Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motivation to Minister

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:03 PM 0 comments
As I sat and listened to a man struggle through talking about his experiences during Vietnam - what he saw, the nightmares that have lasted for more than 40 years, and the changes those experiences made in his life and marriage - I was reminded something a friend said recently: People are hurting. And we need to reach them where they're hurting, minister to them, care for them, and touch their lives in a healing way. And tonight I was reminded. By a man who is strong. A man who's committed to the Lord and his family. A man who continues to live and give. A man who continues to hurt because of trauma and devestation he saw over 40 years ago. People are hurting.

They hurt because of past or present abuse - physical, sexual, and/or emotional. They hurt because of abandonment. They hurt because of lies and deceit. They hurt because of traumatic experiences - accidents, fires, floods, tornadoes. They hurt because of others' selfishness. People hurt.

Taking a panoramic view of people and their pain can be overwhelming. But if we look at one person at a time and minister to their hurt, we will be able to make a difference. If we call them when they're going through a rough time. Send a card. Bring a meal. Clean a house. Watch children. Pray. Give. Encourage. Share. Love. It all makes a difference.

We miss these opportunities every day, just as we miss the opportunity to be thankful for the small things God gives us every day, but if we take the time, become intentional, we will impact lives.

When did someone love you? Share with you? Encourage you? Give to you? Pray for you? How were you impacted? Such small things, but big in life. The things that matter the most. The things that make life here on this fallen, sinful, ungrateful world better.

So, I'm grateful for the reminder. Of war. Of damage. Of carnage. Of pain. Because then I'm reminded of love. Of grace. Of healing. Of peace. Of God. He gifts us with everything we need to get through anything we may face and often that is each other.

People are hurting, which makes me ask: What can I do to help?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giving Your Best

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:25 PM 0 comments
In my last post, I talked about my renewed dedication to give God my best. The post ended with the question, "Am I giving God my best?"

If I'm truthful in answering that, I'd say "Yes, sometimes." There are times I am on fire and productive and disciplined and keep up with things. There are other times I look at what needs to be done and know that it'll be there for me to do tomorrow. I focus on the luxaries others have and wish I had them. I shut down and shut off everything except what has to be done and what I feel like doing at that moment. And I'm learning that I waste a lot of time.

I'll repeat something else I said. Breaks are not bad. Downtime is not bad. But it can easily get out of balance and become priority. Am I working for my next break? How am I usuing my break? How long of a break do I take? Am I getting done everything I believe I'm called to do?

These questions, and probably a few more I'm just not thinking of right now, go into evaluating how we see our time, and especially our down time.

We tend to see our time as just that: our time. However, each second we have is a gift. We did not create ourselves. We did not bring ourselves into being. While there are many things we can do to be healthy and live longer, we cannot ultimately prevent our death at any given moment. That means each moment is a gift.

This concept was gracefully explained in a recent talk I was blessed to sit in on. The speaker was Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, and a few things she said still reverberate through my head weeks later. One of them is this: We all have a Jew who gave His life so that we could have life. He paid our death penalty for us and therefore every breath we take is a gift. What would happen if we recognized each breath we intake as a gift?

Would we be as content to watch tv for hours a day? Would be crave surfing the net or checking out what's going on on Facebook? Would we growl at our children when they interrupt what we're doing? Would we be so concerned with how we look on the outside, spending much more time on what we wear and how our hair an make-up look than on growing in love and knowledge and wisdom of the Lord?

What would life look like?

Giving your best doesn't mean you don't ever do the above things, but you do them with care and make sure they don't become a priority over the better things. The best things. Sure, I'd love to kick back and veg, but God has called me to touch people's lives through writing and speaking the things He's working in me. When I've done that to my best for today, then I rest.

