5 Questions You Should Ask Before Writing New Year’s Goals

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It’s my favorite time of the year! Yes, I know Christmas is over and according to the popular song, it is THE most wonderful time of the year. Yet, as much as I cherish the traditions and lazy days of Christmas, I LOVE the start of a New Year. I mean giddy, over the top, do a little happy dance kinda love.  The J of my personality relishes in creating plans and systems. (If you aren’t familiar with what a J is, keep reading). So as I sit down to reflect and dream for 2016, I thought I would share some of my goal love with you! Before you write down any goals, I encourage you to ask yourself (and hopefully take the time to answer) 5 important questions.

1. WHAT do you want your life to look like in 5 years?

If you are anything like me, your first reaction might be,“What?! You want me to think 5 years ahead? Are you crazy? I can’t even think about what I’m going to make for dinner tonight let alone what I’ll be doing in 5 years!!!!”

Yet, this is a vital question. My husband, who has coached companies and employees in goal setting, always starts off with this question. This question must be answered first. What you want life to be like 5 years from now will affect what steps you need to take in 2016 to get there. There is space on our goal setting sheets to brainstorm in this area.

In 5 years, I will have 2 kids who may be in college and 2 more in braces.  So I need to ask myself, “What do I need to be doing this year to help me reach those financial goals? What do I need to be pouring into my kids this year to prepare them for leaving home in 4-5 years?”

It’s important to ask yourself: What kind of person do I want to be in 5 years? What do I need to do this year to help me grow in areas that will lead me to that goal?

Thinking LONG term will help you prioritize what you will do in the SHORT term.

2. WHY do you want to achieve this goal?

When we write out our New Year’s Goals (or the often more archaic term Resolutions), we often think in statements of WHAT.

For example, I want to lose 20 pounds.  Well, why do you want to lose 20 pounds? Is your goal really that you want to get healthy, to eat better and exercise more? Why is it important to you to be healthy? Is it that 5 years from now you want to be able to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle to ward off potential disease and enjoy your family/friends/career? Is it that you want to set a positive example for your children? Is it that you feel better emotionally and spiritually when you have been a wise steward of your physical body?

Or maybe you want to get out of debt. Why? How will your life be different once you are debt free? Will it change your lifestyle, your family’s future, or the way you give?

Why ask why?

Your WHY has to be bigger than your WHAT!

At some point losing 20 pounds or getting out of debt, really sucks! I mean it gets really, really gets hard. One morning you are going to have a major internal battle as to whether you should get out of your warm comfy bed and go to the gym. You will have to fight to keep yourself from getting that second helping. If you are trying to get out of debt, there will come a time when you don’t get to do something all your friends are doing because you don’t have the funds. What’s going to keep you following your goal? Your WHY. What’s going to keep you from giving up after you have had one set back (or several)? Your WHY. Your WHY has to be bigger than your WHAT. (for more information on this concept, or with help formulating your why – see here)

3. HAVE you sought God’s leading?

I hate to admit this, but much of my life I have made plan A (and plan B and plan C) and asked God to bless those, rather than offer God a blank slate and say “Here I am, send me!”

Recently I wasn’t able to make New Year’s Goals as I would have liked. My husband was about to leave his job in the beginning of January, and we didn’t know where we were going to go after that.  As I thought about the coming year, I felt as though I was looking over a cliff, peering down into the raging rapids waiting for God to say, “jump”.  If this sounds like you, I want to encourage you with this verse:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”- Isaiah 30:21

If 2016 looks like murky waters with no clear direction and lots of unknowns, I encourage you to focus on what is God calling you to do right now! He will slowly light your path as a motion detector street light may. Right now, He is calling you to trust, do good, dwell, and be faithful.

www.calledforsuchatime.com

4. WHO are you?

This seems like a silly question, but self-knowledge is foundational to creating sustainable and achievable goals.  The first step is taking the time to reflect on 2015. And by time, I mean not 5 minutes. You need time to sit and think and pray and ponder the year that has just past. Go for a long walk, go to Starbucks, lock yourself in your bedroom. God did such an amazing work in you and through you this past year, but you can miss it if one year flows into the next without much thought.

The next step is to think through how God has wired you. What do you love to do? What makes you break out in hives with anxiety? What are your strengths, talents, interests? What weaknesses are holding you back? This post can help you gain vision and clarify your dreams.

I have made goals in the past based on what I saw in other people and wanted for myself, but they weren’t really what I needed to be doing. Your goals are about YOU. Make them personal!

A personality test can be very helpful in this area. If you haven’t taken one or haven’t in a while, it can be helpful to know what your natural bent is. My personal favorite is the Myers Briggs which classifies personalities based on 16 different combinations of 4 letter types. These fours letters have to do with the way you get energy, the way you process information, and the way you make decisions, and the way you make sense of your outside world.

