blank. Every day with Jesus is a clean slate. It’s up to you to write it and to live it 

God Bless,

Sabrina

Sabrina is a loving wife who is blessed beyond measure. A servant’s heart is woven into her being and her focus is giving to others and leading them to know God. She is married to her best friend, has an amazing mom, two great step-daughters and one precious granddaughter. Follow Sabrina on Facebook or Twitter@sabrinamnelson.

 

 

 

And you might have cancer

By: Diana Focht
Posted: August 7, 2014

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:4

The Scripture Mints and Scripture Tea are long gone, but the love and compassion behind the gifting of my Compassion Bag remains! Little did I know that February night, when my sister-in-law, Heather, called me to ask if she and her Mom, Renee, could come over, how much my world would change.

November of 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 endometrial cancer and underwent major surgery in December. I welcomed the new year by starting six rounds of chemotherapy treatments. About two weeks after my second treatment, Heather and Renee showed up at my doorstep and I was TIRED. It had been a long day at work, I was suffering from the effects of the chemo and did I mention I was TIRED. Renee couldn't wait to present my Compassion Bag to me and told me this incredible story as to how she was able to purchase the bag for me. The story Renee told, portrayed to me not only her heart (and persistence), but also the heart of the ministry from which the Compassion Bag originated, Compassion That Compels.

The Compassion Bag is practical and each item has a specific purpose. The bag itself is a great way to haul around all of your stuff. The infusion room where I received my chemo treatment was kept at a cooler temperature, so a blanket was always needed. Kristianne, the founder of Compassion That Compels, describes the inclusion of the Chick-fil-A gift card as a way to escape "from a hospital cafeteria to a land flowing with sweet tea and nugget sauce". She also states that the scripture attached to each useful item reminds a cancer overcomer that she is "first, an overcomer in Christ". How true that is! 

Even more than its practical use, my Compassion Bag represented love, God's love and others' love. As a single woman battling cancer, there were times when I felt like I was going through the cancer journey alone. God used my Compassion Bag to surround me with people who showed me that they loved me and cared about me. I am thankful to Renee and her husband, Bruce, for showing God's love and compassion through purchasing the bag. I am thankful to Kristianne for having the heart, compassion, and vision to start a ministry to reach out and touch women battling cancer. A ministry which I am now excited to be a part of!

The love and compassion embodied in the gifting of my Compassion Bag was one of many things that contributed to a holy revolution in my life…a radical transformation! I am not the same person who heard the words, "and you might have cancer", back in November of last year. Cancer catapulted me into another spiritual stratosphere like none I have experienced before. Early in my cancer journey, I asked a friend how someone could look at something like cancer and say that it was the best thing to ever happen to them. That it was a blessing and if they had to do it all over again, they wouldn't change a thing. At the time, I didn't understand that the reason for the trials in our lives, the cancer in my life, is very simple; it is to make us more like Jesus. It was only when this truth penetrated my heart, that I could cast off the whys and the what ifs, and allow God to radically work in my life.

My cancer had a purpose for being

My cancer had a voice for speaking

My cancer had a heart for loving

My cancer had eyes for seeing

My cancer became the best thing to ever happen to me and if God through His grace told me I could relive the last nine months of my life, I wouldn't change a thing! And though I still have a long way to go, I have become more like Jesus! There is no better place to be and the remnants of my Compassion Bag; well, they remind me that during the most difficult journey of my life, I was loved…and I still am!  

Diana

 Diana Focht is a cancer overcomer who is daily being transformed by the grace of God! Find her Facebook  #DreamParade

Dreaming Out Loud

By: Monica Steely
Posted: August 4, 2014

 

We tend to pursue our dreams in secret, don’t we?

We tiptoe toward them in our fuzzy slippers and robes during the darkest hours, daring not to make a sound as to not wake up the dream slayers — the fears and doubts and uncertainties that are deaf but know we’re coming anyway. 

We whisper our dreams softly, don’t we? 

It’s almost impossible to hear them ourselves and it’s easy to forget we ever uttered them at all. Instead of living them out loud, we tuck them into our books at night and they sit on our nightstand collecting dust until it’s time to read again, then fall asleep again, then dream again.

Why are we so quiet about having dreams, or speaking dreams or pursuing dreams? 

Can I share something with you?

I’m tired of whispering my dreams. 

Not many people know this, but a year or so ago, I had an amazing publisher interested in my book — a book that has been a dream of mine for over six years. It passed Acquisitions Committee and then went to Publications Board twice. After the second time, they finally settled on a no.

