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Reflections of Grace Slider2

Have you ever been deeply disillusioned by someone whom you thought was a friend but turned out to be a controller or manipulator and when you didn’t comply with their demands they dropped you?  Do you think because we are to seek to love everyone with God’s unconditional love that means you should allow them total access into your life?

Actually real genuine love has many boundaries.  To enable someone to treat you with anything less than respect is actually enabling them to continue in sin.  If you put up a boundary and not allow them to disrespect you then you are actually walking in His love with them.  We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or not accept from them.  Think about it.

Scripture invites us to develop relationships with other believers, but it also warns us that not all relationships are healthy ones. If we don’t recognize this it could cause many to be trapped in destructive relationships that will not only erode their own walk with God, but also will, in time, project a wariness of others that will make them withdraw from healthy relationships altogether.  This is not God’s will for He says to not forsake the gatherings together with His body.

  • When healthy relationships work well they will encourage us, comfort us through our darkest moments and help us keep our trust in God. There is no treasure greater in this world than sharing that kind of friendship with believers who are committed to God’s work in your lives.

However, it is advantageous for us to learn to recognize those toxic people that come into our lives that can undermine our personal boundaries.  They can take up all of our energy and resources and then when they are done with us they are nowhere to be found.  They simply move on to the next victim, leaving you feeling totally used.  These are the people we are to love from a distance.  Not everyone we meet in the body of Christ should we be intimately connected to.   Even Jesus, when he discerned the hearts of people and that they had ulterior motives and only wanted to follow him because he fed the 5000, ministered to them, showed them kindness, but then turned back to join up with his disciples who He trusted.

During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. (John 2: 23-26)

Some believers are plagued by relationships where other believers are manipulating and controlling them. Wanting to be humble and open they make room in their lives for the wrong kind of counsel and advice and are overwhelmed with guilt when they can’t satisfy what others expect of them.  The New Testament tells us to love each other deeply, bear with each other through the trials and forgive each other’s faults as they arise, but it also warns us to recognize when relationships turn dark and destructive and to protect ourselves from them.

Image: Frank Powell

Image: Frank Powell

We need to learn to recognize if the signs that the relationship we’re having with another proclaimed believer is not going to help us grow spiritually. He warns us to step aside from them, not in judgment or anger, but simply so that they will not dominate our spiritual passion or lead us astray.   What are some of these signs?

♥  People who have an obsession with controversy and gossip…they judge others morals while doing the very same things in their own hearts.

♥  People who flatter you with their lips in order to get close to you to glean your very energy because they have no life of their own…when you put up boundaries they are the first to get offended.

♥  People who blame others or pass out lists of things you can do to be a better Christian.  You know you’re with people who are placing their confidence in something other than the work of God himself when you see this.

♥  People who want to take God’s place in your life. You’ll know you’re near one of these when they attempt to force you to choose between submitting to them and doing what you honestly feel that God has put on your heart.

♥  People who take the joy out of everything. Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity. Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself

♥  Negative people who every time you have an idea, they tell you why you can’t do it. As you achieve, they try to pull you down. As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.

♥  People whom you can never give enough to make them happy. They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you. They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.

Believers who act destructively are themselves broken and fractured people. If God graces you to stay near them to love them and you can do it without compromising your own relationship with him, by all means do it!  But beware that the relationship doesn’t start taking up all of your energy and distracts you from others that God would have you reach.

Now, we aren’t to distance ourselves from the people of the world. How else will the world ever come to experience God’s love if it is not through people like us loving them even in the midst of their worst failures and sins? This danger of distraction from our walk in Him doesn’t usually come from the world for we already know they have need of Him; it comes from the self righteous and broken within the church, sad to say.  Most all of the hurt and rejection I have experienced along my journey has come from those I thought were my brothers and sisters in Christ.

When you recognize that another proclaimed believer is becoming a drain on you and keeping you from the real prize of knowing Jesus, you don’t have to be mean about it.  You don’t have to confront, accuse and try to prove you’re right. Just step away quietly from them and spend your time with those relationships that stimulate you to draw closer to God and recognize his work in you.  With the demands of our lives pressing us from every side, time is just too short to waste our energies on people filled with manipulation, gossip and division. We must learn to recognize the red flags in our relationships and become bold enough to use our boundaries and know when to say “No, that won’t work for me, thank you.”

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Transform Slider

This week, I’m joined by an amazing digital marketing consultant, and one of the contributors to my 2-book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, Martin Shervington. Martin is an official Google Small Business Advisor and brings ‘Digital Intelligence’ to business, starting with marketing and social media. He was generous enough to help me with four different chapters in my books: Productivity, Creativity, Connection and Success. And, today, we’re going to key in on his ideas regarding Creativity.

For Martin, in order to be creative, he needs to be having fun! This may have some roots in his “side gig” of getting on stage and doing stand up comedy. More than performing for others, when he takes the stage, he goes up there and has fun. He has found that if he goes up and is not enjoying himself, but just reading from a script or memorized notes, everyone in the room knows that it’s not fun… or funny. It only works when he goes out and naturally has fun with the people he is performing for.

So, when it comes to life away from the stage, the secret is to find people who are willing to play. Whether it’s away from the computer or on social media, when people are connected and willing to thoughtfully exchange ideas… and play… then the connections are much more comfortable and productive.