According to my test, I’m an Introvert which means I am energized by being alone. Therefore, one of my goals should be focused on this self-care. An hour long walk, time to read daily, blog writing time, all have to be a part of my routine or it’s not pretty. Learning that about myself has given me greater freedom to make regular time alone a priority without feeling guilty or selfish. Earlier, I said I was a J which means “I like to have things decided. I appear to be task oriented. I like to make lists of things to do. I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.”- myersbriggs.org. Knowing this has also helped me with my goal setting. I like organized systems and routine and need to make goals that incorporate those.

I highly recommend the following:

http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test you can take a free test here and I found it to be very accurate.

www.myerbriggs.org – a wealth of information

http://www.personalitypage.com/html/personal.html – I particularly like this page which focuses on areas of growth for each type.

Whether you like personality tests or not, the key is to spend some time considering who you are before writing out your goals. God created you and called you for this beautiful, messy journey of life. Only YOU can embrace your journey.

5. WHICH tools do you need to achieve this goal?

We are so blessed to live in such an informational age. If you have a specific goal, you can easily get information on how to reach it. Start a Pinterest board, find some books, ask friends on Facebook for information, follow those on Instragram who excel in that area. Olympic athletes have a team of coaches to help them obtain excellence. What people, books, websites can you utilize for tips? Do you have a trusted friend or family member you can talk through your goals with? How can they keep you accountable?

And I know I only said 5 questions…BUT…one more…

WHERE are you going to start?

It can be overwhelming to think about all you want to accomplish. Start with one thing. Pick a focus word for the year. Leslie, shares about her word for 2015 here.

When that one thing becomes easier, start on another goal.

Need help working through these questions? Click on the picture below to get started.

Looking forward to seeing the Mighty hand of God at work in 2016!

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Finding Focus in Paris

Today I wanted to share with you a heart-felt and honest post written by a dear friend, Jessica Zubrod at Kairos Photography , who was in Paris the night of the terrorist attacks on that beautiful city. May you be blessed by her words and may your heart remember the cry that you have also been “called for such a time as this.”


 

As terrorists unleashed horrors in Paris on November 13th, I was walking along the beautiful Seine River after standing under the Eiffel tower with my husband. We would learn of the attacks after we were safe in our room just one mile from the Bataclan Theatre, where 89 people were killed by Islamic State gunmen in one of seven simultaneous attacks on the city. As a photographer and mom of three kids who were half a world away in Pennsylvania, I lay awake most of that night, hands shaking, wondering why I was in Paris at this of all times. As the hours passed that night, I didn’t have answers but had some sense that this was not simply bad luck and bad timing; that I was brought to this place for a reason.

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The last couple of years have been a season of stretching for me. A girl whose worst fears descend when walking the jet way onto a plane has been given some opportunities to grow – trips to Singapore, Cambodia, Italy, Rwanda and now Paris. Sure, fear dangled itself in front of my eyes on these journeys but I was getting better at this. Trust God, go, and glorify Him in the process. The opportunity to go to Paris presented itself as an extension of my husband Luke’s business trip. Why not? Travel isn’t as hard as it used to be and who wouldn’t want a romantic getaway with her husband in Paris of all places? I jumped on the bandwagon and we began to put together a plan. We hopped on Airbnb and scrolled until we found a quaint apartment overlooking the Seine in the shadow of Notre Dame; gathered recommendations from friends about favorite cafes, museums, and neighborhoods; asked Luke’s parents, newly retired, to care for our kids; and lined up two photography tours while he, who had left four days before me, worked. I was on my way.

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The adventure began just as I had hoped – coffee in a cafe in a quintessential Parisian neighborhood, a long walk past patisseries and creperies, a market. The photography tours were the centerpiece of my solo time while Luke worked. Elena, a young Russian woman who had moved to France for love and now just stayed for love of the country, led me around the City of Lights at night.  The next morning – the day of the attacks – she took me to The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. I was delighted to have overcome my fears to be in this amazing place and doing what I love.

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I had much to share with Luke when we gathered together again late in the afternoon. His meetings were finished and we set off for “the relaxing part” of our short trip. We started off with dinner at a quaint café on Rue de Cler. Next stop, the Eiffel Tower. A selfie under the tower at night as it twinkled, then a romantic stroll along the river on our way home. It was during this stroll that the terror began a couple miles away. We crawled into bed unaware, only to be snapped awake by a call from Pennsylvania. I listened as Luke responded to his dad, “No, we didn’t know, we are safe, thanks for checking on us.” And then everything changed…

 

Siren after siren after siren whirred for hours. We had a spectacular view of the city – looking across the river to Paris’s city hall – and it was now the view of hundreds of police cars and ambulances that would drive along the Seine en route to the violent scene that had unfolded only a mile away. I came to feel conflicted about the sound of the unrelenting sirens: was it a symbol of the darkness engulfing the city or the sound of its rescue? I lay awake trembling as the shrill sound rang out all night.

 

Leading up to the trip, I had been reading a daily devotional about Esther, a Jewish girl who unexpectedly became queen and risked her life at a perilous moment to save her people. Her courage reflected the belief that she had been placed in a unique position, time and place perhaps for this very purpose. I lay in bed burdened by fear and wondering why I was here. Perhaps, I thought, God brought me to this dark hour in Paris with a camera and a purpose.

