Don’t Give Up

A piece of what I’ve been working on…

Don't give up praise and coffee
Some days the pain is so deep, we can’t see over the edge of it. The day Mary watched her son beaten and crucified had to feel like the absolute end. But the mourning turned to morning and He rose. In the darkest of our days we dare have hope because light will not be kept under darkness and life will burst forth again. It could come through earthquakes and stones rolled away, it could be the tiny sprout of new life that breaks through the thawing ground or the person who wakes up and decides to start living again. The deepest of pain becomes a memory as the infant’s cry fills the room like a gospel choir.

It’s new life, a new day. It’s hope.

Please don’t give up.

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. Romans 4:18 The Message

And be careful not to paint hope with one just color and brush, often new life looks different than we imagined it would.

 

I have experienced this kind of hope, I’d love to hear your stories of new life if you want to share.

Defining Who You Are

From my study: Becoming Me Through Him…

button Becoming Me copy

Labels.

Maybe the key to becoming me, becoming you, is to face the labels instead of fighting them.

Face our weaknesses, faults, sins and past.

As I studied the story of Rahab, I was bothered to see that Rahab is still called a prostitute in Hebrews. How is that fair if she had changed her ways? Why does it seem that she cannot shake this title? Shouldn’t God want her story to be about how her life is new? I don’t want to keep calling her a prostitute. She moved on from that life, can’t we focus on her good choices instead of her bad ones?

Then I realized that the power in Rahab’s story is not about how she had changed her life, but in the fact that God redeemed her story.

Ladies, your past is still part of your story, labels and all.

God doesn’t want us to deny our labels, He wants to redeem them.

Let God redeem your past, let God redeem your labels.

Whether it’s abuse or sin that defines our past, it does not have to define our future.

When God redeems our past and our labels…we put the shame behind us.

You are a new creation in Christ. Through Him…you become the woman He wants you to be. We no longer have to live under the shame of the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed or the abuse we’ve endured. Shame causes us to fear that we are unworthy of love and belonging. But when we let God redeem our past, we can own our story and live free of shame.

Yes, I hear you and I understand, owning our story can be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Shame is debilitating. It keeps us isolated and alone, completely missing out on the life God has for us.

Rahab shows us that though some of the labels may remain, God redeems our stories. She tenaciously reached out in faith, trusted this God whom she had heard about and He valiantly saves her and her family. Spoiler alert…she is later named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

Yes, you have sinned, but that sin does not have to define you as a person.
You may have been abused, but that abuse does not have to define you or haunt your thoughts, God is our Healer and Redeemer.

Shame grows in secrecy and judgment. It’s like mold. It likes the stale darkness. We pretty the outside but when the layers are peeled back we find a wounded little girl that’s been huddled in a corner, afraid that we’ll find out her secrets and believing that the fresh paint job could fool us.

The word inspire means to breathe, to take in air and life. Shame doesn’t want us to take fresh air, it wants us closed up and stagnant. Shame wants us to become a breeding ground of un-forgiveness, a petri dish of bitterness.

It’s time to let God ‘inspire’ us. It’s time to bring fresh air in, it’s time to own our story and let the Father redeem it. The power of shame is broken over our lives when we let God redeem our story instead of letting the past and the labels define us. Stop hiding.

Owning our stories and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we can ever do.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

You cannot fully love others until you love yourself, until you love the woman that God loves, labels and all. Redemption says that we are worthy of love and belonging, first Him loving you, then you loving you. Choosing right now to love yourself, not in a few weeks when you lose the weight or stay sober or when you get yourself cleaned up, but right now-today.

My prayer for all of us…
Lord, help us to see ourselves in the light of your love and forgiveness. Father let us glimpse the beauty that you want for our lives, teach us to love ourselves. Show us how to belong to the family of God and take our place as your precious, valued and worthy daughter.

Is God Your Hero Or Your Father?

Drowning

Imagine a little girl, 8 yrs. old, swimming at the beach and suddenly she goes underwater. She’s drowning. A lifeguard runs to save her. He pulls her little body out of the water, rushes her back to shore and gives her CPR. She chokes and sputters and starts to breathe. He’s relieved and the crowd around him cheers. He’s done his job, he’s a hero. He hands her over to her family and after a little applause, high fives and fist pumps from the crowd he goes about his business.

