For Such A Time As This

Maximizing everyday moments to glorify God

Lean towards the Son

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

sunflowersThere is nothing like a field of blooming flowers to capture my attention and take my breath away. When I see all that beauty leaning towards the sun, it paints a vivid picture for me of how I should be leaning in towards the Son.

As the flowers tilt towards their source of sustenance, so should I. Depending on anything else only brings disappointment. If I lean on my own abilities, I’m bound to slip up and feel failure and guilt. If I depend on another person, I’m bound to feel let down and disappointed. If I look towards the government, work, or some other entity, I’m bound to feel disconnected, unappreciated or unheard.

The flowers also remind me that weakness is beauty. When I recognize my own weakness and let go of the need to fix it all, do it all, be it all – I let go and let God. In recognizing my own limitations and pressing in to Him to allow Him to work, His strength is evident. And, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

There have been so many times in life when the only way something could be accomplished was if God’s hand was on it. And, when I’ve let it go to Him, I’ve been amazed by the outcomes.

Whatever we are facing, He’s big enough to handle it. Whatever challenges we see over the next horizon, He’s already been there and overcome it. Whatever setbacks that seem to be taking the breath right out of us, He’s already walked through. Letting that truth sink in to my heart builds trust and hope.

Like the flowers in the field, leaning in to God is the way to not only survive, but thrive. By doing this, we will begin to accomplish the work He has set out for us to do, and bring Him glory in the process.

 

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Leaving things better

 

“When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.” Hebrews 6:7-8

graduation

In this season of graduation, big changes are in store for those celebrating commencements, as well as their friends and family. I was reflecting on this and thought back to when my daughter “graduated” from fifth grade a couple years ago. Her principal delivered a speech to the kids. He challenged them to leave the world a better place. Bringing it down to their level, he asked them about going camping and finding a messy campsite. The answer to “how would you leave it better” was pretty simple.
What about our lives as Christians? What can we be doing that will leave the world, or at least the little slice of life that is within our sphere of influence, a better place? Is that even a conscious thought for us on a daily basis?
As Christians, we are called to “bear fruit.” If we accept Christ and live a life that honors Him by showing others how He has impacted us, loving others and helping where we can, our life will produce fruit. Living out our faith is what sets us apart. We make a difference in the lives of those whom we come in contact with. I want people to encounter Jesus when they are around me.
The writer of Hebrews vividly describes what happens to seeds that are sown and those that are ignored. Sown seeds grow into vibrant, healthy plants that produce bountiful crops. Seeds that are scattered and ignored are overtaken by weeds, choked of life and wither away.
Each of us is blessed with certain gifts (think: seeds). How we use those gifts is critical. If we use our gifts to sow into the lives of others, a “good crop” will result. If we squander our gifts, use them for selfish gain, or worse, don’t use them at all; then like weeds, we choke the life out of ourselves and are useless.
As the kids heard that message, and I hear the words of God, I pray, “Lord, let us use our gifts wisely and be Jesus with skin for those who so desperately need to experience you in this world.”
Leave the world a better place. It’s really a simple task

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Breaking the approval cycle

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16

“I wonder if he’ll notice,” I thought, wondering if my husband would comment on the clean floors as I was yet again sweeping up the massive amounts of dog hair our pets shed all over our house. Almost as quickly as the words formed in my mind, they were answered by a thought. “Why do you need so much approval when you already have mine?” God was speaking and I needed to listen.

For too many years, I was caught in a cycle of approval and rejection. Rejection had peppered so many of my close relationships that I began to doubt my own worth and value. Which then cycled into a need to seek approval. I think you get the picture.

Reading through a list of truths about our Heavenly Father, my eyes settled on one in particular. “He loves you completely and unconditionally and will never let you go. So submit to God. (Beth Moore’s James-Mercy Triumphs).”

I needed to let those words cover me and remind me that I don’t need the approval or acceptance of anyone to prove my worth. No one can fill the place in my heart that God can and does.

As I was reading through the list in the study, the hard question followed. Which point struck a chord with you the most and why? I don’t really have to answer that, do I? Yes, actually, I do. The pain of the past and rejection I’ve allowed myself to feel is something that needs to be dealt with and literally, given to God. Just as we learned in James 4:7, “Submit to God.” If we will truly and honestly do that, He will fill us with His grace.

Meditating on this, I remembered John 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…” HE chose ME! Before I ever knew Him, He chose me to be His. I don’t know where you are in your walk, but for me, those words were like bright sunshine washing over me on a warm summer day.

The work I have been given to do on earth is to bear fruit for Him. Rejection and approval don’t factor into that equation because I already have the ultimate approval.