Now, the hard truth is that business processes are not fun. And, as businesses grow and tasks abound, it’s easy to get sucked into the mundane parts of work. Therefore, it’s important to set aside time now and then for your team to have fun together – even if they are thousands of miles apart. There are games that can be played via video conferencing that can effectively set a new, creative tone for your team.

When Martin begins various tasks, he often begins by thinking to himself, “How can I make this an enjoyable experience?”… and not just for himself, but for the people on his team, as well as the end users and clients.

Like anything, if you are only going through the motions, then whatever you are doing becomes dull. This is true for anything from blog posts to office interactions. People need to feel refreshed.

Consider any successful television show. From season to season to season, there are consistent elements and currents, but as the show progresses, it takes new steps and additions that keep things fresh.

One trick is to figure out how to get into your fun, creative place in your own mind. For Martin, the key is to get obsessed with something to the point of looking at it from new perspectives and seeing new details within it. Then, as he dives down one rabbit hole after another, he needs to be able to step back and laugh at himself as he peeks into each bit of minutiae. But, more than the rabbit holes, Martin enjoys figuring out how to connect the dots of all the different perspectives he discovers along the way, resulting in figuring out how to do something that isn’t currently done.

So, like in athletics, you won’t get better and better or discover new techniques if you don’t push yourself into new, exciting (sometimes scary and risky) arenas.

And that’s where the fun comes in!

Image: Laura Williams

Image: Laura Williams

Years ago, Martin worked as a windsurfing instructor. At the time he learned a motto: If you’re not falling in the water… you’re not trying hard enough. This meant that at certain points, as he learned new techniques, tricks and skills, he had to be willing to fail. After smashing into the water, he would learn how to adjust and what to do differently until eventually, he would master the new technique.

The same principle applies to being an entrepreneur.

As you start out, you don’t want to risk everything, but if you’re not willing to try different stuff out, then you won’t grow. And with today’s technology, you don’t always have to go at it alone. Through social media, you can often crowd source your ideas into action, while creating a “space” for people to “play in”… all with the end result of trying out your new endeavor.

The secret is then to share with one another what is learned during this playtime. What worked? What didn’t work? By doing this, you end up with a learning community around you, who are having fun while doing your research!

For example, while in Brazil last year, Martin had the idea of putting a certain village on the global map. He networked with local businesses and they all cooperatively agreed to some virtual meetings and signed up for Google Maps. Based on their success, in no time, other people started picking up on this idea and began hosting real and virtual events in their small towns, and a model began to arise… and BOOM, out came Google Local Guides!

Now, as it happens, Martin is examining how this process of bringing people together and putting small communities on the map works with overall Google search functions. Keeping in mind that “play” is more fun for most people than “research”, he now has several groups of people “play/working” to find new solutions to draw global eyes to any town in the world with the right Google and social media positioning.

One of the keys is to effectively connect people in fun and exciting ways. When people enjoy one another and feel connected, they are much more willing to share and go the extra mile for one another – whether it be in research, growth, or creativity.

To learn more from Martin, check him out at PlusYourBusiness.com!

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Daren Streblow

This week, I’m joined by my great buddy, world class comedian, amazing juggler and just all-round superfluous person, Ron Pearson.

Ron just had to get something off his chest this week: today’s young people – the Millennials – are so entitled, it’s unbelievable. He recently performed at Arizona State University and noticed that surf and turf – steak and seafood – is served at the dorm cafeteria each week. These kids are dining better than their parents do!

When we were in college, we had to tough it out… we became tough because of our experiences. A balanced meal was Top Ramen and a Coke!

Image: NewBostonPost

Image: NewBostonPost

How will these kids survive when they graduate? They’re actually going to step down instead of stepping up into real life after college.

I remember “dining” at the college cafeteria. You’d eat a meal and then physically see it and feel it coming out of your pores over the next several days. Every day was like Russian Roulette with a surprise greasy something sliding on your plate.

But, maybe the problem with today’s young people is us… the “old people”. Ron, for instance, has a son with some special dietary needs to they have to shop for groceries at Home Foods instead of the local chain big box store. As Ron puts it, Whole Foods should be more aptly named “Whole Paycheck”! His son has to eat only gluten free, dairy free, soy free food… but the reality is that none of it is free. It all costs a fortune!!

This is how Ron describes Whole Foods Market: Take your typical grocery store and remove every ounce of food from the shelves, then remove every bit of flavor and goodness from each of those food items and replace everything back onto the shelves. Finally, re-label everything “healthy food” and charge triple for each item. That’s Whole Foods.Ron Pearson

Switching gears, Ron dives into the roots of his comedy, which like many other comics, may have its roots in tragedy. Ron had some incredibly abandonment issues as a young person, probably due to his father dying when he was just nine-years-old. As a boy, Ron seemed to know that God’s hand was on his family and would take care of them, but he never really mourned the loss of his dad. Then, as the days, months and years passed, they didn’t talk about his dad much. In fact, once his mother remarried and Ron’s stepfather moved in, they weren’t allowed to talk about his dad at all. And, while his stepdad was a calming force in his family, there still remained a silent undercurrent throughout his home that you never talked about certain things and you never went to anyone with your personal problems.

