What are we preparing for?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with where I am as far as my career goes. I should have had two books out by now, but things have not gone as planned due to changes in one publishing house, and Covid delays in the other.

My freelance writing also slowed down a bit. I was looking at where I wasn’t at in my career and looking at where others are in their careers. I got frustrated. During this time, my Bible reading was in 2 Corinthians 11.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

2 Corinthians 11:23-33

It dawned on me while I was reading. Paul’s mindset was not on working hard to retire but preparing to be a martyr. Those mindsets couldn’t be more different. One strives for ease and comfort, and the other welcomes trials to grow strength.

As I’ve been working on one of my writing projects and came across this quote, “I have one desire now — to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” — Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (original quote from missionary Ed McCully). As well as this one from her husband.

As a member of the Redeeming Your Time book launch team, Jordan Raynor has taught me about unfinished to-do lists. Of course, there’s always something we won’t get done. But this week, I was reminded of that again because I’ve attended two memorial services within a week’s time.

I know we all will have unfinished things, but I want to make sure I’ve done as much as possible to leave as little a list as possible. Jim Elliot said this, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” For those who don’t know — Jim Elliot lived those words. He was martyred in Ecuador, trying to reach an unreached tribe with the gospel of Jesus.

Jim Elliot lived fully and died laying it all on the line. Retirement wasn’t on his mind either. Carrying out the work of His Father in Heaven was. God decided to take Him home earlier than we all thought, yet he finished strong. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was first in His life.

When it comes down to it, the retirement mindset is about self. I’m not saying retirement is bad. Retiring from a job is expected. However, retirement from serving God is not. We are His servants to do with as He pleases. For some, like the two people I attended services for, God chose to take sooner than we all expected. For others, He chooses to leave here longer. The fact is we don’t know when it will be our time to die. But when it is my time, I don’t want to be wishing I had done more for the kingdom and didn’t. I want to go out like my Dad and Jim Elliot did. Guns blazing, ready at any time to meet my maker.

Fighting the Fear of Trusting

I’d gotten to Virginia Beach earlier than I anticipated. Since my former roommate and host wasn’t home, I decided to meet a former coworker in the parking lot of the place I once worked.

After catching up a bit, I noticed a car in the parking lot, “Oh hey, isn’t that TJ’s car?” I said remembering the time he came over to help my roommate and I move a futon.

I turned to look back at my former coworker who stared back at me like a deer in the headlights…


Today, I want to introduce to you Lauren Pearson. TJ’s wife and now dear friend. I have been amazed at her transparency and grace during the last four years. Please welcome Lauren Pearson.


In November of 2017, less than two months after our wedding, my husband TJ was hospitalized for the first time. After performing a surgical biopsy, the ENT oncologist found me in the waiting room and told me that my beloved husband had stage IV throat cancer for the second time, as well as a blood clot in his jugular vein that was causing a lot of discomfort. TJ was in the ICU for several days before we were released to go home and begin an eleven month journey that would ultimately end in his death only a month after our first anniversary. So many horribly hard lessons were learned during the course of the journey, but some lessons weren’t learned until long after he was gone.

That first week in the hospital, I left TJ’s side one morning to go to the chapel to pray. Someone had just emailed me and said that Pat Robertson was going to pray for him on the 700 Club that morning, and I sat on the chapel floor to watch the clip, tears pouring down my face. “TJ Pearson. He’s one of our own,” Pat said gently as he prayed for his faithful employee, asking God to spare TJ’s life.

From somewhere deep inside of me, the song “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” came to mind as I watched my husband being prayed for on national television. Laying on the hospital chapel floor, I sang it over and over again and wept and wept. I could barely get out the words, and I didn’t care who heard me in the busy hallway on the other side of the door. I had to remind myself that Jesus was still worthy of my trust.

Back up in the ICU, I wrapped my arms around my beloved husband and sang the song over him. He needed to be reminded, too, though his faith was so often stronger than mine.