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Immanuel – The Greatest Gift

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Did you know that from the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, 400 years passed without a single word from God? 400 years! That’s a really long time for complete silence. It’s hard to imagine what people must have thought. Did God die, was He angry, or did He just stop caring? Generations passed with nothing but silence.

And then it was time to reopen the communication lines. He was sending His one and only son to the Earth to take human form to become the gift of all gifts. A Savior for mankind.

He could have shaken the foundations of the earth to announce Jesus’ arrival. But, no. Instead it came in the form of the sweet, soft cry on a newborn. Incredible. Can you just imagine what that must have been like for Mary? As a mom, I know the overwhelming surge of emotion that came with giving birth. But, can you even fathom knowing that you are carrying the Son of God?

blue nativityAnd to know that the cry of her newborn baby was the announcement to the world that the silence was broken! Think about that for a bit – I have, and I still can’t seem to think anything but pure amazement. And the news was spread when the angel of the Lord said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) He was here. Our gift of salvation in the form of a tiny baby.

It makes me think about the gifts and blessings in life that I know I take for granted. Breath, our senses, quiet, the beauty and wonder that surround us every day. There are so many subtle, but incredible things that are so easily overlooked, we may not even think about them being gifts from God. God doesn’t have to loudly announce anything. Small, soft whispers are more than sufficient for the Creator of the Universe.

The soft cry of a baby. In a manger. In a stable filled with animals. Where no one could make room. The Savior of the earth. The One who created the stars, yet chose to come and live among us with one purpose. To save us.

As I think about Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in all the mayhem of the season. Presents, decorating, baking, parties, cards, shopping and everything else. It seems everywhere we turn there are distractions the world is throwing at us. But the best gift is the one we cannot give. The one we don’t deserve. The one we can’t repay. The one we simply receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus

He chose to come to be the Way. Without Him, we have no hope. Without Him, or future is dark. But, if we choose to accept and receive His gift of salvation, we are secure. There is hope.

Every year about this time, I try to get away and relax with Him. Even if it’s just for an hour or so, stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas activities keeps me focused on the true meaning: His unbelievable gift of salvation for all eternity. His choice to humble himself to a life of poverty and scorn, only to die a death He didn’t deserve and pay the price for all sins past, present and future. In order that we might spend all of eternity with Him…

…He loves us that much!

No store gift could ever compare.

And, He knows that there is nothing I say or do could earn His gift. I simply have to receive. Lay down my pride, my fears, my doubts, my control and anything else that my hands might be grasping on to hold. Empty them, so that I might receive the best gift ever.

Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray we all pause long enough to sit in absolute wonder at the greatest gift of all. Jesus in our midst. Jesus, the giver of the ultimate gift. Salvation.

Everything else, no matter how spectacular, pales in comparison and is simply pointing us to Him.

Merry Christmas.

 

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An Angel in the Night

“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.” Psalm 20:1-2 NIV

The other night, my son got food stuck in his esophagus. He could breathe, but he couldn’t get the food to go down and he couldn’t eat or drink anything. Frantic, I posted on Facebook, hoping someone might have a suggestion that would work, but to no avail. After trying everything we could think of, we headed to the emergency room. It was 9:30 p.m.

As we sat in the ER, my phone was buzzing with well wishes and prayers in response to my post. I updated to let those praying know that we were being sent to the Children’s Hospital 30 miles away to have a scope done to remove the food – it had to be done in surgery. I was scared and feeling quite alone. I kept praying for calm and peace – I didn’t want my son to get more upset than he already was.

Then, all of a sudden, my messenger app dinged. I read these words: “Patti, I’m a trauma/ICU nurse. I’m awake and at work, so feel free to PM me if you have questions or concerns. I assist with conscious sedation on kids for things like this all the time.”

This note was from a woman I barely know, I’ve seen her in person only a couple of times. We are both part of a team of nearly 300 people who raise money and run races to help fight human trafficking. Oh, and she lives 2,000 miles away and two time zones ahead. So it was the middle of the night where she was.

I needed an angel to keep me calm, and God sent me one! We went on to text back and forth for the hours we were in the hospital. Can I tell you how very empty and alone it was in that place? When they took my son into surgery, I was brought to a waiting area that was huge, but completely empty except for me. There weren’t many lights on, so I found a spot that had the most light I could find and sat down. It was 2 a.m. The hospital cafeteria wasn’t even open! I sat there and prayed, reading the Bible on the app on my phone. This verse in the Psalms brought me peace.

Every so often, I would get another message from my friend. Thanks to her, I had communication and encouragement, along with prayers, to sustain me while my son was in surgery.

