Down, not Out! But handle with Care!

It was truly personality altering to be out and about with my family last week and not speak!  My sister Sharon kept saying, “I must admit it’s really odd not having Rachel talk at all!” It’s true, I was on complete vocal rest until my speaking engagement at 5:30.

All day I wrote on small pieces of paper. “Be sure to use the backs of these papers too, Rach” My sister Barb instructed.

While out and about we went to a few stores and restaurants, I typed into my phone, then held my phone out so the clerk was forced to read it: “Hi, I’m trying not to use my voice today! SO…I’d like to order the beet salad, no cheese!” This method worked like a charm!

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I know how to protect my voice and I recognize when to plug my phone in because it reads “low battery.” Whereas people don’t come with a low battery warning nor can we always discern from the outside the condition of a person’s heart.  So we must handle with care.

I haven’t really felt up to my normal walking each day but I decorated my tree already. Don’t judge! It’s when I had the help of my husband and while I was house bound. As I unwrapped the ornaments and carefully placed them on the Christmas tree, I thought, Christmas is just around the corner. WOW! Another year coming to a close.

I do love Christmas time and I really love my tree because I like to sit up in the loft area with the tree lights on and sip on a cup of tea. I had a photo taken by my tree last year. A sweet friend and beautiful young photographer took it. I visited with her in my loft and we hung out. She had come straight from a photo shoot of a family in our neighborhood.

Anyway,  as we caught up on life, her face altered a moment, she stopped her comments and the conversation abruptly, “Hang on a second, I’ll be right back, you just hold still.” She then stood up. “Stay exactly the way you are! I want to grab my camera out of my bag on your kitchen counter.” She was back in a JIFFY! She lovingly instructed, “Just tell me a bit more about what your day was like, I’m listening. Keep talking!”

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She snapped a few photos and this is one of my favorites, not because it’s great of me. I mean, it’s okay, but because of the Christmas memory of tea time with a friend that is attached to it. I was listening to her and she was listening to me, until she bolted out of the room, of course. It was a treasured time together.

Do you have people in your lives that look at their phone when you are talking to them or look past you instead of giving you eye contact? It’s like they’re on the look out for someone else instead of being present? This Christmas tree and tea moment wasn’t at all like that, completely the opposite I assure you. She handled me with care. I hope I  handled her with care too.

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I love to sit beside the tree. Today as I sit here a great sadness wanted to sneak up and grab me. I don’t know whether it’s the sickness, being worn out, missing loved ones or what? Maybe its all of the above, the good ole’ SUPER-SIZED combo!

But I’ve been praying for those whom the Christmas season can be rough. I reached down and located some promise cards with verses on them. I like to steep myself in the word of God the way a tea bag steeps in hot water. Let me share a few promises with you from those which settled my ruffled heart today:

  • God will fight for you:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

  • God will give you strength:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:28-29

  • God is slow to anger:

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

  • God is faithful to all His promises:

What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Isaiah 46:11b

  • God will not withhold any good thing:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalm 84:11

I hope these few promises help you.

Just one more piece of my heart to share here. It is unsolicited advice. Be kind. In this holiday season it seems natural and even common advice, but I mean it.  Just be kind.

Understand that some may be hurting in ways that you can’t perceive from the outside. Remember you can’t see the low battery warning across anyone’s forehead nor are you able to carry the right stethoscope to hear the ache within their heart.

But the Spirit can help you with this so choose to be kind and be aware of others.  Who knows, perhaps you’ll be able to encourage someone with one of the promises of God listed above. My prayer for you and for those around you this season is that you will experience the God who increases the power of the weak.

Even if you/they seem down… you/they are NOT OUT! But remember, Handle with care!

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What do you do when your plans don’t work out?

Have you heard the phrase or idiom “throw a wrench in the works?”  its meaning is as if you were to throw a wrench into the spokes of a bicycle or into machinery which would stop the engine immediately.

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I had a wrench in the works of my plan today.  My plan clearly did NOT work out. So let me ask, what do you do when your plans don’t work out? Let me tell you some helpful things I’ve practiced when my plan goes awry. First let me share a bit of the story of this morning.

May I back up a tad bit more? Yesterday I spoke at a mom’s meeting at a church and I felt the Holy Spirit allowed me to be used and we crushed it! As soon as I stepped off the stage it felt like someone grabbed me by the throat like a choke hold. I was to have a meeting after the main session and I noticed my voice was acting up during it.

It was touch and go all day too. I knew I needed to speak this morning again so I was disappointed when I awoke and my voice wasn’t any better. I could whisper but not speak. My husband comforted, “You’ll be fine.” Then asked, “You’ll be miked, right?”

I headed out, tea with lemon and honey in hand and drove to the speaking engagement. I made it just in time to meet a friend, Jodi and her daughter who were my assistants for the morning.

I greeted her in the parking lot, when she heard my whisper she said, “Oh, no!” and prayed for me right then and there. I warned her a bit jokingly through a gravel-like whisper, “Well, I wrote a blog a few weeks ago on the same topic, so if all else fails, maybe you’ll just read it to them.” I suggested.