Months later, I sat alone in the painful silence of my living room. The funeral was over. The leave of absence from work had ended. Life was back to “normal,” whatever that means, and I was alone. From somewhere deep inside of me, the hymn came back, but now thinking about it made me feel betrayed. Could it really be sweet to trust in Jesus? As I sat at the piano in my living room, the song began to pour out of me, but this time it came out as a lament. I meant the words, but I also meant the cries that came forth as the interlude of the song took on a new, haunting melody.

It may be sweet to trust in Jesus, but sometimes life itself is the very opposite of sweet. Sometimes our hearts are broken. Sometimes we weep on hospital floors. Sometimes we even lose the one who we love most in all the world, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t still very much worth trusting. I have learned that there are times to weep and there are times to rejoice, but sometimes there are also moments when the two come forth simultaneously and there’s no way of knowing where one ends and the other begins. If there is one thing I know, it’s that Jesus is okay with us expressing both emotions. That is exactly what He did when Lazarus died. He declared the truth, but He also wept. He spoke about the spiritual reality of what was happening while also experiencing the full weight of the moment in the natural. I believe that He asks us to do the same.

The exercise of trusting Jesus through pain instead of running away from Him is a daily one, but it’s the only way to keep moving forward. May we learn to trust Him daily, no matter how much it hurts. He is there both to empower us to trust and to hold us in our sorrow.


My coworker eventually told me that TJ had passed away I stood there in shock. TJ and I had worked together several times on remote shoots. I knew he’d gotten married. When I found out he passed away I knew I needed to meet Lauren. I got her number through friends and told her I was in town if she was able to meet. She graciously met me. That was the only face to face interaction I’ve had with Lauren but we have remained in communication.

I asked Lauren to write a little of her story because it’s out of her loss that her album, “magnificent desolation” was birthed. I listened in awe when I put on her music.

I know more than anything she would want TJ back over an album but instead of letting her grief destroy her she’s allowed it to remake her. Please check out her CD. I promise you will be so glad you do. Thank you, Lauren. I’m so grateful and honored to know you. I know TJ would be so proud of you. Keep changing the world one note, one chord, and one song at a time.

Listen to Lauren sing ‘Tis so Sweet

Living the life I didn’t remember praying for

A lot has been going on in the last few months, which is why I haven’t been posting. It’s not because I don’t want to; other things have taken precedence.

Although I have been busy, a concept that keeps echoing through my mind. There have been people in my circle and things that I’m involved with that have needed more help than usual.

I was walking one night asking God why particular doors remained closed while others areas have multiple doors open. What I was really asking for is a more simple life. But then, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I was living the life I asked for years ago, so I paused and thought. Suddenly a song that I used to sing as a child came flooding back to the forefront of my mind and then out through my lips.

Make me a servant, humble and meek. Lord, let me lift up those who are weak and may the prayer of my heart always be. Make me a servant. Make me a servant. Make me a servant today.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. A servant doesn’t always know what they will do until the day or the moment of need — they are just there to serve. When situations arise, and I’m called upon, I need to be ready to go, give or be. I need to be available for whatever, whenever the Master calls.

Since then, the concept of servanthood keeps coming up. In my reading in Romans, the book opens with, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”

I was also reminded of these verses:

John 12:26 
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.


Luke 22:27 
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.


Mark 10:45 
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.


2 Corinthians 4:5 
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.


Philippians 2:5-8 
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Too often, I think I need to have my whole life planned out to sound better. I want others to know where I’m going because in a world where we have everything at our fingertips; we should know where we are going, right?! But, the more important thing to know who we are and whose we are, and that will dictated what we do and where we go.

If God is calling the shots, things won’t always make sense, but one thing I know is that my God has been faithful — in the good and the bad. He gave His Son Jesus who poured out His life for mine, and it is a privilege (that doesn’t always mean easy) to serve Him and be of use to Him, NOT because of anything that I can do but because His example has changed me. I want to be known by Him and to be known by others that I belong to Him.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful.”

