Giving Thanks

giving thanksAs we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, here are some things I am thankful for – not just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.

T – Time on this earth. I’m thankful for every day God gives me here.

H – Heaven is my eternal home. When my time on this earth is done, I will go HOME.

AAcceptance. Acceptance by God in spite of things I’ve regrettably done

N – New friends God has brought into my life this year

K – Kindness – the kindness of others and of God

S – Simplicity. The simple things in life that I often overlook

G – God’s gifts from above

I – Investment – The people who have invested in me spiritually

V – Victory over sin through the blood of Christ

I – Intercession. For those who faithfully intercede for me

N – Nobility. I’m thankful that I’m a daughter of the Most High King.

G – Grace. Without God’s grace, I’d have no hope.

As Psalm 92:1 tells us, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”

What are you thankful for today?

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A Mistake or Something Beautiful?

Painting at Pickwick This picture hangs in my office. The artist? Me.

Before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify. I painted this picture during an afternoon breakout session at our women’s retreat several years ago, taught by Jennifer Fergus. I am not good at art, but I do enjoy stretching myself and doing something out of my comfort zone. Art doesn’t come naturally for me, so I have to work hard at it.

Jennifer carefully guided us step by step. But if you look at the top of the hill, in the middle, there is a light yellow spot in the blue sky. It was a mistake, or so I called it. I accidentally put too much white paint on the sky, and I immediately cried out, “Oh, Jennifer. I messed up this painting. I made a big mistake. It’s ruined.”

Her response was, “No. It’s not a mistake. Let’s work with it and make it something beautiful.” And we did, and it turned out to be a bright spot in the painting, a glimpse of the sun going down behind the hills.

Jennifer taught me a valuable lesson that day. She reminded me that we often look at things as mistakes, as something bad, of no value. We think we’ve messed something up to the point there’s no way to fix it. Yet, in God’s eyes, there are no mistakes. He can take the biggest mishap and make something good, something beautiful out of it.

That was a good reminder for me. God can and does take negative situations and uses them to make something good and beautiful from it. So now, every time I look at this picture on my wall at work, I am reminded that God takes my mistakes, my “oops,” and makes something good and meaningful out of it.

Thank You, Lord.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV)

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The Discouraging Side of Ministry

Weariness and WoundednessI love my job as the Women’s Ministry Director at my church. Just last week, I told the Lord as I crawled into bed how thankful I am for this job and how much I love going to work every day.

But to be honest, working in full-time ministry is not always a bed of roses. There are days I want to quit; days that are so disappointing and discouraging that I have shut the door to my office to have some quiet time to wipe away tears and pour out my heart to the Lord.

I had that kind of day yesterday. One of the things I’ve learned from working in full-time ministry is that I can’t please everyone. I may make someone happy by a decision I make, but someone else is not happy about it. Criticism is part of the job.

There’s a part of me that wants very much to please people. But I also know that when I get into bed at night and reflect on my decisions that day, there’s really only One person I need to please – the Lord Jesus Christ. Obeying His leading and pleasing Him is what really matters.

I can’t please everyone. And neither can any of us in our respective roles – parent, spouse, boss, co-worker, teacher, ministry worker…

My initial response to criticism is discouragement, and at times, defensiveness. But I have to go to the Lord and ask Him if their criticism is warranted. Did I please Him?

All this to say: if you’re in full-time ministry, those days of discouragement and criticism will come. It’s the nature of working with people (in any job). We need to ask in those times, Lord, did I please You?

I share Paul’s passion in 2 Corinthians 5:9: “Therefore, also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

What has helped you handle those times of discouragement and criticism when people aren’t pleased with something you’ve done or a decision you’ve made?


photo by: Sister72
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When Life Is a Mess

A messI came home one day recently to this scene – a laundry room completely ransacked. No, I wasn’t broken into by robbers. My cat Hobson decided to have a field day and climb onto things he shouldn’t have been climbing on – resulting in a mess on the laundry room floor.

Somedays, life is like that. Things are going along smoothly, and we turn a corner or open a door. SURPRISE! Something totally unexpected is waiting for us.