I greeted the mentor moms with a smile. No words. I drew closer to them and tried to talk. I thought, Oh, golly Rachel this is like:

  • trying to give a power point presentation without a computer.
  • being hired to sing and play the guitar but forgetting your instrument.
  • signing up to provide the treats and forgetting the food.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The morning progressed with a few more wrenches in the works:

  • wireless microphone wouldn’t work
  • handheld microphone was gone.
  • all of the staff members were out of the building on a retreat
  • precious volunteer didn’t want to move us to another location as the sound board is very complex in that auditorium

As we waited to see if we could get all the different microphones figured out the women watched a video of mine on my youtube channel. (LINK INCLUDED BELOW.) They all really liked it and it warmed them up as they laughed and cried tears of joy.

See I didn’t plan it, but it ended up to be a really positive thing. It wasn’t just because we were stalling but I had a purpose in the morning. We learned all the microphones had been used the evening before and none of them were connected to the power source.

So without the ability to be amplified, we drew them all in real close and I spoke in the middle of them with only a whisper.  I gave them my best. I shared my heart with them.

I said, “Now, I’d like Jodi to read one of my blog posts from a few weeks ago.” She read it beautifully and it tied into what I’d already said.  Good news is they heard an example of one of my blog posts which ended up being serendipitous because perhaps some might subscribe. Yay God! I’m all about spreading encouragement!

The coordinator told me, “Rachel, you were so calm and collected through all the confusion, hurdles and roadblocks this morning. Man, none of our plans seemed to work out, but you really rolled with it!”

Long ago, I used to lead worship on Tuesday mornings, I received “The Flexible” award from the women’s ministry team. So let me just ask again, what do you do when your plans don’t work out?

Here’s a few of my suggestions:

  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Course correct quickly
  • Adapt to the new plan
  • Recognize God is in charge and has a good plan
  • Go with it & get the best out of it as it unfolds
  • Embrace the results

This morning I whispered one final comment to the audience of women. “God has been teaching me to lean in to Him as I “wait” on Him. The word picture for wait is one of a listener leaning in like when someone is whispering.

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Isn’t that fitting? It became clear to me as I watched those precious women lean in to every word I was saying. I praise God he has a way of getting said what he wants said. One of the young moms came up to me and said, “I can’t stay because I have to run to pick up my son, but I wanted to be sure to let you know that was completely amazing! Really… just amazing!

My reply was simply whispered, “Thank you!”

Then, in my spirit I hurried to Him with the love note. Thanks for this God, glory to your great name.

Here’s the YOUTUBE LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liPNH6L-xDE&t=642s

 

What’s Your Purpose or Mission in Life?

I scooted out to my car, ohgood it’s only sprinkling. You lead tonight’s study so you need to be on time. As I drove to church at dusk I thought, it’s going to be good to see each other, a nice night of Bible Study. Little did I know, it would be a night my passions would be both fueled and satiated.

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Passions? What am I passionate about? Break-through in any form.  I love to help break down barriers that impede the path to God. I get a fire in my belly and a rise in my spirit when there’s an oportunity to tear down what prevents us from seeing God or ourselves clearly.

When a person steps into who God has made them to be, they become transformed and unleashed. Once they embrace their significance it helps unlock the door to their mission and their life’s purpose becomes clearer. It’s so exciting.

I believe, WE WERE MADE ON PURPOSE FOR A PURPOSE!

Back to the Bible Study on “MISSION.” We caught up a bit, then recited our memory verse.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

One translation reads: WORKMANSHIP = POEM.

Stop and let that truth sink in. You are God’s poem. His beautiful handwritten poem. He is the master creator. You are His masterpiece and he doesn’t make junk. He wants you to be you! He has prepared in advance the things you are to do.

Here’s a way I think about God’s preparation in life. Long ago when our kids were small, if I asked my husband to give our child or the new baby a bath he’d willingly do it. He was very helpful.

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Here’s the thing, prior to requesting his help I had:

  • Run the bath water
  • Set out the baby shampoo
  • gathered the towel
  • laid out the new diaper and PJ’s
  • grabbed the small child’s hairbrush and body lotion

THE BATH EXPERIENCE WAS ALL SET UP AND READY TO GO!

Basically ALL my husband had to do was hold the baby so he wouldn’t drown and simply wash him off! I had prepared everything in advance for the task of bathing the baby.  Honestly, there were times when I’d think… I may as well have given the kid the bath myself.

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It’s a very simplistic story, I know, but it illustrates how God prepares in advance what we are to do. He made us so he knows what we are hard-wired to do. You are his handiwork/poem and he has things prepared and He is good. So I implore you, don’t get your undies in a bunch.

Back to the night of my study…

It seemed to become holy ground for me. As women chimed in, we helped each other see the way God has formed us, it was beautiful to witness. We read from 1 Corinthians 12 about the body and how we are not the same. We are different parts of the body with different gifts, all with the same Spirit.

One of the reasons I am on the planet is to help people celebrate their significance and the genius of God in them, so as you might imagine, I was so pumped about the way the evening about MISSION took SHAPE.

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Photo by Don Milo on Pexels.com

So let me ask you. What is your purpose or mission? What are you SHAPED to do? How have you been shaped by God? This “SHAPE” concept is not mine, but it’s one of the chapters of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.  Perhaps you’ve read it. Do you know your shape?