While wrapping up this post, I remembered one more thing. We could attain numerous titles: CEO, President, Nurse, Lieutenant, Commander, Captain, Doctor, Professor, Advancement Director, but of all the titles there are, the one I hope Jesus will welcome me with will be… “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Keep the course. Dwell on truth and live your life as servants.

Make space

Just before 5pm, I threw my car in park. This might not sound strange except that I was on the on-ramp to I95. After sitting for at least five minutes, I decided to step out of my car and see what was going on.

Cop cars were blocking the ramp… and I95 Northbound looked like a ghost town. Not a single car was headed North. A few other people began to step out of their cars to satisfy their curiosity.

Was the president in town? Who else would have I95 blocked at rush hour? I stood behind the cement wall looking for any movement. And then in the far distance, coming from the South, I saw flashing lights.

My anticipation for action quickly faded into the sober realization of what was unfolding in front of my eyes. It was the funeral procession for Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. My heart sank.

Click to play

After the motorcade of an entire special forces community passed, I drove the rest of the way in silence. I didn’t want the radio on. I didn’t want to listen to my audiobook. Despite the beautiful weather, the air was heavy — as was my heart.

Suddenly, from the recesses of my brain, a text message I had gotten on the anniversary of Dad’s passing came to mind.

Hey girl, I just wanted you to know I’m making space in my heart for you and your family today.”

Having received this from my friend who’d lost her dad unexpectedly just five months before me, meant a lot.

There was something about those two words: making space that comforted me. This friend knew that grief carves out space no one wants, yet its unwelcomed presence persists while everyone else’s lives seem normal.

Today, a lot of Broward County residence made physical space on I95 for two heroes to receive Presidential treatment. But, I want to make more than just physical space for them. I want to make space on this page for them — they deserve it.

I would have loved to meet Daniel and Laura. To hear about their work, their families and what made them want to serve our country by helping to save children from disturbed women and men.

I hurt for their family members who I’m sure got home tonight and no matter how full their house might be— it feels empty. I hurt because I know over the next few months/years they will want to tell their loved one about their day and how hard this season is… without them. To Daniel & Laura’s family, know that I am praying for you, and today…

I am making space for Daniel and Laura. I will make space by telling those still here how much they mean to me.

I hope today, in honor of Daniel and Laura, you will also Make Space.

END OF WATCH // 02•02•2021

What’s a Man

Several months ago, I went to see a movie in theaters. It impacted me so much, I went back to see it again with my mom and sisters. The movie was Harriet. If you haven’t seen it, rent it when it comes out!

The whole movie is one challenge after another as you see Harriet live her life counter to everyone around her. She doesn’t stop because of fear; instead, she uses her fear as a platform to push herself to greater lengths.

Spoiler Alert: There is one scene in the movie that keeps playing over and over in my head. Harriet has come back from her first “rescue”. She hadn’t planned on bringing anyone back with her except her husband. But, due changes in his life, he tells Harriet he won’t be going back with her.

After Harriet returns to safety, she tells her new-found friend, Marie, who is helping Harriet navigate what life looks like to live free, how torn up she is without her husband. And that’s when Marie says something along the lines of:

What’s a man to a woman, who has the call of God on her life…

I could hardly breath when I heard that. I felt glued to my chair as the lump in my throat began to rise, pushing tears out of my eyes. The truth of that statement arrested my soul.

Around the same time I saw this movie, I was at a FAM (Family Advocacy Ministry) event. FAM is a ministry that creates support systems around a foster family. This means bringing meals to the foster family, babysitting, or doing household chores. If you want to know more about this please send me a message. It’s a wonderful ministry!

While I was at this event, they highlighted a long-time friend of mine. She and her husband stood side-by-side, arm-in-arm as they announced that they are working towards their 6th adoption. That’s six kids in our community whose lives have been re-written. These kids will know what it means to have a loving home. To have a mom and dad who fights for them, and loves them unconditionally.

