Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Speaks Conference - Priceless

(This post is written as an entry for the "She Speaks" Proverbs 31 Ministry Scholarship Opportunity. Please link to January 29, 2008 post and Thank you.)

Registration Cost - $525.00
Travelling Expenses - $200.00
Lifetime Benefit - Priceless

Long before I arrived in North Carolina, long before I sat in one "She Speaks" session, the Lord was calling me on a journey I will never forget.

I had just arrived home from speaking to approximately 200 women at our church - the very first time to speak in front of an audience of more than 10 ladies. I came home so excited, as one lady had responded to an invitation to receive Christ and I was sensing the Lord directing me to respond to future speaking opportunities. Amidst the rejoicing of how God had used me, was a feeling of great inadequacy. I can recall sitting down in my rocking chair at home after a walk to our mailbox and praying, 'Lord, I feel so incompetent - like Moses I'm slow of speech - yet, You used this empty vessel this morning. If You ever want me to do this again, could You provide me with some training? Where does someone go to learn how to 'speak'?' I surrendered this desire to the Lord and reached over to sort the mail I had just brought into our home. The very first thing I opened was a Proverbs 31 Magazine and as I pulled it out of the envelope my eyes were drawn to bold print in a little square on the back of the magazine - "PLAN NOW TO ATTEND SHE SPEAKS 2005"
It was as if God was immediately answering my prayer.

I wish I could take the time now to share all the roadblocks and emotional mountains that were overcome as I surrendered each one to the Lord. You have no idea all the fears that began to attack, but the Lord supplied at each turn and provided me with His strength and courage. From the moment I arrived at the hotel and 'just happened' to get on the elevator with Lysa TerKeurst herself, the weekend was one that will be cherished in my heart forever. The general sessions were inspirational and uplifting. The break-out sessions were instructional and enlightening. The speaking evaluation sessions were bonding and encouraging. It was an incredible experience.

One of the highlights for me was Saturday evening during the Worship session. We were asked to pull out index cards which had been distributed earlier and write down the main thing that was keeping us from following God's vision for us. At the front of the room stood two large crosses. When we were ready, we then came forward and nailed these cards to the cross and in exchange for the burden we released we were given a scripture promise form God's Word to take away with us. It was a time of meaningful prayer, worship, surrender and praise.

Not to diminish the value of the wonderful speakers, but the Lord also taught me that my greatest learning came in the process. The training during the weekend was wonderful, but God's training began back in February of 2005 as I surrendered to His plans for me. What I had looked at as preparation, God saw as the goal. The goal of the purpose of God was being accomplished in me. It's the process, not the outcome that glorifies God. God knew back in February when He called me to attend the Conference all the 'storms' I would pass through before arriving in North Carolina. The question of reaching my dream was of little importance, but did I become more like Him along the way? I pray that the Lord will continue to teach me that the opportunity to obey is now. It might not involve speaking or writing to thousands or even hundreds - it might be speaking to the grocery clerk in the check-out line or writing a few sentences to a lady who just looks lonely.

I feel like this is just a sampling of the weekend I enjoyed, but I hope just like the effects of eating a couple of potato chips or a mouthful of chocolate, it will have you yearning for more and that many ladies will be drawn outside their comfort zone, as I was, to taste and see that the Lord is good. It really is impossible to fully capture how personal the Lord became to me as I trusted Him, waited on Him, called on Him and desperately needed Him every moment, every day. He is good. His mercies are new each morning. Great is His faithfulness.

In complete humility I say, there is no reason why I should receive this scholarship. As I know the Lord provided in every way three years ago to enable me to attend, I also believe that if He ever desires me to return, He will make a way. I would love to attend some writers track sessions as I have a secret longing to one day be God's hand and pen His words, but I will wait and trust in Him. I pray that as the Lord continues to guide me into all He has planned for me, that I will follow not just in obedience, but with a willing heart. I kneel humbly before Him asking Him to change me into the woman He desires, the wife, the mother, the sister, the friend, the neighbour. I pray I will share His love in the every day moments and trust Him with whatever He desires to bring into my life.

To paraphrase a thought that I have heard Lysa herself share, long after you forget the names of those you'll meet; long after you forget the teachings in the sessions; it is my prayer that anyone who attends will never forget the personal experience they will have with the Lord as they step out and say 'yes' to all He has planned for them. The lifetime benefit is truly priceless!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Listen with your face

A friend of mine was visiting with her daughter a couple of months ago and as she shared some precious time of fellowship with her daughter, her 2 year old grandson played nearby. At one point the little fellow had something he wanted to tell his mommy. He called for her several times, but his mom was so caught up in her conversation, she appeared unaware of his voice that continued to gain volume, demanding her attention. In frustration, he managed to hoist his short legs up onto the couch where his mother was sitting, and standing on the cushions in front of her, he cupped her face in his sweet hands and said, 'Mommy, listen with your face'!