Now imagine that same little girl swimming, she goes under water and her father realizes that she’s missing. He dives into the water frantically searching for her, screaming her name. He looks under the water and sees her, he pulls her limp-lifeless body up into his arms and races to shore. He instinctively breathes into her tiny lungs and she spews out water and takes a breath. Overcome with emotion, he pulls her to his pounding chest. He embraces her, kisses her and wipes the hair from her face.

I think that he could not hold her close enough in that moment. He would envelope her in his love and never ever want to let her out of his sight again.

He’s not a hero, he’s her father. He didn’t rescue her because it was his job, he snatched her back from the clutches of death because he loves her. She is his child and he does not want to lose her.

The lifeguard represents who Jesus is when we make a simple confession to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior and then dutifully attend church and live a good little life. He’s like a lifeguard that rescues us but that doesn’t mean that we live in His love or that His love changes us.

But the Father, represents our God…he rescued her because of his love for her. The Dad represents the love that compelled Jesus to the cross for us.

Knowing God as our Father, believing that the Bible is a letter of love to us and not a list of rules, this is what makes the difference and takes us from knowing him as our hero to our Father.

Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed its’ the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

If there is one thing we are figuring out in the past ten years, it’s that systems and bullet point aren’t enough. We’ve been doctrined to death. We have access to more Bible studies, commentaries and guides than Justin Bieber has Twitter followers.

But we’re still hungry and unfulfilled.

So we go to conferences. We travel meeting to meeting, getting there early to snatch a good seat. We stand outside the door smiling at the other ladies in line all the while implementing: “Operation Get Down Front” that was hatched in the minivan on the way to the coliseum. We spread out, putting two women at each door because Jesus always sends us out in twos. We make sweet small talk with the ladies around us asking where they traveled from and how many kids they have, all the while pretending that we’re not in a cutthroat race against these capri wearing, Bible toting, scripture quoting, sleep deprived women. The doors open and it is game time. We keep our plastic smiles painted on as we swiftly walk, careful not to actually break into a jog, to the seats we want, swerving around the pokey women who obviously have no idea how this works. Finally, we settle on a spot, one woman on one side and another on the other and we throw coats purses and Bible onto all the seats in the middle.
Whew, we made it, time to fall in love with Jesus!

Is that still working for you? Me neither.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some conferences, and I will probably still attend a few, but I want more, I believe you do too. Crowds of Christians are stepping away from traditional churches/venues to find something more. Sadly I don’t think that stepping away really solves the heart of what we’re missing. I think we just need to get across the table and start connecting instead of lining up in rows next to each other listening to a speaker only to feel shame six months later when the life changing conference didn’t really change us. I’m not blaming the conference, I blame us. We want the easy fix. We want ten steps to freedom.

If we forget everything we know about church and church life, pretend we have never experienced any of it, then pick up a Bible and start reading the Gospels and book of Acts, and were asked to describe what the Christianity should look like, would you describe your life right now?

I think most of us would have to admit that we’re missing something.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. Sometimes we get messed up in our thinking and we look at the Bible and see a set of rules, but it is a book about connection.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others.

Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin.
It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and experience new possibilities. New places for us to unfold and come alive with a realization that we’re not the only one weary of these roads we travel. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

John Cacioppo considered by many as one of the fathers of social neuroscience says:

“Our survival depends on collective abilities not our individual might. Our very health and well being depend on our ability to form and maintain satisfying social connections with one another.”

Studies show that those who are connected with family and friends are happier and healthier people. The emotional brain feels safer when we belong and have a connection with others; our brain has a basic need for security and protection. We are social beings. We feel better when we have friends and do things that we enjoy together. The way people respond to us is often a cue for telling ourselves “How lovable and acceptable I am.”

God created us for connection; our bodies and brains are hardwired for it. The brain is a social brain. We have neurons constantly firing; processing new experiences, creating pathways in our brain that information and emotion can travel.

Rascal Flatts were (was?) right , life IS a highway!

But if the neurons are not being used, if they’re not firing, they die off, by the millions. When they die off, connections in our brain are seemingly left at the edge of a cliff without a bridge. Eventually these neurons prune, shrivel and die just like we do if we are isolated and disconnected. Our experiences and relationship are powerful interventions that keep us alive and thriving.

When we feel safe in relationship, we engage, we interact and we bond or attach. This process releases oxytocin in us and that calms the fear center in our brain. It causes us to relax and rest in the comfort of relationships.