Everyone was very supporting and very loving. They loved to celebrate the good things in life. But, no one ever discussed any problems that might exist.

By the time Ron entered college, he had learned to put walls around himself in order to preserve himself and save himself from heartache. He was nice to others and would freely help people, but he would never allow anyone into his own life for fear of being hurt, lest he start to actually feel like he needed someone.

His shields were up!

The biggest problem is that this pattern went totally in opposition to his innate need for intimacy. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he (like all of us) had a deeply seeded need to be known and loved. But, he had suppressed this for so long, he was completely unaware of it.

Eventually Ron, like almost everyone who goes through this, found himself full of resentment. He had pretty much sabotaged his relationship life by not letting anyone really know him, then he felt angry at the world because no one really knew him.

What he really needed was a group of safe friends who could befriend and love him for who he was – good, bad and ugly.

The tough thing was the level of isolation he had built into his career. As an up-and-coming stand up comedian, there were years when he was on the road over 235 days out of the year. That’s less than three days a week at home. By constantly jumping around, he couldn’t draw close to friends or family, even if he wanted to.

After years and years of taking hard looks in the mirror (and professional therapy), Ron has learned to stop spinning his wheels so fast, let people into his life – his successes as well as his struggles and failures – and be “present” around people.

And it’s contagious. As Ron’s friend, I have learned so much from him and so eagerly look forward to our conversations – even when they get vulnerable!

So, if you find yourself unable to connect with others and feeling the pain that comes along with this, start out by finding some safe people to befriend. Good, Christian counselors are typically good people to help you get the ball rolling. If they are good, they should be able to point you towards people who are already in your life. As Ron has found, small groups at church also tend to help fill this gap as well.

The key is to avoid letting past frustrations and heartache from getting in the way of making new healthy relationships. The bottom line is that the Bible tells us that it’s not good for us to be alone, and Ron and I both have found that it is well worth the risk to have healthy, safe friendships and loved ones in our lives!

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Im Waiting Slider2

Q: Why wait if I already did it? I didn’t want to but I felt pressured.~ 11th grade female

A:  There are actually three different parts to this question we recently received after a presentation.  One question and two statements.  Let’s look at each of them.

First the question:  “Why wait if I already did it?”

One of the biggest lies is that if you’ve already done something you have to continue, especially if something could potentially make your life more difficult in the long run.  Okay, so maybe you had sex before.  We’re pretty sure at the time you didn’t know that condoms are not 100% effective and only reduce the risk of STDs or pregnancy, but don’t eliminate the risk.  We can almost bet that you didn’t know at the time that sex is not just physical but has an emotional impact, as well as a relational one.

Image: Charles Hamrick

Image: Charles Hamrick

Jef, one of our ImWaiting presenters uses this example.  Most of us when we were kids put our hand on either a hot stove or a hot surface.  We didn’t understand that it could burn us until afterward right? The majority of us (not all), but the majority didn’t do that again, why, because it burned and hurt us.  So we learned from experience that we didn’t want to make that decision again.  The pain wasn’t worth it.  Same thing here.  Perhaps you didn’t know at the time that engaging in sex as a teen can have long term consequences in your life, but now you do.

Many times, with the help of the media, we put sex in a different category than other decisions, even though the adult act of sex carries adult responsibilities.  We wouldn’t continue to put our hand on a hot stove knowing that the consequences are painful.  We wouldn’t say to ourselves, “well I already did that once so I should continue doing it.”  Why do we view sex differently?  Why do we tell ourselves that we should just keep doing it now knowing the full consequences that come with it?  Take a moment to think about that.

Now let’s tackle the two statements.

“I didn’t want to.”  It sounds like somebody manipulated you into doing something you were not ready for.  That burden is on them, not you.  Maybe you didn’t know how to refuse.  Maybe you didn’t know that you actually could.  Maybe nobody ever told you saying no was okay.  Maybe nobody ever told you have the right to say no.  We’re telling you that you have every right to say no.  We love these words from the Meghan Trainor song:

My name is NO

My sign is NO

My number is NO

You need to let it go.

We know we’re taking it out of context but hopefully you get the point.  Do not continue doing something that you didn’t want to do in the first place.  That is actually giving your control away to somebody else.walk of shame

The second statement said this:

“I felt pressured.”  If you don’t remember anything else from this blog please, all of you remember this, NOBODY, AND WE MEAN NOBODY, IS ALLOWED TO PRESSURE YOU INTO HAVING SEX!!!!  Pressure can come in many forms.  Either by guilt, “If you loved me you would.”  By threats, “If you don’t I will leave you.” By manipulation, avoiding you if you don’t agree to have sex.

Listen, sex can be a beautiful expression of love between two mature people who are committed to each other and willing to accept the consequences that come with it; however, when one person is controlling and pressuring the other person that is not love, it is abuse.

So why should you wait if you already have had sex?  Because every day is a new day to make new decisions.  If you weren’t happy with the decisions you made yesterday or the day before, whatever the circumstances, guess what, today you have the opportunity to make different decisions.  Don’t buy the lie that once you’ve done something you have to continue.  Remember the hot stove story? Listen, part of growing and maturing is looking at past decisions and learning from them.  If we all continued doing things just because we had done them before, we’d all be walking around with bad hairstyles and burnt hands!!

