When it’s tough being the Light…

I’ve been reading different posts and tweets about people who are taking the #lightenup challenge and I LOVE it!! God is being glorified as Jesus is lifted up and that’s so very cool.

We need to keep being intentional about bringing Jesus into our conversations but what do you do if you’re too nervous to start talking to someone or if you have no idea how to bring Jesus up? Because sometimes it’s tough being the light…

I was reading in Acts 8 and came across a great word of encouragement for those of us who are hesitant or struggling to continue the #lightenup challenge. It’s the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch and you can read it in Acts 8:26-39 to see what you can apply from it but here is what I learned—hope it helps.

  1. Ask —What if you ask the Lord to make you sensitive to His Spirit so that you are following His lead on a daily basis—in everything that you do? That would make you like Philip—in the right place at the right time. Then listen to His prompting when you come in contact with others.
  1. Listen-Philip listened to God’s prompting and instruction.. He ran up and stayed near the man in the chariot….and get this—he listened.. That’s key. In deciding how to go about lightening up your conversations—start by listening—to what they are saying or by ‘listening’ to their body language or actions. Then you will have a better idea how to jump into talking. Philip heard the man reading aloud something he was familiar with and so he asked a question to get the ball rolling. Good advice for us. We can ask too.

-ask a cashier if she is having a good day

-ask a woman shopping for toys something about her kids or grandkids

-ask someone about her Christmas jewelry or fun outfit

-ask someone in line if she is ready for Christmas

When you pay attention and listen you can find all kinds of ways to connect with perfect strangers. Philip listened for a connecting point and started there—

  1. Go for it- Once you start talking with someone, let the conversation go where they are willing to go. Philip talked with the man about Jesus starting from where he had been reading in Isaiah and kept going. When we encounter someone that the Lord has placed in our path, we never know how He has been preparing them so keep talking Jesus while you can.

Sometimes you will just barely get in a word about Jesus and other times they may want to talk all the way to salvation and accepting Christ. Only the Holy Spirit knows what is in their hearts—our job is be obedient in the opportunities that come our way.

Remember that you are the light of the world and have the privilege of sharing that light with everyone around you. Don’t get frustrated. Stay alert and try these 3 tips from Philip: Ask, Listen & Go for it.

It’s amazing what God can do when we speak up and lift high the name of Jesus—be the light!!!

leaders who care about their influence…

Today is my hubby’s birthday–its a big one–50. That means that we have been married over half of his life (lucky him <grin>) and he has been in ministry for about 30 something years–wow! that’s impressive.

There are lots of things I could say about how great he is and how blessed I am–all of which are true, but Ive noticed something lately that has me bothered and i want to compliment my husband because he has NEVER been guilty of what I’ve been seeing.

Leaders are responsible for their influence. We’ve all heard that and we need to take it seriously. In all the years I’ve been with Jeff, he has NEVER EVER been cavalier about his responsibility to lead well. We’ve had fun, we’ve worked hard, we’ve struggled with things, we’ve celebrated, we’ve cried, prayed and laughed and we haven’t done everything perfectly–who has?–BUT we have because of his leadership erred on the side of caution.

You may be wondering what I talking about and here’s the deal. I read big time bloggers who have large followings in Christian circles, and read things about how its funny to hide your lifestyle from one set of people and joke around about beer and alcohol or hear about leaders who ridicule others of the faith because they have different beliefs and convictions. Last time I looked we, who say we are Christ followers, are all supposed to be on the same team and we who have been given leadership roles, however large or small, are accountable for what we ‘teach’ and how we lead. Under the guise of being authentic I have read about “hiding things from one group” and changing how you act according to who you are with–where I come from that’s pretty fake and not authentic at all.

Jeff has taught me that even if something isn’t a struggle for me–i need to be very careful about treating it lightly because those who listen to me speak or read something that I write may have a completely different relationship with that issue. I have always enjoyed making people laugh but am I more concerned about getting the laugh than I am about influencing someone for Christ? That’s a question more leaders need to be asking themselves.

