Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Little Interruptions Turned Into Big Blessings

I try to walk through my neighborhood every week night with my oldest daughter. It’s a way to get fresh air and exercise, but also a way to steal a few moments with my precious girl before she decides she is embarrassed to be with me in public. Well, last night my sweet husband was working feverishly on a project, and I knew that if I left the two younger girls there, they would pester him for attention, so all four of us went walking.

Just in case you are beginning to picture some sweet family scene, allow me to dispel the myth. Walking with all of them is a little like trying to dog walk with a Great Dane, a Lab and a Chichuchua. Everyone wants to walk next to me, and no one wants to walk behind anyone else. So the first half of the walk was consumed with trying to teach them to walk two-by-two and not step on each other. Sigh.

Carly and I normally follow a certain path when we walk, mainly so I don’t have to think about it constantly, and I can I use the time to coax conversation from her. But last night we had used so much of our time learning how to safely walk on the sidewalk, that I decided to cut things short and turn left onto the street that runs along the side of my house. Thankfully, by this time we had found our groove, and were laughing and chatting, waving to our neighbors.

As we neared our block, I noticed one of our neighbors sitting outside at her wrought-iron bistro table, and I waved. But instead of waving back, she spoke to me. But she spoke so softly, that I couldn’t hear her. So I motioned to the girls, and we walked up her driveway. As I neared her, I could see that she was quite distressed. She struggled to stand with the aid of her walker, and said, “I’m locked out.” She went on to say that the hidden key was missing, and the door closed behind her, and she didn’t have a phone. I offered her my cell phone, and she asked me to dial several numbers, to no avail. With each failed attempt to reach someone, she became more and more anxious. It was beginning to get dark, and she had no idea when her granddaughter would be home, and she couldn’t remember anyone else’s phone number. I turned to my girls and told them to walk home, and tell their daddy that I was going to stay with the neighbor until her family returned.

Under much protest, she finally agreed to allow me to sit with her. Over the next hour, she told me about meeting her husband as a Red Cross volunteer during WWII, about moving back to Florida with him, building the house she still lives in, about raising a family. She talked about losing her son this year, and the pain of burying a child, no matter how old. She also told me the history of my own house, and she complimented me on our color choices and the landscaping. As it continued to get dark around us, she asked what my husband and I did for a living. So I told her about the last nine years at the church, about the marketing work we are doing now, and about waiting for God to open another door. She listened intently, nodding as I spoke. She commented on the people she knew who had attended the church over the years, and then changed the subject.

Her family came home shortly after that, upset that she had bothered me, and that we had been sitting outside. As I stood to shake her hand, she said, “My name is Triscka. Now we are truly neighbors. Come back and visit with me again.” After promising I would, I walked home in the dark.

As I read the Gospels, I am again and again struck by the interruptions into Jesus’ schedule. Each healing seemed to occur as an interruption as Jesus was on His way somewhere else, to do something else. As we have been at home more recently, I have asked God to show me the everyday interruptions that are really divine encounters, that in my busyness, I would normally walk right by. The person in the grocery store, the man on the side of the road, the elderly neighbor locked out of her house.

It’s funny; I was telling God over the weekend that I feel like I have no one to minister to, that I have seemingly lost my identity as a leader. Then I met Triscka. Such a simple thing, really. Sit with her until her family returns. Ask her about her story. Let her talk. I didn’t give her the steps to salvation according to the “Roman Road”; I just tried to show her that I cared. And maybe plant a seed to someday share how much the God of the universe cares about her.

All last evening, I felt so close to God. I felt His Presence everywhere, in everything I read, everything I watched. He seemed to just be hovering around me, wrapping His arms around me. And I wonder as I write this, is this where I display my passion for the Savior, in the little interruptions that I’m willing allow Him to use?

Triscka thanked me repeatedly, but I truly am the one who was blessed by our “chance” meeting. So, friends, who has God placed in your overloaded schedule today? Who might He be asking you to reflect His love and mercy to? “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)

Let me know how your opportunities pan out today……

In pursuit of zoe,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lysa TerKeurst: Accountability...helpful or detrimental?

