Walking through His doors

pexels-photo-277552.jpegI’m amazed how God has opened door after door in my life.  Doors which lead me to people who have shown me what it looks like to live for Christ. But, I’ve doubted if I could be someone to show others.

I didn’t grow up in a home where we talked about God, read the bible, prayed, or did acts of service together. I didn’t even know what it meant to be of service except that I thought it was something you got at a restaurant.

There was a time in my life where I never felt fulfilled. I felt alone, broken, and messed up. I sought after objects and human beings to satisfy me. I let the good for nothing serpent get so much into my head that I believed I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t deserving enough. Eventually, he tried to take over my life and make me feel as though it was not worth living. But God intervened! He opened a door that got my curiosity going.

ScoobyThe first door I walked through was when I was getting help at an inpatient facility. I sat down at a table with a man who colored a picture of Scooby Doo for me.  But, it wasn’t the picture of Scooby that got my attention. It was what the man wrote at the bottom: “Thank you very much. The best things for Lindsey & her family + her children. Jesus helps you.”

Next, a door opened which lead me to a lady who handed me a piece of paper with the Serenity Prayer.

These two doors opened and put me on a quest to search for who God is. This searching took time, but eventually another door opened which I was hesitant to walk through. That door lead me to a church where I learned about the one thing I needed most. The one thing that would fulfill me. Jesus.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:22-24 (NIV)

 

Each door that opened did not come easily for me to walk through. I even turned my back away from some of them because I was too scared or worried about where it may lead. But as my relationship with God has deepened, I’ve found comfort in taking His hand. I’m now pressing forward through the open doors of the unknown because I do not want to deny the one who gave His life for me.

“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Revelations 3:8 (ESV)

Recently, God made a new door appear and I am going to walk through it. I don’t know where it will lead me. But, I know this door is taking away any doubt or wondering if I could show others what it means to live for Christ. Because I know by taking his hand and going through the open door I’m not just showing others how to live for him. I am actually living for him.

 

Linsey Montejo

Lindsey Montejo is a stay at home wife, mother and newer follower of Christ. The desire has been placed in her to share her experiences of her growing relationship with God and to let others know that His love is unconditional. You can email her @ quitesimplyLindsey@gmail.com.

Get some rest

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I had gone off the grid.

I had to. The signs of a crash was coming. First everything started to slow down, no systems were running at full speed, but I’m not talking about my Macbook . . . I’m talking about me.

Life had gotten way too busy. Too many programs were running all at the same time, and I started to feel like the spinning wheel of death that freezes everything on my computer when I try to operate too many things at once.

Everything needed to come to a halt.

For months I had been nonstop. On a mission, doing good things that the Lord sent me out to do, but I had come back exhausted from my journey.

I needed to enter into a season of rest but my mind and emotions did not agree. “There’s too much to do, you can’t stop now”, were the words that constantly guilted me.

All I could see were deadlines, serious needs that needed to be met, and my “to do list” only grew more with each new day. I felt like so much was riding on continuing at my same pace, and that my future success was at stake.

But the more I tried to press on, the more depleted I felt, and the more depleted I felt, the more defeated I began to feel. My emerging feelings of defeat weren’t based off any real failure or fact, it was solely based off being depleted of much needed rest.

I knew I was in a desperate place as I cried out for help, when the Lord heard my cry and brought to me these sweet words,

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

In the sixth chapter of the book of Mark, Jesus had sent out the twelve disciples on a mission. They went out and preached to the people. They drove out demons by the power given to them by Jesus, and they anointed many sick people with oil and healed them of their infirmities.

When the disciples returned and told Jesus all they had done, people still continued to come to them. Knowing exactly what his disciples needed, Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Jesus knew they needed rest after their long journey of ministering to his people. He knew they needed replenishment because they hadn’t even had a chance to eat. He knew exactly what they needed, and so they went away in a boat with Jesus to a solitary place.

But what happens next might surprise you.

When they arrived at their destination many of the people had seen where they were going and got there ahead of them. Instead of turning them away Jesus had compassion on them, and does one of his most famous miracles . . . he miraculously feeds not only his disciples but also five thousand men by supernaturally multiplying five loaves and two fish.

