You Are A Visionary

A visionary is someone with a strong vision of the future. It seems like a title reserved for a select few: people like Walt Disney, George Lucas, Brian Houston, Steve Jobs, or Nelson Mandela, but I believe every born again believer can live in such a way that “visionary” will come up at some point during their eulogy.

God was a visionary. He envisioned the sky with its clouds, moon, stars, and sun. He envisioned the sea with its white waves, jellyfish, and coral. He envisioned the giraffe with its giant spots, extra-long eyelashes and black tongue. And He envisioned you.

Psalm 139:15-16 Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Before you took your first breath, God had a strong vision for your future. He is a visionary, and because His very Spirit lives in you, you are a visionary.

Don’t scoff. Quit inwardly rolling your eyes. I know you may not feel like a visionary, but if that’s the case, it’s only because you’ve never identified with that part of your spiritual DNA. You were created to have a strong vision of your future, the good hope-filled future that God has prepared for you.

Last October Josh and I were headed to Birmingham, Alabama for a very anticipated ministry conference and three days with no kids (Hallelujah! Can I get an amen?). When we arrived at the airport we found that our flight had been cancelled. Insert devastated emoji face here. We couldn’t get a flight out until the next day, which just wouldn’t have worked. It was drive 10 hours, or don’t go at all. We decided to drive it. We rented the cheapest car we could find and took off. A few minutes into the trip Josh discovered the car did not have a cruise control feature. He was a good sport about it, but I know driving 10 hours without being able to set the cruise control and just…you know…cruise, made the trip more work for him.

Cruise control on a 10-hour road trip is a good, good thing. It’s so easy to pick a speed, pick a lane, get comfortable, and set off to your destination, but visionaries understand that if you want the future to look different, you have to do something different.

If you want 2017 to be more fulfilling than 2016, than you’ll have to turn cruise control off. You’ll have to be okay with uncomfortable. You’ll have to desire different. If you keep on keeping on like you kept on last year, you’ll repeat the same year.

What would 2017 look like if you spent time seeking God and asking Him to reveal His vision for you to you? Remember, He said every stage of our lives was laid out in front of Him before our “birth” days!

He has envisioned what your relationship with Him looks like this year. He has envisioned your marriage. He has envisioned your career, your savings account, your friendships, your family life, your influence, your health, your mornings, your lunch breaks, your world. He’s envisioned it all, now it’s your turn. It’s your turn to kick into visionary mode. It’s your turn to dream about what God has planned for you this year.

Habakkuk 2:2 says, Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.

I believe God is calling you to “run with it,” but before you can run with it, you must take time to understand what “it” is. Sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and let God start to reveal His vision for you to you. Make it plain, easy to understand, create a timeline, think through practical steps that will make the vision become a reality. Write those steps down, and then read what you wrote and read it often. Keep it in front of your eyes, and then you can run with it and live out the life God has envisioned for you.

You are a visionary.

HeMarveled2

He Marveled

Marvel: to be filled with wonder or astonishment.

While Jesus walked the earth He marveled at two things.  Not a beautiful sunset, not a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, not a baby taking its first breath, or the way people act when the moon is full.

He marveled at faith and unbelief.

In Luke, chapter 7, a centurion’s servant was sick on his death bed.  The centurion had such great faith in the healing power of Jesus and such an understanding of authority that he knew all Jesus needed to do was say the word and his servant would be healed.   

Luke 7:9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 

In Mark, chapter 6, Jesus returns to Nazareth, his old stomping grounds, but instead of a warm welcome, people are offended and don’t believe that this boy from Nazareth is anything more than a carpenter.

Mark 6:5-6  Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He marveled because of their unbelief.

Every one of us will make Jesus marvel, but will it be because of our great faith or unbelief?

It breaks my heart to think about Jesus being marveled by my lack of trust.  I don’t want Him to see me worried, stressed, or fearful because I don’t really believe what His Word says.  I don’t want Him to think, “Wow!  I can’t believe she won’t trust me in this area.”  I want to be a person that blows Jesus away with my faith.  I want Him to see me at peace, full of joy, and not leaning one little bit on my own understanding.  I want Him to think, “Wow! Look at my girl, trusting me with her whole heart!”

Jesus isn’t marveled by the sunset or a butterfly because they don’t have free will.  They do whatever He tells them to do.  He tells the sun to rise and the sun rises.  He tells the butterfly to fly and it flies.  He tells us through His Word to trust Him, but He can’t force us to do that.  It’s our decision.  We can choose to have faith or unbelief.  Either way, He’ll marvel, but I want to make him marvel like the centurion made Him marvel! I want to please Him with the level of faith and trust I have in Him.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God.