Dear SheTribe,

This post is actually from Lysa TerKeurst's blog, and I thought it deserved to be reprinted here. I'd love to here your comments or thoughts.

Accountability…helpful or detrimental?

In the middle of a radio interview about “Made to Crave” recently, the show’s host opened the phone lines for questions. Much to my surprise the first caller was a man. He was using the message of Made to Crave to overcome his struggles with a pornography addiction. He confessed that for years he’d tried to win this battle using an accountability partner.

It sounds good to have a friend who will hold you accountable.

And it can be crucial.

But, it can be detrimental as well.

Whether accountability is positive or negative depends on where the conversations are focused. What we focus on will become bigger and more magnified.

The radio caller confessed when meeting with his accountability partner, he’d make note of all the inappropriate sites his accountability partner confessed during their time together… and made a point to visit there later. Instead of helping his addiction, this accountability relationship was actually fueling his failure.

It wasn’t until they changed their focus from porn to Truth that positive progress started to be made. When he focused on the porn, his thoughts became more and more conformed to his pattern of sin. When he focused on Truth, he became more and more transformed into a pure man of God.

Wow, did this make complete sense to me. My physical struggle is not the same as this man. But, my physical struggle with food can be just as luring and consuming. What might happen if instead of focusing on the scale, the food, and the hardship of sacrifice we turned our dialog to this:

1. Our goal is letting the peace of God rule in us. Are you at peace?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you,” Isaiah 26:3

2. Our desire is to honor God with our bodies. How did you honor God this week?

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20.

3. Our perspective is to fill our soul with an abundance of truth instead of our stomach with an abundance of food. What truths were you filled with this week?
“…and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32.

Of course part of accountability is to ask the tough questions about the physical struggles.

But we shouldn’t make this our focus.

If we want to grow closer to God, we have to distance ourselves from the distractions holding us back. And part of the distancing process is focusing and magnifying God more and more…especially in our times of accountability.

Do you participate in an accountability relationship. If not, why? Do you believe that God wants us to be involved in accountability, and if so, why do so many Christians ignore this?

In pursuit of zoe,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


After a blood test revealed that I am pre-diabetic, I have been on a weight loss journey for the last two years. It is a matter of trying to be healthy, of trying to find a balance in my post-40 body. It hasn’t been the easiest or most enjoyable time of my life, but I have been successful at losing the unwanted pounds, and I am finally in much better shape.

This week while at the doctor, the nurse took my blood pressure and weight, and then used a machine to check my BMI. Suddenly she jumped up, clapped her hands and exclaimed, “Oh, Judi, you’re perfect! Just perfect!” I was so shocked by her statement that I didn’t even respond at first. I have never heard myself been described as perfect, and had no idea what she was even talking about.

The nurse was referring to my BMI and weight, which for the first time in my adult life, was within the correct parameters; therefore I was deemed as perfect. But oddly enough, I didn’t feel perfect, I didn’t think I looked perfect, and I felt uncomfortable even being called “perfect”.

See, although this present weight loss challenge has only been going on for two years, the quest for beauty has been going on all of my life. It has always been this elusive, somehow unattainable goal. No diet made me feel beautiful; there was always something missing. And I could never explain why.

Earlier this year, while reading the Psalms, I came across a verse that stopped me in my tracks. Ps. 45:11, “The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” (NIV) Many other translations capitalize the word “King”, referring to God. So the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the entire universe, is charmed and fascinated by me! He knows the color of my eyes and my hair, He has counted each freckle and birthmark, and He declares me to be beautiful.

The second part of that verse reads that I am to honor Him because He is my Lord. How do I honor God in my pursuit of beauty? First, I recognize that God created me to look just as I am, no matter where I am in my health journey. He thinks I’m beautiful, and it offends Him when I constantly complain or abase what He has created. If He thinks I’m charming and fascinating, can I at least agree that what He has created is worth not criticizing?

Father, thank you for calling me Your masterpiece and letting me know that my life has purpose and meaning. God help me to begin to see myself through Your eyes, eyes of love and grace. Help me to not pursue what the world views as beauty, but what You call beautiful. Thank you for loving me just as I am. Amen.