SHAPE:

  • S- Spiritual Gifts
  • H- Heart-
  • A- Abilities
  • P-Personality
  • E-Experiences

Think about your SHAPE. Whether you do extensive work to write down, reflect and pray or only have time for a cursory glance here, it won’t change the fact that you have been shaped, by God, on purpose for a purpose.

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, whether you play an instrument or make spreadsheets, whether you have the gift of wisdom, teaching, or hospitality, all of your days and painful experiences help define your purpose. You are shaped on purpose for a purpose.

There never has been anyone on this planet like you and there never will be again. You are uniquely created by God. You are His poem, His masterpiece! The way you are shaped helps define more clearly your purpose and mission.

Since I love to help people celebrate their significance and the genius of God in them, I was LIT UP and thrilled the other night.  I was among world changers! Check out who was seated with me:

  • A comedian and compassionate helper of the weak.
  • A sold out university student resolved to follow Christ and call her generation to holiness and to be the best version of herself.
  • A nurse who wears, like Jesus,”the towel” of a servant with style.
  • A wise teacher who ignites people’s hunger for God’s word as they learn to feed on the word of God themselves.
  • A woman sent by the Holy Spirit to the masses.
  • a children’s author called to implore others to “cease striving” and rest in God’s faithfulness.

The key is our memory verse. Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

We’re NOT all alike! That’s the beauty of the way God designed the body. Know this!  I celebrate your significance and the genius of God in you!

So go out BOLDLY in your shape, living your life on purpose!

I Corinthians 12:4-27 for your consideration:

4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.

There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.

God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.
The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.
10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.
11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
One Body with Many Parts
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.
13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.
15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.
19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part!
20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.
21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,
24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.
26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 

 

 

We are Wired for Connection

I have had a rich week. I am super relational, a true people person, and I know that about myself. I will choose people over tasks anytime. This week has been quite unusual though because it was people packed.

We are all wired for connection and we need it for many reasons and I believe it’s  beneficial for the soul. Of course, it’s important to rest and practice silence and solitude, too and I practice those disciplines as well.

Yet I am equally convinced people are in desperate need of human connection because we are wired for it. But many people aren’t aware of how isolated they have become. Isolation is a strategy of the enemy of our soul and its so insidious.

One connection was with my dear friend Dana. I was eager to meet for a face-to-face conversation. We devised a plan to meet at a local coffee shop I had suggested. Dana leads a full life and I hoped that she remembered our plans.  So, before heading out, I texted her to confirm and warn her that I may be a tad late. This is the text string:

fullsizeoutput_95d5 I arrived a few minutes before she did so I grabbed a seat in the back, where we could visit comfortably. I laughed because when she sat down we chatted only for a couple of seconds before Dana, who is hyper aware of her surroundings, got distracted.  We have that in common. I mean that in a good way. Dana is amazing at room decor and making the environment beautiful and pleasing.

She was distracted for a few minutes as she looked around and drink it all in. I made her laugh when I told her she was as flighty as me!  SQUIRREL!

She quickly spun her head around to canvas the walls and saw a few things I had missed. “Oh, boy!  Look at those up there!” She exclaimed.

“Oh, golly I didn’t even notice those three and I’m usually pretty observant.” I admitted.4k+piDrVQB2wBjmjiyVUqQ

We reconnected right off the bat and rattled away as we shared life stories. We talked about the real stuff, ” Sorry, to interrupt you Dana, I’m planning to lauch a podcast and it is going to be this kind of stuff…conversations and interviews and may have portions of some of my talks from time to time. I told her the title and said, “I’m going to want to interview you for sure.”

“Oh, “Rache,” she said through laughter, “I’d probably be better off if I didn’t know we were recording!”

She took a sip of her coffee and eyeballed me a second. I scooped up my phone to snap this shot because she is so dear to me. (I didn’t know until later I’d blog and use it.)

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We covered:

  • hormones
  • birthdays and aging
  • social media
  • God’s faithfulness and surprises
  • husbands
  • grown children
  • dear mutual friends
  • our upbringings
  • ministry
  • vacations
  • dreams
  • decorating

It didn’t matter to us that there were two ladies in close proximity, nor an elderly couple who later took their spot. We also had two mama’s with three pre-school boys who ate their macaroni and sandwiches at the booth a foot from us. It didn’t even phase us we just talked above their high-pitched voices and weren’t bothered by their constant activity. We basically closed that back section of the shop down.

It was a beautiful connection. Connection is essential. We are wired for it.

So in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:5

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

Dana has been such an encouragement to me in my life, ministry and during hard trials in life too. I sometimes begin my texts to her this way: Hey, Barnabas! She is one of many, who play the role of Barnabas, an encourager, in my life and I am incredibly grateful.

Because we are wired for connection and life gets busy, let me challenge you to call or text someone now. Set up some meetings next week with a few different people. Make sure your “meeting” has no agenda, just be together, simply catch up on each other’s lives. You’ll both be glad you did. Sometimes someone just needs to initiate.

