Friday, December 4, 2015

3 Shifts of Thought to Help You Find a Mentor


I went through a long season of passionate career goals. I can still remember how it began.  Just months after the birth of our son, I walked through the doors of an exciting office environment, still plump with maternity weight, and accepted the invitation to recognition, appreciation, and “status.”  

When I entered the workplace, I over-confidently considered myself a follower of Jesus Christ, fully capable of balancing professional and family lives. In my fancy suits and high heeled shoes, I turned my focus on job performance, promotions, increasing income, and corporate success. Family, health, and even God slowly began to take a back seat.

During those years, I developed close friendships with several women in the workplace who gradually influenced me toward new age thinking, astrology, mysticism, and other “isms” that pulled me away from Christ.

Slowly, subtly, and without my realization of what was happening, my new friends persuaded me to question my faith and doubt the sovereignty of God.  That wasn’t their goal. They were simply sharing their views. They were smart, savvy, and successful. I was young, outnumbered, an ill-equipped debater, and tucked my own beliefs away without a fight. I began to believe as they believed. They had a significant influence on me. 


Decades later, I realize there was something that could have helped me hold fast to my faith during this unrecognized assault:  a mentor.  I needed a friend who could point me back to truth, remind me to stand firm in my spiritual armor, and pray for me as I walked through the office-disguised minefield. A mentor could help me navigate conversations that were happening at work and model the “how-to’s” of abiding in Christ, even when it was not easy.

I needed a friend who would share her successes and struggles by allowing me to learn from what she’d faced through her own experiences. I needed female accountability to help me stay true to my commitment to grow with God, and surrender to my need for complete dependence on Him. 


Finding a Mentor


It’s not always easy to find a mentor.  We may imagine someone with similar likes and interests, one who is several years older but has found success doing exactly the things we dream of accomplishing ourselves.   

For instance… 

Maybe you imagine a Christian mentor who manages a household with abundant love and an absence of anger. You hope for someone who conquers clutter, can teach you to quilt, and once produced a house full of well-behaved, neatly dressed children. Just being next to her will deepen your walk with Christ. You envision her linen closet with symmetrically folded fitted sheets aligned neatly on the shelves.  Of course, she loves photography just like you.  


If you’re career oriented, your imagined mentor might work in the same profession as you.  She uses only Erin Condren calendars, is an effective communicator, and finds time every day to spend with God. She’s a master at multi-tasking, can not only hold her own in a boardroom full of testosterone, but earns great respect. She thrives in a peaceful, laughter-filled marriage with her best friend. 

I hope you’re beginning to see one of the reasons finding a mentor can be difficult:  We set our expectations far too high. 

3 Shifts of Thought to Help


Once I understood these realities, I shifted my thinking, and finding a mentor became much easier to consider:

1) Your Mentor may be someone you already know but haven’t considered.  God ordained you for this particular time and place. Where you live and who you know are part of His sovereign plan.  Therefore, the mentor who best suits you is likely someone in your own church, workplace, or town.  Or, she may be a friend who lives a fair distance away but can communicate regularly and easily through technology like Skype or FaceTime.  I don’t believe that God placed your perfect mentor across the world and will make you move mountains to meet her or wake at 2 am to talk with her.   

2) It’s highly unlikely that your mentor will share all of your interests, dreams, and ambitions.  She may not have had her life together in her early years and may have missed the class on how to fold a fitted sheet.  (Maybe that’s something you can teach her).  Searching for a mentor with a heart for Jesus, one who has learned from some hard knocks in life, and can help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, will produce a great choice.  

3) A mentor may not be your mentor forever. The most intimate time of your relationship may be for a season, not a lifetime.  Lord willing, she will forever be your friend and provide trusted counsel, but perhaps God chose her to mentor you only through a specific time or circumstance. When considering a mentoring relationship, be careful not to cloud it with weighty expectations of forever-ness. Longevity is an extra gift, not a guarantee.


Once your’ve cast aside the notion that you’ll never find a mentor, ask the Lord to place a potential mentor on your heart.  Ask that He bring her name or face to your thoughts and allow time for His answer.  I believe you’ll soon recognize that “so-and-so” has been on your mind for a few days and you’ll recognize this as the Lord’s prompting.  Pray again - that the Lord will prepare her heart for your invitation and then ask if she’ll become your mentor.  

Many have mentoring or discipleship groups within church congregations.  If that’s you, by all means, allow them to help! Get involved when the opportunity presents itself. 





Finding a mentor and walking shoulder-to-shoulder with her through the challenges of life is an element of God’s best that’s not only essential, it’s commanded in Titus 2:3-5. God prepares us for these types of relationships, whether we serve in a role of mentor, mentee, or - like me - both. The Lord will faithfully provide women to model and mentor to us if we’re willing to seek them out. He’ll present women in our lives who need our loving influence as well. 

All those years ago, in the midst of my spiritual free fall, the Lord sent an unexpected mentor right to my office doorstep. I didn’t realize I’d needed her, but she was His gift to me.  One day I hired a sweet, young receptionist for our office who “happened” to live and breathe Jesus Christ.  She was younger than me in physical age, but had more spiritual maturity. When she began work in my office, she immediately began pointing me back to Christ and had a profound influence on my Christian walk. I’m grateful beyond words. 

A faithful mentor is priceless.  Trust that God has one for you, then watch carefully and go out and find her!

P.S.