Go all in, trust God no matter what, and make it a marvelous day. 

DontLoseHeartFull

Don’t Lose Heart

Usually, shortly after you deliver a baby, the room fills with family and friends and laughter and smiles, pictures are being taken, and the feeling of hope for the little being who just took its first breath is through the roof.  But obviously the mood in the room after we delivered our son stillborn was drastically different. When we arrived at the hospital to deliver, the doctor warned us that it would be the hardest day of our lives. I didn’t believe him.  I didn’t think it could be worse than when we found out our baby had died just a few days earlier at a routine ultrasound.  We were prayed up and we were speaking God’s Word going into the delivery, but the doctor was right, it was the hardest day of our lives.

I could have lost heart, but I didn’t.  This verse David wrote explains why.

Psalm 27:13 (NKJV) I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

When David wrote this he didn’t say he didn’t lose heart because he could see the goodness of the Lord, he said he didn’t lose heart because he believed he would see it.  In other words, he couldn’t see the goodness of the Lord when he was going through difficulty, but he had faith that he would see it someday!

In the hours after the delivery, waiting to go home, feeling completely robbed, it was hard to see the goodness of God, but I never doubted that I would see it.  I believed that the next time I delivered a baby I would be leaving the hospital with him or her in my arms.  I believed that God would give me beauty for ashes.  I believed God would give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.

I KNEW I would see the goodness of God, and that kept me from losing heart. Our faith in God’s goodness got us through.  Three years later and I can say with confidence that we have indeed seen the goodness of God. 17 months after we delivered Felix stillborn we delivered a perfect, beautiful baby girl.  We named her Sunny to remind us that light shines in the darkness for the Godly and that just as the sun is faithful to rise and set every day, the Lord is faithful.

If you are going through a hard time and it seems like the goodness of God is out of sight, don’t lose heart. Have faith and believe that you will see it and your faith shall be your eyes.

“Those that walk by faith in the goodness of God shall in due time walk in the sight of that goodness.”   —Matthew Henry

Shadows

Shadows Of Shame

When I found out that I would have to deliver my third child stillborn I went through a wide range of emotion. Shock, sadness, confusion, anger, and one I haven’t talked much about—shame.  I felt inadequate as a woman.  I wondered what was wrong with me.  How did I mess this up?

I remember experiencing the same type of shameful feelings when we were trying to get pregnant with our first child.  We tried off and on for about a year and a half and my body was just not cooperating.  It’s a bit hard to conceive when ovulation is not occurring on a regular basis.  I felt like less of a woman because I couldn’t do what women are supposed to be able to do—make babies.  But glory be to God, I finally got pregnant with my sweet little boy, Gus!  My confidence was back.  I no longer felt like I had a defect, until that day at the doctor’s office, in 2012, when we found out our baby’s heart was no longer beating.

I not only felt I had failed as a woman, but as a Christian.  I was embarrassed to tell people that we lost a baby, that something terrible had happened to us.  I wondered what people would think.  I worried they might assume we had done something bad to open the door to an attack from the enemy.  I didn’t want to be a smudge on God’s masterpiece of goodness.  I didn’t want people to doubt Him, because things didn’t go according to plan for me.  I was ashamed.

I took a few weeks off from serving in the children’s classes at my church and the first weekend back I was nervous that some of the parents, who aren’t friends with me or my husband on Facebook and had not heard the news, were going to ask about the baby.  And sure enough, they did ask.  Several parents saw me and were excited that I was back and excited to hear about the new baby.  I hated having to tell them the sad news.  I felt like I was letting people down.  My very wise, very wonderful husband came by to check on me and to see how things were going and he could tell I was having a hard time.  He told me this was my chance to show people how good and gracious God has been.  He said when someone asks, tell them we lost the baby, but tell them how God is miraculously healing our hearts.  Give God more glory than the devil.

His little pep talked worked.  I felt different.  Instead of hoping no one asked, I was hoping that if they did, I would be able to answer in a way that magnified God.  I took the focus off myself and what I thought people may think of me and fixed it on God and what I wanted people to think of Him.