To prove the “SQUIRREL!”easily distracted thing I mentioned earlier, I was mid sentence when Dana’s brow crinkled a bit, she squinted briefly and gasped. “There are acorns on your chair! Look behind you. See ’em?”

She was right. Two acorns adorned the chair I was seated in. “Stay put, I’m gonna take your picture” she demanded.

IMG_4354Because the chair was topped that way, she curiously investigated the bottom of the upholstery to see what kind of legs my chair had. I lifted the skirted pieces to expose the legs. She discovered, “Oh, well they’re just normal wooden ones.”

We had a ball together! We showed our photos of places we’d been. We testified of the ways God had been blessing us with serendipitous moments and the personal ways He has been revealing Himself lately.

After we thanked God for His goodness and the gift of friendship, the barista took this photo at our request. The minute she snapped the photo I knew what I wanted to blog about. I want to blog about how we are wired for connection. 

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We hugged and I headed to my car. As I began to fastened my seat belt, I noticed the clock. It read 2:00! WHAT? 

My seat belt went CLICK and my phone went DING as I received this text from Dana:

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We are wired for connection for sure! So how about you? May I reiterate my earlier suggestion? How ’bout you jingle someone’s line and see if they’d like to get together. Your week needn’t be as people packed as mine, but your life will be richer with human connection, I’m convinced of it. Go ahead, you can be the one who initiates.

BTW: You could also check out Dana’s amazing things on her website: https://burlychic.comI plan to connect with her sometime soon, Lord willing, when I get the podcast going and you can listen in on our conversation. Stay tuned!

 

From Anxiety to Adventure!

When I was a young girl, I was fearful of new experiences and would experience random anxiety issues over the littlest things, like going over to a friend’s house or attending a slumber party.  I remember having to take medicine, from a brown glass bottle with a cold spoon, even before walking to school in the morning. Even though I wanted to go to school and see my friends, I’d get all hepted-up and have a nervous stomach ache.

I’ve always been relational. I love to be with friends. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed learning about and from people. But my desire to be with people was hampered a bit by these pre-event jitters or anxiety related to new adventures.

Even something like summer day-camp seemed scary because it was new turf. I really didn’t enjoy day-camp and begged not to return after the first day. I had made my little sit-upon as a craft at day-camp, I recall.  I went into the backyard to find my mom in the garden and asked her if I could just stay home instead of going to camp the next day.

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“I made my sit-upon, isn’t that enough?”

 

“I’ve already made my sit-upon isn’t that good enough?” I asked her. I don’t remember whether or not I went back to finish the week. But it all begs the question, how did this little girl grow up to be someone who thoroughly enjoys new experiences and has traveled near and far to be with people and encourage them?

The answer, quite simply, no seriously, the answer is… God. He is the reason for peace in my life. He is the reason for any turn around and for every good thing in my life. he is for me not against me. He is working all things together for my good. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He is for you too.

He is:

  • in charge
  • sovereign
  • good.
  • the God of instead.
  • amazing

HE is an awesome God for me and for you.

I actually had the privilege of speaking about Hope and I used the topic: “The God of Instead” from the book of Isaiah chapter sixty-one.  This is the passage that talks about Jesus’ Identity and how he is known in heaven, his resume actually. It also speaks of the role of the believer. Read it and look for the power of the INSTEADs of God.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
I have repeatedly experienced the INSTEAD of God.
God has given me:
  •  instead of anxiety, peace.
  •  instead of fear, His perfect love.
  • instead of a spirit of heaviness/depression/fainting, joy unspeakable and full.
  • instead of hopelessness, hope.

Let me share a few photos from my recent trip to the Middle East- UAE and Oman. I had a great deal of firsts and great adventures provided by the God of Instead.

Instead of anxiety I live with adventure!

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As a little girl, I always wanted to see the world. As I looked out at my audience, I thought… I’m seeing the world!

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women’s conference photo credit: Sarah Shalley

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women from 45 different nations were present.

 

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A few first time adventures:

  • visit to a Mosque
  • desert Safari
  • ride on a camel
  • belly dancer performance-live not on television
  • tour in Dubai
  • travels in Oman
  • walks and wading in the gulf of Oman
  • time speaking in Oman

Do you know the God of Instead? He has come to bring life where there is death. Hope where there is hopelessness. The oil of gladness instead of mourning. He truly is a God of  INSTEAD.

Righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit, that’s the Kingdom of God. Because of Jesus and the work of God in my life I don’t live with anxiety but with adventure instead.

 

 

 

“Um, Hang On A Second God.”

A young, sweet friend of mine told me she was doing her morning “quiet time” with the LORD. She grabbed her journal, Bible, cup of coffee and sat down. A moment later, with pointer finger in the air, she whispered, “Umm, hang on a second God, I’ve got to go get my bagel out of the toaster.”

We both shook our heads and giggled as she relayed this story, because it’s absolutely laughable, right? “Hang on a second God, I’ve got to go get my bagel out of the toaster?” WHAT?  As if God wouldn’t be with her when she crossed the room and went into the kitchen to get her toasted bagel.

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BUT it is a pervasive thought many have. In the morning, when I set enough time aside, God is with me. But when I go about the normal activities of my day, I’ve left him behind. Where do we get this kind of thinking? Is God only with us while we sit in our quiet time chairs or saying our prayers?