I am still occasionally in contact with some of the women from the office team I mentioned, and love them deeply. I pray for them and have since shared my faith and my surrender to Christ. Only the Lord knows if they’ll accept His invitation to follow Him. 


Your Turn:

How has a mentor influenced you for God’s glory?


Or how has the absence of a mentor left a void?


Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or engaging on Facebook or Twitter. 


Be Strengthened Today By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Cathy

Monday, November 23, 2015

What if Weight Loss Tips Were About More Than Weight?

On a late summer day, I broke a personal rule and checked email as soon as my eyes opened. I know better.  Any distraction before I seek the Lord’s face completely derails my time with Him. But that day, I succumbed to temptation and opened gmail before my Bible. 

This subject line captured my attention: Love Your Body, Weight Loss is NOT the Goal.



Now I’m no thin mint. I can’t remember the last time I felt happy with my body image. BMI charts classify me as obese - that is, until today - but I’ll get to that in a bit. 

As I read, a few of Janet Thompson’s points hit my heart like a 2 x 4.  

1) “Weight loss without a realistic lifetime eating plan is doomed for failure.”  

I’ve heard that dozens of times.  But I’d recently regained 30 pounds I’d worked hard to lose, and her words resonated.  

2) “The way God created our bodies, Energy (Calories) IN and energy OUT = maintained weight.  More IN than OUT = weight gain.  More OUT than IN = weight loss.”  

I majored in science. I get that kind of stuff.  But could it really be this simple?  The preface that God created our bodies to work within this ordered system spoke to me and I kept reading.  

The third 2 x 4 was the real clincher:

3) “To be successful at long term weight loss, we must adopt a new lifestyle, just like when we became Christians and we put off the old way of life and put on the new.” (Italics mine).

Now we were on to something.  My spirit cried out, “I can do this!”  And I knew immediately, this pertained to more than weight loss and body image.

A Universal Truth


Truth has universal application.  Think through these points with me since they can apply to nearly ANY area of struggle. Look at Janet’s sentences again with blanks inserted: 

1.  _____________________ without a lifetime plan is doomed for failure.
2.  The way God created (us), more ________ than __________ = ___________.  More __________ than __________ = ____________.
3.  To be successful at ____________________________, we must adopt a new lifestyle, just like when we became Christians and we put off the old way of life and put on the new. 

Now, let’s fill in those blanks with some of our common areas of struggle:  

1.  Calming anxiety
2.  More worry than trust = anxiety.  More trust than worry = peace.
3.  overcoming anxiety

OR, how about:

1.  Overcoming shame
2.  More negative self-talk than belief in who God says I am = feelings of condemnation.  More knowledge of identity in Christ than listening to lies of the enemy = freedom to be who I’m created to be.
3.  leaving shame in the past


Are you getting the picture?  Don’t leave out the valuable words that surround those blanks as you consider what you’re currently wrestling.  In your personal situation, what would you like to overcome?  What do you need more and less of in your daily walk with Christ?  

Yes, truth has universal application. There’s beauty in that. 

It’s About Freedom


This is why I believe we should talk about weight loss, even during the week of what is likely our largest feasting holiday of the year.  Let’s have this conversation now, because it’s not only about weight loss. 

It’s about freedom. 

It’s about identifying the areas of bondage that oppress, and breaking free from chains that hold us captive. It’s about adopting a new mindset and embracing a shift in our spirits. 

Finding freedom through truth - especially in areas where we’re accustomed to walking in captivity - is an incredible element of God’s best. Sometimes it’s only as freedom comes that we begin to realize the level of defeat that had become comfortable and routine. When our change becomes obvious, we’ll want to holler, dance, and celebrate.  Because we’re FREE!  



Embracing the Miracle


After reading Janet’s post that morning, I’d like to tell you that I had great quiet time with the Lord. That’s not the case. I didn’t spend time in God’s Word before I left for work. I downloaded calorie counting apps and started a life change.  I took off some old habits and asked the Lord to help me as I put on some new. 

Here’s the miracle that happened:  I felt released from bondage to food. I felt liberated from captivity. The numbers on the scale became a secondary consideration. 

For the first time - probably ever in my life - I found the will to say no to a chocolate bar or a portion of comforting mac and cheese without feeling cheated.  I no longer think “I can’t have that,” but look at my daily calorie allotment and know today’s not the day. If I eat carefully tomorrow, I can budget it into my meal plan then.

Treading Through Triumph


I’m thrilled to report that our family enjoyed vacation in September and I lost weight during our trip.  All while enjoying ice cream on Disneyland’s Main Street (one of my favorite things to do and I didn’t have to say, “No, I shouldn’t.”).  All while eating In-N-Out Burger two (or maybe even three) times.  Yes, I chose a “protein-style” burger (lettuce-wrapped), and ate fries only once, but I relished the experience with my family and didn’t feel left out or deprived at all.

A dear friend visited last week from Canada. We stopped at many of her favorite US restaurants and I shared wonderful meals with her.  She brought my very favorite unavailable-in-the-states candy bars and I sliced them up and delivered bites to everyone in the house. We loved it and I didn’t feel guilty.  Not a bit.  When my friend left, the scale said I’d dropped another pound, which was not nearly as sweet as the absence of self-reproach I’d experienced throughout her stay. 