And if I haven't rested in Him today, that's where I should start. There is time...it's simply how we use it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changing Habits

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:05 PM 0 comments
This is usually the time of day I crash and say to myself, "I've been a mom, hostess, entertainer, chef, laundress, and all-around picker-upper all day and I deserve a break!" Then I crash in the recliner and veg out in front of the tv. Even if nothing good's on. Even though I had on today's to-do list to get some writing done. Even though it's been a good, full, blessed day. And most people would say, "You deserve it! Take a break."

Now, if you know me at all, or have read my blog for a while, you know that I tout "Balance, Balance, and more Balance!" So, let me start off by saying that I don't think breaks are bad. On the contrary, I think breaks are good and often necessary. If we don't feed ourselves (even by shutting down once in a while), we'll wear out and be no good to anyone. In the last week, I read a three-book series by an author I've only recently been introduced to. And when I read, I don't catch a half hour here and there. I become compulsive and obsessive about it, usually finishing a novel in 24-36 hours (and that includes a full night's sleep!) It's like a mini-vacation to me. So I definitely believe in and take breaks.

Tonight when I finish a busy day and want to crash, I remember the things I've neglected during my "mini-vacation", such as my own writing. I want to get it done. It's been processing in my head. But, if I don't sit down and do it, it's not going to write itself.

So, I popped up my blog and created this post. Despite my eyes being tired and my brain desiring to shut down. Why? Because I'm a verbal believer in doing things that are best, even if you don't feel like it.

Notice I said "verbal" believer. It's very easy to say the right thing and tell someone else to do what's right instead of what is easier or you want to do more. It is more difficult to discipline yourself to do so.

I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I fall into a cultural, lazy, I-deserve-a-break attitude. This is why I'm still trying to lose that last 20 pounds from my last child, who is now 2. This is why I haven't finished more books and gotten the ones I have through the editing process and ready to send off. This is why my house isn't always straight and has piles of paperwork here and there. The truth is: I do have time to do all things things. But sometimes I choose to waste my time and fritter it away.

Fortunately, God keeps placing excellent Biblical teachers in my path who are willing to share the truth in a way that penetrates my heart and gets my thinker-juices flowing in a different way. His way. The best way. Not the okay way. Or the comfortable way. Or even the good way. But the best. That's what He gave in His Son, His best, and that's all He asks in return. For me to give my best in loving Him and others. As I look at my time and my habits, I'm lead to ask: Am I giving my best?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Balance, Balance, & More Balance!

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:04 PM 0 comments
On my recent weekend getaway/womens/writers & speakers conference (i.e. She Speaks :) one of the new things I learned about was having a tagline for ministry. Since I'm primarily a writer and a speaker second, this wasn't something I was familiar with. The speaker talking about the tagline said, "Don't expect you'll come up with something that fits and you like today or even this weekend." But I did. I think.

I'm still sitting on it, but the more I think about it and the more I look at my ministry focus, the more I'm convinced I've nailed it. And it is:

Balanced Living for a Brilliant God.

That pretty much sums up my ministry and covers all topics I write/speak about. In attempting to live in a way that brings success, happiness and contentment, balance is necessary in every area.

When it comes to housework/chores and spending time with our families, balance is necessary. If we get out of wack in either area, we will either suffer from chaos in life or chaos in our relationships.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, balance is necessary. If we completely neglect ourselves, we will not be healthy enough to take care of our families and other responsibilites. If we spend too much time and energy on ourselves, we will be self-centered and our world around us will collapse.

When it comes to relationships, balance is necessary. If we expect too much of another without giving anything in return, the relationship will self-destruct. If we give too much and the relationship isn't mutual (notice, however, that I didn't say equal), it will be unhealthy and damaging.

When it comes to parenting, balance is necessary. If we give our children love with no limits, they will be spoiled, self-seeking, and have a "the world owes me" attitude. If we give our children limits with no love, they will end up hurt, angry, and lacking the ability to enjoy relationships as a gift from God.

Even when it comes to our relationship to God, balance is necessary. He tells us to pray at all times about all things, which doesn't sound balanced, but if all we do is lock our selves away from the world to pray, we will not do the things God has purposed for us to do. Prayer is work within itself, and we can do it at all times in all occasions, but it is not the only work we are to do in obedience and accordance to our faith.