No! God is with us everywhere and knows everything about us and our days. Every day is written in His book before any of them come to be. Here is a portion of Psalm 139:1-16. As you read it, I hope you will be comforted by the God who is familiar with every detail of your life. You can’t escape his presence.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.

You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
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If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
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but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
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We are all in process! We can be thankful for the nearness of God and His presence in the process. He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 

So say aloud.

  • I am in process.
  • God is still working on me.
  • God is with me, right now!

No matter where we go, no matter what we do or how we feel we have these promises of God:

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Do you ever feel like God is distant or is uninterested in your life? If so, I hope you’ll take comfort in the fact that God is a “with us” Emmanuel. He is very near.

Thank Him for his presence even in the morning when you are eating your bagel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bold as a Lion

I went shopping in downtown New York City when my first-born son was pretty tiny. My husband was on a business trip so we went along. I decided to do some shopping to kill time while he was tied up in meetings.

I roamed around some fancy smancy store, I don’t recall the name, I was traveling up the escalator to the third floor when a woman behind me cried, “Aw! Do you have a boy or girl in there? I can’t quite see.”

I turned slightly so she could take a better look. I answered, “A little boy!”

“He’s so precious!” She commented. “Well, good for you to be out and about with him so young. It’s a beautiful day.”

As the escalator reached the top we parted and I immediately took a sharp right. Fortunately, my feet were the one thing that didn’t’ change during my pregnancy so I thought… Hmm? Shoes, I can look and shoes and try some on pretty easily with a baby. Sounds fun!

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I no more than hit the carpet area of the shoe department, when a woman asked, “How old is your baby?”  I answered her query.

She then gasped, “I cannot believe you have that baby out here amongst all of these people and all the germs! WHAT were you thinking?”

I’ll never forget this day. I received such different views and unsolicited advice was thrown at me in a matter of seconds.

I recently was asked to address an audience of young mammas on the topic of “Boldness in Parenting.” I began with that story.  Here is just a taste of what I talked about. I want to share it with you too.

I heard this term “Mom-shaming” recently.  The top definitions is: Criticizing or degrading a mother for her parenting choices because they differ from the choices the shamer would make.

It’s a bit like what I encountered in New York City while out shopping.  The scrutiny moms feel I’m sure is exacerbated by social media. The comments people leave on “friends” Facebook pages and opinions fly around from all angles all the time.  The incessant barrage of thoughts and messages may leave some debilitated.

Here are a few things I suggest:

  • Filter what you hear. (Maybe even FAST from social media for a time or season)
  • Fix your eyes on Jesus.
  • Fulfill what he’s calling you to do.
  • Finish the race!

These things you can do because you have the Spirit of God in you.

Parenting requires wisdom and discernment.  Trust God for strength while raising children:

  • God has given you your children. You are their mother. They are your children. He did not place them in another family for a reason. We may throw a dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. Proverbs 16:33. Nothing with God is random. Your kids are your kids.

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  • Ask for wisdom from on high. Then dispense what you believe to be the best decision, with the information you have at the time, with a surrendered heart, for the child you shepherd and simply do what you do. Then…leave the results to God.

Joshua 1:8,9 “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous do not be terrified do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Do not be discouraged do not be terrified? I believe fear is paralyzing people on every side.

BUT Perfect love cast out fear. You are perfectly loved by the Father. Right now, in Jesus name. I want to pause for a moment and ask God the Father to lavish His love on you. Will you receive it?

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Father God, thank you for loving these readers. Thank you that you love them with an everlasting unending love. You don’t just love them collectively you love them individually. Allow each one to feel the love of the Father right now. Thank you for each one. Thank you for who they are. Let your perfect love cast out any fear. In Jesus name, amen.

You can be bold.  It comes from knowing who you are and whose you are. It’s an identity thing, really.

Your God knows what the future looks like because He is outside of time and He is all-knowing  and omnipresent. He is Alpha and Omega the great I Am. He sees you He sees me. He knows the purposes of some plans He has for you and they are good, and only good. He has purposes and plans for your children, those plans are good and only good.

If we believe anything else about His character or about His ways we have partnered with a lie. The lie, in and of itself, has no power but to believe the lie and agree with it empowers the liar.

What does God think about you?

  • He thinks you are lovely.
  • He knows you’re His masterpiece, He formed you.
  • He believes that you are worth dying for and He sent his son Jesus to save you.
  • He sees in you what you are becoming, not just who you are now.
  • He sees you as righteous because of Jesus Christ if you have accepted Him. 

When David saw himself as a shepherd boy, God saw him as a king! When Moses saw himself as a mumbler God saw him as a deliverer. When Rachel Inouye sees herself as a wobbly mama. God sees her as one who has come, in His Spirit, to deliver captives, bring hope, release peace and encourage people all over the world. 

You have a circumstance but you must have a stance in that circumstance.  Your stance is in Christ.  So you can be bold as a Lion!

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People all over are watching you. Your children are watching you. I hope that brings you encouragement to be bold. They pay more attention to what you do than what you say. They are watching you. If you cower, if you are not as bold as you can be in who you are, they will not be as bold as they can be and who they are. 