In pursuit of zoe,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent 2011: The Discipleship Challenge

Dear Jesus Girls,

Lent officially began yesterday, and I would like to challenge you to rethink (or consider for the first time) how to make lasting changes in your walk with Christ. I can't think of a better way to pursue zoe over the next six weeks than to follow the Discipleship Challenge suggestions. Will you join me on a quest to know God more intimately this Lent season?

The Discipleship Challenge
Would you like to become closer to God? Would you like to better understand your purpose in life and how you can make a difference? Would you like your faith to grow and become a bigger part of your life? If so, the 40 days of Lent this year are for you!

Growing up the first thing I learned about Lent was it was time when you had to give something. Whether it was chocolate, pop, TV, or something else, the emphasis was always on taking something away. When such sacrifices are done with the right spirit it can be liberating and edifying, but more often than not these Lenten sacrifices ring hallow, and not just because we aren’t very successful at keeping them. I would like to suggest that this year be a year where we focus intentionally on growing in our faith. This year I hope you will join in 40 Days of Discipleship.

Over the 40 days of Lent, I ask you to prayerfully consider taking time to grow your relationship with Christ and take the Discipleship Challenge. I believe that we can grow in our relationship to God by pursuing a path of discipleship; when we work at our faith and our spiritual life we will become closer to Jesus and be blessed. To be a disciple means to be a follower of Jesus, it means connecting to God in serious, disciplined, and intentional ways. When we make the time for God in our life and work at our spiritual lives, God will work and transform us in amazing ways.

Here is how the Discipleship Challenge will work. During the 6 weeks of Lent, intentional time will be given to each Mark of Discipleship. The Marks of Discipleship are areas of our spiritual lives that if we work on will help us grow closer to God. The Marks of Discipleship are: prayer, Bible study, service, generous financial giving, spiritual friendships, and worship. Each week you will focus on a different mark and take time for God in that area.

Week 1 (March 9-March 15) Prayer: Take time each day, at the same time, for at least 10-20 minutes of personal prayer time. Multiple times a day is preferred.

Week 2 (March 16-March 22) Bible Study: Take time each day for 30-45 minutes of focused time for devotional bible study. You can read any scriptures you wish. The goal of devotional reading is not acquiring knowledge but growing in God’s Word.

Week 3 (March 23-March 29) Service: Take time and energy do something each day to serve the needs of someone else. Be creative and try to serve someone else you normally would not connect with.

Week 4 (March 30-April 5) Generous Financial Giving: Each day find some way to give money to someone in need. Whether this giving is to an individual or through an organization doesn’t matter. Give generously and give until you feel it. Consider giving away whatever money you might normally spend on entertainment, dining out, shopping, or any other extraneous spending. (I know this one is tough—the marks of discipleship are supposed to be!)

Week 5 (April 6-April 12) Spiritual Friendships: Take time each day to check in spiritually with a friend. This is not a conversation about how busy you are. This is a conversation about your prayer life, what God is up to, or scripture. Your spiritual friend can be a spouse, small group member, or friend. If you currently do not have someone in your life who is a spiritual friend, consider asking someone.

Week 6 (April 13-April 19) Worship: Take time each day to worship the Lord. This can include but is not limited to organized worship services. You can worship on your own or with family or friends at your home. Read scripture, pray, listen or play inspiring music and you have worship!

If you want to see intensified results, add fasting and prayer three times a week too. (If you need clarification on fasting, please contact me.)

After 40 days of intentional work on your faith, I guarantee you will grow closer to the Lord. I pray you will take the Discipleship Challenge and see how God will work in your life!

This is not my own study outline, it was written by one of our brothers, and sent to me by my friend Pat. Please do something special this year to show God how much you trust Him.

Nothing to buy, no questions to answer, simple but powerful.

I am so excited and just can't wait to see what God is going to do. Let me know what God does in your life over the next six weeks.

In pursuit of zoe,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"This is the way; walk in it."