Just this morning, I saw the disappearance of the final pound needed to move my BMI classification from “obese” to “overweight.”  I caught a glimpse of myself in a wall-sized mirror in a retail store and didn’t want to move away from the reflection.  In fact, my lips curved into a giant smile as I peeked a second time. 

We Can Do This!


Now I fully realize that two and a half months of successful behavior does not a lifetime make, but I’m a lot farther down the road than I’ve been before.  Pray for me, please.  And I’ll pray for you too.  It’s only in the Lord’s strength that we can do all things.  

Let’s not fail to DO because we’re deceived into thinking that we CAN’T.  Today is always the day to begin a new, God-honoring habit to recognize and embrace God’s best for us. 

This newfound freedom is very high on the list of things for which I’m grateful this Thanksgiving.  Breaking out of bondage and experiencing victory where I’ve battled for years is a savory taste of God’s best. I’m embracing it.  Will you, too?


Your Turn:

Where have you experienced victory in a battle you fought for years?


How is your life different now that chains are broken?


Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28

Cathy


Continue the conversation by commenting below or on Facebook or Twitter

  


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lessons from the Garden

“The pay is great,” my friend explained. “You’ll receive some of the harvest.”  

She’d recently presented an opportunity to work in a garden that supplied a local Farmer’s Market. It sounded good to me since this year we decided not to plant our own shared garden.  And, this would allow me to get outside and get some exercise.  How difficult could it be?  I committed to two hours a week to start out, not knowing my pay would far exceed fresh, tasty veggies.


I called the “Garden Lady” and introduced myself.  A very pleasant, friendly woman briefly explained how it worked and invited me to come and visit her farm. I was well on my way to what would be an amazing experience.  The tour included visiting two greenhouses and a “huge,” young garden. Most of the produce had just been planted.

“Garden Lady” introduced herself as Cathy.  I quickly knew in my heart we would become friends and was grateful when she began sharing her faith.  She had a love for Christ that flowed freely, in not only her words, but in her actions.  My first clue came through her thankful heart for her garden, and how she loved providing for others.  She spoke often of how the garden is a great place to pray and talk to God and we began to share that experience together. Of course, we have become friends and I am so thankful God directed me right to her garden.

Which are the Weeds?


On my first day I was asked to weed.  Sounded easy enough as I have had a lot of experience with weeds.  But immediately I discovered that I needed help in distinguishing between weeds and plants.  You see, many weeds are very pretty, healthy looking, and some even have pretty yellow or white flowers.

Most of my experience with produce comes from the grocery store where there’s no hint of the plants that generate the harvest. Very patiently, Cathy pointed out this is what a green bean plant looks like or this is what a beet plant looks like.  (I must admit I don’t eat beets, let alone pretend to know what the beet plant looks like.)

In some cases the weeds looked healthier and more mature than the plant.  In my defense, none of these new plants had produce on them, so how was I to know the difference?  Cathy and my co-worker even knew the names of the weeds and bugs that would destroy the crop if left unattended.  You will be proud of me for recognizing the tomato plants and the lettuce right away.

Humor me for a moment while I share what I learned this summer.  When weeding, it is very important to support the plant. If I wasn’t careful when I pulled the weed, the plant would come up too.  An example is a small, fragile carrot where a healthy, tough weed has decided to grow right next to it.  In those cases, it was important for me to put my fingers around the carrot, close to the good soil in support, while gently pulling that weed so its entire root came up.  At times, I asked my co-worker to place her hands around the base of the larger plant, press down on the soil to keep it secure while I wiggled the weed free from the fragile plant. I am pretty sure I heard that young plant sigh, “Thank you! Now I can breathe, drink the water, and bask in the sunshine so I can grow strong.”  My mentor told me - - an exposed root of a weed makes for a dead weed. 

Once the fruit came on, it became easier for me to distinguish between plants and weeds because I recognized the yummy fruit and veggies.  When the plants bear abundant produce, it’s a beautiful sight.  And as I picked items for the farmers market, it was exciting to know that many people would benefit from eating them.

God's Bounty


I enjoyed my time in God’s creation listening to the birds, watching a frog hop away when I scared him (and he scared me), seeing a half-eaten watermelon that was evidently dessert for a turkey. The bunnies hopped through the produce looking for something yummy to snack on. Even the mosquitoes and grasshoppers were created by our Lord.  The cows stood across the road mooing a morning song under a blue sky with white clouds. The air was crisp and refreshing.  Sometimes I was all alone on my knees - a great position to talk with my Lord and be still while He talks to me.  Some days I had the opportunity to work with other women who love God and delight in the perfect setting for sharing and praying.

The pay, indeed, was great:  spending time among God’s creation, receiving gifts of the harvest, and tasting new things. How many jobs have fresh blueberries or cherry tomatoes in four different varieties to be taste tested?  And the view from “my office” was spectacular.  The intangible pay came through the lessons that the Lord allowed me to see.

The Harvest in our Hearts


A garden is a perfect picture of our hearts.  How are our hearts prepped for what God wants to plant in them?  Is God’s word written on my heart that I may not sin against Him?  (Psalm 119:11)

How about your heart?  Are there roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame that will take hold like those weeds?  Is it almost impossible to see the plants of the spiritual fruits - - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control because of those weeds?  If so, those plants cannot produce fruits of the spirit because the weeds will overtake them.

Just as I spent many hours weeding rows and rows of tomatoes, peppers, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, onions, garlic - - I must continue to weed out those roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame from my heart.  