What a tremendous comfort that was! Once again, God showed me that He has his hand in all aspects of my life. He put us together and knew that in that situation, she would be willing to go above and beyond the call to help someone in need, me. I greatly appreciated it! I can also say that I had a tremendous sense of peace during the procedure. And, my son came out the ordeal just fine, and is doing much better.

He cares. He listens. He answers.

Praise God.

 

 

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Give Thanks

Note: This is a repost, but the message hasn’t changed! It’s easy to be thankful when things are good, when we have plenty and when circumstances are going in our favor. The real test is when life seems to be dealing blow after blow. But what I have experienced, and am slowly learning, is that being thankful in ALL not only makes the challenging times more bearable, it shifts my focus away from the issue at hand, and opens my heart and eyes to the greater purpose and blessing that God has for me. On this Thanksgiving, I pray to be thankful and joyful in all things – and that is my prayer for you as well. Blessings.

A Thankful Heart

Thankful:  conscious of benefit received (source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

thanksgiving-prayerTo express thankfulness requires us to realize that something has been done for our benefit, on our behalf.

Its Thanksgiving week, and our “thankfulness radar” is heightened. We pause to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. That is a good thing. It’s only right to consciously acknowledge those things in our lives for which we are grateful.

But, what about those things in life that are hard? Can we be thankful for them, too? I say yes. Not because it’s something I want or prefer, but because the Bible tells us to, for a reason.

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20 (NLT)

Paul’s letter doesn’t say to give thanks for some things or for the good things.”  He tells us to give thanks for everything.

Being thankful, to me, means that my perspective is on a higher level than the everyday circumstances in my life. It means that I can see beyond what is happening in the moment and recognize that God is at work, using it, and all my circumstances for good in the end.

When I think back on the past few years, I can trace a path of God’s hand in my life. He was there through some really hard times. As I reflect on them, I can honestly thank Him for those times. Because not only did I grow closer to Him, I learned what it really means to be obedient. I learned that even in the good times, the only true, steady thing I can count on is Him.

It makes me begin to see the blessings in life like ornaments on a Christmas tree – they are nice additions; appreciated, cherished and enjoyable, but not necessary for the tree to survive. If I can begin to see the blessings in my life in that light, I will appreciate and cherish them, but not need them more than I need Jesus.

What I am most thankful for is that He chose to come to Earth and die in my place in order for me to have a place to call home for eternity, with Him. There’s nothing, no blessing or circumstance here that could compare with that.

And that, is, as the dictionary puts it, the “benefit received” of all benefits received.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Enough

Jesus is enough. That was the title of one of my devotional studies this morning. Essentially, the message was, when we get to the point where all we have is Jesus, we have all we need. I’m guilty of thinking I need things like possessions, comfort, prosperity, prestige, you name it. I’ve also gotten comfortable and possibly off track in remembering that first and foremost, I need Jesus. Everything else is just above and beyond blessing.

God can take the minimal scraps of my life and turn them into something I never expected. He is able to make something from nothing. He is able to sustain without all the typical fanfare that I’ve become accustomed to having. When I’m at rock bottom, He works in ways that only He can.

God drove this point home later this morning. I got to church service and it was not “normal.” More people than normal were milling around outside the doors and it looked like the lobby was especially crowded. I made my way inside and learned there was no power on the campus. So, church was gathering in the lobby to make use of the outside light. Crowded, cramped and unable to hear, I considered leaving. And then I got a call from my friend who was there, and looking for me. She found me, grabbed my hand and led me up to where she had nestled a spot near the front.

12189717_10207489097495961_3008518694113925231_nNo microphones, no electric guitars, not video screens. Just acoustic worship and a message that reminded us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. My heart moved and tears welled up. This life can throw many hardships at us. Life can take twists and turns that we never expect. Life can take away everything we think we need. But then, that’s where God meets us. If I hold everything loosely, knowing it is a gift from God, my perspective is right.

When I heard worship service wouldn’t be “normal” I fretted. All the things that I thought I needed were essentially stripped away. No chairs, no electricity, no “experience.” How wrong I was. There was more power in that place than I have felt in a long time.

Because Jesus is enough. Period.

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Like a rose

The nights are getting chilly. Where I live, temperatures are starting to drop and soon, snow will be falling as winter is ushered in. I love fall. The air is crisp, the colors are brilliant and yet, it isn’t too cold.