For the past eight years, my husband and I have co-pastored a church. During this time, my greatest joy has been to lead my two ladies’ Bible studies, and preach each Sunday evening. I have also been writing a blog/newsletter for the ladies in my church, to encourage and challenge my Jesus girls to read God’s Word for themselves—to be” self-feeders.” Through the blog, we continued conversations begun during our weekly Bible study, and I was able to go into more depth than often our time each week allowed.

During the first week of February, God allowed this door of ministry to close. Overnight I went from speaking and leading two groups per week, to being a girl with no one to minister to. I felt I had lost my voice, my purpose.

One day my husband asked why I didn’t start my blog again, but to not limit it to the girls within our area. In other words, relaunch it as a regular blog, and post the link on my Facebook page. What a fantastic idea!

Since then, God has been stirring my heart and allowing me to dream again. But this time my dreams go beyond my town, my county, my area.

Then I received Lysa’s email about the She Speaks Conference, and thought that this could be God’s reply to my questions about my future ministry. On that same day, one of my devotional readings was based on Jeremiah 29:11, and another on Isaiah 30:21. I could hardly contain my excitement! This could be God’s answer! I had to find out more information.

The She Speaks Conference is for any speaker, writer, blogger, Women’s Ministries leader, or any Jesus girl who is dreaming of becoming one of those. The conference promises to supply you with the necessary tools to learn to speak to large audiences, give your messages mass appeal, and make them memorable.

For the writers who are bursting with messages from God to share, the conference will show you how to get started, how to find your unique, God-given voice, and how to impact your audience. And isn’t that what we all want?

For Women’s Ministry leaders, there is a special track just for you, with the opportunity of a Pre-conference Intensive. The conference will give you the tools to cast God’s vision for your ministry, and build a team that will help you to bring that vision to life.

For me, what a blessing to go to a conference, and learn how to effectively speak to large groups, learn how to give my blog a larger mass audience, and perhaps even get confirmation of what God has in store for my future.

I believe that God’s greatest desire is to take my ashes and turn them into beauty, to give me the oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. The hard part is that I must let go of my ashes, my mourning, and my heaviness, and allow Him to give me what I can never find on my own. I believe that God wants to use the experiences of my life to not only minister to the ladies I see every day, but even to ladies around the world.

I have spoken 2-3 times per week for the last five years, but I normally speak to groups of 100 or less. However, I have already been asked to come and speak at two conferences during the summer, and I need help!

Because my husband and I are now unemployed, winning this scholarship would be a true God-sent gift. And I’m praying for God to open a door for me to get to this conference! I know that I need help to polish my skills, and I’m willing to put in the hard work to do it!

Is that the cry of your heart too? Then join us at the She Speaks Conference. Look for me—I’ll be the one who is grinning from ear-to-ear!

If you would like to find out more about the She Speaks Contest follow the link below.

She Speaks Conference link.

In pursuit of zoe,

A Merry Heart

I woke up tired yesterday. Not completely sure why, but I just felt drained. After a couple of cups of coffee and reading my devotional passage for the day, I felt a bit more human.

Then the phone call came.

A phone call from the place that said that they no longer needed or wanted our service, thank you very much. Now there was a crisis, and we had to fix it. Now.

Two hours later, I was angry, frustrated and irritable. All in all, I had one nerve left, and someone’s foot was poised to step on it.

Can you relate yet?

See, we had planned a family day at one of the local theme parks, and now we were two hours late. Then everyone decided that we should probably stop to eat lunch, which put us behind even more. This was not turning out the way I had planned or pictured it.

Fast forward several hours, a couple of shows and a roller coaster ride later. We were walking back to our car, arm in arm, laughing about our unpredictable Florida weather. What made such a huge difference?

I decided to have fun. I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather, the incredible scenery, and the sound of my children’s laughter. I decided to enjoy this day I had been given and not allow the enemy to steal one more moment of it from me. I decided to experience God’s one of God’s most precious gifts: joy.

I believe God gets a real kick out of seeing us have fun together. He wants us to laugh. He wants us to stop and notice His beauty all around us, and be thankful.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov. 17:22) Better than any pill I could have taken, I needed to decide to be happy in the moment, and allow my heart to be cheerful. Did you notice that I keep saying “decide”? I never said that I felt that way—especially at first. But I know that it is a decision to be happy, or to be grumpy. We each decide every day how to respond to what life throws at us.