But when you break down and pull down any strongholds in your life and move forward in boldness it actually releases your children and others to live in greater freedom. It’s a beautiful thing! You get to partner with God to be a way-maker in your children and other people’s lives.

When it comes to Mom-shaming, no one can make you feel small. You only feel small if you believe a lie about you. The one who is offended and embraces the offense will quickly have a strong hold of being the victim, that thinking will play out in their life.

The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25 

We need to filter what comes at us, even criticism. When criticized do you focus on the criticism or your creator? 

The criticism may have an element of truth maybe that’s why it hurts. Bring comments and criticisms to God:

  • ask God what to do about it
  • change what needs to be changed
  • make modifications
  • but don’t stay stuck or believe a lie
  • continue to move forward and use whatever was spoken or said to make you a better person
  • let it sharpen you rather than paralyze you

 

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1 The righteous are as bold as a lion because God loves them, they have a savior, their sins are forgiven, their conscience is clear and there is no condemnation.

Say aloud:

  • I can do this!
  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  • I make good decisions-in all my ways I acknowledge God and he will make my path straight. 
  • If I need wisdom I’ll ask God.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 

Can you receive the love of the father and allow him to speak and sing over you? 

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst he is a mighty warrior he saves. He takes great delight in you he will quiet you with his love he will rejoice over you with singing. This is who God is for you. This Gods makes you brave and bold in Him.

He rejoices over you with singing. He is proud of you. He is with you every moment of the day. He does not expect you to handle things on your own. You can be bold in HIM.

He is with you.. If he commands something than he plans to give you what you need to fulfill the command.  Have a not commanded you be strong and courageous do not be terrified do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.! Joshua 1:9. God IS with you wherever you go. I don’t know about you but that makes me bolder.

God gives us this promise.  I will never leave you nor forsake you. So when you are:

  • in the garden God is with you.
  • doing laundry God is with you
  • waiting in the carpool line God is with you
  • shopping and your kids are hungry and they’re acting like wild monkeys in the store and you wish they would all calm down, God is with you.

“If you are in Christ so are all your circumstances.” This quote is from Graham Cooke. This emboldened me that gave me hope and courage in a time when the enemy wanted me crushed and defeated and discouraged. Reader, God sees you, He knows your circumstances and he loves you. 

So, don’t let anything cause you to shrink back. Step forward into the plan that God has for you.

Ephesians 2:8, maybe very familiar to you, For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast.

Verse nine goes on to say, for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. So relax, do not fear the future but step into it with boldness because God has planned things in advance for you.

I pray that as you step forward in whatever you do, you will be bold.

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With my God I can advance against a troop. With my God I can scale a wall. Psalm 18:29

I’d love to pray for you:

Father, I release boldness and courage from you! I release the boldness of the Father over these readers. I release the love of the Father over them in order to step into their true calling. In order to take up the mantle of being the people you’ve called them to be. I speak rest over them at night. I speak health over their bodies, I bless their marriages, if they are married and I bless their spheres of influence in Jesus name! 

I bless their children to know who they are as they go through life. I pray that the discovery process would be exhilarating and not exhausting. I pray, in the name of Jesus, that you would be the shield around each person and the lifter of their heads.

I pray when they look up they would feel your hand under their chin as you are looking on them with eyes of love. Would you right now, lift up your countenance upon each one and give them your peace. In Jesus name. Amen.

Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Reader with God…You got this! God does not command us to do something that he does not equip us to carry out. 

I pray that you will be encouraged with these words and you will be as bold as a lion. 

 

Rev up! Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

“Gentlemen, start your engines!” this traditional phrase is spoken at the start of the Indianapolis 500. I feel a bit like I’m at the start of a race as my fall schedule begins. How about you?

Just two days ago, I had the kick off of my weekly Bible study. My calendar reflects the impending speaking schedule is about to begin in less than a week.  Dom, Dom DOM!

Do you feel it?  It’s in the air.  All around me I feel excitement and curiosity mixed with a pinch of the fear-of–the-unknown with a side of panic. Many of you have sent children off to school or have started back to college yourself or your back to ministries at church.

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I feel a sense of excitement of what is ahead but I know new things and busier times of the year can bring with it apprehension and anxiety.  I get it, I do! But I say, “No!”

“No,” to anxiety.  “No,” to worry or fatigue or restlessness!

I am choosing to believe that what God says in his word as he promises me certain things regarding life in him and about my future:

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I was thinking about all I have on the horizon:

  • finishing a manuscript for a new book
  • future travels and messages to be delivered at events
  • completing the demo and remodel of our master bathroom
  • filming and recording an on-line course
  • painting part of my basement
  • moving forward to begin a podcast
  • even writing this current blog post

I am needing revelation regarding so many things. I was on a FaceTime call with my precious parents today.  We were speaking about upcoming things when I paused and shouted, “I’m looking for revelation!”

My father chuckled leaned forward slightly toward the screen and said, “Get ‘reved’ up! VROOM VROOM”

Get it? REVELATION!  As we hung up the call his parting sign off was, “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

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I knew he was talking about future plans, the things I am in the process of doing and the things that are about to begin. He was referencing all of it. Yes, I desire to commit ALL OF IT to the LORD. He made me. He has good plans for me.  AND good news… He is preparing in advance the things I do.