Finally, why wait? Because you deserve to have somebody love and respect you.  You deserve to have your needs put before their wants.  You are so much more than the sex that you give.  You are a whole person who has feelings, dreams, ambitions, and a future.  In the whole spectrum of a mature relationship that is built on trust, friendship, respect, common goals, common morals, trust, etc. sex is just a small part.  So don’t continue doing something that you probably aren’t comfortable with just because you’ve done it before.

Hope that helps.

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Reflections of Grace Slider2

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.”

Really?

Do you sing that song and truthfully think of its meaning and embrace all that it suggests?

  • What are you surrendering?

A few years ago through a season when God was teaching me to “let go” of those things I could not control; for some odd reason I felt that my obsessing would somehow change the circumstance in another person’s life or even my own.  After much agony and defeat, I finally began to get it.

  • To truly surrender all to Jesus is to really let go.
  • But, what am I letting go of?

Since Jesus sacrificed His life and then His subsequent and miraculous and wonderful resurrection so that I could have eternal life, then surrendering to Him must mean to freely give Him my life, and my control over it, and be free to live as accepted and loved… by Him.

It is about my spiritual journey.

But what about the other things in my life that I need to let go of?

“I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.”

 The cross is just the beginning of Kingdom living here on earth.  It is the beginning of a redeemed eternity for us.    We were never meant to just stop at surrendering our life for an entrance into Heaven, as great as that is.  We were meant to walk in His presence in the here and now.

He wants all of us, all the time!!

We don’t have to work at loving and trusting Him, we just do.  We just invite Him into our daily presence and “let go”.

“All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken take me, Jesus, take me now.

Image: Brian Littrell

Image: Brian Littrell

We bow at His feet in the spirit and surrender.  We forsake our trust in the world and its ways and our own limited understanding.  He will take us to higher places with Him.

It is not a religious thing.   It is a relationship thing.

In my worry and fretting I had to learn to use my imagination, (that he gave to us by the way).

  • How to let go?

I envisioned myself holding in my cupped hands the object of my anxiety and worry.   There in my hands would be my child, my husband, my book, my ministry.  I could see it there (miniature because it was resting in my palms)… in my spirit.  Then, Jesus would come up behind me and put His arms around me.  He would cup His hands under mine.   I would then open my hands and let it drop into His hands.   He would then close His hands over my concern and hold it close to His heart as He would walk away with my burden.   At that point I experienced the most profound thing.   A weight lifted off my heart and I could take a deep breath again, with NO anxiety.  He had it!   I didn’t have to give it another thought.

Just trust Him!!

And this is what I realized at that moment:

He could now change the situation, in my surrender, because I was no longer in charge and thus, in the way.

I was trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit because of my fear and so I continued to get in the way.

He would do a much better job because He works from the heart and knows the whole story and, again, I wasn’t in the way.

I can only see the outward appearances; therefore, whatever I wanted to see changed could not be approached from the heart with my own devices.

“All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Savior wholly Thine.  May Thy Holy Spirit fill me and May I know Thy power divine.”

 So, how can we celebrate the joyous occasion of His resurrection power this Easter without surrendering the whole of our lives to Him in every sense of the word?

I think of Mary of Magdala that morning she went to the tomb and it was empty.  Can you put yourself there?    She had been traveling with Him; saw the miracles, got to know Jesus, the Man, God personified.   She thought He was to become King the night He was killed.   Can you imagine her shock upon hearing that the Sanhedrin had taken Him and were going to crucify Him, and the profound confusion and heartache?

But He appeared to her, at first disguising Himself.   I can see His playfulness in that.   He was enjoying the surprise and joy at the reunion after His death and resurrection.  She loved Him with her whole heart.   It was at that point, at the moment, that she understood and He fully became her Lord and her God.   How could she not surrender all that she knew and understood to Him?

“All to Him my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”       

Judson W. Van DeVenter (1855-1939) wrote I Surrender All and the words and melody of I Surrender All have appeared in virtually every English hymnal, and are just as readily sung in churches that prefer contemporary music.

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Reflections of Grace Slider2

“Jennifer” came to me for coaching… a broken person, chained to a very unhealthy relationship, unable to break free; trying to make peace with her abusive childhood and years of abuse to follow–in a place she thought she would never be free of, and miserable inside.

I discerned right away her servant’s heart and her desire to reach out to others that were hurting or needing to know that someone cares.

  • You see, God used her past to equip Jennifer to have a heart of not only empathy, but also true compassion towards a very broken world, and He led her to seek deliverance from her past.   Her loyalty, dedication, and obedience were so evident for all to see.
  • After a few months of coaching, Jennifer found the courage to walk out of her pain, break all ties with a very controlling and consuming relationship that was toxic to her, and begin her process of healing.  She saw her value in the Kingdom of God and became eager to get on with it.  It was amazing to watch!
  • Her potential was evident from the beginning and to get to witness her freedom break forth first hand is a privilege I never grow tired of.