I can’t help but find the placement of this miracle so interesting. In one verse Jesus calls his disciples to come away with him to rest, and then only a few short verses later he is performing this magnificent miracle.

Maybe Jesus was trying to teach them that when we go away with him and get some rest, that is when he will do some of his greatest miracles in our lives.

Those miracles won’t be done out of our own strength or abilities. They won’t be done by anything that we will do or complete. They will solely be done by the power of our great and loving God when we go to Him and rest.

Right now I’m in a season of needing rest and a miracle. Maybe you are too.

If you are like me you may be feeling like you don’t have enough energy to do anything to help this miracle occur. All the best within you is already spent, and you have nothing left to make something amazing happen.

Perhaps like the disciples, Jesus is calling us too, to come to Him and rest. To trust Him for the miraculous. To believe that He already knows what we need and that He is faithful to not only meet those needs . . . but exceed them.

For me that means I need to embrace this season of rest. To stay off the grid as long as necessary, and to turn my “to do list” into a “not to do list”.

I do believe rest is a powerful weapon, given to us by God, and I pray we all enter into the power that only occurs when we rest in Him.

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Diane Swan is a Credentialed Assemblies of God Minister, Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom.

A prowling lion

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For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12

Last week at work someone sent an email to another colleague about me. It wasn’t overly terrible, but it insinuated I thought I was a big deal and that I take credit for things that are not mine. Unfortunately for the writer, the receiver cc’d me on their reply. When I read the words, I was so hurt and yes, mad. You see, the writer and I have history. They were not kind to me when I came to my current position and talked behind my back. After years of holding them at arm’s length, I felt like God was telling me to step in, make an effort and let the past go. I thought I had. Actually, I had recently assisted them on two or three projects and didn’t ask for recognition or make a big deal out of it.

So, when I read the hurtful words, I just couldn’t believe it. I wanted to march down the hall and let them know exactly what I thought of the message. I wanted to lecture them about how I had tried so hard to get over hurt feelings and now they were just making it worse. But, I am less confrontational now than in the past. Thank you Jesus! All Him, not a bit of me there. He has taught me the first thing I want to say or write, I will regret.

I would like to say, the peace of the Holy Spirit fell on me and I was able to forgive right away. Um, no. I stewed about it for several hours. Then, finally, I prayed. “Why are people so mean? Why am I being attacked? What have I done?” God didn’t answer any of my questions.

As I listened for a reply, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the Gospels. Our small group has been reading through the Gospels over the last year. There are numerous times when Jesus was misunderstood, hurt, accused of wrong doing, and laughed at, even by family. If all of these things can happen to Jesus, my perfect Savior, how could I not expect that I might have to deal with hurt feelings?

Then, He reminded me of Paul’s words.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12

You know, hurt people, hurt people. But the true issue was not that this person is hurting and lashing out. The true issue was that satan was trying to derail what God had been doing over the last few years. He wanted me to either blow up or to withdraw from the person. Satan doesn’t want there to be unity at my workplace. He doesn’t want us to get along and there be a possibility that I am able to share my faith with my coworkers.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

But he doesn’t stop there. Over the last week, I have seen his attempts to derail me with my husband, my daughter, family, neighbors and friends. A small slight becomes something monumental and the foundation for me to push people away or harbor resentful feelings. And friends, he wins sometimes. Before I bring it to God, I lash out. I let my feelings rule me.

Lysa Terkeust teaches that feelings are indicators, they do not have a brain. So, you have to stop and use your brain before acting on them.

We must be vigilant dear friends. VIGILANT! We have to take the offensive for our marriages, family, friends, coworkers and for this world. As soon as we fall back and start playing defensive, we will soon be overrun by situations and feelings.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18

Let’s be alert. Pray for your marriage, family and friends even when it seems things are going very well. Because we know our enemy is prowling, trying to find a weakness he can attack.

I am praying for you. Please pray for me.

first love

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Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Matthew 22:37

When I was seven-years-old I began to follow Jesus. We have had quite a journey the two of us. I wish I could tell you I have walked the straight road, always listening for His voice and direction, but that would be untrue.

We are in the middle of a sermon series on Hosea. This series has caused me to think a lot about my assumptions about God.