 

At this time, news was spreading in the US and my phone lit up with messages from friends and family checking to see if we were okay. Two friends – each long an ally in my struggle with fear – texted me within a minute of each other the same Bible verse, Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I was in awe and tears began to flow as these words washed over my troubled spirit. I marveled that, with all that was going on in Paris that night, God cared specifically for me. As my friend said, “I love when God does that! I like to think that out of 31,100 verses He chose that one for you.” And then, sleep.

 

The next day was full of questions. Is it over? Are we safe? Can we go out? I tried to hang on to that verse – to be courageous and trust that God was with me. We, like most in Paris, remained quiet on Saturday and prayed for peace.

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The sun came up on Sunday and with it, my resolve not be paralyzed by fear. I pulled on my shoes, slung eighteen pounds of camera equipment on my back, and prayed for courage as we ventured out into the city. Luke, a lover of great coffee, had mapped us to one of Paris’s great coffee shops, Café Coutume. It would be a long walk, but one that offered the opportunity to see some of the city’s sites. We wandered into the Latin Quarter, past the Sorbonne – it’s great university – and the Luxembourg Gardens. While the Garden’s gates were closed that day, we were refreshed to see so many hearts and shops that were open. Defiance and courage were in the air that morning. A dad had set up an obstacle course for kids on skates, cafes were teeming with people and even police officers – no doubt sleepless – smiled and nodded as we walked past them.

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During the day, I captured images of both the ordinary and the extraordinary and Luke captured me doing so along the way. Beginning to feel a sense of freedom as we took in scenes of normalcy on the unseasonably warm November day, we chose to go to the theater where so many were slain. We bought a bouquet of white lisianthus and added it to a growing pile next to candles and messages at the site. Parisians – some crying, likely as they mourned the loss of friends and security in their city – were there too, together with journalists, video cameras and satellite trucks as the world joined Paris in mourning.

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One last stop led us to the Jewish Quarter, which a friend had told us was a must do. We delighted in quaint buildings, cobblestone paths, and seeing bearded old Jewish men in hats. We happened upon a shop inviting us in with brilliantly colored macaroons. We walked inside knowing this was the perfect gift for our kids. The shopkeeper spoke French to a guest, then slipped into Spanish and then greeted us in English.

 

I asked how many languages she spoke and as she shared a bit more about herself, we learned that she hadn’t been in Paris on Friday evening and with trepidation, had just returned for work. She apologized that the cookies were not yet organized and told us that she had just opened twenty minutes before our arrival – her coworker was too scared to return. We got silver dusted chestnut macaroons, mango-passion fruit, vanilla, coconut, chocolate, pistachio, and coffee – a beautiful box of eight little delights. We connected in a way that was a little more special than one would expect, as we had in some way shared in this tragedy. I asked if I could take her picture and though she told me that she always says no when people ask, she flashed a smile as she allowed me to snap the shutter.

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As we talked and listened to her story, a burning thought popped into my head, “Ask her what her name is…” I did and, as if I knew the answer before I even asked, she responded, “My name is Esther.” Yes, of course, I thought. Of course your name is Esther.


 

jessicazubrodJessica Zubrod is a photographer, mom and wife living in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  A family photographer who delights in the natural beauty of southern Chester County and smiling kids, she has been increasingly drawn to photography that shows the restoration that can come out of brokenness.  Her recent trip to Rwanda afforded the opportunity to photograph kids laughing and learning, even amidst their parents’ unspeakable memories of genocide.  When she found herself in Paris the day of the terrorist attacks, she began to ask questions of purpose and calling in that moment.  And she asked them in the context of her struggle with fear.  She believes God put a camera in her hand for times such as these.

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Prayer Warriors Unite!

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Well ladies. This is gonna be rough. This post isn’t about telling you what I’ve learned and making it sound good and look pretty. Probably no fancy script. It will be only God who makes it cohesive.  There are so many thoughts running through my head.

Before sitting down to write, I assessed my needs. What do I need right now? This is what I came up with:

  1. a quiet place to sit
  2. somewhere to enjoy nature
  3. somewhere to get away from the mess (and smells). yeah smells.
  4. something cold to drink
  5. something to eat
  6. God’s presence
  7. someone to pray for me and with me

I am so stirred up. My anxiety is sky high. And I have 30 minutes before I pick up two beautiful, active, messy, needy preschoolers.

And let me just say, there is nothing in my immediate circumstances that is causing me discomfort. I am rested, fed, kids are taken care of, and there is no immediate crisis.

And just hours ago I emailed the CFSAT team to let them know that I had no new post for this week. It wasn’t gonna happen.

I admitted to them that I haven’t been able to focus. I’ve not been able to keep up with dishes, laundry, or housework.

I feel alive and encouraged, yet I also feel discouragement and fear rising up.

As a team, we (Called for Such a Time) are busily preparing for what God has called us to do on October 3rd.

The more I search God’s Word and ask Him to direct my steps, the more I feel the opposition. I have pages and pages and pages of insight from the Lord as to what He wants me to say on October 3rd. The words have been flowing on paper so easily. God is equipping me for what He has called me to do. Because let me tell you, public speaking is not one of my favorite past times.