On my hubby’s birthday, in his honor, I felt led to give a call out for leaders to take their roles seriously and treat the influence that you have been given with great respect. If we don’t then Heaven help us when we are faced with the devastating results that can happen. Hezekiah struggled with dishonoring his leadership, Saul did and lots of others did also–they paid the price for their disrespect and I don’t want that for any of us.

May we be leaders who err on the side of caution and discernment. may we NOT be afraid to stand for living above reproach and  as Eph 5 says “be very careful then how you live, as wise not as unwise-making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil”.

May our words and actions line up–may we refuse to be one person in one setting and someone else when the company changes. May we be authentic and real without offending and cutting down and may we remember that we are all on the same team and our goal is to reach the lost with the love of JESUS.

My man has been committed to sharing his faith for more than 40 years and cares so much about his influence. I respect that and I am so grateful that I have gotten to share my life with him–the lessons I’ve learned have been invaluable. I love his authenticity and realness.

Pray for leaders you know and encourage them in how they lead. It is a privilege and a responsibility:)

Rachel

Young moms—-Great job!!!

The other day I was in a store and heard a kid crying (or wailing) but I didn’t really pay any attention. As I was leaving the store the crying got louder and sure enough here came a mom pushing a stroller with a crying, wailing, screaming, head throwing, arms reaching preschooler. I wanted to say something encouraging but in the heat, and noise, of the moment I couldn’t think of anything that would help so I said “Let me get that for you” and held the door. As they barely got through the door (she was grabbing onto things to try and stop the progress) I smiled at the mom and flashed her what I hope was a ‘you’ll get through this’ look. She had that look on her face like “if I can just get out of here, I may never take this kid anywhere else again” (trust me I’ve seen that one before and after all, we have to stay calm because no one wants to be arrested at a Lifeway)
As I got into my car I couldn’t help but look over to where this lady was trying to get her daughter calmed down and into the SUV. She had opened the back and the girl was pushing her foot against the ground to move the stroller away–it was quite dramatic and I since I could see they were almost into the vehicle, I smiled again, I prayed a quick prayer for them…and then I remembered.

I remembered all the times that, or something like that was me. I remembered all pressure and feelings of failure that I felt in raising my 3 young kids (and sometimes still do).

Then yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who has kids past the public fit throwing stage but younger than my older teen and college age kids, and we got to talking about raising young kids and I shared with her that ‘I learned to give myself a little more grace on some things’ in order to make it through with any of my sanity left. I hope that the stroller mom was able to give herself some grace. It seems to me like parents are constantly being judged and given advice and being made to feel like failures for what is generally just normal growing pains and life experiences.

We spend time looking online and seeing other people’s lives (which seem to look better than ours) and we wonder what we did wrong? What I would love for you to hear today is this “Give yourself some grace” You aren’t perfect and you won’t handle everything perfectly–but what’s the fun in that? Where’s the learning experience there? and in honor of my parents who constantly reminded me of the character I was building as I endured tough circumstances–where’s the character building?

Laughing with my friend I was reminded of making a conscious choices to choose grace over condemnation like this:

  • instead of stressing over their fit in public–congratulate myself on the fact that their sweet little selves are still with us
  • instead of beating myself up that I can’t find their shot records–be glad that I even remembered to get them shots
  • instead of stressing over them staying up late and going to bed a little dirty–be thankful that they are finally in bed and I can get clean
  • instead of comparing my scrapbooks to ________ —pat myself on the back that I took pictures and they will still be there when I get to them (like graduation–haha)
  • instead of feeling like a failure that my kid refuses to sleep in his bed but sleeps in the doorway every night–remind myself that small kids can get quality sleep just about anywhere
  • instead of overthinking what I did wrong that would cause my child to only bark and answer to a dog name for months–learn to like dogs better and be grateful that at some point she will have more to say that ‘woof’

Although you need to read those a little tongue in cheek, I hope you get the point:) That list could go on and on and when I watched the mom with the throwing fit kid, I thought of lots more times when I was tempted to feel like a failure or that I wasn’t cut out for these strong willed kids. Please hear me on this—give yourself a little more grace moms!!!