When we are wounded in relationships, we can quickly become apathetic towards the idea of connecting with people. When we become apathetic, our brains essentially go “offline,” it’s similar to the act of playing dead so the lion won’t eat us feeling.
It’s paralyzing to our relationships and ultimately our lives.

Social isolation, has been linked to an increased risk of infectious, cardiovascular, and many diseases.

When we can’t or won’t socially engage through friendships involving eye contact, meaningful conversation or emotionally connecting, our brain goes off line and the fear part of our brain takes over. It leads to stress and anxiety and produces an increased amount of cortisol in our body.

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small amounts of cortisol are good for us. It’ gives us a quick burst of energy for survival, it helps us run from lions and lift cars off our children, it heightens memory functions and lowers sensitivity to pain. Cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important for the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.

Did you know that higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress and isolation) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, higher blood pressure and lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences.  Over time, this seriously accelerates an age-related decline in health and well-being.

Most important, it also leads to increased abdominal fat.

Hello?! Healthy connections, are the key to losing our muffin tops!

God created us to live healthy and part of that is through meaningful connections. To keep cortisol low and oxytocin high we need to be connected to others. Family is one of the most important earthly connections we need but it’s not the only one. We also need friends. We need to connect with other women, especially those on similar journeys.

This, THIS is why I am so passionate about women connecting, encouraging and inspiring one another.

We’ve had a lot of interest in women starting Praise and Coffee groups in their community. It seems that once they realize that they just need to invite a couple friends out to a coffee shop or over to their kitchen table, they relax and jump in.
No centerpieces, door prizes or tackling women for a good seat, just real women, sharing life and stories around a table.

We believe wholeheartedly what the Bible says in Matt 18:20, that when 2 or 3 gather in His name, He comes.
No, you don’t need to call it Praise and Coffee, who cares what you call it, just do it!

But if you are interested in learning more about Praise and Coffee groups, we are holding a live chat in our online group for Praise and Coffee leaders. There is no cost, or sign up.
Click here to join us Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM EST for one hour or so. Ronel Sidney and I will be giving you ideas and answering questions. By joining us that night you are not committing to anything, we DO NOT want you to feel pressured to do one more thing unless God is leading you that way.

You are loved.

More: Loneliness is Not About Being Alone

Your Life Is Waiting For You To Let It Happen

let go small

Why do we fight so hard to hold on to a life that is far less than what it could be?

Old customs, habits and relationships that are stagnant and lifeless, yet we cling to them like worn blankies because they are comfortable.

What are you clutching that needs to be released?

Is it ideas about what will make you happy, but have failed to for years?

Is it hope that the past could have been different?

How about today, you decide that even though the outside world hasn’t changed, you have, and you’re not staying in this puddle pretending it’s an ocean, any longer.

Your life is waiting for you to let it happen. Let go of what’s keeping you from it.

Be Still And Know

Be still and know

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God
Psalm 46:10

This has been my go-to verse over the last season of my life.

When I feel overwhelmed, confused or just exhausted, this reminds me to breathe.

It brings me to the quiet place of knowing that He is God and that He loves me and is with me, no matter what condition my head or heart are in at the moment.

There is always room for you in the presence of God.

 

Finding Happiness

What will make you happy? What do you really want?

More of __________________________.

Less of ___________________________.

And how much more or less will be the indicator of your supposed happiness?

If that which is outside us could fulfill and bring us joy, it would be evident in those who have so much and are so happy. No, we see a world filled with an excess of things and yet empty of joy.

The only true source of joy is found within. It’s found in the quiet place of our heart that doesn’t have to run from the pain or noise of this life.

Peace is what’s lacking.

We will scratch and claw our way through life, blaming others and ranting about injustice until our hearts find this place of peace.

I don’t believe it can be found until we rest in the love of the One who created us.

When we find Him in our loneliness and experience that He is enough, we will have touched the eternal.

It’s not a process, it’s not a physical place, it’s not a person and it’s not a church or group.

It’s Him.

When we believe that we are loved and have been put on this earth for a reason, even without fully understanding that reason, we begin a journey that is evidenced by peace and then joy.

The question is not “what” will make us happy, but “who” will make us happy?

It’s the One who left the stones on the ground and embraced the rambunctious children.
It’s the One who never promised an easy road but promised to walk the stormy journey with us.
It’s the One who walked away from the righteous to embrace the mess of humanity.

It’s the One who loves you. Yes you, mess and all.

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