God’s word is always reminding me that an exposed root is a dead root.  And, it is very important that I surround myself with others who love God who are willing to hold my heart secure while I am uprooting those ugly weeds.  At times, my husband is that helper, sometimes my biological sisters; however, more often, it is a spiritual sister who is helping me so my heart gets the eternal nourishment it needs.  Then I am able to share my “produce” with others, just as “Garden Lady” shares her beautiful harvest.

One particular day as I picked produce in preparation for the Farmer’s Market, the sun was shining on red, yellow, and purple cherry tomatoes. Each shone with the light of the sun.  Similarly, I can shine with the light of the Son, Jesus, and my fruit will go on to bless others.   John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Next time you enjoy a juicy red tomato, a yummy watermelon, or a tart pickle, remember the labor of love that someone gave to keep destructive weeds away from the plant, allowing it to grow strong and produce.

Similarly, remain diligent in exposing the roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame in your heart.  Using the word of God, intentionally pull them out - root and all.  And if a sister needs you to hold her heart secure while those “weeds” are plucked from her heart, agree to be available. You’ll both reap a harvest.



Blog Contributor, Debbie Andrews

Debbie Andrews and her husband, Charlie own and operate a quaint hotel in the small town of Wallace, Nebraska.  Their 4 children chose wonderful mates who have blessed them with 8 fun grandchildren.  Her heart is full of love for the Lord and the family He has given her.  Teaching, scrapbooking, canning and sewing are talents God has given to Debbie to share with others.






Sunday, September 13, 2015

21 Prayers for Law Enforcement Officers


In the past, I liked to say that I didn’t marry a cop. I wanted it out on the table that we didn't know law enforcement would be Mike’s calling when we said, “I do.”  I married a construction worker. Six short months later, he was hired by the Sheriff's Office.  

For years, I felt that since I didn’t sign up for this role as a cop's wife, I should have some grace if it became too difficult to tolerate.  

After 28 years, I know whether I became a cop's wife by choice or not, it’s what I am.  As my husband is called to serve our community, I am also called - to stand firm in the role of his supporter and prayer warrior. With the Lord’s help, stand firm I shall.



It’s a frightening world, and things don’t seem to be headed in a more peaceful direction any time soon. Threats made against law enforcement officers are becoming… well,  (it pains me to say this)… common

It makes my heart sick. Truly, I hoped I wouldn’t see such things in my lifetime. But we can’t be surprised. Look at how the last days are described in Matthew 24:12 in a variety of Bible translations:

Because of an increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold (NIV)

Sin will be rampant everywhere… (NLT)

Lawlessness will be increased… (ESV)

Iniquity shall abound… (KJV)

Lawlessness will multiply… (HCSB)

The Front Lines

Who stands on the front lines of lawlessness? Our law enforcement officers. Men and women who sacrifice self and family to keep their communities safe. When the world rises up to say, “We need no law!” our men and women in blue stand firm and say, “We will maintain law and order!” 

For most officers, law enforcement is not a career or a profession. It’s a calling.

When I meet young wives of young officers, I’m touched by the deep seed of fear that I see in their eyes. I feel it. Their gaze penetrates my heart and their burden becomes palpable. 

They believe it’s invisible - that no one can see that they’re afraid, and they’re right most of the time.  But their hidden fear is recognized well by women who have lived in the exact same place of uncertainty.  

One thing I’ve learned over the years - relating not only to a husband in law enforcement but to our marriage as a whole - is that we cannot fight a spiritual battle in the flesh.  We must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).  We do not fight the government, or the criminals, or those who have developed a hatred for cops, or even our husbands.  Our battle is against the enemy of our souls who desires to steal, kill and destroy.  He must not win.

As wives of our officers, we have no choice but to stand firm in our roles and fight for our men. They need us. They need our prayer coverage and our steadfast courage in the fight. Our ONLY offensive weapon in spiritual battles is the Word of God and we are to pray at all times in the Spirit.  In a seemingly supernatural sense, praying for our husbands brings a level of peace and trust in the Lord for ourselves that we may not have expected.

If I had one piece of advice to give the wife of a law enforcement officer it would be this:  

Pray. At. All. Times.

How to Pray


The list of prayers that follows was developed for anyone with a heart to pray for our law enforcement officers, whether the wife of an officer or not. For some, this may be your first attempt at prayer.  Please know that God hears them all. For others who may be seasoned prayer warriors, this will provide some on-target ammunition for real needs that real officers face.

For simplicity, I’ve kept the prayers male-specific, but in no way wish to exclude our female officers.

Insert an officer’s name in the blanks if you know it.  

21 Prayers for Law Enforcement Officers


1. Lord, please go before our officers and be their rear guard. With you before and behind them, they will be surrounded in your great protection.  (Isaiah 52:12)

2. You, Lord, are a shield around _______.  Be his protection, his glory, and the one who lifts his head.  (Psalm 3:3)

3. May _______ be filled with wisdom and all spiritual discernment to walk in a manner pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.  (Colossians 1:9)

4. Rescue our officers, Lord, from evil men and women. Keep them safe from those who plan evil in their hearts.  (Psalm 140:1-2)

5. Help ______ keep his mind steadfast on You and keep him in perfect peace.  (Isaiah 26:3)   ** this is also a great prayer for the families at home!

6. Father, our officers see far more devastation and evil than most of us can imagine. Guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus with your peace, which surpasses understanding. Protect them from replaying graphic scenes in their minds.