You may be wondering what I’m getting at. And this is it: If you’re single, live out the life God has given you for His glory and the good of others. And unless you can do more married, like this couple at the FAM event, then don’t worry about it. God has amazing things He wants to do through each one of it. That may be through singleness or it may be through marriage. The couple I talked about are able to fight for their kids because they’re fighting together. Harriet was able to fight for those in slavery because she was single.

A lot of us miss out because we are aren’t comfortable with God’s plan. Why? Because most of the time it isn’t easy. It means dying to self. Serving others and getting out hands messy and our hearts broken. Elizabeth Elliot said it well when she said:

“The will of God is always far different from what we imagine, far bigger, far more difficult, but unspeakably more glorious”

So, my prayer for myself and for you is that we will be generous with our time and money. That we will be courageous for the things that need to be fought for and spoken up for. And, that we would love deeply and speak truthfully. I fall so short every single day. But, as Anne of Green Gables says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes”

And for the single that may still be waiting for someone to fight beside you… Remember this:

“To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by One who knows us through and through. It is to be content with His timing and His wise appointment.” — Elizabeth Elliot

What’s Stopping You?

Today’s post is brought to you by my dear sister-friend, Kristi. When I first met Kristi, this is how the conversations went:

“Hi, I’m Kristi. What’s your name?”

“I’m Christi”.

“No way! What do you do for work?”

“I’m a personal assistant”.

“Get out, me too!”

We quickly found other similarities like we were pastors kids, we moved to Virginia to be with our older brothers, and the list goes on. I am deeply grateful for Kristi’s friendship because we have been in such similar tracks when it comes to our lives. We challenge each other, pray for each other encourage one another and knowing her has challenged me to live better and be more like Christ. She has been a friend that has been in the trenches with me. She is truly a gift to know and have as a friend. So, without further ado, here is a word from my friend Kristi ❤️!

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What’s stopping you?

This question is easier said than done. For starters, I can think of about 10 reasons why I can’t for every one reason why I should. A rolodex of reasons start running through my brain of things that are in the way, mountains that won’t move, or people who are more capable.  It’s like our minds are programmed to hold us back when all our hearts want to do is run forward. Maybe they are limitations or maybe they are excuses, but either way, they are what’s holding you and I back from our real potential, our dream out of the box dreams, our reach for the stars over the fence, world series kind of stuff.  I might have just pulled that last part out of an old favorite movie, can you guess? Yep, you got it! The classic 1995 movie with Kirstie Alley “It Takes Two”.  It’s time for us to take back our dream big dreams, think bold, live brave, and allow the word fearless to be our new mantra! Let’s put aside that thing that has been holding us back for so long, that thing that has kept us stagnant, always playing it safe, and has kept us from really dreaming. Actually, let’s do it one further because putting it aside just doesn’t cut it. Something in us has to die before something new is reborn.  Are you ready?

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

 

It’s time to put a name to it and then put it to rest once and for all…let’s all say it out loud together, “fear”.  It’s the very thing that has kept us in chains, that has paralyzed and crippled our potential, and that has instilled some type of stronghold in our very being that simply makes us powerless. See, saying it out loud wasn’t too bad! Okay, now can we all take a deep breath…and another one. And instead of given that “thing” a name and a new home, we need to boot it right of our lives.  As Christians, we can claim the victory we already have over fear because it was overcome at the cross.  We can start speaking truth over our lives and situations, and redefining our lives in the light of Christ.  The good news is, we don’t have to keep walking around like the living dead, the walking wounded, the ones bound by fear.  As a daughter and sons in the one true living God, the old me is dead and gone. Back to the “What’s stopping you” question I started off with. We must obliterate fear continually from our lives, not giving in to its calling and regaining our power over our circumstances and future! Now that we’ve identified and have been able to name fear, we now know that it’s the same thing that has been making us feel like we are less than, lacking, not enough, the feeling of it’s too hard, I can’t, and on and on and on.  I wonder what narrative you’ve been telling yourself all this time. You know, the one that provides you the safety net to stay right where you are and the same one that prevents you from living in the space outside of the box.  Fear can sometimes be disguised and often does a pretty good job at fooling us too.  Totally not fair, I know!  Fear can look like a number of things, but it’s when it’s hidden and cloaked that you must be on guard of the most. This might look like complacency or what God refers to as lukewarm.  Fear can manifest itself in many different ways throughout our lives with a common goal of steering us away from our potential, living life to the fullest, and ultimately, away from being kingdom changers.

