Are You Embracing Your Season of Life?

AutumnDo you have a favorite season of the year?

My favorite seasons are fall and spring because I love the change of temperature that comes with each one, as well as the changing of leaves in the fall and the blooming of trees in the spring.

But even though I most enjoy fall and spring, I still appreciate the other seasons of the year and the uniqueness of each one. I love the beauty of the snowfall in the winter and the length of the sunlight in the summer. I see the value in each season of the year and can appreciate each one.

It’s the same way with seasons of life. We go through different seasons of life, and we enjoy some seasons more than others. But we can come to appreciate all seasons of life as we understand how God works in every season.

I’ve been studying the life of Moses, and in Exodus 1 and 2, I noticed six seasons of life.

The Delightful Seasons (Exodus 1:1-7)

The delightful seasons are those times when things are going great and we see God’s blessing on our lives.

God uses these delightful seasons to remind us of His lovingkindnessOur response should be: give thanks. Enjoy His blessings and remember that He is the source of those blessings.

The Difficult Seasons (Exodus 1:8-14)

winterThe difficult seasons of life are just that – difficult. It may be because of illness, loss, financial struggles, a family situation, a difficult relationship. As hard as this season is, God is still at work.

God uses the difficult seasons to remind us of His sufficiency. Our response should be: draw from His strength, not our own.We realize we are not adequate to handle this on our own, and He reminds us that He is sufficient for anything we face.

The Dangerous Seasons (Exodus 1:15-2:10)

We are definitely in a season where the world is more dangerous – terrorist attacks, ISIS, persecution of Christians, even walking down our own streets.

God uses the dangerous seasons to remind us of His sovereignty. Our response should be: rest in His sovereignty. No matter how bad it gets, He is still ultimately in control and will use all of this for good in some way.

The Disobedient Seasons (Exodus 2:11-14)

The seasons of disobedience may only last for a moment, if we deal with the sin immediately. Or the season may last for days, weeks, months, or years if we don’t confess and repent. I went through a season of disobedience for two and a half years at LSU. But I have had shorter seasons of disobedience since then. We sin daily, but the key is dealing with it immediately. Those seasons last for as long as we refuse to confess and repent.

God uses the disobedient seasons to remind us of His mercy and forgiveness. Our response should be: confess and repent.

The Desert Seasons (Exodus 2:15-22)

desertThe desert seasons are those dry times in our lives, when we feel empty, discouraged, and distant from God, wondering if He has forgotten us or if He is even listening to our prayers. Sometimes these seasons are a result of sin. Sometimes they follow failure. But other times, we don’t know why we’re in a desert season. The desert seasons aren’t wasted time, but time of preparation for the next chapter of our lives.

God uses the desert seasons to remind us of His faithfulness. Even though it seems that God is silent and has forgotten us, and we don’t feel God’s hand at work, He is faithfully working in ways we can’t see. Our response should be: walk by faith, not by sight.

The Desperate Seasons (Exodus 2:23-25)

The desperate seasons are those times when we feel we have no hope. We are at our lowest low, the end of our rope.

God uses these desperate seasons to remind us of His Presence. We are never alone. He has not forgotten us. He hears us. He sees us. He is very much aware of everything going on in our lives. He is present with us, even though we may not feel it. Our response should be: Cry out to Him. He is our hope when we feel we have no hope.

Embrace every season of life, because God is at work in each one. 

  • In the delightful seasons – He refreshes us.
  • In the difficult seasons – He strengthens us.
  • In the dangerous seasons – He controls what happens.
  • In the disobedient seasons – He convicts us.
  • In the desert seasons – He prepares us.
  • In the desperate seasons – He sustains us.

What season of life are you in today? Embrace it!

(To listen to the complete audio message, click here.)

Reflecting on Another Year

happy-new-year-2015Happy New Year!

There’s value in reflection, learning from the past and making adjustments for the future from the lessons learned. And yes, I’d love to know what God has in store for me this coming year, but it’s probably better that He just shows me one step at a time. If I knew ahead of time, I’d probably worry and fret about it.

He knows what’s best for us, and He chooses to show us step by step, corner by corner. All He asks of us is to trust Him and walk by faith, following Him around each corner as He leads.

I always take some time at the end of the year to reflect on the past year and answer a few questions:

  • What am I most thankful for?
  • What has been hard, and how did I handle it? What did I learn from it?
  • How have I grown in my relationship with God this past year?
  • What’s one thing I’d love to see God do this coming year?

As we celebrate the beginning of another year, I’d love to hear what you are most thankful for this past year. An answer to prayer, spiritual growth, new relationships, new job, an unexpected blessing from Him.

One thing I’m thankful for is that my mom is now face to face with Jesus and she was able to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year in a way she’s never before experienced.