So, girlfriend, how will you decide to react today? Sometimes we have to decide to be cheerful long before the feelings catch up. But hold on! They will get there too.

In pursuit of zoe,

Friday, March 4, 2011

"I believed; therefore, I have spoken."

Several years ago the national women’s ministry department of the organization I belong to had these words as its yearly theme: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” I was not the director for women’s ministries at that time, so I had no background or information concerning the theme. I remember reading the poster for the first time and thinking, “What in the world does that mean?” Today I was listening to a sermon and this same scripture was read, but this time I read it context, and God brought out a powerful truth that I’d like to share.

These six words come from a chapter that God has used numerous times to speak to me. In 2 Corinthians 4, the apostle Paul uses his powerful words to create an imagery of the power of the Spirit of God living within us. As you read the passage below, I will put explanatory information about the words or phrases in parenthesis.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry (of reconciliation), we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God (even if it reveals our own faults). On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend (prove or establish) ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay (“cracked pots”) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.

There are so many nuggets of Truth here, but I want to focus today on verse 13. The word “spirit” there is “pneuma”, meaning “breath of God”, as in Gen. 2:7 where God breathed into man and gave him life. When we read the Scriptures, and choose to believe that they are God’s undeniable Truth, we breath in the Word, and it builds our faith. John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When we read and meditate on the Word of God, we breath in the Spirit of God, because God’s Word is God.

We must believe the Word of God, and apply it to our lives before we can have the spirit of faith. Some people seem to believe that faith is only necessary for salvation, and then we just need to obey the law and we will be fine. Not so! We need to have the spirit of faith just to live every day. A spirit of faith in God is necessary to be successful in our Christian walk, no matter how long you have been following Christ. It is my opinion that this is why so many “Christ followers” don’t seem to have made any change in their live since they accepted Christ: they don’t have the spirit of faith.

Years ago I spoke to my church about the power of praying God’s Word, speaking God’s Word, and allowing it to transform the way they think and act. Many people said “Amen!”, but few people accepted the challenge and actually did it. We are so critical of the Israelites coming out of Egypt because an eleven day journey took them 40 years. But how many of us would have to say that we have been dealing with the same issues in our own lives for 10 years, 20 years, or 40 years? The Scriptures tell us that the Israelites died in the wilderness because of unbelief, but how could they be unbelieving in God when He performed daily miracles for them? Maybe it wasn’t that they didn’t believe in God’s power, but that they didn’t believe in God’s ability or power to work through them. Ouch. How many of my sisters would have to say “ouch” with me?

See I will tell you that I believe that God can do anything, so why am I not living in faith in my own situation? Could it be that I too have issues with believing that God can do what He says through me?

This is where the six-worded theme comes into play. When I choose to believe the Word of God, even when or especially when I can’t see any evidence, I am believing in faith. I have the spirit of faith when I choose to believe God in the face of my crisis or circumstance.

Now add the second stick of dynamite. Speak out what you believe. “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” I must speak out the Word of God in faith. I must speak out what God’s Word says, even when everything I see with my natural eyes says it can’t be true. This is Faith!

Reread verses 7 and 8. How is Paul able to say these things? How they possibly be true? Because he knows Who he believes in, and chooses to speak out His Word as Truth.

If you are new to this concept, let me help you take the first step. Read over the verses above again, and pick out the one or two verses that really seem to speak to you. Write them on a sheet of paper, or on an index card. Now insert your name or situation into the verse to make it truly personal, and throughout today, read the personalized verse aloud. If you can, put it up at your job. Hang it on the bathroom mirror. Tape it on the visor of your car. Carry it in your purse. And read it, read it, read it! Watch how your faith grows as that verse causes new seeds of encouragement and confidence to come to life.

I believe the Word of God; therefore I speak out the Word of God, and my belief just keeps getting stronger.

Be blessed today! And keep building your faith!

In pursuit of zoe,