1 Peter 5:8 says it perfectly, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of giving up all my big dreams and someday adventures to the fear that speaks its power over me, and quite frankly, I’m over the reality that I haven’t been living life to the fullest because of it.  It’s taken me nearly 30 years to get to this place in my life, but I’m finally ready to kiss fear goodbye and say hello to living BRAVE!

My dream, big dreams, didn’t come until I was 27 years old. I thought I was late in the game and was just as skeptical as the rest.  “How am I supposed to jump into a new career at this age, and to make things worse, I’ve never done this before!” I was highly unqualified, unseen by the whole industry, and fear was plaguing me from thinking past all of my doubts.  I was jumping into a wild ride of pursuing a career as an angler, or as I like to say, a fisher chick!  

This new passion caught me like a deer in headlights but was a whirlwind and a dream all wrapped up together.  Chasing a dream to be a fisherwomen was not something I had on my agenda by a long shot, but it was the first time in my life I felt truly empowered, honing a new confidence out on the water, and finding real joy in literally, reeling in fish!  My husband and I together on this journey started a YouTube channel called 1Fish2Fish, a platform we used to bring anglers, community, and family together!  Deciding early on, we wanted to be like the Chip and Joanna Gains of fishing, passionately pursing our dreams and giving God all the glory!  We aren’t just fishing for fish, we are fishing for men, and this has been our focus since day one.

One thing I’ve learned on this wild journey is that it’s never too late to be fearless, and you’re always on time. There’s no time clock for this life so before I begin, let’s do us all a favor and get rid of that “clock” we all have ticking in our minds, of when we are supposed to be doing what it is we think we should be doing. When to marry, when to have babies, when to get a new job, when to move, when to go and when to stay.  

Ecclesiastes 3:11 eloquently puts it, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

When we start feeling the pressure that time demands, it’s a lie and it’s not how God thinks about us.  There is no perfect timing, just God’s time…and he sets it when he wants it to be set.  The reality and unknown of that might feel a bit daunting, but if you really let it soak in, it should actually bring us a huge relief!  God has this thing under control, his timing is perfect, and He is the one to set things in motion.  So as diligent and hard as we try to make things happen, to wield it our way, to set our plans, His ways trump all that. Every. Single. Time.

So now we can hold tight to the confidence that God has our back, and not only that, but He is literally directing our every step. Scripture says:

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you” Deuteronomy 31:8

He masterfully is crafting your past, your now, and your future, just as you read this.  Nothing surprises Him, nothing is too big for Him, and nothing, and I mean nothing is beyond Him.  He controls the universe in the palm of His very hand.  He has the hairs on your head counted, one by one.  The scriptures tell us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” Matthew 10:29-30.  Think about it, if He cares for the sparrows this way, how much more does he care for us!  With God on our side, we can do anything.  No more fear, no more holding back, it’s time to dream, and I mean really dream. If we want to walk on water, we have to get out of the boat! I think it’s about time we took back our dignity and claim what has always been ours.  It’s time to lose the chains of fear and say hello to freedom!

Whatever drives you, those things that bring you pure joy, that path less traveled you want to adventure down, the dream you always called just a dream, it’s calling your name.  It’s time to own our stories, to feel the fear and do it anyway.  Or better yet, let’s trade our fear in for faith and allow God to work out the unimaginable in our lives.  There’s a story behind every women who perseveres under trial.  For those who wield their fear over to God, a new courage will be forged by the fire, and for those who then rise, will find beauty in strength.  