I’ve never been named mother of the year and it cracks me up to even think about that because I’m pretty sure my kids would choke to death laughing if they even tried to nominate me BUT we would probably all be laughing together as we reflect on some of the crazy things that have happened in our family… and the fact that we can laugh about that now should give you hope friend.

The enemy is whispering those lies in your ears and he wants to keep you living in defeat BUT the truth is that “His mercies are new every morning” and girlfriend that is encouraging–let’s follow in His footsteps and give and receive that mercy and grace. As a mom who is way on down the road I can honestly say that “you will make it through this and those weird, crazy grooves that our kids get in will pass (sometimes not as quickly as you would like) but they will pass… and our God is more than able to do ‘exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine’ so trust Him to give you the grace, mercy and strength you need to make it.

Moms—be encouraged please today—in case no one else has told you– let me :

you’re doing a great job (they’re still here aren’t they?)

you’re kids are going to grow up and you’ll forget some of the ways they tortured you

At some point in your future I pray you will be blessed like I was recently in a family conversation about what each person had enjoyed most about this past summer (which had lots of fun and cool things in it) all 3 of my kids (2 were counselors and 1 a student) cited Youth Camp as their best summer memory and here’s why:

‘because I got to see God working in so many lives’

‘because I got to help lead Anna to the Lord and her story is so powerful’

‘because I got to see how God is always at work even we don’t know it at the time’

‘because I got to really be used by God in lots of different ways’

They aren’t perfect. And they made me a little crazy and alot gray when they were younger but the memory of that conversation brings tears to my eyes and causes me to thank God once again for the privilege of being part of their lives.

Focus on the good ( I always looked at them while they were sleeping because that’s when I would believe that maybe I wasn’t doing so bad) and refuse to listen to the voice that whispers condemnation and guilt to you because that is NOT your Father–He loves you and is there to give you the grace you need to make it….this too shall pass may have been my mantra but it works when you need a little reminder:) And as you give grace to yourself–please give grace to other moms–we need each other, we’re on the same team here.

JOYfully,

Rachel

Insignificant? Says who?

When was the last time you felt insignificant? Like you wished you were all that to someone else or the most popular and sought after person in the group? We all times when we feel frustrated and unimportant…so I wonder who needs to hear today the words of Psalm 17:8–“Keep me as the apple of your eye” You, sweet sister, are the apple of your maker’s eye–who feels better now?

David wrote those words in the worst of circumstances. he was on the run from Saul (who he had been serving faithfully) he had just been betrayed to Saul by the Zipphites and he was probably feeling like he had no friends, no one really cared about him, everyone liked Saul better, he had no where to turn where someone would have his back—sound familiar??

It happens to us all at some time or another where we get lost in the shuffle of life and feel unimportant–thats when we need to learn from David to go to God and seek Him. You may even feel some type of persecution along with being overlooked or betrayed–if so then read the rest of verse 8 because it says “hide me in the shelter of your wings”. That is a beautiful picture and one that I think we all need to practice. You see, if you are going to be under the shelter of His wings then you have to be pretty close to Him in the first place–you can’t seek shelter under His wings from far away.

When you are struggling don’t give in to the temptation to be the pity party hostess of the year—Draw near to God and be sheltered today, after all you are the apple of His eye and He wants the best for you!

expecting more,
Rachel

I confess…

Last night I did something I have never done before. Actually I never wanted to or even thought that I would but…I went to the 12:01 premiere of Hunger Games with my 15 yr old. If you know me this is even more strange because you know that I need my sleep and I don’t really even like movies..

Here’s the deal. There are times that I need to step out of my comfort zone and do things I don’t normally do. That was me last night. Why did I stay up till the wee hours and miss out on sleep I obviously need?? it’s like this. My son is 15. He is growing up and rarely asks me to do special things with him. He wanted me to go. Not to just take him with some friends but to go with him. That just doesn’t happen that much and I felt like I had to take advantage of the opportunity that came my way. It was about the experience.