What a joy to watch this woman of such faith and heart truly share the real essence of Jesus wherever she goes.   This week I received the following message from her that I share with her permission.  When asked if she minded if I shared her journey with thousands, this was her response:

“Well, to me it is important to keep you posted since YOU had such a big part in my healing process. I wouldn’t be where I am at this point if it wasn’t for all those sessions. And yes, I’m proud of what I’m able to work on at this point and am happy to let you share with others.  It’s those stories that help the lost ones to see there is a light if they just open their hearts and mind to it!”

 So here is her report.  For the record this was written while she was recovering from a knee replacement and eager to get on with her business in the “ministry.”

“Good morning, thought about you when I was making my weekly to do list.

I wanted to share all the serving opportunities that came my way the last couple of months!

I’m waiting on my first assignment from Hospice and Mary and I are involved in a couple of special events at the church. We’ll be part of an Easter egg hunt at our church as well, and we are helping to feed the homeless at a shelter in the city. This is a great time for the two of us to spend some time together! 

I’m also helping at the food basket and hope we get a chance to feed the homeless here with a hot meal if I can get enough interest. As soon as I can I’m going to check with the Chamber to see what is available and find out if there are others in the community who want help.

I had a lot of time to pray for guidance and different opportunities just presented themselves, all in His timing I’m sure!

Thank you again for helping me out of my hurt and confusion, I’m happy to be part of the world around me!   I forgot the most exciting part cause the dog started digging out of the yard while I was E-mailing you… A few days ago one of my friends from the old church put a request on her Facebook page. She started a ministry to go visit and pray with women in jail at the prison nearby.   Well I guess they also write them and I signed up to be a pen pal for a young lady who just accepted Jesus as her savior! The girls got me some stationary a while back and now I can put it to good use!”

Jennifer is finding her completeness in just stepping out and praying for Jesus to allow her to see the opportunities and she grabs them up.

  • The opportunities are endless, friends!The more the world seems to be going crazy the more the church needs to get free of the strongholds that bind them and start looking for those opportunities to be His arms extended!!
  • What a privilege to help others know the love of the Father.  Someone once said, “People who are loved well, love well”. And you can help those around you right now in whatever life you’re already in.
  • Most true ministry is performed person-to-person in our spare time among friends, family, work contacts or people we know. I believe it is best if we don’t try to make it vocational and try to create the opportunity for ourselves…true ministry is not where you have to quit your day job or leave your kids and husband to go out to a mission field…(though some may be called there). But most true ministry is right where you have been planted.

I’ve known many people who grow unsettled in their jobs or their motherhood and think that it is God leading them into “full time” ministry.  Away from the ministry field of their family standing right in front of them.  This, though, is often laced with a personal need to find fulfillment and feel significant in his kingdom.  And they sometimes DO quit their job and jump into a ministry and then struggle financially trying to figure out a way to do it and pay the bills.

Some people will try to raise support from their friends, or create some kind of product to sell to others, hoping it will finance their dreams. It rarely does. Instead of serving others, they will spend significant time getting others to serve their vision.

A friend once said, “Sharing the life of his kingdom is a way of living first, not a vocation.”

  • When the opportunity is there, so will the resources be.

What is on your heart today to do for the Kingdom?   Pray for the Lord to open doors for you and then pray you will be alert and willing when He does.   Don’t think He won’t answer.  He is looking for those he can use in a lost and dying world.  If YOU are broken then find the ministry from someone you trust to help you heal first.  Start your journey today!

Image: PoeticTiffany

Image: PoeticTiffany

  • If my friend Jennifer can do the work it takes to find her healing and be so thrilled to serve when she has spent so many years suffering and holding her head above water, then you and I can do it too.   He is not a respecter of persons!!

Be encouraged, my friend.  Jesus is not done with you yet!

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Im Waiting Slider

ImWaiting recently spent two days at a local high school.  On our exit survey we have a place for questions.  Students can ask anonymous questions and we either answer it right there or later on social media.

We received the question we get at practically every place we speak.  “When and how do you know it’s love?”

Teens, we hope you’re reading this.  Parents, we hope you show this to your teens.

The word love gets thrown around a lot.  We love a lot of things, TV shows, movies, music….ice cream…..mmmm, okay sorry, getting back to the main point.

We sometimes confuse love with lust.  It’s easy to do, both are strong emotions.  Almost all of us in our lives have seen that person that sets our heart racing, we stutter when they’re around, it’s hard for us to think.  That is a strong emotion but let’s look at the definitions of both.

Love: Warm attachment; Unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another

Lust: A strong feeling of sexual desire; a strong desire for something.

Love DefinitionDo you notice the differences in the definitions? Love is being concerned for somebody else.  Their well-being is important.  Lust is just a strong feeling.

There is a huge amount of scientific research regarding what happens to the human body when we fall in love.  They talk about dopamine, neurotransmitters, etc.  It’s very interesting.  Look it up if you get a chance.  We’re going to keep it simple.

These are questions you need to ask yourself to know if you love this person, or if they are unbelievably attractive and really it’s just lust and visa versa on how they feel about you.

  1. How much do you know about this person? Do you know their family and friends?
  2. Is there mutual respect?
  3. Do you trust this person?
  4. Are you able to express yourself without feeling judged or  threatened?
  5. Do you like who this person is? Do you like how they treat others?
  6. Is passion the only thing you have in common?
  7. If this person was disfigured in some way in the future would you still desire to be with them?
  8. Do you have common life goals?   Ambitions?
  9. Do you have similar morals?
  10. Are you allowed to have your own identity and thoughts?