This time of year, the roses in my garden are in bloom. They are vibrant and beautiful. So, when we had our first frost warning of the season the other night, I went out to cover them, hoping to preserve them a bit longer. There was a bud on one of the stems. I debated about cutting it to bring it in and put in a vase. The edges were a little dark and I wondered if it would even bloom inside. I figured, why not, and clipped it. I put it in my little bud vase at the kitchen sink.

To my delight, that little bud not only bloomed, but it released an incredible fragrance as well. It was just stunning. When it opened, those dark, dry edges were no longer visible and in fact, I almost forgot they were ever there in the first place.

roseAs I was admiring the beauty of that little rose, I felt God’s whisper. “You’re like that rose.”

It’s easy to focus on our flaws, on those dark edges and dry spots that we’d like to get rid of. I can easily get trapped in the snare by the enemy to believe that because of my flaws, I’m of no use for God. In fact, that is exactly what the enemy would want us to believe. Because then he wins. We miss out on the gift of blessing others and bringing glory to God.

Let me remind (me and) you, that this is not true. God doesn’t see that when He looks at us. In fact, God can use our flaws and rough spots for His glory. When He looks at us, He sees His son or daughter. We are His creation and He doesn’t make mistakes.

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14 NLT)

There is great beauty and value in each of us. Like a rose, we can blossom and be a fragrant gift to others, bringing glory to the One who created us.

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Just say “yes”

“In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” (John 17:18 MSG)

Five years!

Five years ago, a small group of women decided to tackle a half-marathon as a way to celebrate a milestone birthday. In the process, they were able to raise money for a cause.

Today, more than 300 people are part of what is now called “Team Freedom.” This team raises money to help fight human trafficking through an organization called Hope for Justice. In that time, we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help rescue and restore the lives of those trapped in slavery. While that is an incredible accomplishment, there is much more to be done. And Team Freedom has no intention of stopping.

Four years ago, I laced up my running shoes and joined the fight. I wasn’t a runner by any means. But, after that first year when I heard the stories of women trapped in the sex slave trade, my heart broke. I remember literally sobbing after hearing the story of one young girl. The thought entered my mind, “I HAVE to do something.” God has called us to be a light in a dark world. Well, it doesn’t get much darker than the horrific world of human trafficking. I simply said, yes. I’ll do it. God called me to be a part of this mission and whether I am a runner or not, I’m in.

I've been running with Team Freedom for four years and I have no intention of stopping!

I’ve been running with Team Freedom for four years and I have no intention of stopping!

Fast forward to today. I have completed three half-marathons, two 15K’s and numerous 10K’s and 5K’s. I certainly don’t say that to brag. I say that because my heart remains on fire for this cause and running is how we help. Every day, I wear a bracelet made by a woman who was rescued. It keeps me grounded and reminds me of why I run.

In February of 2016, I will run more miles than I have ever attempted, 25.5 miles over two days. The reason? To give a face to this problem. To hopefully open a conversation with people who may not realize how big this issue really is. Today, there are more than 29 million slaves in the world. That’s more than any other time in the history of the world. I cannot sit by and do nothing. I pray that you would stand in agreement with me on that point.

The stories of the bondage are mind-boggling and stomach-turning. However, the stories of recovery and redemption are like sunshine bursting through dark clouds, bright and stunning.

Jesus didn’t offer me salvation to sit with it on a shelf and wait to go to Heaven. He called me to go out into this broken world and make a difference. To get involved. To step outside my comfort zone and do something, anything, whatever it is that He leads me to do. He made it abundantly clear this was a cause, a team that I needed to be involved with.

Would you please consider helping me reach my fundraising goal of $500? Anything helps and it’s an easy process. Just visit my fundraising site here.

God has given me this mission. And I trust that He will equip that mission by keeping me healthy for training and bringing in donations. Saying “yes” is the first step. I’ve said “yes,” will you?

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God still wins #neverforget

Today marks 14 years since the very fabric of our country was torn. A terrorist attack of unimaginable proportions on our own soil. Most of us can vividly remember exactly where we were when the news began to break. We can remember the pain and heartbreak of watching the towers fall. We remember the unity of our country as we joined in prayer and protection.

My friends at The JoyFM in Florida put together this incredible timeline of the events of that day. Every time I hear it, I sob. But, in the end, I am reassured that my hope, our hope, lies in God. And God was there that day. And He’s still here today. Always has been, always will. No act of cowardice terrorism will ever take that away. Never. Ever. Ever.

God wins.

#‎neverforget‬

 Please take the time to listen to the timeline I have shared from their Facebook post.
God Bless America.
The Morning Cruise's photo.

Our phone lines have been busy this morning as many of you have requested the 9/11 Timeline that we shared today. On this day, we will Never Forget. http://themorningcruise.com/911-timeline/

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