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

So let’s grab a friend and hang on tight, we are about to discover the impossible! It’s when we let go, and let God, that freedom and courage can give us wings to soar.  So what’s stopping you? It doesn’t have to be fear!

 

Sites:

YouTube: 1Fish2Fish

Website: Catch Fish Reports

Life’s Not Fair: A Biblical View of Financial Integrity

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend, Chris Free. I had the privilege of working with Chris for about one year until God called him somewhere else. Chris is genuine, humble, selfless and kind. Characteristics you rarely see in a selfie world. I have been challenged multiple times by Chris’ compassion. It is an honor to know him and his wife Jenna. They make a dynamic team, and their daughter Lizzie just adds a whole other level of dynamite to their family.

In addition to his most important role as a husband and father, Chris is a videographer, producer, professor and a marathon runner. He has run in the Boston Marathon, and Chicago Marathon and will be running in the New York Marathon in November. See how you can partner with Chris at the end of this blog. Without further ado here is a blog from my friend, Chris Free.

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2 NIV‬‬

Life is not fair. It’s not even equally unfair to everyone; not even close. That’s a tough reality. Some people will be born without a parent. Some will be born without an arm. Some will be born, only to die a few hours later. Life is not fair.

I have a hard time with all that. It’s not fair that I was born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s not fair that I have parents who love me. It’s not fair that I live in a country that gives certain inalienable rights. It’s not fair that I live in a sturdy house instead of one made of sticks. I recognize all that. One or more of these things probably apply to you as well.

So how do we balance being thankful for our privilege against the mandate to love our neighbor who has far less? Is it true that God intentionally gives more to some than others? Take this parable as an example:

“”Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:14-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One way to read this is that not only are we going to take from this poor person, we are going to give it to a rich person. I’m not exactly sure that’s the entire lesson. I think this means we are asked to take the gifts that God has given us to bring Him the most glory. It goes along with the scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). So what does that look like with the state of poverty around the world? Pray for that wisdom in your own life.

Unfortunately for the poor, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity. However, fortunately for humanity, wealth is not God’s ultimate goal for humanity.

So, again, what am I to do with my resources, my gifts? What did Jesus have to say about all this? Why has God entrusted me (read: us), with many resources?

Every good and perfect gift comes from God and he can take it all away. He has done that to many a Christian to teach them a lesson. So what’s our mandate with this resource? Well, let’s consider one thought that seems counter-cultural…

Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.’”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:20-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Wait, what? That’s not fair. I can’t control where I was born. I can’t control who I was born to. Didn’t God give these gifts in the first place?

I’d like to share my personal conclusions on how to respond to these passages in a Biblically-sound way. However, another area where I struggle (and this passage almost kept me from writing this, but I felt God’s prompting to address the topic) so hopefully what is seen, moreover what God sees in me, is humility in my position. Consequently, I submit the following passage for your consideration before we move on:

““Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How do we spur each other on to love and good deeds, to give to the poor, to serve our neighbor, without boasting in what we have done?

1) We boast in the Lord, not ourselves.

2) We give, give, and give some more—as the Church.

3) We show mercy as the Church.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:36-38‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We should constantly seek to be more like Christ, asking God to refine our hearts and replace selfishness with pure motives in our souls. What does that look like in the context of a society where the sin nature is greed?

For me and my family, this has manifested itself as only investing financially in Kingdom work. There are a lot of noble pursuits in the world, but even with as many resources as God has entrusted us with, we want to be wise with how we invest. We want to throw our seed on fertile soil. We want to invest where there is a Kingdom return. This is a big reason why I’ve moved my career down the path of Christian humanitarian endeavors. That is why we only give to Christian organizations. I don’t believe this is a Biblical mandate, instead a personal conviction for me.

There are a lot of convicting passages in the Bible, and most of them reveal my inadequate nature apart from Christ. I need to remind myself that I am not the judge and juror. There are plenty of passages that illustrate that principle.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Luke‬ ‭6:42-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So my rhetorical question to you: where have you chosen to invest the gifts and resources that God has given you? If you are interested in finding a place to invest your resources, Charity Navigator is a great place to start your search.