Friends, Satan is directly opposed to us speaking God’s truth.

AND CAN I JUST TELL YOU: AS I JUST TYPED THAT LAST SENTENCE, A TRUCK PULLED UP IN MY NEIGHBORS DRIVEWAY AND UNLOADED TWO LAWNMOWERS AND MY SERENE FRONT PORCH IS NOW A BATTLE GROUND.

It’s actually quite hilarious. Like I’m gonna stop typing because of the grinding noise in my ears.

Plan B: Move inside to nice comfy couch, far away from diaper pail.

Carrots and cold drink in tow.

So…where was I?

Ah yes: SPIRITUAL WARFARE

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So friends, we know that God is directing our steps. We anticipated Satan’s attacks and attempts to render us less effective. We have seen families and marriages be thrown off. We’ve been praying against all of that.

And today, I feel God telling us that Satan has NO power over us. God will be glorified. And I ask you to please join in praying for us, fortifying us, in the power of His name.

Will you please pray for us?

  • Will you ask the Lord to speak to our hearts as we prepare our talks?
  • Will you ask the Lord to help us find time and focus to prepare?
  • Will you pray against discouragement and fear?
  • Will you pray for unity and peace in our homes?
  • Will you pray for physical health for our team and our families?
  • Will you ask for unity among our team and the event staff?
  • Will you pray for clear delivery of the gospel and that the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of each and every woman attending, including our team?

For each of you praying for us, we are grateful. Know that God will answer all of our prayers according to His will. We give Him all of the glory.

In His Grace,

Lisa

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Consider Your Calling

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WHO AM I?

THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE ME OR LISTEN TO MY VOICE.

I AM NOT ELOQUENT.

PLEASE SEND SOMEONE ELSE.

Have you ever thought these things? Have you ever said them out loud? When you’ve felt that nudge, the prompting of the Spirit to speak truth, to share the Good News, or to tell your story…. have you been paralyzed with fear?

Why in the world would you speak up? Why would you put yourself out there just to fail? Are these the messages that go through your mind? Well, someone else had these thoughts too, and spoke them out loud to the living God in response to His call:

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” Exodus 4:1

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Exodus 4:10

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

Moses…who confronted Pharaoh in defense of his people.

Moses…who led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.

Moses…who stood on Mt. Sinai and received God’s Holy Law.

Yes, Moses himself felt completely inadequate for his job description. Though Moses did eventually choose to push through his doubts and step out in faith, I wonder how Paul’s exhortation to the believers in Corinth might have spoken into his very real fear of failure. For the inadequate, the unskilled, the ill-equipped, Paul pleads to

CONSIDER YOUR CALLING

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, SO THAT no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

While Paul acknowledges that there are certainly some whom God calls with great wealth and nobility, exceptional intellect or talent, or incomparable eloquence or wisdom, they are the exception in the kingdom of God. And though we have each received unique gifts to be used for His glory, God chose us not for the skill set we bring to the table, but for His own eternal purposes. When an ordinary man or woman is at the complete disposal of the King, the most insignificant, lowly Christ follower has the potential for the greatest of works in His kingdom.

“God does not need your strength: He has more than enough power of his own. He asks your weakness: He has none of that Himself, and He is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as the instrument in His own mighty hand. Will you not yield your weakness to Him, and receive His strength?” –C.H. Spurgeon

Like the saints before us, God has chosen us as the instruments to declare His goodness and grace to the world! If we think He only calls the great and mighty, we gain a whole new perspective when we read about Jacob and Gideon and Jeremiah and Peter and the list goes on… Because our sufficiency is found not in our own abilities, but in God’s power.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant.” 2 Cor. 3:4-6

Paul could not be more clear about God’s reason for choosing mostly weak, poor, ordinary vessels for His extraordinary purposes: “so that no human may boast in the presence of the Lord.” God wants all the glory. He deserves all the glory. And His majesty shines the brightest when it’s displayed in the weakest vessel. Like Moses, our inadequacy and weakness require us to rely on God’s power because we know without a doubt that we don’t have what it takes on our own. They are are not obstacles to overcome, but part of God’s sovereign design to keep us humble and dependent.

As difficult as it may be to face, our willingness or unwillingness to step out in faith to obey God’s call reveals the motivation of our hearts. If we’re paralyzed to the point of retreat with fear and anxiety over how we’ll be received, it’s an indication that our motivation is really our own glory, and not the glory of the only One who is worthy.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galations 1:10

If we have this insatiable need for the praises of men, we have believed the lie that our worth is based on our appearance and our performance (which have no value in the kingdom of God) instead of the finished work of Christ. When we live for the glory of God alone, we are willing to risk failure and rejection and even humiliation for the cause of Christ! God doesn’t desire perfection or adequacy or even ability. He only desires a willing spirit. 