When we get out of balance, we feel it. Life is often a constant self-correcting when we get lopsided in one area or another. I spent most of yesterday reading a book (this is why I greatly restrict my fiction reading diet!) So today, I'm getting work done and spending time with the kids, before I pick up the next book in the series.

And while balance is good for us, to help us stay content, be successful in the tasks we're given, and have happiness along the way, the ultimate goal in everything is to bring glory to the Lord, who is brilliant in every way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review - Slave

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:48 PM 0 comments
It's been a long time since I've done a book review. I enjoy being a part of BookSneeze, where they send you free Christian books to read and review. I thrive on words - I enjoy reading them, writing, them, speaking them. It's my "thing."

So, this opportunity sounded wonderful to me. And it's been great. My budget for books is nill and this opened doors beyond my public library. That is, until I got a book I couldn't give a four or five star rating.

I don't like giving things a bad review, especially when it's something that came with such high expectations. And, unfortunately, that is what happened with the book Slave by John MacArthur. It's been sitting by my bed since January waiting on me to finish it and/or review it. I guess that says something.

I had high expectations for Slave. I've listened to John MacArthur on Grace to You and been inpressed with his Biblical foundation. However, I did not find a lot of grace in the book Slave. There are a lot of important Biblical truths found in this book, but there's not a lot of balance. The history of slaves and the use of the word slave in scripture is good to know. Although the presentation of it in this book is repetitious. I wish I could have finished the book, maybe I would have found more balance, more grace, but since it's been sitting by my bed for seven months, now, I don't see that happening. Other biblical truths, such as God as our Lord and Master, and that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, are given. But then I'd come across something distracting such as a commentary on contemporary Christian music being an example of the world infiltrating the church. I couldn't disagree more! God created music and the style of music doesn't determine who it glorifies (God or the world), but the words do. And so, with distracting sections such as this, I left the book unfinished and disappointed. I didn't receive the great teaching on our positions as bond-servants to God, voluntary slaves submitting ourselves to a holy, loving God because He knows best how to bless us for His glory. So, Slave gets three stars, only because of the important and relevant truths woven through a book I didn't find easy to read.

Fear of Letting Go

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:15 AM 1 comments
I began my open journey of dicarding (after digging up and divulging) my fears in my last post. I continue that journey here with the admission that while my heart's desire is to radically abandon myself completely to God and His perfect plan for my life, the flesh in me clings tight. Like someone clinging to the side of a cliff not knowing the ledge is less than ten feet away, I cling to the idea that I have to work at things.

God recently dig a great work in me and gave me the freedom of knowing I don't have to work at everything - approval, acceptance, accolades.

Yet I still hold back. I don't want to completely let go. I know this because I do things like make my to do list without first praying about it. I pray for others, ask God to take control of my heart, but I don't go to Him with the details of my life. Why is that?

If I'm going to be completely open and honest, it's because I'm afraid of what I'll have to let go if I submit every detail of my life. What I eat. What I wear. What I write. What I watch on TV. What I listen to on the radio. How I spend every moment of every day. How I acknowledge Him with every breath I take.

Truly, I think this is a common fear - of both believers and unbelievers. We are afraid of what God will ask us to give up if we submit to Him. The things we like and enjoy. What we forget is that every second, every breath is a gift from Him and He willingly fills us up with more than we could ever imagine. If I give up certain things that bring me enjoyment, will He give what will bring me more joy? Of course He will, it just doesn't always look like what we would like it to look like.

So, I talk to myself, pause to pray one more time, and ask God to empty me of me and slowly pry each finger off the ledge, knowing He's waiting to catch me in His everlasting arms of love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fear of Abandonment

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:59 PM 0 comments
It's quite funny what God will do when you open yourself up. I've never been a fearful person. It's not part of my nature and I wasn't taught to be fearful. I'm more one of those people who jump head first into things, figuring that everything will work out.