Until next time, love like Jesus! If you want to make a difference in this way now, you can sponsor a child through World Vision for $39 a month here.

How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

“You shouldn’t do that”

I was having a conversation with a former co-worker, when I finally asked his opinion.

“You shouldn’t do that.” He said.

“Why?” I asked (with a little bit of an attitude)

“Cause you’d be too comfortable. You’d get stuck.”

I stood there shell shocked. He totally nailed the truth into the deepest part of me. I knew he was right, but I didn’t dare admit it.

I decided not to do the comfortable thing. The route I decided to take demolished my comfort zone. It opened up my eyes to so many new things. Things and experiences I would have never been able to see and do had I stayed with the comfortable.

This conversation took place over 6 or 7 years ago. But, I remember my exact frame of mind. It’s a mindset that I’ve heard several others express. It’s the frame of mind that says, “I’m waiting to do this or that because I want to enjoy it with my future husband.”

Looking back, I realized I wasted a lot of time there. I know in church, we are taught to wait for our husband, but that doesn’t mean I wait on living the life God’s given me.

I used be hesitant to join anything because I’d want to experience it with my husband. But the reality is, I may never get married.

I used to be hesitant to get too attached or involved or try new things because “maybe my husband and I can do them together.” But, the honest truth is, he may have completely different interests than I do. I may love to travel and he could be a total homebody.

I finally realized, I was just missing out on other gifts God was offering. Sure it wasn’t marriage but the gift of family and friendships have become priceless to me. The ability to get alone and write— it gives me breath! The ability to fiddle with a camera, run a few miles, learn martial arts, travel for fun are all gifts. Gifts that before, I never even thought about. Gifts that I absolutely love.

So, if you’re single, stop waiting! Go try something new, get involved in church, plan a trip, or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Because, if you do meet your husband you’ll have a lot of great conversations. If you just wait around, and he starts to ask about you… All you will have to say is: well, I was waiting for you.

Your life doesn’t begin when you find a husband. Your life is here and it’s meant to be invested. If not with a husband than your family, nieces and nephews, friends, church family, friends, your neighbors.

You only have one life to live. Don’t buy the lie that you’re not someone because you don’t have someone. Or you’re not as loved because you don’t have a spouse. Your life can be just as meaningful without a husband. And if and when he comes along, you will realize you’ll have a better relationship because he’s not your end all. Keep in mind, “The best of men are men at best.” The same is to be said for the ladies.

There is a woman I know who never got married. But she gave her life to serve at a crisis pregnancy center. She served 20+ years. There are still women who come in to those centers saying, “that woman helped me choose life for my baby.” Or “That woman lead me to the Lord.” Can you imagine the impact she’s had on the kingdom of God because of her service. Can you imagine how many people she will meet in heaven because of her investment?!

And did you know it was a single woman who was so burdened for young married couples that she helped make “Family Life Today” a reality. Imagine all the families who made it through the rough patches because of a SINGLE woman.

My challenge to you singles is to ask God to open your eyes to see the other gifts that He’s placed in your life. When you stop focusing on what you do have, you’ll start seeing what you do have.

You have no idea what God could do with your singleness— until you let Him take the reins. And if God chooses you to have a partner in this life, cherish them. They are a gift.

Happy Valentines Day, Single. Go change the world!

A Single Challenge

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“It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one”- Little Women

On long road trips, I like to listen to audiobooks. It has become a tradition that I listen to Little Women at least once. I grew up watching the movie dozens of times. Since I have four sisters, it was like watching us (a century behind and one less sister).

As I was driving from Virginia to Florida, I heard this quote by Amy: It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one. It hit me so hard that I rewound that section of audio and listened again. Conviction set it.

How many times have I done this? As a single person, there is a tendency to throw away our other talents and gifts because we can’t have “the one”. We sit around dwindling while waiting for “the one”. I am talking to myself here. I have been there and done that.