Happy New Year to all!

countblessings

A Different Kind of Christmas This Year

Mom's Legacy of Three Generations

Mom’s Legacy of Three Generations

This has been a different kind of Christmas for me and my family this year. My 98-year-old mom stepped into the arms of her Savior shortly before 8:00 Friday morning, December 19. My brother Jim and I were by her side when she took her last breath on this earth. Mom got to spend Christmas with Jesus this year. I’m thankful that she is now pain-free and able to experience things I can only imagine.

I miss her, but I rejoice that she is HOME where she longed to be. Mom left a legacy of three generations, and we were able to spend Christmas together this year.

 

 

This poem by Wanda Bencke and song by Mark Schultz were part of her memorial service. Both helped us walk through this season of grief with a heavenly perspective. We can rejoice in the midst of sorrow because of Jesus Christ and the future that awaits us because of His death on the cross.

Listen to the song we closed mom’s memorial service with:

A Different Kind of Christmas by Mark Schultz

 

I’m Spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this Year

I see the countless Christmas trees,

Around the world below.

With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars,

Reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,

Please wipe away that tear.

For I’m spending Christmas,

With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs,

That people hold so dear.

But the sounds of music can’t compare,

With the Christmas choir up here.

For I have no words to tell you,

The joy their voices bring.

For it is beyond description,

To hear the angels sing.

I can’t tell you of the splendor,

Or the peace here in this place.

Can you just imagine Christmas,

With our Savior, face to face?

I’ll ask Him to light your spirit,

As I tell Him of your love.

So then pray one for another,

As you lift your eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful,

And let your spirit sing.

For I’m spending Christmas in Heaven,

And I’m walking with the King.

When Christmas Can Be Tough

merry_christmasIt’s almost Christmas. As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” As I’m sitting by the bed of my 98-year old mom who is no longer eating or drinking, you may be wondering how this Christmas could be the most wonderful time of the year for me and my family.

It’s difficult losing a loved one anytime, but especially at Christmas when families tend to gather together and form traditions that last through the years. But Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year even as I watch someone I love slip away from life on this earth.

Why? Because at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior. God came to this earth as a baby born in a stable, for one purpose – to die for our sins and give us eternal life, a life beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Our death ushers us into the presence of our Savior for eternity.

I can still rejoice this Christmas because I know that the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago gives us hope as we face death on this earth. I know where my mom will spend eternity – all because a baby was born in Bethlehem. She put her faith in Him as her Savior, and when she takes her last breath on this earth, she will step into His presence. Without Jesus, we’d have no hope after death.

So, even in the midst of this difficult time, I can say that Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year, because of what it means. Christ came into this world – for us. Because of His coming, His death, and His resurrection, we can look forward to life after death. No more pain. No more sin. No more tears.

It’s not about the food, the presents, the decorations, even the music – we celebrate Christmas because of Christ.

I’m praying mom will get to celebrate Christmas this year in heaven with her Savior and her loved ones who have gone before her.

Regardless of our circumstances, may we find peace and joy this Christmas because of the One whose birth we celebrate. It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas!

Practical Discipleship

Practical discipleship2Is discipleship taking someone through a curriculum or is it just hanging out with them informally? I think both can be true. Some of the people I have discipled have asked me to specifically go through something structured with them. Others have just wanted to spend time with me and talk about things as we’re together. Sometimes I do both with them, alternating between something structured and spending time just talking or doing something fun together.

For new believers, it’s important to take them through something structured in order to ground them in their faith and show them where to go in God’s Word when they struggle with things. For growing believers, I often let the conversation direct me as to how to best spend time with them and help them grow and develop. (You can check out some of the specific things I go through with them on my Free Resources page.

Be intentional with those you disciple and be practical with how you spend time with them. Here are four components that are important for practical discipleship to take place.

Talking

This is an obvious one. How can you disciple someone if you don’t talk? I will often ask them questions to get a feel for how they are doing and how I can encourage them. How can I be praying for you this week? I’ve been praying about ________.  How’s it going? Any new developments? I’d love to share with you what God is teaching me this week in my times in His Word. How is your time with the Lord this week? What is He teaching you?

Listening

Everyone wants to be heard. When someone listens to us, we feel loved and valued. It’s encouraging to others when we give them our undistracted attention and make eye contact. It’s important that we don’t interrupt and take over the conversation until they’ve finished or are ready for our input. Sometimes, I will jot down notes while they’re talking to remind me of things to ask them later for clarification.

Being

Be a role model to those you are discipling. Walk the talk! If you want them to love others, you need to be loving others. The same with integrity, vulnerability, humility, acceptance. Am I living my life in such a way that I would want others to follow my lifestyle and responses?