7. May ______ find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.  Shift thoughts of anyone who wishes to find undeserved fault in ______.  Help his good work shine brightly for all to see.  (Proverbs 3:4) 

8. Keep _______ blameless and pure in your sight - faultless in a crooked and depraved generation.  May _____ shine among men like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15)

9. Help _____ live above reproach, faithful to his wife and family, temperate, self-controlled and respectable. Strengthen his heart that he will not fall to temptation.  

10. May _____ get good rest to stay healthy and alert.  When he lies down, he will not be afraid and his sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)

11.  Lord, please help _____, a peacemaker who sows in peace, reap a harvest of righteousness.  May his good deeds be returned to him a hundredfold.  (James 3:18)

12. May _____ devote himself to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

13. Help ______ be vigilant at all times, alert and aware of his surroundings.  May he be on the alert, standing firm in the faith, and strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

14. Protect ______’s friendships, both inside and outside of law enforcement, so that he is not prone to isolation. Two are better than one…if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

15.  May _____ never lose hope, remembering that You, Lord, have plans for him - plans for welfare and not for evil, to give him hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah. 29:11)

16. May You, the God of hope, fill _____ with all joy an peace as he trusts in You so that he will be filled with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

17. Make _____’s love for our community increase and overflow.  Protect him, Lord, from adopting an “us vs. them” way of thinking.  (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

18. Guard marriages of our officers, helping them remember that their spouse is their friend and supporter, not an enemy with whom to do battle. They are no longer two but one flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate.  (Matthew 19:6) Help him love his wife as himself and equip his wife to respect him as her husband. (Ephesians 5:33) 

19.  Lord, turn the hearts of the fathers (and mothers) toward their children, and the hearts of the children toward their fathers (and mothers). Protect the family unit. Restore broken relationships and continue to strengthen those that are healthy.  (Malachi 2:6)

20.  Keep _____ from the temptation of repaying evil for evil and strengthen him to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  When possible, as far as it depends on _____, may he live in peace with everyone.  May ______ not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.   (Romans 12:17-21)

21. May _____ walk daily in the full armor of God:

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.

For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

Stand, therefore,with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.

In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:10-18 (HCSB)




THANK YOU, for joining the battle in praying for our law enforcement officers. 

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Cathy

Friday, September 11, 2015

10 Steps To Thankful & Thriving: Elements of God's Best

Allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson. She is one of my two alter-egos prominent enough to have names. My family has learned to NEVER use theose names in the presence of the alter-egos so as not to press an imaginary, flashing red, “instant eruption” button.  (No one enjoys that!)  

I remember a specific day that came at the end of a trying week. I was at my wits end, consumed by stress, frustrated with nearly everyone around me and grumpy as all get out.  I’d prayed and spent time in the Word. I’d asked the Lord to help me snap out of it, but Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson, who'd partnered with me for nearly a full week, wouldn’t pack her bags. 


The Lord did answer my prayers that day, but not in the way I expected. I’d hoped He would simply change my attitude. Maybe He’d bring me such a tremendous blessing, I’d reconnect with my joy. God rarely works in such ways. He makes us work for transformation - always there to help us along the way, but without giving us an easy out. 

How I wish it were different sometimes. In moments when I feel buried by life and emotions, I’d give nearly anything for instant deliverance. But when the battle has passed and after following the Lord’s lead, I realize I’m better for having gone through the journey.  Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that God is with as we go through the waters, through the rivers and through the fire.  By His protection, we will not be overwhelmed or scorched, but we are to go through the trials - not around them. Scripture makes that clear.

On that particular day in the midst of that particular battle, I believe I had an inspired thought. The prompting had to have been Lord-directed and I’m ever so glad I paid attention.

Months earlier, a friend presented me with a lovely spiral-bound journal.  I’d not yet used it, but it silently beckoned me from the bookshelf.  I took it down, pen in hand and began to write a list of things for which I was thankful. I didn’t write many, in fact my listed stopped at an even dozen. But as I turned my attention from what was wrong and focused on the gifts the Lord had provided, an amazing thing happened. Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson left the building. 

Grateful for Gratitude


Without question, gratitude is an element of God’s best. My Thankfulness Journal continues to grow and as I look back over the blessings the Lord has given, I see its obvious benefits: 

Thankfulness holds our focus on the Lord and all that He provides.

It improves our attitudes and helps us relate with more kindness toward others.

It reduces our complaining toward life, toward perceived lack, 
toward our spouse, our kids, and others.

It improves our relationships. 

With a heart of gratitude, we become more relaxed and less stressed
- surely a health benefit!

We’re less envious of others.

We express joy rather than misery.  
(Which would you rather be around?)

And so much more!

How do we begin?


Tilling the soil to cultivate a thankful heart isn’t difficult, but it does take intentional effort.  Where do we begin? Below are 10 practices to help us thrive through thankfulness.  May I encourage you to choose one or two and get started today? Please don’t let a week go by before you evict your own Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson!