True love really boils down to unselfishness.  Love is others focused, lust is self-focused.  Love is being concerned about how they feel vs. how they make you feel.

Also, you’ll know somebody loves you when they put you before their wants.  Are your goals, dreams, hopes important to them and do they want to help you achieve those?  Sacrificing their wants for your future?

Love grows and deepens over a long period of time when you share the ups, downs, and in-betweens of life together.  Lust…well, it just kind of fades out.  It looked good for the moment but after time it just kind of made you feel…meh.

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Reflections of Grace Slider2

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of  the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus called out  to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed Him.”  (Matthew 4:18-20)

  • I don’t have the gift of evangelism.  My husband does and he loves it!  I love people and have a shepherd’s heart, but I am not one to focus on evangelism.  I am called to share daily Kingdom living with those who are interested, and I write, and I have the gift of counsel through the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  • It took years for me to get over the fear that someone was going to make me stand on a street corner and cry out like John, the Baptist, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
  • One day I was caught up in a crowd of people in an amusement park and I found myself slip into a different perspective of the people, who, quite frankly, seemed to be cutting off my air as they pressed in around me.  I had to purposely focus on breathing to avoid taking off running and screaming to get out of the park.  But as I stood there in the line of humanity I felt myself rising, somehow, to a God’s eye view of the multitudes.  It was like I was still in my body in the sweltering crowds, but another part of me was lifted up into the heavenlies.

It was really pretty amazing.

I perceived in the spirit what God sees when He looks down on earth and the very expansiveness of the amount of people He sees and I knew He knew each one by name.  And for a brief moment I experienced His kind of love for them.  That is how I knew it was Him.  I didn’t know these people from every nation that seemed to be surrounding me.

  • It was pretty much blowing my mind.  I felt very, very small as I looked on with Him from His vantage point.  I thought of how our small groups we hang out with think they have it all figured out and have all the answers…and I saw how absolutely bazaar it is to think we have God, the universe and all the people in it, figured out.

Only God knows each and every heart.  Can you even imagine?

  • “So Lord”, I said.  “What does it mean to fish for people?  I don’t think it means to grab them and scare them into repenting!”

And as is His custom with me, He began to teach.Image: iStockphoto

The common image of a fisherman in our day is of a man with a fishing pole casting a lure into the waters of a stream or a lake. However, such was not the case when Jesus called his disciples. They caught fish with nets and by experience they found that their best fishing took place at night.

  • We know that this is true by looking at Luke 5:5, when Jesus told Peter to cast his nets on the other side of the boat he said, Master we have toiled all night and caught nothing.  Nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”

How did they fish at night?

They used a very powerful and effective method.

  • Light!

Fish were attracted to light!  Now I was onto something!

Just as fish are attracted to the disciple’s light, God wants people to be drawn to His light shining through His people. The light of every believer is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.

  • Paul stated in his second letter to the Corinthians (4:6-7), “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power of God may be of God and not of us.”
  • We are not the light—we merely reflect the light of Jesus.

Now let’s look at what kind of man Jesus was while He walked this earth.  I have heard it said that Jesus was not strolling through the Israeli countryside offering poetry readings.

He was on a mission to rescue a people who are so utterly deceived, most of them didn’t even want to be rescued.

  • I saw that Jesus talked straight.
  • Sometimes He’s playful; sometimes He’s fierce; the next moment He’s generous.  As He is so are we in this earth!  This is the beauty of his wonderfully disruptive honesty—you can count on Jesus to tell you the truth in the best possible way for you to hear it.
  • Could this be one of the reasons why we struggle to spend time with Christ or to listen to His thoughts on our life, world and relationships—because He’ll tell us the truth?

What would it be like to have someone in your life that knows you intimately, loves you regardless, and is willing to be completely honest with you?  Yes, it would be a little unnerving, certainly disruptive—but doesn’t part of you also crave it?

Jesus heals a leper.  He doesn’t ask Him if He is saved first.

  • What?

He forgives a prostitute.  He just told her to go and sin no more.

Wouldn’t you want to know more about this man?

He dines with tax collectors and in that day and time that was taboo for “righteous” folk.  Would you be intrigued?

Jesus wasn’t concerned with His reputation.  Why isn’t He?

Jesus doesn’t seem to care what people think.  But we know He cares very deeply about the right things.

  • What does Jesus’ scandalous freedom in living and relating to others stir up in you?

Jesus sets before us a deeper, truer view of holiness.

We are in a world full of darkness.  We are the light of Jesus where He has placed us in the this world.  The fish are attracted to light.  The people are attracted to the light of Him in us.

  • “What is it you have that I don’t have?”, they say.

And you reel them in as you simply introduce them to source of the light.

Profoundly simple, yet so profound.

  • All those external “rules of men” do nothing to promote a genuine holiness.  But they do make people Pharisees.

By the truckload.

  • Remember, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The only possible way that can happen is through an internal revolution, a changed heart.  When we have a heart like Jesus’. Bingo!  Open door to share Him in all of His uniqueness.