So what if the worst happens? (Sometimes it does.) What if it’s a total disaster? (Sometimes it is.) What if no one listens? (Sometimes they don’t.)  But that doesn’t mean our efforts are in vain. Anything done at the prompting of the Spirit, in obedience to the Father, for the glory of God, IS NEVER DONE IN VAINEven if nothing goes as planned and we are a failure in the eyes of man, we look up to see the beaming face of our Father. Because He is not pleased with our skill or knowledge or intelligence or delivery; He is pleased with our willing hearts. And we are pleased to leave the results to Him. 

So how can we keep quiet? How can we stay silent about all the Lord has done? How can we refuse His call to tell the world about our great God? 

“Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper! You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.” Psalm 30:9-12

“Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.” Psalm 35:28

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1

Dear friend, tell your story! Speak of His faithful love! Share His goodness and glory with anyone who will listen! Be encouraged and be brave. The Lord your God is with you. And when you are bombarded with lies, weighed down in doubt, and tempted to retreat, consider your calling and “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:58 May His name be lifted high, for He alone is worthy! 

Held by Him,

Leslie

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He is the Gift

 

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On the stage, the music begins, the story ignites with melody and lyrics, movement and nuances of character. The energy of the others there with me and those engaged from the audience thrills and drives me. It fills me with a passion and satisfaction like absolutely nothing else. I had almost forgotten. It’s been a long time. Like riding a bike it all came back to me. And I realized once again that this is what I was made to do.

This is part of my story. Part that has brought so much beauty to my life and much brokenness, much fulfillment, and much longing. You see, I was a singer from the womb! Music is part of my DNA, handed down through the generations. There are times when I am reduced to a blubbering mess over things like the musical underscore of a cartoon (and just for the record, I am not much of a “cry-er”). And I think, “My word, what is that all about?” Well, it’s the way I was made. Music moves me, like nothing else. That is why I am so passionate about worship. For me, there is no more powerful way to rehearse the truths of who God is and what He has done, to state my absolute dependence on Him, or to cry out to Him for mercy, than through music.

God made me in His image, and clearly my passion for music and the absolute pure fulfillment I feel when performing are innate, given to me by Him – part of Him. A gift given for His glory, my joy, and to serve others. But there have been times when the passion for those things became my end, my all, my only satisfaction. When I needed to perform to feel whole. When I needed the attention of performing well to feel that I had value. That is when the gift became a god.

When those good things that God puts into us become elevated to the position of THE thing, that is when the good things become god things, and we create idols.

Perhaps this is a basic struggle for all of us in this world. Every single one of us is created by God, in His image, and we bear specific gifts, specific imprints of Him, specific touches of grace meant to bring glory to Him, and fulfillment to us. Perhaps one of our greatest challenges as human beings is learning to see the gifts in us as part of God Himself. We must learn that only in seeking Him will those gifts bring true and lasting joy. Elevating the gift to become the thing we seek eventually leads to brokenness. When we seek only the gift we begin to operate in a counterfeit manner, independent from the God who crafted the gift and put it in us. In that place, temptation swells and sin lurks. The desires that God put within us can become contorted by the desires of sin.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6:12).”

The Greek word here translated “passions” is epithymia, which means desire, craving, longing.

When I have craved that passion, that thrill, that fulfillment, and not sought God Himself, I’ve found myself in places I never intended to go. Sometimes the realization of it comes quickly. Other times the deception can take hold for a long time and a jolt of some sort is required to wake us. But eventually our eyes open and we look around in horror as we clearly see where we are.

For me, the jolt came when I realized that seeking and obeying sinful passion, the fulfillment it gave, and the admiration of others, had led me into a pit of betrayal. I was crushed. And when I came face-to-face with my sin, these words from Psalm 143 became my song of repentance:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness! And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous…My spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me…I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;…Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul…Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble….I am Your servant.”

For many years I simply cut off that gift. I was afraid of it. I didn’t sing at all. The enemy of my soul was there with lies, keeping me convinced that singing made me prideful and that people would think I wanted attention if I sang. And that if I received that attention, I might slip into sin again. It was an awful feeling, but I listened, deciding that it was easier just to avoid all of it. All the while my soul grieved.

I believe that was necessary for a time – to help me gain some perspective. I needed to learn who I was outside of singing – where my value really was. God slowly began to heal me and I’ve begun to see that He is all about making things new. God doesn’t give good gifts to be hidden under bushels forever. His heart is to let those imprints of His nature shine out of us, though there may be times when we need to do some work before we are ready for it. In His time, God sent other people to speak truth into my life in this area and to minister peace and revival to my heart. He is a good and unchanging Father who desires good things for me. God was not my enemy. My gift was not my enemy. My enemy was my own fleshly desire.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”
 (James 1:13-17).

The Greek word for “desire” in James 1:14 is also epithymia. The connotation of this Greek word is not always negative. The desire or longing can be for good things. But when those good things, which are given by God, are elevated in our lives to become things we MUST have to be fulfilled, desire for them leads us into sin and away from God, and it brings forth death.
I believe we have God-given longings and cravings. But the passions and desires of sin can quickly hijack what was meant to be good and contort it into an instrument of unrighteousness.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

We all serve something. All of us. We may serve ourselves, our careers, our families, even our independence. But the One we are created to serve is God alone. Because we have been brought from death to life by the sacrifice of Jesus, we now get to present ourselves to Him, along with every gift He has given us, every nuance of our character, every emotion, and all our history. He is not only the giver of every good and perfect gift, but also the ordainer of the perfect plan for how the gifts should be used. Serving Him is the only way to find true freedom.