When I asked Jesus into my heart, I knew it was the right and good thing to do. But, naively, I believed that if I did the right thing, only good things would happen to me. Now, you might attribute this to the fact I was young. But, unfortunately, even though I grew older I kept the same mindset to some degree. You see I might know intellectually that my assumptions were false, but part of me wanted to believe that if I did good things for God, He would do good things for me.

We could unpack this statement for days, but we won’t. I will just share of a few of my thoughts and if you like, you can share a few of yours too in the comments.

In Hosea, we read that God told Hosea to marry a woman who would become a prostitute. He knew this would hurt Hosea, but He needed Him to do it as an object lesson for His people.

In Ezekiel, God tells the prophet to lie on his side for 390 days for Israel’s sin and then 40 days on the opposite side for Judah’s sins. This would not have been comfortable and I am sure people wondered what in the world he was doing.

In the Gospels, we read about Jesus, who we know God loved completely, but still asked Him to lay down His life in order to save mine.

Loving God, following God, is not a ticket to an easy life. Actually, for some, it means life will be harder. For some, they may lose their life.

This is heavy and hard. Our purpose is not to be happy and live a life of ease. It is not to be comfortable and to serve Him only within our comfort zones. Our purpose is to seek and do God’s will, to tell or show as many people as we can how great our God is with our lives. This is not easy. But we can do it. We can by seeking and investing in our relationship with Him.

Remember your first love? Remember how you wanted to spend every moment together? If you grew up in the 70s and 80s like I did, this often meant marathon phone calls. You thought about this person all the time. You wanted to make them happy, not because in turn they would make you happy, but because you simply loved them.

This ladies, this is how we need to think of Jesus. I pray for you and me. I pray we fall completely head over heels in love with Jesus. That is how He feels about us. Instead of asking God, help me to feel your love, maybe we should ask Him to help us to fall more in love with Him.

That is my prayer. Because ladies, those tough, awful, knock you to the ground times will come if you aren’t already walking through one. And when they come, all of our friends and loved ones will want to help. But the only one who will be able to meet you where you are, walk you through the difficult time and heal those hurting places is Jesus. He made you. He knows how to put the broken pieces back together. And He wants to.

Take my yoke

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This is what my life looks like right now.

I am crashing. I feel overwhelmed.

God, isn’t this what you want me to do? 

Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why am I so flat?

WHERE ARE YOU?!?

Why don’t I hear you speaking? 

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NLT)

 Jesus says His yoke is easy to bear. The burden or weight is light. Then, why do I feel so heavy? Crushed? 

As I sit and think about it, about the weight I feel, a few things come up:

  • I pick up other’s burdens
  • I try to earn God’s favor
  • I follow the good things instead of waiting for the best things

I scheduled or agree to so many things that I crowd God right out of my life. Sure, I read the Bible and do studies. I learn a lot about Him. But, I don’t take the time to talk to Him. Then, to sit and listen. Just listen.

When I finally did sit and listen, He spoke.

Your list of reading and studies, it is time to lay that down. It’s time to read My Word and talk to me. Head knowledge is great. It helps you understand. But with Me, I will put it into action.

Let’s get comfortable again. Let’s talk.  

This is hard for me. I am a doer, definitely not a be-er.

I think a lot of women are uncomfortable slowing down, cutting out the tasks and just listening. But that is where break through comes from. Where our lives change and we are refreshed.  

Lord, your burden is light. Your way is best. Slow me down. Help me to notice the clutter. Then, Holy Spirit teach me to remove it. To see what my motivation is in each of my choices and then give them to you. Open hands. Open ears.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

 

 

Keep Moving

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Exodus 14:15 (NIV)

“Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the Israelites to move on.”

One of my all-time favorite bible stories is the story of Moses.  It is an amazing account of how God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  I love reading about all the awesome things God did on their behalf by showing His faithfulness to them in powerful ways.  It is a rollercoaster of suspense, leading up to Pharaoh finally giving in and allowing God’s chosen people to leave and head toward the new land He had promised them.

But what I find most interesting of all is what Paul Harvey calls, “the rest of the story.”   I am talking about those action-packed events that happened after Pharaoh changed his mind and went chasing after them.