At one point in my life, all I did was work and waited for someone to come along. Call me crazy, but I thought it would only be a matter of time until he came around. Well, after about 3-4 years of “waiting” there was no one even “on the horizon” as my dad said.

I took a leap of faith and decided to do something else, besides work and wait. When I took that step, it was a whirlwind of an adventure. I was using gifts that I didn’t know I had. I was learning new things right and left. I was going places I never dreamed were possible. It was an exciting time and challenging time.

That time created a hunger to learn more. Life can be extremely challenging, but it also can be absolutely amazing! God is greater, kinder, more beautiful than we can imagine.

I was listening to the audio book by Steven Curtis Chapman, Between Heaven and the Real World .  After the death of his daughter, Maria, his wife asked them to remodel the house. It was too hard to live in after Maria’s passing. Steven struggled with the idea of how much money it was going to cost, and if it was a waste of money because their house was fine.

He prayed about it and felt like they should move ahead with the idea. The day came and the demolition crew started their work. Steven looked over at his wife, Mary-Beth, and saw tears running down her face. He walked over and asked her if she was okay. “I needed to see this”  she said. “This is what happened to our family the day Maria died” Their family took a devastating blow. Yet, through the tearing down and building back up, Steven saw God’s love. He felt the Lord told Him that sometimes His love appears extravagant and wasteful.

Isn’t that true? I was pining away for a marriage when God wanted to show me more. He literally allowed me to travel around the globe. It was extravagant and sometimes it seemed wasteful. Because I had the budget information, I would often say, I can stay here. However, God allowed me to go on one trip after another. I learned so much not just on the trips but over that span of 5 years, I saw God in ways I never knew I could.

My encouragement to you who are single comes from a 10th-degree black belt: Act on life. Don’t let life act on you. You are not a victim to life or anyone.

Use your gifts. Use your time wisely. Live well. Love fervently. Give fearlessly. Life is short and we only have one life to live.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Don’t let the enemy steal any more years. Don’t let him steal your joy, your affection, your devotion, your desire to grow and learn.

There was a 2nd-degree black belt who I would train with and he told me, “Christi, I’m trying to help you be the best you”

Sometimes it felt like he was trying to kill me, but he was pushing me to be better. Isn’t that what God does for us? He allows challenging things because He is strengthening us. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “God will not protect you from anything that makes you more like Jesus”

Life is meant to be lived, not just survived. Sometimes surviving is the only thing we can do. Other times, surviving has become our comfort zone. Living on purpose often takes us out of our comfort zones. But today, remember to thank God for all that He has already given you. Thank Him for the friends you have, the job you have, and the opportunities He has opened up for you. Instead of focusing on the one thing or person you don’t have.

Sometimes, when I wish I had someone, I remind myself that I do have someone. He is my closest friend. He says that He is my husband. So, instead of wasting time wishing I had someone else, I try to look for ways to love Him. I do not do this as much as I would like.

We are God’s children. He knows we are incapable. He wants to make us laugh, and wants to spend time with us. He wants to be close, but often times, we are so preoccupied with other things or wishing for the one thing we don’t have.

Think a friendship that may be morphing into something else. Think of the little glances shared back and both. Think of the sweet gestures: a hand to the side as he walks behind you, a gentle touch to the elbow, a goodbye hug, exchanging eye contact and a laugh over an inside joke.

I know for me, I think about each thing over and over again. I think of what they said or re-read a sweet message they sent. Imagine if I thought of God that way.

Imagine if I mulled over in my mind the MANY things He has done: The opportunity to travel, learn all kinds of new skills, learn martial arts, writing, be near family, and have amazing friends. More importantly, my relationship with Christ. He is the only one who is enough for my sin scorched and desperately thirsty soul. I should be on cloud nine all the time.

So, I am challenging myself to think on Him this week. To think of the ways He has blessed me. He is too good and has done too much for me to waste more time.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

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Song of the week: King of my heart, by John Mark McMillan & Sarah McMillan 

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