Doing

Do things together. Someone once told me, “Don’t do things alone that you can do with someone else.” For instance, exercise together, have a meal together, run errands together, go shopping together, ride to an event or meeting together. Time together naturally deepens relationships and allows natural conversations to take place.

Discipleship looks different with each person I disciple, but there is one constant – the goal. I want to spur them on to be more like Christ and grow deeper in their walk with Him.  I want to help them be all that God designed them to be.

Discipleship doesn’t have to be a rigid “program” but can be practical and intentional as we walk through life together.

What are your thoughts about discipleship? What does it look like for you?

 

Are You Listening?

Time Alone to ListenRecently a friend asked me how she could pray for me. My response was, “Pray that I will stay attentive to the Lord. Pray that I would listen to Him, not the world around me.”

The world tells me success is found in making money and achieving status in the eyes of others. God tells me success is obeying Him and living to please an audience of One.

The world tells me it’s all about me, my comfort and my desires. God tells me it’s not about me; it’s about Him.

The world tells me that outer beauty is what counts. God tells me that inner beauty is what is important.

The world tells me the Bible is irrelevant today. The times and culture have changed, and God’s Word doesn’t apply to our world today. God tells me His Word is everlasting and never changes. His principles still apply today.

The world tells me if there was a God and if He loved me, He wouldn’t allow difficult things to happen in my life. God tells me He loves me even when hard times come. He uses those hard things for good, even though I may not be able to understand how until I see Him face to face.

The world tells me I can do things on my own strength. I don’t need God’s help. God tells me, “No, you can’t do it on your own, apart from Me.”

It’s easy to listen to the world and forget God’s truth at times. That’s why I ask people to pray that I would stay attentive to God.

What hinders us from listening to God and being attentive to Him?

  • No times of silence

We like constant noise around us – TV, radio, conversations, playlists, podcasts, and so on. We are often uncomfortable with silence, but if we don’t shut out the noise around us, how will we hear God’s promptings?

  • No time alone with Him

If we don’t stop to spend time alone with Him consistently, we don’t give Him the opportunity to speak to us through His Word and prayer.

  • No sense of need for Him

When we’re confident in our own abilities, and life is going smoothly, it’s easy to lose that desperate dependence on Him. But even when life is going great, we still need Him. We still need to seek His direction and strength and protection.

As we move into this busy Christmas season, it’s easy to become so busy and frantic with Christmas events and preparations that we don’t slow down enough to listen to the One whom Christmas is all about.

Ask God to show you if there is an area in your life where you are not listening to Him. Ask Him to remove the barriers that are hindering you from being attentive.

Giving Thanks, Even in the Hard Times

give thanks2014Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day we slow down to give thanks. Yet, I was reminded this morning that I should be giving thanks every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving. And I try to. I have a Thank You journal by my chair to write down what I’m thankful for each day.

It’s easy to thank God when things are going great, when my football team wins, when He answers my prayers the way I wanted, when He surprises me with sweet blessings I wasn’t expecting.

But it’s not so easy to give thanks in the middle of a difficult situation when life is overwhelming – caring for an aging parent or sick family member, dealing with a diagnosis you never wanted to hear, financial struggles, marital heartache, a wayward child, death of a loved one much too soon. And yet, God doesn’t tell us to only give thanks when we are happy with what He’s doing. We are to give thanks in all things at all times, not just one day of the year.

Today, I will spend Thanksgiving at the nursing home with my 98-year-old mom who may or may not know I’m there. Can I give thanks in this situation? Yes. Is it easy? No, but I can still give thanks, knowing that God is in control and He has a purpose in all He does.

Take some time today to reflect on these questions:

What blessings am I thankful for? What brings a smile to my face when I say “thank you”?

What hardships or difficulties can I say “thank you” for, even though I may be saying it through tears?

Who is someone you are thankful for today? Let them know.

From Chuck Swindoll: “Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection. . . an annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus.”

Spend some time this Thanksgiving week in quiet reflection. What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for you.

Lessons from a Purse

A Full PurseLast night I watched a good friend empty her purse trying to find her USB flash drive, and I was amazed at how much she pulled out of that purse before she found it. I know all of us women have found ourselves in this same situation at one time or another. As I stood there watching, I thought about some spiritual lessons I could learn from this.

1. Just as I need to periodically clean out my purse and throw away the junk that is of no use, I need to consistently keep my heart clean. I shouldn’t wait to confess until things get so messed up that I realize I need to do something. Confession should be something I do throughout the day as sin creeps in. Storing up my sins till they overwhelm me is only going to lead to a bigger mess.