After hearing this story and enjoying a chuckle, I began to wonder how many times the Lord has called my name and tried to get my attention and He's been met with no response. Does He long to hold my face tenderly in His Hands and call me to "listen with my face"? When He speaks, am I really attentive or do I only give half an ear to His voice. Are distractions causing me to look away, or am I always gazing intently into my Saviors face? Has the noise of this world caused me to become hard of hearing and has His voice become a dull murmur that I ignore?

In the Gospels we read about Peter walking on the water. He heard Christ's voice and in exuberance Peter leaps over the side of the boat and without hesitation begins defying all laws of physics as his feet are supported by the sea. Suddenly the reality of his circumstance crashes as the waves around him, and he begins to sink. He calls out to the Lord and immediately Jesus rescues his heart from its drowning faith.

In a more modern day illustration, consider 'Maggie Carpenter' in the movie, "Runaway Bride". As long as 'Maggie' kept her eyes on the groom waiting for her at the altar she continued walking down the aisle, but the moment she was distracted by the guests in the church, she turned and ran.

All three of these stories remind us where we should fix our eyes. We are the Bride of Christ and He is our Bridegroom. If we keep our gaze focused on Christ, situations around us may threaten or call for our attention, but as we look to Jesus, we will discover He will more than supply our every need. He will strengthen our faith, remove our fear and give us direction.

What is the Lord trying to tell you today? When He calls your name, give Him your undivided attention and "listen with your face".

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith".
Hebrews 12:2

"Unassumed Road - Use at your own risk"

A parcel of undeveloped land was recently purchased by a builder at the end of our street. Bulldozers, tractors and every imaginable piece of machinery descended upon our quiet subdivision to begin leveling the land. Beautiful new homes are popping up quicker than you can blink. Of course, all this construction also brings with it dirt roads, dust and signs. Daily new warnings appear, "Yield to oncoming traffic"; "STOP"; "Construction Zone"; "Danger due to low hanging wires". But, the one that has always puzzled me relays the message, "Unassumed Road. Use at your own risk". What exactly is an "unassumed road"? Well, in doing a little research I discovered that it's a road that no-one claims or takes ownership of at that time. In other words, if anything happens to you should you choose to take that path, heedless of the warning, the responsibility lies with you. The other aspect of an unassumed road is that it can appear without warning. Suddenly the sign is just there.

I immediately began to think of the different types of "unassumed roads" that appear in our lives. They may come as choices we make regardless of God's warning and direction. God has us at a crossroad. An "unassumed road" and paved road lie before us. He has made a way out, but we still choose the wrong path. "Unassumed roads" could also enter our lives in the form of unexpected news. A job change, an unwelcome diagnosis, a severed relationship. Whichever way they come, the dirt and dust that accompany them can impact our lives greatly. Traveling down an "unassumed road" is never easy. It's full of potholes, rocks and bumps. We really want to avoid these roads as much as possible, taking the 'way out' that Christ makes available. But, what if an "unassumed road" is His chosen path for you? Then He promises to give you the strength to travel the journey.

A New Year has just begun. On the roadmap of your life for 2008 an "unassumed road" may be part of His blue-print. The Designer and Builder of your life has plans for you. As country singer Carrie Underwood says in the song, "Jesus take the wheel", let's allow Him full control of this years destinations. His plans for us are good and if possible at all, He will take us down scenic, smooth roads. When a detour down an "unassumed road" is part of the plan, with Jesus in the drivers' seat, He will, as gently as possible, maneuver over crevices and bumps all the while explaining their purpose and drawing us unto Himself.

"This is what the LORD says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'" Jer. 6:16"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Play Again - A lesson in Second Chances

(I originally wrote this in my journal last year, but felt led to copy it as a post today. Enjoy!)

As I write this, I'm sitting at the computer with a "Tim Horton's" cup of coffee beside me. I'm currently enjoying the "RRROLL UP THE RIM TO WIN" campaign and with each cup of coffee comes the hope of receiving a possible prize. I'd even be happy with a donut or a coffee win. I don't have to win 'big', but so far every time I roll that rim it says, "Please Play Again".

This morning as I saw those familiar words one more time I was reminded of the second, third, and even forth opportunities that the Lord offers us to "Play Again". Recently I allowed my own feelings of inadequacy to keep me from stepping forward in an area of ministry for Christ. Opportunity was given one evening at my church to give testimony to all that Christ was doing in my life, and I sat in the back row, heart racing, and palms perspiring, unable to take a stand. I came home feeling so defeated. I went to bed that night thinking of how I had failed the Lord again.

The next morning my devotional reading was from Luke 22. This is the story of Peter denying the Lord. As Christ was taken away it says in verse 54 that Peter "followed at a distance". Boy, could I relate. Fear was keeping me from following closer. I began to imagine how Peter felt when he heard that rooster crow and when he remembered Christ's words foretelling that he would deny Him three times.