  1. Make thankfulness a part of your prayer life.  In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus acknowledged the Lord’s provision for daily bread. How do we acknowledge the Lord for what He’s given? How do we show our appreciation for answered prayer? We give thanks.
  2. Practice it.  Just like learning to play the piano or taking on an exercise program, thankfulness becomes easier when we practice.  It might be necessary to remind yourself to express thankfulness to God. Don’t feel embarrassed if you need carefully placed sticky notes or electronic calendar reminders until you develop a habit of gratitude.
  3. Begin a Thankfulness Journal or a Gratitude Jar.  Consider the things for which you're thankful, then write them down in a journal or on a slips of paper that collect in a mason jar (a LARGE mason jar - you’ll need the room as you get better at this).
  4. Set a goal to send 3 or more thank you notes each week to people who showed kindness to you in some way.  Using the U.S. Postal Service for this is great, but notes can also be shared via email or text message. Consider notes of encouragement to your pastors, church elders, Bible study teachers, and other spiritual leaders. You’ll bless them, believe me
  5. Give a hearty “Thank you!” to those who serve you: wait staff at restaurants, retail clerks, hair stylists, salon staff, and others. 
  6. Memorize Scriptures about thankfulness.  Here are a few references to get you started:  Psalm 105:1; Psalm 107:1; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  There are hundreds more!  Do a little digging in your concordance and receive the blessing of God’s Word.
  7. Say Thank You to those in your home often.  Very often.  Go ahead and hit this one out of the park!
  8. Thank a First Responder.  Police, Sheriff's Deputies, Firemen and Paramedics do a lot for us that we may never see. Stop to say thank you and let them know their sacrifice is noticed and appreciated. 
  9. Take a long walk with no music or talk radio.  Look around and appreciate God’s creation, then express thanks to Him for all He’s provided.
  10. Teach your children strong habits of gratitude and pass it on to the next generation. 


Thankfulness helps us thrive in all that God has for us. By discovering the richness of what God has already given us, it equips us to step forward into His will with bold confidence. We can say, “I know that the Lord provides and will provide for me now! He will give me all I need to serve and live as He directs.”


With hearts of gratitude, we shine for Christ and radiate the riches of His glory by displaying a heart of contentment and joy. Recognize and embrace this tremendous element of God’s best!  

Your Turn:


When has your attitude improved by way of a thankful heart?

What would you add to my list of 10 practices to help us thrive through thankfulness?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or posting on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28

Cathy

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shielded From Shame: Elements of God's Best

Shame is a familiar, albeit unwanted, companion. During one of the most gripping and paralyzing battles of my life, the Lord helped me identify it’s foundational cause: shame that took root in my life with events that happened years earlier.  

I believe that every one of us carries a measure of shame - often from sin or happenings that we choose to keep hidden. For me, it wasn’t abuse or abandonment, addiction or abortion, or any number of things we see in the news each day.  It’s origin is not significant. Whether or not our particular source of shame appears on a list, most of us feel it to some degree.



“Shame is a secret. We don’t talk about our feelings of disgrace, or what caused us to feel shame in the first place. We carry it with us secretly.  It is different from guilt, which says, ‘I made a mistake.’ Shame says, ‘I am a mistake.’  It affects every part of our lives, ultimately resulting in depression, problematic relationships, sleep disorders, addictive behavior and tendencies, destructive behavior, loss of confidence, anxiety attacks, guilt, remorse, sexual dysfunction, and much more.” 1  

When we carry such a heavy burden, we aren’t free to walk in the best that God has for us. We’re too bound up in captivity. 

We're not alone


Satan makes us feel as if we carry our burden of shame alone, as if we are the only one with such an ugly past. We’re made to believe that if we share the truth and try to overcome the disgrace, we’ll face scorn and ridicule. But Satan is a liar. Let me say that again: Satan is a liar. 

As I wrote Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit, I researched a few statistics.  As of 2012, approximately 25% of polled women admitted to at least one extramarital sexual act. If we bring those figures to our local church, this type of sexual sin affects one in four of the women we gather with each Sunday.

At the time of my research, there were 1.5 million abortions performed annually, resulting in over 53,000,000 recorded deaths since the legalization of abortion. That number continues to climb. An estimated 1 in 3 women - including those in our very own churches - have at least one, if not multiple abortions in their past.

The experiences are common, but many women carry their burdens alone.

With the recent publicity of videos reporting Planned Parenthood’s illegal harvest and sale of fetal tissue, my heart breaks for those who still struggle with past decisions involving abortion:

For men and women who encouraged a partner or daughter to have an abortion…
For the women who experienced the procedure by their own choice or otherwise …
For those who tried but were unable to influence another to reconsider an abortion...
For those who didn't try and regret it.

This news must feel like gasoline poured on embers of self-condemnation. It hurts my heart. I can’t imagine how it is piercing the hearts of those who’ve lived it.  

Millions were deceived and now carry a tremendous burden of shame. Abortion providers often deceitfully explain to pregnant women that fetal tissue is “just a mass of cells.” However, the collection and sale of intact body parts, which reportedly has been a common practice for decades, clearly contradicts that claim. 

Recognizing the Truth


The Apostle Paul explained that deception results in captivity (Colossians 2:8).  Scripture teaches that Satan prowls about with his lies, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 1:5).  We must remember that captivity from shame is a spiritual battle against the forces of evil.  (Ephesians 6:12). 

The TRUTH is, there is now NO condemnation in Christ Jesus.  It’s time to break free from shame and Christ has made a way.  God condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son as a sin offering.  Jesus willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty of our transgressions and to reconcile us to God the Father.  (See Romans 8:1-3)

The TRUTH is, we are WASHED by the blood of Christ. Because the debt is paid, we are holy, blameless, and righteous in His sight. He sees us not for what we have done, but as how we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. (Isaiah 61:10) Praise His Holy Name! 