The Israelites saw the Egyptians coming after them and were terrified.  They cried out to the Lord for help.  Then they started complaining to Moses and asking him why he brought them out to the desert to die.  In their fear, they began to long for Egypt and to return to their former captive way of life.

Fortunately, God knew that as soon as they experienced trouble, they would want what was familiar to them. They would remember the place where they had been dependent.  His plan was to take them the long way round, strengthening and caring for them.  Then He would put them in such a predicament that it would be impossible for them to escape without His help.

Sometimes it is God himself that takes us to a spot where we feel trapped or cornered.   We cannot go forward or backwards.  We feel as if all hope is lost.  But during those times, God wants to prove to us who He really is, and it is no time to quit.  We just have to keep moving!

Like the Israelites, when we encounter times of stress, it is no time to give up on God or run back to the chaotic life we have been freed from.  Sometimes our enemies–self-doubt, fear, and anxiety—are all pursuing us.  In front of us is uncertainty.  To go forward requires a faith some of us just do not have. To go back means losing all we have learned–so we complain.  But we do not need to.  That is because no matter what we face, God goes before us to show us the way, behind to protect us, beside to befriend us, above to watch over us, and within to give us peace.

With protection like that, we have nothing to fear.  So what stops us from trusting in God and moving forward toward the dreams and desires He has placed in us?  I cannot answer that for you.  But I do know this… we cannot let our enemy, Satan, discourage us to give up!  We can either stay fully bound up in our past, continue to whine and complain, throw pity parties, and blame everything and everyone for our miseries or we can trust God and walk into the destiny that He has already planned for each one of us.

 

 

Lori Wriston

Lori Wriston is the co-founder of Valor Ministries, a non-profit who helps low income residents of Washington County, MD, reach self-sufficiency.  She brings her unique insight of business, church and non-profit management experience together for the greatest effectiveness of the organization.   As a motivational speaker and teacher, she reveals the real life struggles and circumstances she overcame and encourages others to do the same. She shares the Good News that no situation is too great for God.  Lastly, her entrepreneurial spirit motivates her to mentor others to launch their own ministries or non-profits.

For HIS GLORY!

Philippians 1:6 NLT

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Spring always has me anxious for new beginnings and new adventures. This morning, our friend, Laura Acuna, posted the scripture above. It was just the reminder I needed. Lately I have felt wrong, wronged and hurt. I don’t know about you, but when I go through these emotions, one after another several times a day over several days, I begin to feel broken.

I know all the feelings are instigated by satan. He wants nothing more than for me to be upset and hurt. Because, when I am, I am so ineffective. I get depressed, turn inwards and in many ways self-sabotage. He knows the places that hurt. He knows my struggle with pride. Even when I don’t think I am prideful; a slight, word thrown off the cuff, brings me back to my issues. I like to say that I am just insecure, but the gracious Holy Spirit has told me, it is pride.

This brings me to spring and monarch butterflies. I love butterflies. I especially love monarch butterflies. When I was in elementary school we studied the life cycle of the monarch and watched as the caterpillars cocooned and later emerged as beautiful butterflies. It had a huge impact on me. As I think about it know, it still fills me with hope and awe.

The caterpillar, did it know what was in store for it when it was crawling along the ground, in the dirt and muck? When it was trying to stay safe from bird attacks?

When that primal urge overtook it to cocoon. Did it feel like death? Did it all seem worth it?

monarch chrysalis

For those two weeks it was in the chrysalis stage, did it feel never-ending? The tightness, the transformation, did it feel like too much?

monarch emerging

Then when it begins to emerge. The struggle. Does it feel like too much?

I am sure you have heard the old story about the man watching the butterfly struggle to emerge. Feeling sorry for the butterfly he decided to cut the cocoon and help the butterfly out. But once the butterfly was free, its wings did not work. They were limp at its side and actually made life much more difficult for the butterfly. Soon after the butterfly died.

That struggle from the cocoon, it is necessary. The struggle forces fluid into the wings to make them strong and capable of flight.

Once the butterfly emerges, it is able to soar over the mud and muck it once trudged through. The butterfly is able to see life very differently.

monarch butterfly

This is the same thing with us. The struggles, they make us strong in our weak places.