A picture suddenly flashed in my mind. Have you ever seen the movie "Chariots of Fire"? There is a scene in that movie where Ben Cross's character sits in the stands after a race, by himself, and weeps and weeps because he lost the race. It's a poignant scene. The music is haunting. I so related to that visual. That was me the other night (and so many other times) sitting and weeping alone for the times I fail when running in this race for Christ.

However, this morning God has me standing back up. He's encouraged me to keep running. With a simple every day reminder to "Please Play Again", God is offering me forgiveness and another chance. I have to live today based on truth and not feelings. I can't run today with even a much as I'd like to because of my recent fall...but I have to put the past behind and keep my eyes on Christ the Author and Finisher of my faith.

It's like the story of the young man running at the Olympics - the one thought destined to win. When he fell, the crowd watched in stunned silence wondering what would happen. His father arose from the stands and raced on to the track and with his arms around his son, ran with him, carrying him to the finish line. That's what God does for me. It's what He longs to do for you. Deuteronomy 1:31 says, "The Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son". He bounds from the stands, picks us up and carries us to the finish line. How great is our God!

The next time you roll up a "Please Play Again" be thankful. Rejoice in knowing we have a God who forgives and allows us to 'play again'.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Soaring - Exchanging my Doctorate of Fear for Faith

What do you do well? In what areas do you excel? I came to the sad realization recently that I have joined many people in becoming a professional of my fears! In fact, I'd go as far as to say, I've received my Doctorate in the area of fear.

"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life, well, valuable, but small, and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I've read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around." That quote comes from a movie I watched recently, but the words echoed in my heart.

I was thinking about the fears I have in my life especially my fear of flying and of heights. I'm a white-knuckle airline traveler. I don't sit up in a balcony. I don't like elevators. I don't even wear high heeled shoes! I prefer to keep my feet on the ground at all times. I'm not extremely adventurous. I don't take risks. Lately I've noticed how these fears have spilled over in my spiritual life and I'm afraid to 'mount up with wings as eagles' and soar to heights with Christ.

While vacationing in Florida with my family last fall, I suggested we try the new 'Soaring' ride at Epcot. I guess I really didn't know what was ahead of me - and I later understood both the look of sheer shock that appeared on my husband's face when I mentioned that we try this attraction, and the speed in which he quickly raced us towards the ride before I could change my mind.

When our 'flight attendant' came out to give us last minute instructions and those wonderful warnings and health risks, I could feel my pulse begin to beat faster. What on earth was I doing here? To afraid to move, I found myself being pushed forward by all the other passengers as the doors opened and we were seated in our 'gliders'. We were asked to firmly secure handbags, caps, and loose articles in a compartment below our seats, and then a 'steward' came around to ensure that we were all tightly fastened and belted in. My heart was racing so quickly at this point, I just began to pray that God would help me endure this ride and get me off safely. I was seated between my husband and my 13 year old son who were both trying to reassure me how much fun I was going to have on this ride.

Suddenly lights dimmed and our 'glider' began to rise. As gusts of wind began to take my breath away, my hands flew to my face to cover my mouth and nose and I shut my eyes tightly. This is how I remained for most of the ride. Occasionally I took little peaks out between fingers still firmly placed over my face, and saw glimpses of spectacular views.

Finally, the ride came to an end and I realized I was still alive - I had survived.

As we left this attraction God began to speak quietly to my heart. "Joy, I want you to do more than survive life. I want you to live it to the full. I want you to mount up with wings like eagles. I want you to soar". As this ride was called, "Soaring" - I suddenly turned to my husband and said, "Let's do that again". He looked at me strangely. He knew I had hated every second of that experience, but I said, "This time, I want to keep my eyes wide open".

What a thrill this second time around was for me. I don't want to go through life with my eyes closed. I want to live the adventure. We are held hostage and paralyzed by the things that frighten us. There is a children's book that asks the reader to 'imagine a day when you don't need wings to soar'. A song I heard recently has lyrics that say, "It's time for you to fly. It's time to soar on eagles wings. Don't be afraid you're not alone, so lift your head up high. It's time for you to fly". God has designed us to live life fully and Christ came to enable us to live out that design. Christ will empower us to live an abundant life. Are you tapping in to all the power that God has made available to you? Have you made personal all that God has made possible?

God has been telling me that it's time for me to fly...and the great thing is...I don't have to put one foot on an airplane to do so. I just need to surrender myself to the arms of Christ and He'll carry me to heights unknown.

"Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles" Isaiah 40:31 (The Message)

Will you come and fly with me?

PS. I'm now in the School of Prayer, working on my Doctorate of faith. It's a life-time course, but the Professor never leaves you or forsakes you - and He even offers to supply all the answers and write every exam. When Graduation Day comes I want to hear Him say, "Well done".