Packing For The Journey Ahead

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This is a picture of bags packed for a recent trip we took. Notice we humans packed quite a bit into these two bags but Lulu the Wonder Dog demonstrated a valuable lesson.  She only packed what was necessary for the journey ahead. She packed her favorite chew toy. That toy goes everywhere with her. She lays it down next to her food bowl while she eats, she takes it outside with her, she takes it to bed with her. That one thing was all that she needed.

Think about this for a minute. ONE THING! 

Matthew 6: 25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?g 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Such is life. We carry around all these bags stuffed with memories, life patterns, and thought processes. Some are to be stored away for safe keeping. Things like lessons learned, rich fulfilling friendships, family adventures. Yet, other memories, life patterns, and thought processes are used to torment our lives and cause anxiety, worry, and fear but we’re afraid to leave them behind because we might need them on the journey.

Lulu showed us this day that you can’t leave everything behind, but taking everything with you becomes too heavy. She could only take what she could reasonably carry to keep up on the journey.

You see, she was going on a journey with her humans. She didn’t have to worry about food because that was their job. She didn’t have to worry about where she would lay her head to sleep because that was their job. She didn’t even have to worry about where she was going, it was an adventure! She was happy to be led. All she needed was her chew toy. Everything else would take care of itself. She had confidence in that. She was living by what she understood. Not everything could go with her and not everything was necessary. She opted to trust her guides.

So where are you going and what are you taking with you? Burdens? Obstacles? Fear? Anxiety? A map? Vision? A Word? A prayer? Anticipation? Are you stuffing bags just in case life fails you? Are you packing just in case God doesn’t come through? Are you packing because you have become a hoarder of insignificant things but maybe lack has made you afraid to get rid of anything? Are you stuffing things in your bags that were necessary a long time ago but that won’t serve you today?

Remember what Lulu is teaching us today:

You can’t leave everything  behind and taking everything with you is too heavy for your journey. Pack well my friends! 

 

Those Accountable Friends

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Proverbs 27:5 An open rebuke is better than hidden love!

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

 

A friend of mine asked if I had anyone who holds me accountable. I answered that in fact I do. She said that she did as well and that the response of those who kept her accountable helped keep her in check when she got out of line in her own life.

It’s that way with me. When  I get out of line or am thinking about issues with the wrong frame of mind I have people in my life who hold me accountable. It happened recently when someone who I have given permission to speak into my life called me out on an issue in front of a group of friends. If I am honest, it stung but here’s the thing, if I am open to growth I am open to receive correction, so I prayed about it and examined myself. I then examined why I do it and I needed to take a step back and assess my intention. When we came back together I apologized to the group and thanked my friend for telling me.

Galatians 2:14 When I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 

I hate generalities and as I type I can feel you asking me, WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU WERE DOING?, so here was the gist:

My friend asked if I had heard the story of the many starfish who were stranded on the shore. A man was seen throwing the starfish back into the water. The man who witnessed asked if this endeavor was going to make a difference given the number of starfish left to go and the man who was throwing starfish into the water said, “It makes a difference to that one.” My friend proceeded to tell me that she thinks of me when she hears that story because I am a rescuer. I get starfish back into the water and it’s admirable but once back in the water, I go put my attention on another stranded starfish. The starfish who is now settled, gets little  attention from me and that I needed to decide if I was strictly a counselor or a friend, both very different. In the moment it felt as if she were saying I ditch my friends for the next rescue but what she was asking was, did I notice I did this and was it intentional? I hadn’t noticed I did this and it was in no way intentional but I can see how it can hurt someone and it wasn’t my heart.

Dave Ramsey in his Financial Peace University said if the person you choose to hold you accountable can’t hurt your feelings sometimes, then you have the wrong person. We protest this thought process because we live in a generation where feelings matter more than fact but what if you are hurting someone unintentionally and because you won’t receive it you continue to live an area of your life in error?

Proverbs 28:33 He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue.

So who holds you accountable? Are they allowed to hurt your feelings? If not, get someone who can. Whatever you do, don’t correct someone’s bad behavior if they haven’t given you permission to do so because you will not be received and will create an offense.

My Weapon of Choice

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You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side ~ Chris Tomlin

Sitting in church this morning as we sang this song in semi-unison, I need to remember that the bible says make a joyful noise and even though we clap and sing to different beats and tones we are here for one purpose.  I felt such total peace. To stand under the wing of the One who formed me before the foundation of the earth knowing I am secure because the weapons of my warfare are not designed in the earthly realm, and since I don’t war people, there is no need.  I war thought processes and mindsets that crept into my soul making me feel that I wasn’t enough on my own and that there were things I needed that I didn’t have. I war perceived inadequacies in relationships that make me feel unloved, and until I gain clarity on the situation at hand, I stand feeling unworthy and helpless.  Yet when I read the bible it says I am more than enough in fact, I was created with everything I would ever need downloaded.

Isaiah 54:15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

When I read that no weapon formed against me will prevail it tells me that weapons will be formed to take me out but they can’t. It takes me back to when I was a kid and I wanted to be Wonder Woman only now I really am. I can stand as the arrows fly, and people say and do whatever they say and do and as long as I don’t respond with the same arrows, they fly by. Sure, the threat hurts my feelings, but feelings are up and down and I don’t live my life by them.

Know who you are and especially whose you are and then whatever arrows try to come to distract you from your God-given path know that they can’t harm you. You’re not out until God says you’re out.

 

Courageous Friendship

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2 Samuel 12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

Yesterday standing in front of Costco we ran into some friends. They told us a story about an incident in their church and how it had been handled. Instantly the idea of courageous friendship came to mind because that is what they had been. They had spoken truth in love and it’s painful to do sometimes.