So how do we handle these inconveniences, these surprises, these irritations?

  1. We can get angry and lash out at the one who caused the inconvenience.
  2. We can stuff our emotions inside, smiling on the outside, but grumbling the whole time internally while cleaning it up.
  3. We can thank God for the inconvenience and trust that He will use it for His purpose in our lives. I may not like what happened, but I can still thank God for bringing it into my life for a reason. I may not understand why, but I can rest in the fact that God has a bigger plan and purpose than I can see.

Life is full of twists and turns. How will we respond to those surprises and inconveniences in life?

As James said in James 1:2-4: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

To be honest, I wasn’t overjoyed with the scene I walked in on that day; and my initial response was, “Hobson! What have you done???!!!” But as I cleaned up the mess, I thought about how many messes I’ve made in my life, and God still loved me and cleaned them up for me. It was a good reminder.

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If God is Sovereign, Why … ?

tornado 2

If God is sovereign, why does He allow natural disasters and catastrophes?

If God is in control of everything — the weather, the oceans, the earth — why does He allow innocent people to die because of earthquakes, floods, tornados, tsunamis?

It’s a tough question and one we’ve probably all asked at some point in our lives. We don’t always understand why, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing and He has a purpose for everything that happens. He’s still in control, and we have to rest in His sovereignty.

I will never forget the summer of 1976 — July 31, to be exact. I was on staff with Cru, and was attending the annual staff training at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, outside of Estes Park.

Our national women leadership were in the mountains for the weekend having a leadership retreat before the official staff training began. We went to our opening session Sunday morning and heard the news that there had been a flash flood in the Big Thompson Canyon the night before where our women were meeting. Most of the women had gotten back to CSU safely, but eleven were missing.

By the end of the day, we found out that seven young women had gone home to be with the Lord. Most of these women were in their twenties and thirties. It didn’t make sense.

“Lord, these women have committed their lives to serve you, and they were being used by you. Why would you take them home now? Why didn’t you protect them from this flood like you did the rest of the women? You’re in control and could have stopped this from happening. Why didn’t you?”

As we met together that week to process what had happened, the resounding theme during that time was God is sovereign. He allowed those things to happen for a purpose, beyond what we could see then.

Later, we found out that family members came to Christ as a result of those young women’s deaths. Who knows how many people have been impacted for eternity because of their lives and their deaths?

One of the girls had even told Vonette Bright the week before that she would give her life for her brother to come to Christ. She did.

Yes, God is in control. He is sovereign. But, in His sovereignty, He allows hard things to happen for good, according to His bigger purpose which we can’t always see. In times like these, when we don’t understand why, we have to rest in His sovereignty and the truth of Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I don’t always understand why, but I know my God. And that’s where I have to focus in those times of asking why.

How have you seen God use tough situations for good?

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Jigsaw Puzzles and Prayer

Meditating on the Word3You’re probably wondering what the connection is between jigsaw puzzles and prayer.

A few weeks ago Debbie Hannah Skinner spoke at our Women’s Retreat on Fixing our Eyes on Jesus. She talked about the distractions that hinder us from doing that and then gave us a chance to use our hands and minds to help us focus on a verse or a truth from Scripture.

She had us write a verse in the circle in the center of a coloring sheet, and then while we were coloring around it, we meditated on the verse. It was a great exercise and one that truly helped me focus on the spiritual truth I wanted to meditate on.

But, I’m not a very creative person, and doing anything artsy is not in my comfort zone. I like doing art projects every once in a while because they stretch me, but sometimes the challenge itself can become a distraction. So God showed me another way to keep my mind focused while I pray for people in my life.

I love working jigsaw puzzles, but having two kittens make it impossible to work puzzles with physical pieces on a table. So I downloaded a free jigsaw puzzle app on my iPhone and iPad. One of the things I love about this app is that it allows me to use my own pictures to make the puzzle.

India Team 2014I began to see how, by using one of my pictures, I can pray for the people in the picture while I’m putting the pieces of the puzzle together. As I’m focusing on each person in the picture, I pray for them. If it’s a place, I pray for the people I met in that place, and I pray for the country.