I need only seek Him. He is the ultimate prize, His presence my only goal. He is not just the giver of the gift. HE IS THE GIFT.

“I am the bread of life” – not just the giver of the bread, but THE bread itself.
“I am the light of the world” – not just the giver of light, but THE light itself.
“I am the door” – not just the one who shows you where the door it, but THE door itself
“I am the way, the truth, the life” – not just the giver of these things, but THE way itself, THE truth itself, THE life itself.

For every situation, our God says “I Am!”

So, now, as I step onto a stage and feel the emotion and passion rising up for what I am doing, I can almost hear His voice whisper, “I am the music in you. I am your song.” And as I present all that I am to Him, I feel the most perfect joy.

What are those imprints of God that He has placed in you? Can you relate to having sought after the gift rather than the Giver? Have you been brought to a place of repentance and developed a desire to present yourself fully to Him?  I pray that you will also experience the absolute, true fulfillment and joy that is found in that place of surrender, and that you will begin to see more and more the evidence of God Himself shining out of you!

Live Free. Live Loved.

~Kerri

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Owning the Story God Wrote for You

ownstoryThe name of our ministry, Called For Such a Time, comes from Esther 4:14

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I just love this verse. God was going to save Israel. He would not break his covenant with His chosen people. The question posed to Esther was whether or not she would take a front row seat. Was Esther willing to lay down her fears, take a radical step of obedience, and partner with the Almighty God on His mission of redemption?

Sisters, on this side of the cross we are asked the same question. God is on a mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, to see men and women set free from the power of sin and darkness, to expand His universal church. Are we partnering with Him on this mission or is fear and the idol of comfort keeping us from taking steps of faithful obedience? God has put us in our specific place with our unique people for His purposes. We have been blessed with specific gifts and talents that God will grow and shape and refine. We have been CALLED FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. God has a story to tell of His redeeming love and only we can tell it in our own unique way to the specific people in our place of influence. Like Esther, we need to respond to the call. We have to bury our fears with faith. We have to take the hard steps of obedience.

Is fear causing you to sit on your story?

Is the hard work required to be faithful in the day-to-day too much?

Have you lost sight of your vision?

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What is your vision? What are your unique gifts and talents? What is your sphere of influence? How are you actively pursuing living on mission with Jesus Christ?

In Romans 1:1-5, Paul makes our mission very clear:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.

Like Paul, we have been set apart for the gospel of God for the sake of His name among all the nations. We have been called out of darkness and into the light of God that we might become children of God. We have been set apart to be a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s possession. Why? So that we might declare His praises and point people to the excellence of God’s glorious and indescribable grace. We have been chosen before the foundation of the world, set apart for good works that God prepared in advance for us (Eph. 1:4 and 2:10).

Paul also identifies himself as a servant of Christ. Our primary calling in life is to be a servant of our King. Through God’s power and for God’s glory, we are called to know God and make Him known- To love God and love people. Recently I was at a women’s event meeting lots of new people and I was asked the familiar question, “What do you do?” I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I do so many different “part-time” things. I don’t have one set “occupation.” I wonder how the church would be different if we identified ourselves like Paul. “What do you do?” ……”Well, I’m a servant of the one true King, I have been chosen and set apart for the gospel of God that I may know God and make Him known.” Maybe I’ll try that next time:)…..or maybe I’ll just start reminding myself of my true identity and purpose!

We are servants of Christ, we have been called and set apart, and we have received grace. Our primary calling is to share that grace. Our roles and occupations may change with the seasons of life, but our purpose will never change. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

How we will live out our grace story depends largely on the uniqueness of each one of us. Our stories will all be unique. This means we need to stop competing and comparing with each other and start celebrating our differences within the body of Christ. We need to stop trying to fit who we are in the box of who we think we should be or what others’ expectations are. This requires us to take the time to reflect on our true selves. This will be a process of peeling off the layers of false messages and the self we created to cope with them.

“Living your God-given life involves remaining faithful to your true self. It entails distinguishing your true self from the demands and voices around you and discerning the unique vision, calling, and mission the Father has given to you. It requires listening to God from within yourself and understanding how he has uniquely made you. Knowing your personality, temperament, likes and dislikes, thoughts, and feelings all contribute to this discovery.”- Peter Scazzero

Part of owning your story is owning who you really are. Taking the time to know your thoughts and feelings. Learning about how God wired you!

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A distinction needs to be made between man-centered dreams and God-sized kingdom dreams. Part of owning your unique self and growing in Christian maturity is allowing God to peel away the grip we have on our own dreams for our life and teaching us to live with our hands open in surrender to His plan. We need to get to a point where we can say,

“God I love you so much. I know your plan and will for my life is what is best for me and will bring YOU the most glory. I’m laying down my plans. I’m going to stay close to you and go where you lead.”