  • The more you fall in love with Jesus’ genuine goodness, which is true goodness, the more you will absolutely detest the counterfeit of a false piety and a shallow morality.  And the more they will swim around the light and grab the bait!

As they did with Him.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

We all have had desert experiences in our lives at different seasons of time along our journey. Some seasons of trial are short and some are very long.

He loves us so much that sometimes He allows us to stay in those deserts for a while to bring us back to Him. When it gets hot and dry we start looking for Him for relief. You know why?

He misses you and desires relationship with you.

Hosea 2:6 says:

“For this reason I will fence her in with thornbushes.
I will block her path with a wall to make her lose her way.”

He does this to bring us to the end of ourselves and to get us to turn to Him in thirsty longing. Then He begins to draw us to Himself. He often takes us aside from every source of comfort so that He alone can have our heart’s attention.

Then He says in Hosea 2:14

 “But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

And it is here that we begin to experience Him, not as the God up in Heaven, the big guy in the sky, the God of Sunday Mornings, but as the pursuer of our hearts, as our lover.

“’When that day comes,’ says the Lord, ‘you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master.’  I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion.’“ (Hosea 2:16 & 19) 

“I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.”  (Hosea 2:20)

This love is not something we struggle for, earn, or fear. It is bestowed upon us.

He has chosen us.

We are made for such a love.

Our hearts yearn to be loved intimately, personally, and romantically. We are created to be the object of His desire and affection, and He is totally and completely in love with us.

His love is for each and every one of us. God wants intimacy with you! In order to have it, you must offer it to Him and surrender yourself over to Him.

Part of my story (which you can find in its totality in my first book, Climbing Out of the Box), is that I was forced by extremely painful circumstances and losses into five years of desert life. I experienced the loss of my first marriage, my ministry, my church, and my friends. I was swept into a devastating desert season, where I met Jesus face to face. In the first couple of years of my sweltering in the desert, I experienced:

  • Anger
  • Desperation
  • Depression
  • Abandonment
  • Emotional agony
  • Empty nest
  • Financial woes
  • Heartbreak

Then, out of my own depth of pain, I sought Him.

I began talking…and He did too.

Once I was liberated from performance-based religion, I was alone and free to pursue Him as my lover. I started listening to Him again. And He was faithful to show me how my own denials led me into the wilderness, and He allowed it. He allowed it to show me the difference between true relationship and performance-driven religion. We took walks, drives, and had long talks together.

And when the revelation came that I did not have to do anything to make Him love me more than He did at that moment, nor did I have to do anything but love Him, I was set free.

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”  (Galatians 5:1)

Based on my own life, and through my observations in my coaching practice, that every unfulfilled longing inside of us originates from a deeper longing for Jesus Himself. It is an emptiness He makes us aware of, that can only be met by His love and none other. And what a love it is!

At different seasons of our lives, we find different longings. Some of us go our whole lives as one big, gaping hole of need. That is so sad to me.

Because now I know that the answer always rested in Him all along. It is so simple, really.

We struggle and we struggle; and we complicate everything by anxiously trying to fix our lives with our own ideas of what we need. Only to find that the thing we tried didn’t work, and now we are right back where we started…and oh, do we feel defeated and hopeless.

We turn to so many things, trying to find that one thing that will satisfy. And we become addicted because we find we can never get enough of just one thing.

Sometimes it is even good things we use to fill that hole…but only to find that the hole is still there afterwards, and we realize we still can’t get enough. That is because we were not meant to. Your creator made you to desire Him.   But this world has played havoc on us.

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Relationships
  • Exercise
  • People
  • Ministry
  • Kids

All of these things can be used to attempt to fill us up in one way or another. Though they may be good things, they were never meant to take God’s place in our lives.

  • When we are tired and weary, what we really need is Jesus.
  • When we are lonely, we really are missing Jesus.
  • When we are hungry, but not really, we are searching for something that satisfies, but what we really want is Jesus.

There is a time coming, my friends, when we will find that our every longing will be met by Jesus Himself.

God really does withhold no good thing and if He is withholding something, as much confusion and pain as it brings at that time, it is ultimately for our good and to make us more aware that He is there for us. I have found this to be true again and again in my years with the Lord.

walking with Jesus

Image: Helen Thomas Robson

I am deeply flawed, you see, and I am trying to find my way past my fleshly longings to find that sole satisfaction that comes from only my King. And I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It is an amazing journey!

To you who have an unmet longing, whether it be a husband you wish to share life with, a child you yearn to bring into your home (whether through adoption or naturally), a wound from a relationship, a dream or passion to come true that’s laid dormant for years, a hunger to do something you’ve been waiting to do, a desire to move up in your career, the longing to grieve something you’ve lost, whatever it is, my words to you are these:

Your longing is safe with Jesus—maybe you can’t see Him, but He is there and He can not only fulfill your heart that longs for more, He can also give you good things.

You can grieve the lost time that you struggled before you knew this truth and you can be honest. You can talk about it. You can ask these questions:

Where is my life going from here?

What is next?

How do I bring You into my longings, Jesus?

What is He going to do to take away this constant feeling of wanting something that I don’t even know what it is?

Remember, Jesus is holding your every longing. He is waiting for you to turn to Him as your only answer. He longs for you with a passionate desire to walk with you every minute of the day.