You see, courageous friendship speaks the truth. Maybe you don’t agree when being corrected by a someone who is supposed to be your friend but a friend loves you anyway. In the case of Nathan and David in the bible passage above, verse 15 tells a powerful tale. It says,

15 Then Nathan went to his house.

Nathan went home. He went home to his own food, his own issues, his own bills, his own life, his own wife. He didn’t have to go to David to confront his sin, but love and a word from the Lord can send you places that are awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes there is nothing in it for you but heartache for a friend.

Courageous friendships are not ones who post on Social Media trying to gather a following. They are not found whispering in dark places. Courageous friendships are knocking on your door and resolving issues. You and them. Them and you.

Nathan and David had shared a rich friendship. Do you have any rich friendships? Ones in which courage is acknowledged and expected? Or do you move on to the next best thing each time the word comes and it doesn’t agree with your agenda?

In Time

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Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.

Lost Things

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Last week I went shopping with my Starks, Louisiana cousins. We met up for lunch and some girl time. My husband was spending some one on one time with his dad so this was perfect. Around 6 pm I decided to give my husband a call to see how he was doing. I opened my purse to grab my phone. It wasn’t in its usual spot so I began to dig around for it and quickly discovered I didn’t have it.

I stopped and thought back to if I had put anything down and the only time I set anything down was in the dressing room so I quickly walked back. I mean quickly.

No phone. I retraced my steps throughout the store. No phone. I went to the Customer Service desk and asked if anyone had turned in a phone. “No Ma’am.” I searched my Apple Watch to see if I could find the Find My Phone app. No app. I went to look for my cousins. Still not in full panic mode, but close, I borrowed the car keys to see if I had left it on the seat. No phone on the seat, no phone on the floor, no phone between the seats. I stop and say aloud, “Lord, I need your help.” I look through my shopping bags. Nothing. I go back in the store and my cousin calls my phone. It has a loud ringer. Nothing. I call my husband from her phone and give him instructions. “Please call Verizon, tell them I lost my phone. Then get on your Find My Phone app and log in as me and find out where my phone is.” I’m a little more worried at this point, because a) my husband isn’t great at these things and b) I have lost a $400 phone.

My husband calls me back three or four times because he can’t figure out how to do what I’ve asked and then he finally calls back to give me the address of where my phone is pinging. It’s at a shop we were at earlier, which is now closed and doesn’t have an answering machine. He says calmly, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

My cousin, gets on Facebook and sends the owner a Private Message but in the meantime, I offer to buy us all a Starbucks, yes you guessed it, app on the phone has the money on it, luckily I have some cash, and we head back home. I’m worried about the phone. I am with family, I am with my husband, it’s not a matter of connection, it’s the cost and the fact that I don’t remember when the last time I backed it up to the computer and how reliable is the cloud anyway?

The next day, we get up but guess what? No cell service because in Starks Louisiana Verizon doesn’t work, only AT&T. Go figure. So my cousin calls the store and they aren’t open yet. It’s a 45 minute drive there but my husband wants to stop by his mom’s house first. Ugh! I get ugly. “Sure, let’s go to your mom’s because your phone isn’t missing.” Yes, not my proudest moment by far.

My cousin calls us on the way to the store, yes he skipped going to his mom’s, and says she has spoken to the owner and the owner is checking for my phone. She tells the owner it is either in the dressing room or on the counter. Sure enough, it’s fallen between a gap in the chair in the dressing room. Big shout out to La-Tee-Da Boutique for their amazing attitude and care. I walk into the shop about an hour later and the owner smiles big and says, “Hello Susan! I have your phone.”

Whew! What a relief. I walk out after my sincere thank you and thank the Lord. “Lord thank you for your help and your kind people.” The Lord says, “I know about lost things.” Ignorant me, I smile and say, “Yes, I know!” Totally oblivious about the lesson.

Then Chris Hodges preaches at Grow16 about lost people and how God must feel frantic about them and how the Lord needs us to do our job. In that moment my eyes filled with tears and my heart begins to pound in my chest, as they are doing as I’m writing this, and the tears begin to stream down my face, as they are doing now in an airport waiting for my flight.

That frantic feeling I had retracing my steps, trying to figure out where I had left them, how it grieved me to lose something expensive, that is nothing compared to what God lost.

Folks this was a phone. This was a phone.

We’re talking about lost people. Chris Hodges said how sad it must make God when we pray sometimes. I repented in that moment. “Lord, I’m sorry. I prayed for your help with such clarity for my phone and although I pray for the lost, I don’t pray with such fervency for lost souls. Please forgive me. I totally missed your cue about lost things. Totally felt relief that you cared about my phone without looking at the big picture of the lesson you were trying to teach me. Thank you for loving me enough to bring a message to me three days later that taught me exactly what you were trying to tell me. You never give up and I am grateful to you.”

Okay, people are staring at me here at the airport terminal as I cry and write so let me leave you with this:

Matthew 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

The Order Of Things

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Joe Quatrone Jr.  

A self-described “Old Guy”, meaning a man I hold in esteem who has retired from ministry spoke this wisdom in a conversation.

“Before there can be mercy, there has to be judgment.”

It was a drop the mic moment. I took it home and mulled it over. I often relate things to my experience as a mother. It’s quite true that when my children misbehaved I corrected first and then made them see what they did wrong. Okay makes sense but…

I then had to reconcile that with

James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In order to show mercy we have to have judgment. Mercy comes through judgment. It’s a great revelation. It may not sit well with the “don’t judge me Christian” but it isn’t biblical. Mercy triumphs over judgement but judgment is first.

It’s as my husband explains, giving mercy out of order is like giving a cure for a disease you didn’t know you had. There is no recognition of the healing.