Lately, however, God has been showing me my deep, hidden fears. They are less tangible than fears of some tragedy, injury, or disaster.

The first fear revealed was the fear that my ministry (i.e. speaking, writing, and getting published) would grow faster than my family was ready for. I am confident that my initial book hasn't sold yet because, at least in part, my family has not been ready for it. With my youngest child barely two, how in the world would I have been traveling and doing events on a regular basis before now? Life is busy and crazy as it is. While I know that God is in control of every detail - down to when and if I get published and where, when, and if I have a speaking ministry - I have to get it to my heart. If I have even the slightest concern about what affect my ministry growing will have on my family, then I'm not trusting that God is in control and has my and my family's best interest at heart. He has plans for each of us and all those plans somehow work out perfectly for all of us.

That doesn't mean that I don't step into things carefully and prayerfully. On the contrary, I could very easily try to finagle and work my way to a "successful" ministry. Then I would be out of bounds of God's will and protection and be neglecting my call, which is to first minister to my family. But neither do I want to hold back when God is coaxing me forward. I want to be abandoned completely to His will. I simply have to tell my heart to give up all of its own wants and desires, other than the single desire to be radically abandoned to the one and only Lord of my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Mom's Set Free

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 6:24 AM 0 comments
Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

Last time I wrote, I was getting ready to go to what I knew would be a fantastic conference: She Speaks -a writers, speakers, and women’s ministry leaders conference. I’d been wanting to go to the conference for years and this year finally got the go ahead – from both God and my hubby.
Long before the time for the conference arrived, I got to know many (almost 300 were members) of the to-be attendees through the conference Facebook page. We shared anticipations, fears, prayer requests and an overall excitement about descending on Concord, NC all at the same time (with a total of 650 registered ladies and almost 100 staff and volunteers to run the conference!) There was no doubt in my mind that I would be blessed by my time there.
I was in no way, however, prepared for all that God would do. Throughout the weekend God blessed me with little gifts. A surprise roommate who was as warm, welcoming, and encouraging as I could ever ask for. Friends made, contacts received, networking going on, positive feedback from my publisher appointments (even if no closer to getting my nonfiction book published) and a fantastic speaker evaluation group experience. I was confident, prepared, and all around having a great time.

Then the Saturday worship session came along. We were blessed to have Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, as the speaker. Her stories touched hearts, moved people, and made you think. Then something totally unexpected happened, something I was completely unprepared for. God used the words of Ann, along with my own words and scriptures I’d used in my speaker evaluation talks, to reach down deeper into my soul than I knew existed. He grabbed hold of hurts and false beliefs I thought I’d gotten rid of a long time ago, pulled them up to the surface, let me feel them, and then healed them. Yes, I was one of those snot-slinging, tear-wracked women in the prayer room. Sometimes that’s what happens when God reaches down deep and changes you.

One thing that I came out of that prayer room with was a sense that instead of knowing God’s truths (that I had myself quoted and talked about) only in my head, I now have them firmly planted in my heart. I also came away with knowing that while I’m a fairly transparent person, it’s only of those things on the surface, those things that don’t truly make me vulnerable.
But do I really want to show the real me, God? Isn’t it too ugly, too dark, too odd? No, He whispers. You are real and you who I made you and are becoming the person I desire you to be.
So as I take a deep breath, I vow to give up everything to God. Even my short-comings. My pride. My belief that I have to do everything perfectly. My belief that I have to earn love. My belief that without working at it, I deserve nothing, not even God’s love. My willingness to only allow the surface stuff to show.