Psalm 34:5 (NLT) Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

When I stopped looking at myself and started looking at Him the shame left.  None of its shadows darken my face today.  I don’t feel embarrassed about what happened; I feel like sharing my story with as many people as I can. God changed it from a sad story into a happy one, and there are people all over the world who are in the middle of their own sad story and need to know that God is a finisher and that He loves happy endings.

Whatever is causing you to feel ashamed—a miscarriage, unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, an abortion, a weight problem, etc., look to Him for help.  He will cause your face to be radiant with joy, instead of darkened by shameful shadows.  Purpose to give God more glory than the devil.  Purpose to get to your happy ending.  Purpose to let God use what once caused you shame to help other people.

ChristianKids

Shooting Your Arrow By Faith

I love this time of year. Giant pencils hanging from the ceiling at Target, directing me toward the school supplies. Tax-free shopping for new shoes and skinny jeans, for my pride and joys. The anticipation of getting back into a routine.

On Thursday, my firstborn will have his first day of first grade. This time last year I was gearing up to send my little guy to kindergarten at—dun, dun dun—public school! I was kind of a wreck.

I grew up in public school. A big, 6-A public school. I was a Union Redskin from kindergarten until graduation day. I loved it and I turned out okay, right? So why was the thought of sending my son to public school so hard to wrap my mind around.

Maybe it’s because in 1990, when I started kindergarten, things were different. There were no 5-year-olds with their own iPads. Christmas break was called Christmas break instead of “winter” break. I could walk to school with my older brother and play in the front yard when I got home, even though my mom wasn’t home from work yet. School shootings were unheard of. No one knew what the Internet was and my teachers just stuck to the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic. There was no need to discuss same-sex marriage and gender-identity curriculum didn’t exist yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I was exposed to all kinds of things in public school, but times have really changed over the last 25 years and there’s no denying that Jesus isn’t welcome at public schools anymore. So how could I send my little boy into a place where Jesus wasn’t welcome? Well, I had no choice. Christian school, where we lived, was too expensive, and I didn’t feel like I was called to home school.

I really needed peace about this, so I brought it to the Lord, and He delivered.

In the second chapter of Exodus you can read about the birth of one of the greatest heroes in the Bible, Moses—and his amazing momma, Jochebed.

A few verses before we read about Moses being born, we read about Pharaoh ordering every newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. Pharaoh was inexplicably evil, willing to murder precious baby boys so that the Israelites would not grow to outnumber his people.

Can you imagine the horror Jochebed felt when she delivered Moses and her midwife whispered in her ear, “It’s a boy.” You know for nine months as she carried him she hoped and prayed that she would have a girl, for a girl she could keep. But God gave her a son, now what was she going to do with him?

The Bible said she saw Moses was special. She could see God’s hand on this baby boy’s life, so she kept him hidden for three months. I have three children and let me tell you it would be very, very difficult to keep an infant hidden for three months. I’m guessing she never let him “cry it out” to get him sleep-trained.  She probably couldn’t let him cry at all.  She was probably with him every waking minute, and I’m sure her bond with him grew stronger each passing day, but the time had come when she realized she couldn’t hide him any longer. She made a basket for him, lined it with his favorite blankie, put him in it, and left the basket near the river in some tall grass.  She had to be terrified, right?  Wrong!

Hebrews 11:23 (NKJV) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

This verse tells us she was not afraid.  Moses’ parents hid him not out of fear but out of faith!  When Jochebed left her baby in the basket that day, she was showing God she trusted Him to take care of her son.  She stepped out in faith and God followed with favor.  God not only took care of her son, but He made a way for Jochebed to continue to mother her beautiful baby boy.

As a Christian mom sending my child to public school, I felt a little like I was putting him in a basket in the Nile River. I had to choose: fear or faith?

After reading about Jochebed, it was easy to choose faith.

Jochebed sent Moses into a land where God was not welcome and just think about how mightily the Lord used him! God had a plan for Moses; He has one for my kids, and your kids, too!

When I dropped my son off last year, I didn’t shed a tear. I wasn’t sad or fearful, but full of faith. I believed that like Psalm 127 says, he is an arrow, an arrow we had spent the last five years sharpening, an arrow that would go out and fulfill His purpose. I believed that the Holy Spirit would guide him and lead him when choosing friends. I believed that he would be a light and a leader. I believed he would have favor with his teachers. I believed God would protect him physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and that no evil could befall him or come near him. I believed that God would use him mightily! Glory to God, he had a great school year! As we gear up for first grade, I am believing the same things.