I’ve been sitting with that no for a year now, and honestly I’m okay with the answer. But what I’m not okay with? How I handled the entire process of this dream.

I told only a handful of people what was happening during the process. Somewhere along the way in my life, I’ve believed that in order to have a Deep True Dream, you have to keep it quiet until it comes to pass. Like there’s some superstitious jinx where sharing it will prevent it from becoming a reality.

But you know what the consequence is for pursuing dreams so fearfully and quietly? We lose dreamers. We stop teaching others that regardless of the outcome, it’s healthy to dream. And most importantly, we lose the opportunity to show others how to trust Jesus, even when we pursue our dreams and “fail.”

From the world’s point of view, I failed in reaching my dream. By not getting a book deal, I can easily become convinced that dream is dead and that I need to pursue a more “realistic” dream.

But can I tell you something?

I think, more accurately, that I actually succeeded. Why? Because every other time in my life when I’ve been faced with rejection, I’ve allowed it to break me; taking it personally and allowing it to dictate who I am and what I’m worth. 

Can I tell you something?

This was the first time in my life I didn’t do that.

Can I tell you something else?

During the process, I wasn’t sure if I wanted God’s will for my life more than I wanted this book. I quite honestly had a very, very hard time separating the two, and it became my constant prayer that the book wasn’t becoming an idol. I wasn’t sure where my heart truly stood on the matter. 

And you know what else?

While I’m still saddened and disappointed by this loss, my peace and trust in my Lord has not wavered, even for a second. I know and trust — even when I cannot see — that He has a plan for me and my life. And I know now, by that nonsensical yet supernatural peace, that I do want His will more than a book.

And the most favorite thing of all?

Through this process, my daughter has gotten to see that we don’t always succeed in everything we set out to do. Sometimes we can reach out and touch our dreams for a split second, and they can still slip out of our fingers in an instant — but that doesn’t stop our dreaming. It just makes us press in and work harder and believe God more. I am proud that she got to see me cry and mourn, but that I can put my hope in Jesus — the Dream Maker — and not just the dream itself.

 

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him

and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:28)

 

So in the end, I think I won.

Why would I stay silent about that kind of success?

I think from now on I’m going to live my dreams out loud instead of tiptoeing toward them in my fuzzy slippers and robe. Not because I’m seeking attention or accolades for myself, but because I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spur another on in victory. And maybe if we all saw each other courageously pursuing dreams — regardless of the outcome — we’d find the courage to pursue more of ours, too.

So here’s to beating the drum and marching loudly in the #DreamParade — eyes on the Conductor as He orchestrates everything to work toward beautiful and good things.

 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. Listen to BE’s podcasts on iTunes or Buzzsprout.

 Photo © istockphoto.com/Belodarova

 

 

 

It started with a letter and a sweater

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: July 29, 2014

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. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

 

 

 

Do the Work

By: Kristen Feola
Posted: July 28, 2014

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. – 1 Chronicles 28:20a, 

I sat in front of my computer monitor. Three months, I thought. I have only three months to finish this book. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. My neck was tight, and my shoulders were sagging under the heavy load. I opened up the Word for encouragement and turned to my Bible reading passage for the day – 1 Chronicles 28.

King David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem for an important announcement:

Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood. Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father (28:2-3, 6,). Then, in the presence of all the people, David presented Solomon with detailed instructions on the project. “Every part of this plan,” David told Solomon, “was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord  (28:19).

At this point, David turned to Solomon and said: Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly (28:20).

The Lord spoke to my heart loudly and clearly through that last verse. I sensed him saying, “Kristen, be strong and courageous. I am with you. I have chosen you to write this book, just as I chose David to be king and Solomon to build the Temple. You can trust me to provide everything you need. I will see to it that the book is written just as I want it to be.”

Are you feeling overwhelmed by what God has called you to do? Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward. Remember, God is with you. Put your trust in him, and remind yourself daily, if necessary: What is impossible with man is possible with God   Luke 18:27.

Be strong in the Lord, and do the work. God will take care of the rest.

 

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.

 

 

 

We're All Stars

By: Monica Steely
Posted: July 21, 2014

 

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

 

 

 

Unshakable

By: Nancy Backues
Posted: July 14, 2014

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 FacebookTwitter, or Pintrest.

 

 

 

The One Thing

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: July 7, 2014

 

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.

 

 

 

What I Learned at Church Camp

By: Kristen Feola
Posted: June 30, 2014

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.

 

 

 

The CAKE Test: Evaluating Your Women’s Ministry

By: Chris Adams
Posted: June 23, 2014

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.