I am grateful for all the little gifts God gave me, but am blown away by the biggest gift of all: freedom. Freedom from the bondage of my own false beliefs and the idea that I at least have to attempt to do everything perfectly. Freedom to truly trust in and rely on God. That He’s in control and I simply have to submit. Freedom to let these truths travel from my head to my heart and let God do the work in me that I know is yet to be done. Freedom to live – in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Today I’m grateful for: the sound of sealing jars, healing from yesterday’s migraine, today’s journey to my first mission trip, God’s word at my fingertips – and everything listed above!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motivation to Minister

As I sat and listened to a man struggle through talking about his experiences during Vietnam - what he saw, the nightmares that have lasted for more than 40 years, and the changes those experiences made in his life and marriage - I was reminded something a friend said recently: People are hurting. And we need to reach them where they're hurting, minister to them, care for them, and touch their lives in a healing way. And tonight I was reminded. By a man who is strong. A man who's committed to the Lord and his family. A man who continues to live and give. A man who continues to hurt because of trauma and devestation he saw over 40 years ago. People are hurting.

They hurt because of past or present abuse - physical, sexual, and/or emotional. They hurt because of abandonment. They hurt because of lies and deceit. They hurt because of traumatic experiences - accidents, fires, floods, tornadoes. They hurt because of others' selfishness. People hurt.

Taking a panoramic view of people and their pain can be overwhelming. But if we look at one person at a time and minister to their hurt, we will be able to make a difference. If we call them when they're going through a rough time. Send a card. Bring a meal. Clean a house. Watch children. Pray. Give. Encourage. Share. Love. It all makes a difference.

We miss these opportunities every day, just as we miss the opportunity to be thankful for the small things God gives us every day, but if we take the time, become intentional, we will impact lives.

When did someone love you? Share with you? Encourage you? Give to you? Pray for you? How were you impacted? Such small things, but big in life. The things that matter the most. The things that make life here on this fallen, sinful, ungrateful world better.

So, I'm grateful for the reminder. Of war. Of damage. Of carnage. Of pain. Because then I'm reminded of love. Of grace. Of healing. Of peace. Of God. He gifts us with everything we need to get through anything we may face and often that is each other.

People are hurting, which makes me ask: What can I do to help?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giving Your Best

In my last post, I talked about my renewed dedication to give God my best. The post ended with the question, "Am I giving God my best?"

If I'm truthful in answering that, I'd say "Yes, sometimes." There are times I am on fire and productive and disciplined and keep up with things. There are other times I look at what needs to be done and know that it'll be there for me to do tomorrow. I focus on the luxaries others have and wish I had them. I shut down and shut off everything except what has to be done and what I feel like doing at that moment. And I'm learning that I waste a lot of time.

I'll repeat something else I said. Breaks are not bad. Downtime is not bad. But it can easily get out of balance and become priority. Am I working for my next break? How am I usuing my break? How long of a break do I take? Am I getting done everything I believe I'm called to do?

These questions, and probably a few more I'm just not thinking of right now, go into evaluating how we see our time, and especially our down time.

We tend to see our time as just that: our time. However, each second we have is a gift. We did not create ourselves. We did not bring ourselves into being. While there are many things we can do to be healthy and live longer, we cannot ultimately prevent our death at any given moment. That means each moment is a gift.

This concept was gracefully explained in a recent talk I was blessed to sit in on. The speaker was Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, and a few things she said still reverberate through my head weeks later. One of them is this: We all have a Jew who gave His life so that we could have life. He paid our death penalty for us and therefore every breath we take is a gift. What would happen if we recognized each breath we intake as a gift?

Would we be as content to watch tv for hours a day? Would be crave surfing the net or checking out what's going on on Facebook? Would we growl at our children when they interrupt what we're doing? Would we be so concerned with how we look on the outside, spending much more time on what we wear and how our hair an make-up look than on growing in love and knowledge and wisdom of the Lord?

What would life look like?

Giving your best doesn't mean you don't ever do the above things, but you do them with care and make sure they don't become a priority over the better things. The best things. Sure, I'd love to kick back and veg, but God has called me to touch people's lives through writing and speaking the things He's working in me. When I've done that to my best for today, then I rest.