I try to do one puzzle each night when I get in bed. This has been a great way for me to stay focused in prayer while I’m also doing something that relaxes me. Give it a try!

What distracts you from focusing during prayer or meditating on a truth from Scripture? What has helped you focus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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The Lesson of Grace Through the Eyes of a Cat

2015-06-12 14.46.26I recently adopted two kittens named Hobson and Hannah. They are now about six months old, and they are a handful, especially the little boy kitten.

Hobson gave me a picture of grace recently. He loves to climb, especially on places he has no business climbing on. One of his favorite places to climb on is the wall of my walk-in shower, where he precariously tries to balance himself without falling in. Hobson on shower wall

I have scolded him and told him to get down. I have warned him that if he does fall in, I’m not turning off the water. (I know, that sounds unkind, doesn’t it?) But if he paid the consequences of his disobedience, then maybe he’d obey the next time.

One day I realized that I hadn’t seen Hobson for an hour or so, and that was very unusual. So, I got up to check on him and had this sinking feeling in my stomach… oh, no, I wonder if he fell into the shower.

Hobson in showerWhen I walked into my bathroom, this is what I saw – a cat helplessly trapped inside a “prison” with no way out. I had a choice. I could punish him and make him stay in there all day, without food, human touch, or comfortable surroundings. He would be separated from me and not able to experience my love.

Or I could extend grace to him and not make him pay the price for his disobedience. I could forgive him and free him from the predicament he had gotten himself into. As I looked at that sweet, pitiful face, I had mercy on him. I love him, and so I chose to extend grace to him – not making him pay the penalty. I opened the door, and he lovingly ran into my arms, happy to be able to enjoy my loving hand on him once again.

That is a picture of what God does for us. We’re guilty of sin and, as a result, we’re separated from God – His love and His provision. He could have left us isolated and made us pay the penalty, but because he had mercy on us and loved us, He extended grace to us through His Son Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty in our place.

We don’t deserve God’s grace, any more than Hobson deserved my grace. But God freely gave it because of His love and mercy. How could I do anything less?

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”

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A Kindred Spirit

Women Wearing Colorful Bathing CapsFriendships are truly a gift from God. You may have a lot of friends, but every once in a while, God brings along a friend who “gets” you, who totally understands you, and vice versa — a kindred spirit. If you have or have had a kindred spirit friend, you know what that looks like, and it’s hard to explain. It’s not a relationship you have to work hard to make it happen; it just happens. God’s hand is clearly in it.

In Philippians 2:20, Paul refers to Timothy as his kindred spirit, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” An Old Testament example of a kindred spirit friendship is that of Jonathan and David.

So what are the characteristics of a kindred spirit?

Kindred spirits have something in common. It may be a love for the same people or a similar passion in life or sharing similar struggles.

Kindred spirits are one in spirit. They see eye to eye on things and are similar in the way they respond to situations in life. They understand each other and can identify with what the other is feeling or thinking.

Kindred spirits love each other selflessly. They’re focused on encouraging and building each other up more than their own self-preservation and promotion.

Kindred spirits pray for each other. They know how to pray for one another and are faithful in doing so.

Kindred spirits are honest with each other. They can be completely themselves around each other and don’t feel they have to put on a mask. They can tell each other things they wouldn’t feel comfortable telling others because they know their kindred spirit will understand and not judge or think poorly of them.

Kindred spirits want God’s will for each other. Jonathan was not jealous or angry because David would be king instead of him. He knew God had chosen David, and he accepted that and loved David. He could have become bitter and resentful, but Jonathan embraced God’s will for himself and for his friend.

Kindred spirits build each other up spiritually and point each other to the Lord. Jonathan and David kept their focus on God and pointed each other to Him. They didn’t let their friendship become the focal point.

God has blessed me with a number of kindred spirit friends in my life, and I am so thankful for each one of them. Take some time today to thank God for those friends in your life. If you don’t have a kindred spirit, ask God to bring one into your life.

What characteristics would you add to this list?