Choosing Wisely


Ladies, we choose to carry our shame - we choose to remain captive to it - when we hide the truth of our sin so completely that keep it from everyone, including our Savior.

Confessing our past to Christ  (He’s already intimately familiar with our pasts anyway), sharing our heartfelt sorrow and regret through our ever-deepening relationship with Him helps us accept His forgiveness, His healing, and welcomes His light to cast out all darkness within us.  (King David models this for us beautifully in Psalm 51.)

Recognizing, acknowledging and praying through our shame can bring a flood of freedom and relief. God is our Redeemer.  He is our Shield, and our Strength.  Let’s allow Him to carry our burden for us.  Let's put on those robes of righteousness and walk with our heads lifted!

My dear sister, will you accept freedom and forgiveness? Will you allow Jesus to shield you from your shame, no matter its source? The work is already accomplished.  If you are ready to move beyond your shame and receive the Lord’s protection from it, share your heart with Him in prayer.  Embrace what He offers to you as His beloved child.

There is a ready supply of ministry help available as well. Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and women’s ministry leaders in your church home are ready and willing to help. If they don’t have the expertise you need, ask that they help you find God-honoring, Bible-based support groups. Many pregnancy centers across the nation offer help and healing for both men and women who carry the pain of past decisions. 

No matter our source of shame, we need our Christian sisters for support, healing, and encouragement in Christ.  Speak to a trusted sister in Christ who will not gossip or judge: Perhaps a trusted mentor, a Bible study teacher, or a women’s ministry leader.  Women are a valuable tool to one another to help loose the foothold of the devil and break the chains that hold us captive.  May we, according to Galatians 6:1-5, restore others in a spirit of gentleness, look to ourselves, bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 



Identifying our shame and overcoming it by the freedom of Jesus Christ brings glorious victory and is an element of God’s best.  When we recognize and embrace the forgiveness that He provides, we can leave our pasts where they belong:  in the past.  We’re shielded from shame and can move through our present and future as O V E R C O M E R S - ready to do the Lord’s will. 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; 
Neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; 
But you will forget the shame of your youth…”  
Isaiah 54:4

Your Turn:

When have you witnessed the Lord trading beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:2-3).  

When have you witnessed the Lord’s restoration of years that the locust have eaten (Joel 2:26b)?

Your stories will surely encourage others!  Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or participating on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28

Cathy

1 Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit (SW Publishing, 2012), 116

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Abiding Advantage: Elements of God's Best

I’m embarrassed to admit I wasted more than a decade in my walk with Christ. 

During that time, I wasn’t trying to be like Christ, nor was I allowing Christ to reveal Himself in me. I continued to exist as I always had. For the first dozen years of so, it was as if I’d accepted the gift of Christ but never unwrapped the package. I kept the Lord neatly confined, as if I could contain Him on a bookshelf in my bedroom. 

As I attended church, eventually the Lord became a tool I’d take out and use when I felt despair or trouble. Over a longer time period, Jesus opened my eyes for my true need for Him. Not just during the times when I was falling apart, but also in the monotonous moments. Not only when I couldn’t resist temptation, but as I mothered my children, cared for my husband, and served my employer. 

The Lord helped me realize that I needed to lean on Him as I honored my parents and struggled in relationships. He was available for me in every situation and in each moment - not only in the profoundly painful, but in the jubilant joys as well.

Little by little, I began to abide in Christ and my life began to change for the better. 



What does it mean to abide in Christ?


Jesus likened Himself to a vine and His followers as branches. 

He teaches in John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (HCSB)

The Greek word translated “abide” means “to remain.”  

It references one’s position (staying, tarrying with), 

time (to endure, to last), and 

a state or condition (to become like).  

Consider those three phases of the definition.  Abiding is a physical position - next to Christ.  With Him to the point that we allow Him to supply all that we need. It’s a permanent, enduring position that causes us to become more like Him and allow His light to become evident through us. Of course the word picture in the Bible was perfectly chosen. He is the vine and we are the branches. 

When abiding in Christ, we spend time with Him and don’t withdraw. We continue and grow as disciples of Him. Through our investment of time with Jesus, in His Word, Biblical meditation, and prayer, we grow in our relationship with Him and continually live out His example and commands. 

Abiding is a spiritual journey that manifests through physical advantages:  


1) A growing relationship with Christ.   

It’s impossible to develop a relationship with anyone we don’t spend time with or have intentional interaction. If we never see our spouse, the tendency is to withdraw instead of connecting more deeply. When someone neglects spending time with us, the natural course of the friendship is to unravel.  

Conversely, when we share someone’s company, we learn about each other and become emotionally close. The same principle applies to a relationship with Christ. The more time we spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the closer we’ll feel to Him, and the more intimately we’ll know Him. 

By knowing Christ, we’ll learn His character, and begin to spot His activity in even the small things.  Soon we’ll find that we see Him everywhere - in the magnificent and the miniature. We’ll recognize him in sunsets, songbirds, and the laughter of a child. We’ll begin to realize how He makes us laugh, bring us to tears, and thrills our hearts. We’ll reciprocate the feeling when He calls us friend and rejoice in these gifts!

2)  Fruit and Power of the Holy Spirit. 