And if I haven't rested in Him today, that's where I should start. There is time...it's simply how we use it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changing Habits

This is usually the time of day I crash and say to myself, "I've been a mom, hostess, entertainer, chef, laundress, and all-around picker-upper all day and I deserve a break!" Then I crash in the recliner and veg out in front of the tv. Even if nothing good's on. Even though I had on today's to-do list to get some writing done. Even though it's been a good, full, blessed day. And most people would say, "You deserve it! Take a break."

Now, if you know me at all, or have read my blog for a while, you know that I tout "Balance, Balance, and more Balance!" So, let me start off by saying that I don't think breaks are bad. On the contrary, I think breaks are good and often necessary. If we don't feed ourselves (even by shutting down once in a while), we'll wear out and be no good to anyone. In the last week, I read a three-book series by an author I've only recently been introduced to. And when I read, I don't catch a half hour here and there. I become compulsive and obsessive about it, usually finishing a novel in 24-36 hours (and that includes a full night's sleep!) It's like a mini-vacation to me. So I definitely believe in and take breaks.

Tonight when I finish a busy day and want to crash, I remember the things I've neglected during my "mini-vacation", such as my own writing. I want to get it done. It's been processing in my head. But, if I don't sit down and do it, it's not going to write itself.

So, I popped up my blog and created this post. Despite my eyes being tired and my brain desiring to shut down. Why? Because I'm a verbal believer in doing things that are best, even if you don't feel like it.

Notice I said "verbal" believer. It's very easy to say the right thing and tell someone else to do what's right instead of what is easier or you want to do more. It is more difficult to discipline yourself to do so.

I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I fall into a cultural, lazy, I-deserve-a-break attitude. This is why I'm still trying to lose that last 20 pounds from my last child, who is now 2. This is why I haven't finished more books and gotten the ones I have through the editing process and ready to send off. This is why my house isn't always straight and has piles of paperwork here and there. The truth is: I do have time to do all things things. But sometimes I choose to waste my time and fritter it away.

Fortunately, God keeps placing excellent Biblical teachers in my path who are willing to share the truth in a way that penetrates my heart and gets my thinker-juices flowing in a different way. His way. The best way. Not the okay way. Or the comfortable way. Or even the good way. But the best. That's what He gave in His Son, His best, and that's all He asks in return. For me to give my best in loving Him and others. As I look at my time and my habits, I'm lead to ask: Am I giving my best?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Balance, Balance, & More Balance!

On my recent weekend getaway/womens/writers & speakers conference (i.e. She Speaks :) one of the new things I learned about was having a tagline for ministry. Since I'm primarily a writer and a speaker second, this wasn't something I was familiar with. The speaker talking about the tagline said, "Don't expect you'll come up with something that fits and you like today or even this weekend." But I did. I think.

I'm still sitting on it, but the more I think about it and the more I look at my ministry focus, the more I'm convinced I've nailed it. And it is:

Balanced Living for a Brilliant God.

That pretty much sums up my ministry and covers all topics I write/speak about. In attempting to live in a way that brings success, happiness and contentment, balance is necessary in every area.

When it comes to housework/chores and spending time with our families, balance is necessary. If we get out of wack in either area, we will either suffer from chaos in life or chaos in our relationships.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, balance is necessary. If we completely neglect ourselves, we will not be healthy enough to take care of our families and other responsibilites. If we spend too much time and energy on ourselves, we will be self-centered and our world around us will collapse.

When it comes to relationships, balance is necessary. If we expect too much of another without giving anything in return, the relationship will self-destruct. If we give too much and the relationship isn't mutual (notice, however, that I didn't say equal), it will be unhealthy and damaging.

When it comes to parenting, balance is necessary. If we give our children love with no limits, they will be spoiled, self-seeking, and have a "the world owes me" attitude. If we give our children limits with no love, they will end up hurt, angry, and lacking the ability to enjoy relationships as a gift from God.

Even when it comes to our relationship to God, balance is necessary. He tells us to pray at all times about all things, which doesn't sound balanced, but if all we do is lock our selves away from the world to pray, we will not do the things God has purposed for us to do. Prayer is work within itself, and we can do it at all times in all occasions, but it is not the only work we are to do in obedience and accordance to our faith.