See I had this plan for my life. It went something like this: I would live happily ever after with a bunch of kids in a farm house and we would sit around all day and read Jane Eyre and write poetry and grow all our own food and no one would ever fight and life would be filled with constant beauty. I would be like Caroline Ingalls- all sweet and gentle and wise and my husband would be like Pa- a caring, loving, hard-working man who always knew how to solve every problem and by the end of the episode we all live happily ever after. Amen.

You can laugh because that’s ridiculous, right? But somewhere along the way, when life got hard and I was buried knee deep in diapers with 3 children 3 and under, I stopped dreaming. I rationalized that dreaming will only lead to disappointment. I became a slave to the winds of life. The tyranny of the urgent filled my days. I grew increasingly depressed and hopeless. It wasn’t until God brought a HUGE life change in my life (cuz He’s so awesomely loving) that I woke up and realized I wasn’t living my life, I was being lived BY life. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. If you would have asked me 3 years ago, what I like to do/what brings me happiness? I wouldn’t have been able to truly answer; I was so out of touch with myself. If you would have asked me if I dreamed God-sized dreams for His kingdom, I would have answered,” You are probably asking the wrong person. Maybe you should ask______ instead, because they are much more spiritual than me.”

I realized I had lost my vision. I had taken my focus off of God and put the focus on my selfish plans and comforts. God, in His lovingkindness, woke me back up to the mission- the beautiful story He wrote for my life. I started praying and seeking and dreaming again. My prayer was simple, “God, I want to live recklessly in love with you. I want to know you and make you known. How do you want me to do that?” At first, it was a really small dream and slowly God worked it in my heart to be something bigger. I didn’t want to take a leap of faith off the cliff into what God was leading me to, but when I did, I saw God show up and saw Him work in ways I never dreamed possible. And sisters, our God is INCREDIBLE. He wants to show us His power and goodness, but sometimes it requires taking steps of obedience for us to experience it.

So for a moment, I’d like to dream God-sized dreams with you. Here are few things to consider:

1. God calls us to surrender our lives and wait for Him to birth the dream.                                                                                                                                   I’m a visionary and I love to plan. If I’m not careful, I can start running with my ideas even if they aren’t from the Lord. He will birth a desire, a longing in your soul. Our job is to run hard after Him, not chase a dream. The only thing that will satisfy the deep longings of our soul is to be filled with more of God. We shouldn’t be seeking a dream. We should be seeking our Savior.

2. The dream God calls you to will most likely stretch you.                                                                                                                                                         Dreaming God-sized dreams means we can’t accomplish them in our own strength. It’s in these moments we get to humbly surrender and see God’s mighty hand. One of the dreams God put on my heart was to start writing a blog to encourage women to follow hard after Jesus. I didn’t know what it would like and I didn’t want to do it. I even wrote down in my journal a list of 5 points to God about why writing a blog was a bad idea. As I wrestled through it, God told me to call my friend Carrie. So I picked up the phone right then and called her and shared this crazy dream and told her God wanted me to share this with her. I was expecting her to tell me I lost my mind. But after a few seconds, she responded that just that morning she had journaled that she felt that God was calling her to write a blog, but she wasn’t sure she had the computer skills to create one. It just so happened I know a little bit about computers and the dream started to take shape. God graciously brought Kerri, Leslie, and Lisa to start this journey with us. And as we kept living with our hands open and dreaming and praying, God has continued to shape the dream. Now we are looking at more writing projects and live events. The dream needed to come slowly. We still don’t know exactly what it will look like, we are just trying to live seeking the One who does.

3. People may not understand your dream. Look at Noah, God clearly gave him the vision to build the ark and he was mocked because people thought he was crazy. God gave Joseph actual dreams and his brothers laughed at him. People may laugh at you too. That’s why it is so important to have those safe people in your life that can speak truth into your life and confirm if this might be a direction God is leading you or not. And when the dream gets hard or you doubt yourself, they will be there to cheer you on and lift you up in prayer. Because the battle is real and hard, and when you are on the front lines for God’s kingdom, you need other believers to fight alongside of you.

4. Sometimes our dreams are deferred.

Joseph is the prime example of this. God gives him a dream and then he spent his time mopping floors in Potipher’s house or staring at a prison wall. God had to grow the man that would carry out His dream. God had to wait for the perfect time to fufill the dream when His glory would be most magnificently displayed. Just because your dream is deferred or it doesn’t feel like anything is happening with it right now, doesn’t mean God isn’t in it. Wait and trust, keep seeking God and keep the dream surrendered.

5. Your dreams will not come with maps.  

You will NOT know everything that is going to happen. For those controlling, type-A personality types, this is downright terrifying. We like nice little road maps with detailed turn-by-turn directions. But often the future is very unclear and all we know is what step God is calling us to make RIGHT NOW. It reminds me of those motion-detector street lights. When you look down the street, it looks very intimidating. You don’t know what might be lurking behind that bush or what that strange shadow really is. But once you start walking, the path lights up as you near the street light. For a moment all is well, calm sets in. You are okay! It is tempting to stay under that light where everything is safe and comfortable. Then you keep going and just when that uneasy feeling sets in again, another light comes on. And so on it goes till you get to your destination. In His grace, God lights up just the next step on our path. It is when we step out in faith, taking risks along the way, that more of the path lights up. This process builds our faith as we see God working in ways we couldn’t imagine…. When we see Him show up in ways we can’t explain….When He uses the hard stuff for His glory.