2. When I have too much clutter in my life, everything is disorderly, and I lose track of the important things. I need to de-clutter on a regular basis, and ask God to show me what’s important and priority. The other things can be put aside.

3. I need to be more intentional about what I allow into my life. My purse sometimes becomes a dumping ground for anything and everything that I don’t know what to do with. I get a receipt and I shove it down in my purse. Why don’t I just throw it away when I get it? I wouldn’t have to declutter and confess if I took care of things as they come up, instead of stuffing them for later.

4. A full purse weighs me down with unnecessary weight that I shouldn’t be carrying around. In the same way, I tend to carry burdens with me that God never intended for me to carry. But I don’t leave them with Him. Instead, I lug them around with me, and they wear me out.

Do you think I have enough pens in my purse?

Do you think I have enough pens in my purse?

5. As I watched my friend empty out her purse last night, I also watched her stuff everything back in after she found what she was looking for. It would have been a good time for cleaning out things that she didn’t need; thus, lightening her load. In the same way, I often tell God what is bothering me and weighing me down, but I don’t leave those things with Him. I pick them back up as I go out the door to work.

I’m sure there are plenty other spiritual lessons from this, but enough from me. What lessons for life can you learn from your purse? I’d love to hear from you.

Afraid to Disciple?

Woman in Fear How would you respond if someone asked you to disciple her? Would you be excited and shout, “YES!” or would it strike fear in your heart? What would I do with her? Where would I begin? I don’t even know what that means.

One of the questions I am often asked as the Women’s Ministry director at my church is, “Can you show me what to do with someone who wants me to disciple her?” I find that many want to disciple others, but they don’t feel confident in doing so. Perhaps you are feeling that way. You don’t know how to begin or what to do, or you are concerned that you may be asked a question that you won’t know how to answer.

It’s normal to have some apprehension and fears in discipling others. I understand the fears because I have had them myself. As a result, I put together a three-part study called Building Your Spiritual Toolbox for our Women’s Bible Study and for anyone who wants to learn how to disciple someone and to gain confidence in doing so. Building Your Spiritual Toolbox will give you the tools to disciple others and walk you through how to use these tools. Some of these tools are available on the Free Resources page. The entire Building Your Spiritual Toolbox (3 volumes) is available on my Bible Studies page.

Some of these tools may be review for you; others may be something new. Hopefully, they will spur you on as you move forward in your own spiritual journey and give you confidence to help someone grow deeper in her walk with the Lord.

I’m so thankful for the women who have discipled me and helped me grow in my walk with God. I want to do the same for others.

What do you think holds people back from discipling others?

Community Busters

community

What does healthy biblical community look like and are we experiencing it?

I’ve been pondering these questions as I am preparing to speak on the topic of community at a women’s retreat this weekend. God designed us for community, not to live in isolation from one another. But do we experience community in the way God wants us to?

 

Several years ago, Dr. Sue Edwards spoke on community at our women’s retreat and shared with us eight roadblocks to building community. Are any of these roadblocks a community buster for you?

  1. AngerI’m ticked off. I don’t want to be around people.
  2. HurtI’ve been hurt. I don’t want to be around people and let my guard down because they may hurt me again.
  3. ExhaustionI’m worn out. I don’t have the energy to spend with people. I need to rest.
  4. “Workaholism”I like being busy and working hard. I don’t have time for people because my work consumes my life.
  5.  LazinessI’d rather stay home and watch TV or sleep or get on the computer.
  6. FearI’m afraid if people get to know me, they won’t like me or accept me once they see what I’m really like. It’s just better to keep my guard up and not open up to anyone.
  7. SelfishnessI’m protective of my time and desires. I need to meet my needs before I look at anyone else’s.
  8. Comparison, envy, jealousyShe’s prettier than I am. I’m not as bad as she is. I want what she has.

To be honest, I struggle with some of these roadblocks. But I know I need Christian community. So what is the solution to overcoming these community busters?

I think Nancy Leigh DeMoss summed it up well in her devotional book, The Quiet Place. She wrote in her entry for November 2:

“Brokenness is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and lives, because pride in one form or another is almost always at the root of our most difficult issues – fear, sinful bondages, fragmented relationships, communication barriers, generation gaps, unresolved conflicts, guilt, shame, self-absorption, addictions, hypocrisy, even insecurities, and excessive shyness… You may be hiding behind their high, thick walls, not wanting to relinquish control or admit weakness. But every one of those walls can crumble through genuine brokenness and humility.”

The solution is genuine brokenness and humility. We have to acknowledge and deal with pride and self-sufficiency in our lives. And as we humble ourselves and allow ourselves to be broken, it opens the door for authentic community to take place. I want authentic community, but I have to be willing to overcome these community busters.

What would you add to the list of roadblocks to building community?