When we get out of balance, we feel it. Life is often a constant self-correcting when we get lopsided in one area or another. I spent most of yesterday reading a book (this is why I greatly restrict my fiction reading diet!) So today, I'm getting work done and spending time with the kids, before I pick up the next book in the series.

And while balance is good for us, to help us stay content, be successful in the tasks we're given, and have happiness along the way, the ultimate goal in everything is to bring glory to the Lord, who is brilliant in every way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review - Slave

It's been a long time since I've done a book review. I enjoy being a part of BookSneeze, where they send you free Christian books to read and review. I thrive on words - I enjoy reading them, writing, them, speaking them. It's my "thing."

So, this opportunity sounded wonderful to me. And it's been great. My budget for books is nill and this opened doors beyond my public library. That is, until I got a book I couldn't give a four or five star rating.

I don't like giving things a bad review, especially when it's something that came with such high expectations. And, unfortunately, that is what happened with the book Slave by John MacArthur. It's been sitting by my bed since January waiting on me to finish it and/or review it. I guess that says something.

I had high expectations for Slave. I've listened to John MacArthur on Grace to You and been inpressed with his Biblical foundation. However, I did not find a lot of grace in the book Slave. There are a lot of important Biblical truths found in this book, but there's not a lot of balance. The history of slaves and the use of the word slave in scripture is good to know. Although the presentation of it in this book is repetitious. I wish I could have finished the book, maybe I would have found more balance, more grace, but since it's been sitting by my bed for seven months, now, I don't see that happening. Other biblical truths, such as God as our Lord and Master, and that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, are given. But then I'd come across something distracting such as a commentary on contemporary Christian music being an example of the world infiltrating the church. I couldn't disagree more! God created music and the style of music doesn't determine who it glorifies (God or the world), but the words do. And so, with distracting sections such as this, I left the book unfinished and disappointed. I didn't receive the great teaching on our positions as bond-servants to God, voluntary slaves submitting ourselves to a holy, loving God because He knows best how to bless us for His glory. So, Slave gets three stars, only because of the important and relevant truths woven through a book I didn't find easy to read.

Fear of Letting Go

I began my open journey of dicarding (after digging up and divulging) my fears in my last post. I continue that journey here with the admission that while my heart's desire is to radically abandon myself completely to God and His perfect plan for my life, the flesh in me clings tight. Like someone clinging to the side of a cliff not knowing the ledge is less than ten feet away, I cling to the idea that I have to work at things.

God recently dig a great work in me and gave me the freedom of knowing I don't have to work at everything - approval, acceptance, accolades.

Yet I still hold back. I don't want to completely let go. I know this because I do things like make my to do list without first praying about it. I pray for others, ask God to take control of my heart, but I don't go to Him with the details of my life. Why is that?

If I'm going to be completely open and honest, it's because I'm afraid of what I'll have to let go if I submit every detail of my life. What I eat. What I wear. What I write. What I watch on TV. What I listen to on the radio. How I spend every moment of every day. How I acknowledge Him with every breath I take.

Truly, I think this is a common fear - of both believers and unbelievers. We are afraid of what God will ask us to give up if we submit to Him. The things we like and enjoy. What we forget is that every second, every breath is a gift from Him and He willingly fills us up with more than we could ever imagine. If I give up certain things that bring me enjoyment, will He give what will bring me more joy? Of course He will, it just doesn't always look like what we would like it to look like.

So, I talk to myself, pause to pray one more time, and ask God to empty me of me and slowly pry each finger off the ledge, knowing He's waiting to catch me in His everlasting arms of love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fear of Abandonment

It's quite funny what God will do when you open yourself up. I've never been a fearful person. It's not part of my nature and I wasn't taught to be fearful. I'm more one of those people who jump head first into things, figuring that everything will work out.

Lately, however, God has been showing me my deep, hidden fears. They are less tangible than fears of some tragedy, injury, or disaster.