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Resting in the Sovereignty of God

psalm-46Does your life seem out of control and you’re wondering why your circumstances are what they are? When I find myself in those situations, the attribute of God that most comforts me is His sovereignty. He is in control, no matter how bad things seem. As I ponder God’s sovereignty, I am reminded of three truths:

1. Nothing touches me that God hasn’t allowed. Everything that happens to me and around me is under God’s control. Nothing can touch my life that hasn’t gone through the hands of God first. Nothing slips by Him unnoticed. Nothing happens by chance. He has allowed it.

God allowed difficult things in Job’s life, but Satan couldn’t have touched Job without God’s permission. And God’s purpose in that was for Job to know Him deeper.

2. God is working in all situations for good.

Everything that happens to us and around us is under God’s sovereignty, and He is working all things together for good, as stated in Romans 8:28 – even the bad things. He has a purpose for everything that happens, even though we don’t understand why.

Joseph went through some harsh, unfair circumstances. But God had a purpose in all that Joseph went through – a purpose for good.

3. God is in control. Rest in it.

Psalm 46 is a song of God’s sovereignty.

Verses 1-3 remind us of God’s comfort when life seems out of control. We don’t need to fear because God has everything under control.

1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 3Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling

Verses 4-7  remind us of God’s presence with us in the midst of all things, good and bad. He hasn’t left us in the midst of the hard times to fend for ourselves.

4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. 5God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. 7The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Verses 8-11 remind us of God’s sovereignty. The psalmist encourages God’s people to look at and ponder what God has done and will do.

8Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

“Cease striving and know that I am God” (v. 10). The literal translation for verse 10 is, “Let go! Relax.” God is saying, I am in control! Stop stressing out about what’s going on or what might happen. Let go, relax. Know that I am God, the Sovereign King who has everything under control. Rest in my sovereignty.

We have a choice in how we respond to the sovereignty of God. We can either rest in it or resist it. Resting in it gives us peace and comfort. Resisting it causes stress, anxiety, and fear.

Let’s rest in His sovereignty, in the good times and hard times. He is in control.

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Saying Goodbye to a Precious Mentor

Vickie KraftThis past Tuesday, heaven gained the soul of a precious saint. Vickie Kraft was one of my mentors when I lived in Dallas and an integral part of my coming to Memphis as the Women’s Ministry Director. I am saddened by our loss of Vickie but thrilled for her and what she is experiencing now face to face with our Savior. I am looking forward to joining with others this weekend in Dallas as we celebrate her life and legacy.

In honor of Vickie, I want to share some of the lessons God taught me through Vickie’s life.

You’re never too old to invest in the life of others. Vickie was the Women’s Ministry Director at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas for many years. But when she retired, she didn’t retire from ministry. She continued to invest in the lives of younger women and still traveled to speak and disciple others. She was always pouring into someone’s life. She even led a Bible study for young moms at 6:15 in the morning. No sleeping in for this retiree!

Love God’s Word and apply it. Vickie was an excellent Bible teacher, bringing God’s truth down to personal principles that we need to apply in our lives. Vickie loved God’s Word and always taught from her personal life. She was a godly example to me of how to teach God’s Word. She even critiqued my teaching and helped me develop as a Bible teacher.

It’s okay to say what you think. Vickie was never shy about speaking her mind, and I loved that about her. I never had to wonder what Vickie was thinking. I remember when I introduced myself to her as “Crickett,” her response was, “Surely your mother didn’t name you that!” I loved her authenticity and genuineness, and her willingness to speak what she really thought and not tiptoe around issues the rest of us would avoid.

Most of all, Vickie taught me to love my Savior. She always pointed me to the Lord in every situation I faced. She would remind me that He has everything under control and He is enough for me. She seemed to always say just the thing I needed to hear at that time.

Vickie has left behind a godly legacy – not just with her family, but with her family in Christ. She has impacted women of all ages all over the world. We will miss her greatly but look forward to reuniting with her around His throne.

Vickie taught me to make my life count for eternity. Her homegoing has made me consider once again, what kind of legacy am I leaving behind? That’s a good question for all of us to consider while we still have time left on this earth. Vickie may not be with us physically, but her legacy continues through the many lives she touched. We love her.

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