Do what it takes to trust Him, whether that means putting yourself out there and sharing, or keeping it in your secret chamber where you meet with God. Your longings are not foreign to Him.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

I love the church.   If you know Jesus then you are the church too; One of the many members of the Church, the Body, of Jesus, who is our Head But I somewhere along the way thought being in the building brought my status with God so much higher.

I lost the mentality that I was there to grow in Jesus.

Oh yes, I was taught that I was the temple where Jesus lived, but I was also taught I had to be in a building to truly walk with him.   It took me too long to realize that I didn’t know about the heart and passion of God.

Oh, I yearned for it, so put on the face that I already had that passion filled relationship with Jesus, and had the pious face down pat, as if I had it together. I had the Christian-ease language down pat, too.   For many years I was very involved in just about everything that was happening in the church building.

I was involved in potlucks, gospel sing alongs, committee meetings, bake sales, car washes, retreats, conferences and any other spiritual sounding activity that was advertised in the church building. Then I started a women’s ministry and it grew and grew. I absolutely loved it. I had a place and felt loved and accepted. I loved the people, the busy-ness, and the routine. I was really good at doing church and I looked the part, too.

I had a good heart.

I was so drawn to God and yearned to serve Him and thought that is what I was doing. But over time, more serving, and more ministries later it all became a checklist or a substitute for a deeper passion.

It became a “doing” instead of a “becoming.”

I still love the church. I just missed the whole point God was yearning for me to see for many years. If you have read my book, Climbing Out of the Box, you will see where it led me. However, I digress.

Image: Alan Rudnick

Image: Alan Rudnick

Somehow I loved becoming the church lady and mistook that title for becoming godly.

It felt so good to be in the church clicks, though. And I saw others left out of those groups to which I turned a blind eye.

So, I busied myself in those good works of bringing food to the sick, planning baby showers and helping at funerals, and teaching Sunday school. It can feel so good to be needed that it can become a substitute for a passionate pursuit of God.

Don’t get me wrong; Service, fellowship, and giving are wonderful and a part of the calling for every believer, but serving and doing do not equal a relationship with God. They do not get us closer to the mark, and sometimes can become a wall we hide behind. And so we pretend we know what we are talking about and every Sunday we sit in a pew, staring at the backs of heads, listen to a sermon, and go home.

And wonder why that gaping hole in our hearts is still there.

Every Sunday morning parents hand their babies over to the good people who work in the nurseries. Then they go serve in hundreds of places within the building. They may never even make it to the service, but it is okay because they have been to church. Some have hidden there for years.

So many of us are “doing” like crazy.

Not many of us are “becoming.”

My coaching business over the last few years has been full of women and men, who were dying on the inside. Service and hospitality was not cutting it for them. Hearts are broken and lives are hurting. They longed to know that Jesus really loved them—somehow they missed that part while they were busy doing. They are worn out with good works without realizing how to have a one on one with Jesus.

Yet we keep signing up for one more thing.

Hoping we will find Jesus there.

When we get the church lady thing going it is easy to pretend we have it all together. I did. Everyone thought I was so together and many wanted to be me. I dressed fashionable, and had a sweet smile on my face. My kids were impeccably dressed, and we were the ‘perfect’ family.

But inside; well that was another story.

I had no self-esteem.

Soon I learned I could fill that need to be validated by being in the church clicks and there was always a need for one more worker to keep it all going.

I became addicted to ministry to fill my gaping hole of need.

Ministry took the place of a passion filled relationship with a very real Jesus. It wasn’t until I lost it all did Jesus finally break into my religiosity and reveal Himself personally in all His glory.

And when that happened?   I was doing nothing in the church. I had lost it all. It was in the wilderness of my life that I met Jesus face to face…when everything else was gone.’

Only Jesus didn’t leave.

That is when I learned that I am the Church. You are the church. We are all the church body.

Getting off the merry go round of hiding behind our good works is about laying down all pretense and facades. It is about stepping outside the lines you have drawn around your spirituality and seeing what God has for you,

When we only ascribe the term ‘church’ to weekend gatherings or institutions that have organized themselves as ‘churches’ we miss out on what it means to live as Christ’s body. It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week and work ourselves to the bone; then we are participating in God’s church.

But if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? We can’t. We may join other believers anywhere, but it doesn’t define our personal love relationship with Jesus.

If we think only of a specific congregation as our part of the church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same gathering that we do? Are we not called into the market place?

If you have hung your spirituality on inward files with neat little answers for every situation, hang on, because God is probably getting ready to blow the lid off of your box.

You may need to allow Him to restructure your thinking a bit of why you do what you do; with all the strong essential elements of your faith still there, just rearranged to reflect to you more clearly the heart of God.

Scripture does encourage us to be devoted to one another not committed to an institution. Jesus indicated that whenever two or three people get together focused on him, they would experience the vitality of church life. Out of that body life, of course comes service. But if that is what defines your relationship with God you will come up still feeling a loss.

I pray that we all are renewed in a passion for Jesus no matter where we find real fellowship with other believers; a genuine concern for each other and a willingness to serve the world with God’s love, which can only come from, not service, but relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship we will be His hand extended to a lost world.

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