The first fear revealed was the fear that my ministry (i.e. speaking, writing, and getting published) would grow faster than my family was ready for. I am confident that my initial book hasn't sold yet because, at least in part, my family has not been ready for it. With my youngest child barely two, how in the world would I have been traveling and doing events on a regular basis before now? Life is busy and crazy as it is. While I know that God is in control of every detail - down to when and if I get published and where, when, and if I have a speaking ministry - I have to get it to my heart. If I have even the slightest concern about what affect my ministry growing will have on my family, then I'm not trusting that God is in control and has my and my family's best interest at heart. He has plans for each of us and all those plans somehow work out perfectly for all of us.

That doesn't mean that I don't step into things carefully and prayerfully. On the contrary, I could very easily try to finagle and work my way to a "successful" ministry. Then I would be out of bounds of God's will and protection and be neglecting my call, which is to first minister to my family. But neither do I want to hold back when God is coaxing me forward. I want to be abandoned completely to His will. I simply have to tell my heart to give up all of its own wants and desires, other than the single desire to be radically abandoned to the one and only Lord of my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Mom's Set Free

Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

Last time I wrote, I was getting ready to go to what I knew would be a fantastic conference: She Speaks -a writers, speakers, and women’s ministry leaders conference. I’d been wanting to go to the conference for years and this year finally got the go ahead – from both God and my hubby.
Long before the time for the conference arrived, I got to know many (almost 300 were members) of the to-be attendees through the conference Facebook page. We shared anticipations, fears, prayer requests and an overall excitement about descending on Concord, NC all at the same time (with a total of 650 registered ladies and almost 100 staff and volunteers to run the conference!) There was no doubt in my mind that I would be blessed by my time there.
I was in no way, however, prepared for all that God would do. Throughout the weekend God blessed me with little gifts. A surprise roommate who was as warm, welcoming, and encouraging as I could ever ask for. Friends made, contacts received, networking going on, positive feedback from my publisher appointments (even if no closer to getting my nonfiction book published) and a fantastic speaker evaluation group experience. I was confident, prepared, and all around having a great time.

Then the Saturday worship session came along. We were blessed to have Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, as the speaker. Her stories touched hearts, moved people, and made you think. Then something totally unexpected happened, something I was completely unprepared for. God used the words of Ann, along with my own words and scriptures I’d used in my speaker evaluation talks, to reach down deeper into my soul than I knew existed. He grabbed hold of hurts and false beliefs I thought I’d gotten rid of a long time ago, pulled them up to the surface, let me feel them, and then healed them. Yes, I was one of those snot-slinging, tear-wracked women in the prayer room. Sometimes that’s what happens when God reaches down deep and changes you.

One thing that I came out of that prayer room with was a sense that instead of knowing God’s truths (that I had myself quoted and talked about) only in my head, I now have them firmly planted in my heart. I also came away with knowing that while I’m a fairly transparent person, it’s only of those things on the surface, those things that don’t truly make me vulnerable.
But do I really want to show the real me, God? Isn’t it too ugly, too dark, too odd? No, He whispers. You are real and you who I made you and are becoming the person I desire you to be.
So as I take a deep breath, I vow to give up everything to God. Even my short-comings. My pride. My belief that I have to do everything perfectly. My belief that I have to earn love. My belief that without working at it, I deserve nothing, not even God’s love. My willingness to only allow the surface stuff to show.

I am grateful for all the little gifts God gave me, but am blown away by the biggest gift of all: freedom. Freedom from the bondage of my own false beliefs and the idea that I at least have to attempt to do everything perfectly. Freedom to truly trust in and rely on God. That He’s in control and I simply have to submit. Freedom to let these truths travel from my head to my heart and let God do the work in me that I know is yet to be done. Freedom to live – in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Today I’m grateful for: the sound of sealing jars, healing from yesterday’s migraine, today’s journey to my first mission trip, God’s word at my fingertips – and everything listed above!
 

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