I think about the story of Naomi and Ruth. At one point, Naomi’s life seemed wonderful. She was married, blessed with two sons and two loving daughters-in-law. But in a few short years, she loses her husband and then both of her sons. She is devastated.

We know as she was returning to Judah, she sent her daughters-in-law back to their homeland. But, Ruth refused to go. Instead, she delivers one of the most beautiful speeches:

Ruth 1:16-18 NLT

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go. I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

They went back to Judah and there found their kinsman redeemer. Boaz became Ruth’s husband. They had Obed. Which gave not only Ruth a new life, but also Naomi.

Ruth 4:14-15 NLT

Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

From the dirt, from fear of death and hopelessness, Naomi is now praised by the women in her town.

Not only that, but we read in Luke 3: 32 NLT

David was the son of Jesse.

Jesse was the son of Obed.

Obed was the son of Boaz.

Boaz and Obed, they are in the lineage of our Savior. Our Redeemer.

To say that God redeems the muck and mess in our lives is an understatement. He uses it for GLORY!

So, my hurt feelings. My pride. While I hate it now. I know from God’s track record and the promises in the Bible, He will use it for HIS GLORY! And He will use your hard and weak places too.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

Upward and Forward

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For Lent this year, I am studying Isaiah with She Reads Truth. We recently read Isaiah 30 and verses 1 and 2 stood out to me.

1 “What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the LORD. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.

2 For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade.

Isaiah is rebuking the Israelites, because when they are faced with fear, they turned inward and went backwards. Inward because they began serving pagan gods and backwards by reaching out to Egypt for protection. The very place where God told them never to return.

According to Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible and I paraphrase, when the Israelites found themselves in danger and distress, they:

  1. Would not consult God. They decided what they should do by looking at the situation and coming up with a solution.
  2. Would not confide in God. They did not think having God on their side was enough. They strengthened themselves in the strength of Pharaoh. They thought he was their powerful ally.

Many times in the Old Testament you will read that the Israelites “forgot the LORD their God”. They started to depend on their own knowledge and did what they thought was right.

How many times do you find yourself doing the same thing? I know I am just coming out of one of those times. I did a few things that I felt shame for. Instead of going straight to God with these feelings, repenting and letting the Holy Spirit minister to me. I allowed the shame to move me away.

Fear is an incredible emotion. It is the root of shame and so many other problems. I did a quick google search to find out how many times fear is mentioned in some way in the New Testament. Ladies, at least 57 times. It seems that God has a lot to say about fear.

Over and over we can read the simple words, “do not fear.” Do not fear, because God knows what fear does to you.

I was taught that I could lose my salvation. If I did too many wrong things, God might not take me back. I feared God and not in the awe inspiring way. He was apathetic, sitting in heaven tallying up the good and bad I did, deciding if I was worthy. And I knew I would never be worthy.

So, I carried two chalkboards around in my mind. I kept my own tally of what I did right and wrong. After a while, I gave up. I pushed God aside and decided to do what was right in my mind. I don’t have to tell you this didn’t work out well. Many wounds and years later, I turned back to God. He graciously embraced me, because that is who He is. A wonderful friend shared the following verses with me.

John 10:28-29:

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

These verses saved me. They healed me. I am a child of God. Jesus already took my sins to the cross. When God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. He is not tallying up my sins. For me, the years of carrying around the mental chalk board, tallying up good and bad were over. Okay, maybe not over, but they are definitely fewer.

Fear can make us turn inward and backward. It distorts us.

When I think about distortion, I am reminded of a recent sermon from No Easy Jesus. In Philippians 2:15, Paul warns

15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

I have always read this as crooked and perverse being sinful. But Jason Mitchell explained it is not a moral category; instead it means different than what is “intended” for you. He used the analogy of a tree. A tree is meant to grow straight and tall, but sometimes because of outside forces, the tree begins to grow in on itself, which destroys it.

Like a tree, there is a way God intended us to be. Our choices can warp and distort us from what God created us to be. Our fear can keep us from embracing God and what He has for us. It can cause us to do what we think is right or what feels right instead of what God’s word says. God does not call us to do what feels right, but to do what He says. It is not about feeling good or feeling yourself; it is about focusing on Christ and living connected to God.

Ladies, let’s set our eyes upward and move forward.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

I Can!

Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

“…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

 After being stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and set up for murder, Paul had definitely learned a few things.  He learned to bless the Lord when things were going well, and to trust the Lord when things were going bad.  He also learned to keep going.  He refused to turn back, to give up, or to give in.  He learned the simple truth that He could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

This is something we need to learn as well.  So many people are looking for hope these days due to the chaos that is all around them.  But even though life can be full of difficulties, the good news is that the troubles we face are not meant to bring us down.  They are meant to lift us higher and help us to grow in spiritual maturity.  They are designed to help us discover the deeper spiritual truths that will empower us to reach our divine destinies.

The devil may have you convinced that you can’t, but he is a liar.  With Jesus, you CAN!  Your friends may tell you to give up, but they do not know the source of your strength.  When you are weak, HE is strong.  God does not raise up children to be defeated, to quit, or to go through the motions of life.  No, God raises up children to win and to gain the victory in all situations through Christ.  As Christians, we are His children.  And if God is for us, who can be against us?

Sadly, we are the ones who put limitations on ourselves and on God.  We do that when we say “I can’t” instead of “I can.”  It is time to get rid of that kind of thinking.  We need to renew our minds and remove any obstacle that is preventing us from believing this scripture with all our hearts.  We must let go of our sin, pride, doubt, guilt, shame, and our own selfish-desires and then start living out what we believe.  Obedience is the cross-over step that moves us from “I can’t” to “I can.”  If we do not obey, then our disobedience will make us unable to receive the richest truths of God that will sustain us during difficult times.

Think of Paul.  Think of everything he went through as he obediently served God.  It was not an easy road to travel.  He endured so much.  Yet he obeyed throughout it all.  That is why he was able to receive such incredible and divine revelations from the Lord.  Those revelations not only sustained him through his own hardships and difficulties, but they continue to sustain all Christians throughout every generation.  What a testimony!

It is amazing what one person can do if they have an attitude that says, “I can!”  That attitude not only positively affects our lives, but the lives of those around us who are looking for hope in the midst of their circumstances. If you want to be that kind of person, then I encourage you to get your head and your heart on the same page so that you can be like Paul and be ready for whatever comes your way.

Lori Wriston

Lori Wriston is the co-founder of Valor Ministries, a non-profit who helps low income residents of Washington County, MD, reach self-sufficiency.  She brings her unique insight of business, church and non-profit management experience together for the greatest effectiveness of the organization.   As a motivational speaker and teacher, she reveals the real life struggles and circumstances she overcame and encourages others to do the same. She shares the Good News that no situation is too great for God.  Lastly, her entrepreneurial spirit motivates her to mentor others to launch their own ministries or non-profits.  Visit Valor Ministries.

 

 

 

A Word for My Older Sisters (and My Younger Sisters too)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how old I am. I assume it’s because, with all the holidays over, I realize how really quiet my house is. It is obvious that the days of teenaged boys and their friends laughing and carrying on throughout our home are behind me.

In spite of the fact that I can see it in the mirror, sometimes feel it in my bones, and keep getting AARP cards in the mail – it has taken me some time to accept the fact that I am an older woman. On some days this is great news, and on others – it makes me a little sad.

Just being honest.

All that being said, it’s a great season of life! It is a beautiful thing when you have lived a long time, experienced many things and, through those experiences, gained some wisdom. When you can look back over time and see the faithfulness of God – well, there is nothing more beautiful than that.

In a recent blog post, Liz Curtis Higgs wrote,

‘When we’re young, we imagine life will be like a bell curve. We’ll climb upward, enjoy being on top of our game for a few years, then steadily decline until we quietly slip out of sight. That’s not at all what God has in mind. Our life in Christ and our service to Him is ever ascending, moving forward and upward, gaining strength and momentum.’

This is entirely true. I’m grateful for Liz’s reminder. Our Lord is so darn counter-culture. I just love Him for that!

This brings me to what is on my heart today. The message is primarily for us older sisters but, younger women, will you also please lean in and listen? There’s something in this message for you, too.

In the middle of an immoral society in Crete, Paul’s plan to influence that society for Christ hinged on developing church leaders and teaching the older men, older women and younger men in the faith (Titus 2:1-10). The male elders were to be an example to them.