Let me turn a slight corner here and reference PLANS. I’d like to share a few versions of the same verse:  Proverbs 16:3 

  • Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. NIV
  • Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. NLT
  • Ask the Lord to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out. GNT.  

There are some really great promises. Here are a few cross references:

  • Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. I Peter 5:7
  • Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:5
  • Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22
  • In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

Isn’t it easy, even in prayer, to speak to God about our plans or about our circumstances? But I believe it’s better to speak to our plans and circumstances about our God.  Just flip that whole prayer over and see it through our really BIG God.

Even this morning while I was praying, a situation came to mind which needed to be better aligned to who God is. I flipped the pages of my Bible to Jeremiah 32:17  “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” I took a deep breath and exhaled with such peace.

Let me give you one more truth from scripture. I hope it helps both of us as we go about doing whatever we’ve got planned because it will require our strength.

Seriously I am a wimp on my own but with God I’m so amazing and I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength. So if you need strength today let me encourage you with this.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

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I’d like to pray for us:

Father, thank you for who you are, righteous, good, our sustainer, way-maker, restorer, provider and deliverer. Your eyes search throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are committed to you.  I call to you because we need your strength.

We can cast our cares on you because you care for us. Thank you that nothing is too hard for you. NOTHING! You made the heavens and the earth with your great power and outstretched arm. You’re absolutely amazing! You are so good and so kind. You love first. Thanks for loving us.

I thank you that we can break off anxiety that attempts to creep in, in the name of Jesus. So right now I do that, I break off any anxious thought and replace it with your peace and your rest!  You promised to keep us in perfect peace as we trust in you. We recieve your perfect peace.

You said let not your hearts be troubled or afraid because you are with us and you have overcome the world. Thank you. You promise to be with us every moment of every day. We are grateful. You don’t take off on us and you don’t lie. What you say you will do, you will do. All your promises are yes and amen. Thank you Jesus! We stand firmly on your promises.

With all we’ve got going in the upcoming days I commit it all to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

So “Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your engines!”

 

 

 

 

Should I Answer a Call From an Unknown Number?

My cell phone rang. I pulled it out of my purse but I didn’t recognize the number.
My mind had, within a split second, all these random thoughts:
  • Hmm? Who is this I wonder?  
  • What? 407 area code?
  • Should I take it?
  • It’s a Florida number.
  • It could be from Uth Stuph? YOUTH STUFF- the Company that my Celebrate T- Shirts.
  • The latest order was shipped and has already arrived.
  • Could there be a question about the order?
  • I’m driving, ahhhhh and have no laptop or order information with me.
  • Should I answer?
  • Yeah, I should take it.
I’m sure glad I did.
“Hello, this is Rachel” I said.
“Hi, Rachel, This is ____________,  we’d like to do a client spotlight on you and your ministry along with the Celebrate T-Shirts…It’s for our blog.” She informed.
I don’t know about you but I giggle at how God works sometimes. I love getting the word out about the message behind the “Celebrate Movement” and my Mantra: “Don’t Compare, Don’t Compete, Celebrate!” He’s been cracking me up lately.
Is God working in your life in odd and fun ways? He is in mine. I often ask Him to surprise me. It’s funny how I am still surprised by his surprises.
I’m tickled about the traction the “CELEBRATE MOVEMENT” is getting. It’s a God thing. I am truly amazed by people. I help people celebrate their significance and the genius of God in them. By the way: I celebrate (Honor, Commend, Applaud) You.
I’m delighted to report that the call was quick and a great way to spread the message. HERE is the interview from their blog.

Uth Stuph Blog

Client Spotlight: Rachel Inouye

Uth Stuph Client Spotlight: Rachel Inouye

Our client Spotlight this week is on Rachel Inouye and her ministry of celebrating God’s love for us! Read our blog to find out more about her inspirational career of changing lives through storytelling.

Uth Stuph: Rachel, thank you so much for being our client spotlight this week! Tell us a bit about your ministry.

Rachel: I help people celebrate their significance in the genius of God in them. God is given me the ability to take tangible things in this life and see a connection to a spiritual truth. I have a fresh perspective for everyday life. This perspective comes out when I’m speaking and in my book, Lily Pads: Stories of God on Displayand in my weekly blog posts.
God is a God of all hope, not just some hope. So no matter what the circumstance or situation, there is hope in the midst of it. God is for us not against us and that no weapon formed against us will prosper. God is good even in the midst of hard times or difficult circumstances.
I thoroughly enjoy story telling, with a love for Scripture, and believe in the power of prayer. God answers the cries of His kids and loves us so much. Those things sum up my ministry.

Uth Stuph: What made you want to become a speaker?

Rachel: I have been speaking since the moment I learned how to talk, NO JOKE!

“Rachel is always talking in class!” is something my parents heard during elementary school parent-teacher conferences. Funny turn of events; I was the class speaker at my high school Commencement Ceremony and some class reunions.