Jochebed, a wife and a mother to three children, made a decision to have faith instead of fear, and her faith changed the course of history. Whatever your plan is for school this year—home school, Christian, private, or public—don’t be afraid. Launch your kids into their best year yet, full of faith in our great God!

SoundOfSilence

“The Sound Of Silence”

Remember when silence was golden?  Now I think most people think silence is awkward—and sometimes it is.  When you have new friends over to your house for the first time, conversation seems to be going well for a while, but then suddenly it comes to a screeching halt and no one knows what to say to start it back up—that can be awkward.  Or you sleep with a loud box fan right beside your bed, turned to its highest setting, and the power cuts off in the middle of the night.  That too, can be awkward.

Silence can be deafening, but it can still be golden.

Psalm 65:1 (AMP) To You belongs silence (the submissive wonder of reverence which bursts forth into praise) and praise is due and fitting to You, O God, in Zion.

I know for myself, there are times when I am overwhelmed by the greatness of my God—so overwhelmed that the words I use to tell Him just how great I think He is, seem so inadequate.   The Message version of Psalm 65:1 says, “Silence is praise to you.”

Silence is never awkward between my husband and me, because we have such a close relationship.  We don’t have to fill every second of our time together with chatter.  We are comfortable enough around each other to know that just because one of us isn’t saying much it doesn’t mean we aren’t having a good time.  The fact that we can be silent around each other solidifies our relationship.

The same is true with our relationship with God.  We can praise Him with our silence and He won’t think it’s awkward at all.  We can sit and just quietly think about how amazing He is and how worthy He is, and those quiet thoughts will burst forth into praise.

After the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, there were moments of silence that took place all over the country.  There was so much people could have said to honor the lives of the people that were lost, but even the most eloquent speech ever given wouldn’t have been enough, so we honored them with silence.

Sometimes it’s good for us to have a moment of silence in honor of the Lord; to stop talking for a few minutes and just quietly reflect on the price He paid for us, the love He has for us, and how holy He is.  Yes, daily make a joyful noise unto Him, and yes, daily tell Him with your mouth how good He is, but don’t be afraid to let your silent adoration honor Him when you feel like you are at a loss for words. He can have that effect on people!  Your moments of silence will be music to His ears.

MoreMature

Why Your Child Might Be More Mature Than You

I John 4:18 (AMP) There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].

The full maturity of love—how long do you have to be saved before you can reach the full maturity of love?  In America someone decided that when you turn 18 you are mature enough to be called an adult.  Even though I thought I was mature at 18, I was not even close. Maturity usually comes with age, but I don’t think age is a factor when it comes to reaching the full maturity of love that First John 4:18 is talking about.  You don’t have to be saved for 18 years, 30 years, or even 40 years to experience God’s perfect love—the perfect loves that drives out every trace of fear.

My son Gus asked Jesus into his heart only three months ago, but he seems to have already reached full maturity in God’s love.  He is nowhere near mature in any other area. He still gets food all over the floor at dinner, cries when he loses at the game Memory, and has to have his clothes picked out for him, but this perfect love of God thing he’s got down pat and because of that he’s fearless.

There is no fear in God’s perfect love and all Gus knows of God’s love is that it is perfect so he knows no fear.  He has never had to experience anything that would cause him to doubt God’s love for him.  Could it be the older we get and the more we see and experience, the less mature in God’s love we become?  We go through trials, loss, and hurt, and that view of God’s perfect love that we used to have seems like an illusion instead of reality. So we go back to being immature and welcome fear and worry into our lives.

If we want to be fearless, if we want to expel every trace of terror, every thought of punishment, we have to get back to that place that perhaps we haven’t been to since we were 4 years old like Gus.  That place where God’s love is perfect, no matter what.  That place where we are so aware of God’s love for us that nothing else matters.  That place where we don’t worry about anything, because we trust that everything is being taken care of for us.

We’ve all been through things we never thought we’d have to go through, but the truth is, God’s love for us never changed, it’s always been the same, it’s always been perfect. The only thing that changed was our perception of it.

I am not at the perfect place of full maturity in God’s love and I know that because I still deal with thoughts of worry and fear, but I’m so thankful to know that it’s not something I have to wait until I’m a certain spiritual age to achieve.  My son Gus has taught me that the maturity I want doesn’t come with age at all.  I want to be fearless like he is, so my prayer today is that the Lord would show me how to get back to that place where my view of God’s love was perfect, because His love still is perfect, it always has been perfect, and it always will be perfect!