However, one important people group was conspicuously missing; the younger women were to be taught and coached not by the elders – but by older, Godly women.

In Titus 2:3-5, we are given our marching orders:

Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Paul’s message could not be any clearer. Godly character, in a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman, is a critical aspect of our growth as believers – and sisters, our growth directly impacts our families and, in turn, our society.

I wish I could tell you that when I was young all of my encounters with older Christian women were positive; the truth is, there were several painful experiences that I remember to this day. This was particularly true when I was a young leader – I often left their presence feeling beat up and put in my place. Looking back, I realize that entitlement, control and fear were involved – I see it now, but I didn’t see it then.

While I don’t recall being taught any of the attributes listed in Titus 2, I did learn a valuable lesson just the same: I vowed then and there to strive to do better when I became an older woman.

We can ruminate over our negative experiences or we can use them as teachable moments to develop our own character.

To be honest, I’ve done both. The latter is the better way.

Thankfully, that isn’t all there is to my story. There have been many dear, Godly older women who encouraged me, carefully admonished me, and met me smack in the middle of my immaturity. They gracefully allowed me to be me—and what patience they displayed! I was talked off the ledge a few times, straightened out, prayed for, understood, and even called “sweetie”. They led me not to themselves – but straight to the feet of Jesus Christ.

I’ve watched them age well, work through problems, deal with heartache, illness and loss – and still carry on with Christ. All of it done with love and all done in humility, seasoned with extreme grace.

Oh, how I needed these examples during the confusing years of raising my boys, figuring out my role as a wife, a leader, and a Christ follower!

Well… here I am and here you may be, too. We’re the older women now.  We’ve been given our marching orders.  It’s now our turn to walk in their footsteps, emulate their character, and breathe life & love into the young women who are coming behind us.

I recently gave a survey to the women in my ministry. They responded to questions about leadership and their relationships with older women. The following are the top eight attributes they value in those who lead them AND in older women in general; the comments next to them are mine. (‘Non-Judgmental’ was overwhelmingly the attribute they valued most.)

  • Non-Judgmental: She needs our empathy, flexibility, and help – not our judgment.
  • Humility: There is no place for entitlement, control, or pride (see Jesus’ example for this).
  • Transparency/Authenticity: She wants to be let in on our own struggles both past and present – this gives her hope. She isn’t looking for perfect role-models. She wants us to be our true selves.
  • A Biblical Foundation: She wants to see us actively seeking the Word of God and applying it to our lives.
  • Honesty: We need to accurately remember that it was hard for us, too. No need to tell her that life was different (better, worse, harder, etc.) when we were young women – that isn’t helpful to her today.
  • Grace-Filled: She will do things differently, but she gets the space and grace to try them out, succeed, and even make mistakes!
  • Accountability: We can be honest and hold a sister accountable – warn and admonish in extreme grace. She should feel loved after encountering us, not judged (again, see Jesus’ example).
  • Generosity: There are times when we need to move aside and let her have her time, her moment. We have had ours.

Enlightening, isn’t it? And right in line with Titus 2.

Now… in case you think I have these bullet points nailed down, you are mistaken! I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you.

May God help us all to be life-givers. To build up and not tear down – to take her hand and place it in the hand of Jesus.

caringhands

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. ~ Proverbs 31:26

I’m thinking I need to write a few thank you notes to the women who have lived out Titus 2 in front of me. How about you?

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

Blessings,

Laura

lauraacunawebsitebanner-1024x368

Laura exudes warmth, fun and authenticity weather speaking to her Bible study sisters, in front of a large group or in a one on one conversation. She passionately shares the truths the Lord has taught her through His word and through life lessons learned along the way. Married to her closest friend and encourager, she and Pat are the proud parents of three adult sons.

Laura is a graduate of Liberty University where she earned a degree in Christian Counseling and a Minor in Biblical Studies. She’s the cofounder of Sisters in Faith Ministries which includes The Manorwood Café Bible Study, Step Up Coaching for Women in Ministry and Sisters in Faith, a day conference which is in its 17th year. Laura served as a women’s ministry leader for 15 years, is a volunteer chaplain for her church and is a 2012 and 2013 “She Speaks” graduate.  http://www.Laura-Acuna.com