The movie itself was good. I haven’t read the book so I was on pins and needles the whole time. I also couldn’t help but notice how hunger was such a powerful motivator. In that world, people struggled to find enough food and although most of us in this culture have no idea what real physical hunger is like on a daily basis, I can see parallels in my life. Think about it. What we hunger for can dictate the decision we make.

In the movie, hunger and fear of extreme hunger were used as motivation for behavior that was outside the norm. Not to stretch it too much, but I can’t help be challenged with this thought: Do I hunger enough for things of the Lord that I am willing to act outside the norm or outside my comfort zone?? or…have I stuffed myself with things of the world to the point that I actually don’t even have a hunger for spiritual things anymore?

Although nothing can satisfy the spiritual needs we have except Jesus, we can have our appetite for Him dulled when we feed ourselves on everything else.

I can’t seem to get some lines from the movie out of my head so I may revisit it soon. But as I leave this thought, let me share a verse I read today that seems fitting. Moses at the end of his life wrote the words of Psalm 90 and in verse 14 he said “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing fro joy and be glad all our days”. That was a timely read and it makes me convinced even more that we must hunger for the Lord and seek to be satisfied with Him–daily.

Don’t settle. Everything else is a poor substitute. Now it’s off to bed early for me tonight:)
Rachel

Choices…

How many choices/decisions do you make in a day??? probably even more than you think because there are all those ones we make without even thinking about them. You know, like the routine you go through to get ready in the morning. You don’t debate with yourself whether or not you should brush your teeth (unless your a middle school boy) you just make that choice and keep going.

I was reading in Deuteronomy this morning and I keep noticing in this book that God through Moses continues to point out the choices the people have. Life or death, blessing or curses, obedience or disobedience—your choice. I think I am loving Deuteronomy more than ever before because I keep seeing such cool things that challenge or encourage me in it. I love the recaps that Moses does with the people–he reminds them of all the Lord has done for them. (good reminder for us to regularly revisit the activity of God in our lives) and it strengthens their faith.

He also goes over with them, again, the words of the Law (good reminder for us to stay in the Word and know it–daily) Although they had heard it before, they could still choose to ignore it. AND then Moses has this section of the book where he points out the consequences for not choosing obedience. WOW. Those listed consequences are meant to put a little fear of the Lord into the people and this is where I am most intrigued right now. How much do you and I ‘fear the Lord’? Do we really recognize the power of the God we serve? and do we take into consideration the great responsibility we have as His representatives on this earth to lead people to Him (think of it like being good advertisement for Christianity)?

or…have we in our twisted complacency and odd sense of entitlements that we slip into, become a bit blase about our Lord? I know that I have times where I am guilty of taking for granted all that He has done for me, or for missing out on how awesome and fearful He really is. Do we avoid some choices because they are too hard for us? or do we make wrong choices because we know we can get forgiveness later???

I wonder if we need a little wake up call today. A little word from Moses to remind us as we make the choices before us today that He has given us options–life or death, blessings or curses, obedience or disobedience—and the choices we make will have an impact on our effectiveness as Christ followers.

Remember there are consequences to wrong choices. Don’t take grace for granted and know that He is holy therefore we are called to be holy…..and I love the words God gave Moses them to Joshua “Be string and courageous for I am with you”

That my friends is what can give us the strength to make right choices even when they are tough–because we are not alone:)

Today may we honor Him and glorify Him in ALL that we do…
JOYfully,
Rachel

When you’re stuck in a rut….

I recently had the opportunity to share a short video lesson on the issue of being stuck in a rut spiritually (getting me to teach on anything in that short of time was a miracle in itself–i usually can’t even get my name said that quickly) anyway–the wonderful ladies over at Jennifer Rothschild’s site at womensministry.net included my video as their tip of the week this week—here is the link if you’re interested:) Tip of the Week: Video – How to Get Out of a Spiritual Rut http://conta.cc/x3J5fy

There is also a written piece that expands on the subject–help yourself and please let me know if you have any suggestions to add–after all its a subject we all can relate to.

Many blessings to you each this week and sometime soon I will share my garbage can story with you as evidence of the dangers of going through life on autopilot!
JOYfully,
Rachel