Not only am I a verbal processor, but I’m on the planet to encourage others.
I’m called to exhort the congregations. I began speaking as part of a worship team and traveling on cross-cultural mission trips to Colombia, Peru, Spain, Kenya, India, Guatemala Israel and soon Oman, Lord willing!
I primarily speak and encourage women at small group gatherings, women’s weekend retreats, mother-daughter teas, and Christmas programs. I’ve met so many fabulous people and I’m honored to minister to and with them. God has grown this ministry. It’s amazing to watch and exciting to be on this ride.

Uth Stuph: Tell us about your “Celebrate” T-shirt.

Rachel: This T-shirt is my life’s mantra: “Don’t Compare, Don’t Complete, Celebrate!”
Now it’s become the “CELEBRATE MOVEMENT” as many people have joined. The message of the mantra is for people (not just in the church or corporations), but for people’s lives in general.
Comparison is “killing” people- it’s exacerbated by social media’s view in to people lives. Whether staged or real, it can be a breeding ground for discontentment. Comparison can be absolutely debilitating and even competition can turn ugly.
The antidote I’ve found is simple: Celebrate! Yes, Celebrate who you are as an individual and celebrate other people too.
There is no one alike on this planet. We are each uniquely made and God’s masterpiece, so don’t compare. There is no reason to compete for God’s love or attention. He willingly gives it to each of his kids. Don’t Compete. God never makes junk and you are God’s MASTERPIECE!
I heard a pastor say regarding other people: “Call out their gold rather than tripping over their dirt.”
The CELEBRATE is gold and the T-shirt is black.
Call out the GOLD rather that tripping over the dirt (black)

Uth Stuph: Rachel, Thank you so much for sharing with us about your ministry and the custom shirts that help you celebrate! How can people find you?

Rachel:
Instagram: @RachelInouye
Twitter: 4thgirlrach
JOIN the movement order your own t-shirt! http://rachelinouye.org/Store.cfm
Watch for other ways Rachel spreads encouragement through her online classes and podcasts.

Is Disruption a Good or Bad Thing?

I woke with one word in my mind…Disruption. Disruption? I wondered, Is this a positive or negative thought? I heard God ask. “Is disruption always bad, Rachel?” My response, “Am I supposed write about disruption, Lord? ” 

A few stories from the Bible flooded my mind: Jesus first disruption- simply being born split time, for goodness sake! How about when He overturned the tables of the money-changers in the temple? That was certainly a disruption. Jesus stopped along the road and called down, out of a tree, the short, wealthy tax collector, Zacchaeus.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly.

(People despised tax-collectors because they cheated and stole from them often. BUT Jesus decided that’s where I’m having dinner tonight! )

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

(From Luke 19.)

I realized I had only thought of disruption with a negative connotation. Perhaps it is because I was trained as a teacher and a disruption in the classroom or a disruptive student isn’t typically a good thing .

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Suddenly, I was struck by how Mary’s disruptive act of love and worship caused the Pharisees to have a “disruption in their hearts” because they had to consider Jesus’ willingness to forgive the sinful woman.

A story of disruption:

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

(This would have been a HUGE disruption… A women, kissing and wiping Jesus feet with ointment and tears)

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”

And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.

You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”” Luke 7:36-50 ESV

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Disruption: NOUN- disturbance or problems that interrupt and event, activity or process. 

This morning my activity of walking in beautiful Nashotah Park with a friend was  interrupted by the mushrooms we continually saw along the way. We’ve  had so much rain lately so the mushrooms have had perfect growing conditions.

At first I looked ahead and thought, did someone leave white large kitchen trash bag lying in the middle of the mulched trail?  I was listening to my friend, but I thought, “Gross, that must be a big trash bag up ahead.” 

Then I cried out, “Oh, my gosh! Jill look! It’s a huge mushroom! Let me take a picture of it.”

“Hang on, lemme put my foot in the frame for size reference. It is so big! Oh, brother,” she continued, “Someone must have stepped on it or it just split into pieces.”

“Great. Set your foot right there. I want a photo.” I suggested. “Got it!”

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As our walk continued, I wanted to slow down in order to capture some photos along the way. It was amazing!

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Is disruption a good or bad thing? Let me turn a corner here for a moment. I’d like us all to consider this. As believers, we are in this world to represent Jesus Christ. RE-PRESENT Him. Some people need another look at Jesus or another introduction to His character and nature. We have an opportunity to be that.  I want to re-present him in such a way that causes people to stop and take notice. I’d like to be a disruption or sorts.

I pray my life will cause a disruption of:

  • thoughts that need shifting
  • preconceived notions
  • the course of their day
  • process of dealing with an issue or person
  • their own thoughts or lies about who they are

I’d like to be similar to the mushrooms I saw on my walk. Why? Because I’d like to have so much WATER- and grow HUGE.

Water is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit, may my life be a HUGE MUSHROOM in their path and cause them to take notice. I pray what is seen is a life that interrupts the norm enough to cause them to see the Jesus I represent.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Is there a disruption in your life right now? What is your response to it? Is Jesus trying to disrupt something for your own good? Perhaps you could make a list of the positives you have seen come from it. Ask yourself, ” Is this really a bad thing? Could I see the good in it?”