It is also His grace to NOT show us the whole path right now. We might be too overwhelmed to put one foot on that path!!! There will be potholes and thorn bushes and other real dangers along the way, and if we knew them all right now, we would be paralyzed. Heck, I get paralyzed with enough imaginary “what-ifs”. Often we need to trust God enough to step out in faith on the path He is calling us to even if we don’t know where it’s going! Sometimes the hardest step is the first one. Sometimes the hardest step is to walk across the street and meet your neighbor. Sometimes the hardest step is engaging a mom on the playground. Sometimes the hardest step is making that phone call to the person you lost touch with. Sometimes the hardest step is offering forgiveness. It’s the hard steps in obedience that water our faith and create a soil where God can grow our dreams.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.- 1 Corinthians 4-9

God is faithful. Jesus Christ will sustain us to the end. We are not lacking any gift. We have the grace of God. How do these truths impact your vision for the future? How can you partner with God in mission in this season of your life?

A big part of owning your story, is living purposefully and intentionally, humbly surrendering your future to the One who is faithful and loves you with an everlasting love. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. We are but clay in our Potter’s faithful hands. We are safe in His grasp!

Here are some questions to think and pray about as you ponder owning the story God wrote for your life: Questions on Dreaming

I would love to hear how God is leading you in your dreams!

Hugs,

Julie

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Created for Community


In the beginning there was God.  The Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  Three in one.  Three in perfect community.  “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’.”  Made for love.  Made in the image of perfect community.  And God walked with man and woman in the garden and they experienced this perfection.  Complete love.  Complete transparency.  But man and woman traded this community for the hope of something greater.  And community was broken.  And what man and woman learned was to hide from God’s presence.  To hide themselves and their sin among the trees and to pretend that everything was fine.

But God had a plan to restore this community.  So God the Son put on flesh and dwelt among us.  And He showed us the heart of the Father  and the possibility of perfect unity.  And He died to reconcile us back to God.  Sin defeated.  Community restored.

Old habits die hard, so they say.  And we still prefer to hide.  We stuff our sin behind some trees and cover ourselves with leaves and come out pretending everything is fine.  We are terrified to be transparent with other people about what’s hidden there.  We even think we can hide it from God, as if He doesn’t already know the depths of our hearts.  If we have accepted this gift of reconciliation to God, and share in a relationship with Him, why do we still have such trouble living in true, honest community with each other?

I’ve always said isolation is the devil’s playground.  Our adversary is quick to convince us we are right to keep things hidden.  “If they really knew what you’ve done, they wouldn’t want anything to do with you,” or “None of these people have to deal with this issue you’re dealing with,” or “real Christians shouldn’t have these problems”.  The deceiver will do anything to keep us here.  Locked up in our own heads.  Convinced that no one will understand.  Convinced that we have to look like we have it all together.  Walking in the dark.

But this is not the heart of God, dear friends.  He created us to live in community with Him AND He gave us the Church, His Body, to live with in community as well.  Koinonia is the Greek word first used in Acts 2 to describe the community of believers who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Wikipedia describes Koinonia: “translated into English, the meaning of koinonia holds the idea of joint participation in something with someone, such as in a community, or team or an alliance or joint venture. Those who have studied the word find there is always an implication of action included in its meaning.”

I believe we are called to joint participation in this life.  We join with the triune God and with our fellow brothers and sisters as we all take action to walk this life together as a team, to help each other, to carry each other’s burdens and to rejoice in each other’s triumphs.  I wish I could tell you some of the thousands of ways my life has been enriched, my burdens have been lifted, my needs have been met, my heart has been held by the communities of believers I’ve been apart of in my life.  Yes, people are imperfect, and sometimes they will let you down.  But it’s worth the risk to be free and live a life of transparent vulnerability!

Now, I’m not saying you need to stand up in the pulpit and display all your junk for the whole Body to see.  But I am saying it’s time to come out from behind those trees, bring your sins and struggles with you, and work through them with at least one other believer who is safe and is sharing equally in your koinonia relationship.  (Leslie wrote an amazing set of guidelines for being a great friend here.  Definitely check that out if you haven’t.)

Those of you who are hiding in isolation, don’t believe the lies of the deceiver.  It’s never better in the dark.  No one has it all together, despite appearances, and it’s ok to admit you’re struggling. If you don’t think there is anyone in your life who can fill this role, ask God to bring someone.  I guarantee He will.  He longs for us to be in fellowship with Him and also with each other.  Just like He is in relationship with Himself and with us!  He created us for this, in His image, for our good.  So let us walk in the light!

“But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light,

we also experience a shared life with one another,

as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin

(1 John 1:6-7 The Message).”

 Live Free. Live Loved.

~Kerri

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