When Jesus becomes Lord of our lives and we accept His gift of salvation, "His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Literally, the Holy Spirit dwells within the children of God. His power works within us." 1  The Word teaches that the Holy Spirit acts as our Counselor and Teacher (John 14:26) and in many other capacities as outline throughout Scripture.  Galatians 5:21-22 illustrates the fruit of the Holy Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Spiritual gifts manifest in our lives according to 1 Corinthians 12. 

If you’re like me, perhaps you spent years of your Christian walk feeling the absence of such desirable fruit. You longed to receive His counsel and wisdom. When someone asked about your spiritual gifts, like me, you may have answered, “He didn’t give me any.” 

The Holy Spirit has no need to equip us for service and lavish Himself upon us when we’re not drawing from Christ as our lifeline. When our branch is separated from the vine of Christ, we miss out on the tremendous blessings and gifts that the Holy Spirit offers. Once we begin to abide in Christ, we experience His presence, fruit, and gifts, like never before. The power of the Holy Spirit begins to become obvious in our lives through a lifeline of connectedness to Jesus.

3)  A Steadfast, Personal Identity In Christ.  

Do you know who you are in Christ? Do you really know that you’re His, that He loves you, and that no weapon formed against you will prosper?  I admit, I still struggle in this area, but the more I abide in Him, the stronger I become. 

I shared my heart on this topic in a recent video.  Instead of restating it, I ask that you follow this link. I pray you’ll be blessed. (The video is short - about 4 minutes).



I love the way Sara Young describes this abiding advantage:  “Knowing (Jesus) intimately is like having a private wellspring of joy within you… so that your joy is independent of circumstances.” 2   

I couldn’t agree more.  Intimacy with Him brings a bounty of glorious blessings that reside within us.

An intimate relationship with Christ comes through abiding with Him and results in His blessings lavished upon us. We soon recognize Him as the provider of all of our strength, wisdom, gifts, fruit and so much more. 

Abiding in Christ is an element of God’s best that is ours to experience when we devote our lives to Him.  

Your Turn:

Can you recount a noticeable difference in your life that came when you began to abide in Christ?

What “Abiding Advantages” would you add to my list?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or connecting on Facebook or Twitter. 


Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28

Cathy


1 Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit (SW Publishing, 2012), 10
2 Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2004) 242


Friday, August 14, 2015

Elements of God's Best

You’ve heard me say it for years now:  

The aim of Strengthened by the Word Ministries is to 
help women recognize and embrace God’s best.

So often, I visit with women who feel “stuck.” We believe there must be more to this life than the daily grind of diaper changing - homework helping - office working - meal preparing - laundry folding - toilet cleaning - life.  In a world where we’re pressured to portray the perfect life yet feel we’re all alone on the ride, there must be something better.

It breaks my heart when our vision narrows until it can’t extend beyond our current season of life. We feel discouraged. Trapped. Unfulfilled. Joyless. 


My response is like an over-exuberant cheerleader as I chant to you, “Let’s embrace God’s best in every moment!”

Sometimes you look at me with weary, bleary eyes. I can see you’re “out of gas.” Not only are you already pulled in too many directions to even consider pursuing more, perhaps you have no comprehension about what I speak. 

You might think, “Cathy, you must be talking to someone else, because if this is what God has for me, I’m about finished with it.”

I’ve been there too. I’ve spent years and years in that very place.

But there is more! There is something better.  

There is joy in every season of life when we invite God in - even into the routine and mundane. God can provide fulfillment in dirty diapers (yes, you read that correctly) and monotonous office work. He can bring encouragement in the eternal purposes found in the tedious things of life. 

I hear you say, “Show me. Because IF that exists, I’d love to embrace it!”

I see your glances of doubt and with my imaginary pompoms waving, I shout to you, “God’s best is right here! It’s for YOU! Embrace it! Embrace it!  Yaaaaaaay, Embrace it!”  Can you picture my cadenced claps and foot stomps? 

My prayer is that over the next weeks - as the idea of God’s best begins to clarify, as you begin to recognize all the Lord offers to those whom He loves (that’s us!), you’ll see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice. (Isaiah 60:5) 

Know that I’m talking about something much deeper than a “prosperity gospel” as I share Elements of God’s Best through my posts.  The elements will look far greater than ease, comfort, and wealth. They’re made of the deep stuff that satisfies the soul. 

I invite you to come: receive filling from God’s abundance and to drink from His refreshing stream.  (Ps 36:8)  I invite you to take a leisurely stroll with me to smell the proverbial roses of God’s best - so that when you walk the path on your own you, too, will recognize all He has for you.  And once you recognize it, I believe you’ll embrace it whole-heartedly. 

But first things first.  In order to embrace God’s best, we must first acknowledge Him as the Lord and leader of our lives. We surrender to Him - not just through belief in Jesus as Lord (even the demons believe that…), but by inviting Him into our lives so that we may heed His counsel and guidance.  I’ve written more about that here  and hope you’ll take the time to examine your heart on this matter. Our salvation is the firm bedrock on which all of our joy is built. Without it, we’re literally unable to recognize and embrace God’s best. It’s not a process we can skip or overlook. 

We’ll soon embark on an exciting journey together, beginning with what I believe is a foundational piece: Pursuing an abiding relationship with Christ.  I’m excited to share my heart with you and hope you’ll meet me here again with my next post! 

Your Turn:

When you consider “God’s best,” what comes to mind?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or joining me on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Cathy