Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Confession #28 - That Aha Moment!

This weekend I was privileged to attend a Women of Faith conference with about 200 of the women of my church and the bible study I lead called Manna 4 Mommies.  If you ladies have yet to experience this amazing event, let me just encourage you to check out the dates in your area and get tickets!  This conference is tremendously uplifting and inspiring.  The talent is amazing with such incredible speakers as Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, and Brenda Warner.  In addition there's equally incredible worship singers such as Mandisa, Sandi Patty, and Amy Grant and Mark Lowry who adds a unique and funny aspect to the program. 

This year has been my third straight year at the conference.  Each year I get a blessing, a take-away from the experience that encourages or inspires me to keep in the faith, grow in the Lord, change my perspective, etc...  This year I prayed for another such blessing, that Aha Moment, as I'd like to call it.  I sat there for 3 1/2 hours on Friday night relating to Mandisa's struggles with her weight as well as, dancing, singing and worshipping.  I listened all day Saturday to Patsy, Marilyn and Sandi Patty tell stories and relating God's word in their own special ways. I was attentive as newcomer Kelly Minter taught from the book of Nehemiah.  All really good stuff.  But yet no Aha moment. 

The conference was drawing to a close, I felt disappointment set in.  What God, no blessing?  No take-away?  No Aha moment?  Then Amy Grant began to sing.  Through her soft low soothing soulful voice I could hear the Lord whispering to my heart, "Take a look around Joanne.  Just take a look.  What do you see?"

What I saw, this entire conference, was the beautiful faces of the women I have come to love.  I could see tears streaming down their faces when they were introduced to Brenda Warner's beautiful son.  I could see them giggle at Mark Lowry's retro TV theme song montage.  I could see their hands raised higher than I'd ever witnessed at church praising and worshipping the King of Kings.  I could see their take-aways and I realized that my Aha moment was simply their joy. 

Lisa & Natalie

As soon as I realized this, my heart overflowed with an overwhelming excitement that these ladies were so tremendously blessed.  Additionally, this particular blessing, this Aha moment, has strengthened my resolve to push forward with the vision that God has placed on my heart to be a Christian speaker and teacher. 

My prayer is that all of you will all have the privilege of attending a Women of Faith conference and receive  your own unique blessing from the Lord.  And please let me know when you do and what your Aha moment was too!  God Bless you!

"Dear Heavenly Father, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, that this year's conference was the biggest blessing of them all.  Father accomplish your will through me, whatever that may be, I am yours use me.  And dear Lord I pray for my precious sisters out there, that they too will be blessed through a Women of Faith Conference as well.  In Jesus' name I pray."  AMEN

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confessions #27 - Learning to be a No Drama Momma

When I was young my family used to joke that I would walk into a room with a "puss" on my face just like my mom.  As I got older I was called Drama Queen.  I've been accused of making mountains out of mole hills more often than not.  And while I'll admit I do get emotional about certain situations and sometimes more emotional than I'd like, does that really qualify me to be labeled?  I recognize that I am an emotional person.  In fact my emotions are what drive me to do or not do many things.  I'm also an emotional eater which is why I have a weight problem.  But lately I've been thinking about this emotional label and I'm not liking it so much.  Felling convicted, I need to do something about it.

Although I do not consider myself to be a Drama Queen (believe me I've met a few and I'm no Drama Queen) my emotions do seem to be getting in the way of my pursuit of becoming the woman God has called me to be.  Anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, stress, loneliness, these emotions drive my bottom onto the couch, tell me to give into my temptation to eat chocolate, give up on my dreams, wallow, and feel sorry for myself.  They keep me self focused and selfish. 

Joy, peace, happiness, and excitement, they keep me motivated, driven to do the work the Lord has called me to do.  So the question is how do I stop being a Drama Momma and become the joyful, peaceful, happy, person God is calling me to be?

It occurred to me that on Sunday's when I leave church I'm recharged and useful to God.  I'm gentler in nature and generally more happy.  Yes the message does play a big part in that, but moreover, it's the praise and worship.  So I discovered that the problem is a clear and present deficit of praise.  There has been a significant lack of it in my life as of late, and I am noticing the increasing importance that praise plays in living a joy-filled life. 

King David never failed to praise God.  Nor did the prophets.  They all spoke and sang of God's goodness, strength, and mercy constantly.  They knew that having an attitude of gratitude was the way to maintain joy even in the midst of some difficult circumstances.  For example in Psalm 86 King David writes, "Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.  Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.  You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.  Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.  Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord I lift up my soul.  You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.  Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.  All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.  For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.  Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever;  For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave...."

Ladies, praise polishes our hearts and minds and keep us joyful and equipped to see the world through the eyes of God.  So in an effort to be a "No Drama Momma" I vow to make praise & worship a part of my daily routine.  And in the instances where I feel those ugly emotions creeping in I'll turn on the music and start praising my Lord again!

"Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me when I allow my emotions to get the best of me.  Please continue to remind me to have an "Attitude of Gratitude" and when I'm feeling low lead to me turn on the praise and worship music.  And precious Lord for my sisters in Christ who struggle with being "Drama Mommas" get the praise flowing in their hearts as well.  In Jesus precious name I pray."  AMEN!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Confession #26 - Guess How Much I Love You

John 21:15-17 Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

My daughter has this cute little book, "Guess How Much I Love You."  Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare measure how much they love one another.  My daughter and I love this book.  As a matter of fact we always used to say, "I love you thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much!" and hold our arms out as wide as humanly possible.  Each time we'd try to stretch farther and farther, until finally she figured out she could simply say, "I love you infinity, mom."  My reply of course is always, "I love you to infinity and beyond."  Most parents agree that we love our children infinitely and somehow with each new day infinity grows.  Now I know that's how much Jesus loves us too.  There's no end to His love for us, how do I know?  The Bible tells me so.  But just how much do I love Him back?
I've been pondering this....How much do I love Him?  I tell Him I love Him ever day, but is saying it enough?  How do I really know that I love Him?  See God's been asking me this question lately, not sure maybe He's got me confused with Peter.  LOL!  I do love Him; don't I? 

Then I got convicted.  Saturday, I started cleaning house and gave up my quiet time.  I also passed up a great opportunity to serve His people too.  I've been grumbling a lot lately about my problems.  I've been worried about money again.  I've neglected to tithe on my last two paychecks.  I've lied to my husband.  I've screamed at my child for no good reason and I've spent money I didn't need to spend.   I've also been eating very badly.  And I took His name in vein a few times. 

If I were still a Catholic confessing to the priest, he'd probably tell me to say a few "Hail Marys, with an Apostle's Creed and that be the end of it.  Perhaps your thinking, well that doesn't mean that you don't love The Lord, it just means you've sinned.  And that is true I am a sinner, hence the name of my blog dirty christian woman.  However, I think there's a pattern here that runs below the surface and that just may be why He's asking, "Do you love me?"

See God has brought to my attention, that I've been excusing myself as just a general sinner rather than realizing that I'm really worshipping idols. My love of money, food, and lack of faith, and my self absorption are the ugly images I've been focused on instead of God's infinite love, grace and mercy.  My focus has shifted from serving Him, to serving myself.  Consequently, my eyes are on a herd of golden calf idols.

I keep praying to the Lord to take me to the next level in my walk but if I'm not truly loving Him how can I grow?  It was this thought that came to mind the other night when I decided to make an I love you list to God.  It went something like this, I love you Lord more than:

I love food.
I love money
I love my dreams for the future
I love Disney World
I love my house
I love my friends
I love my job
I love my sleep
I love you more than my free time
I love than shopping (for clothes and shoes)
I love to watch television
I love to blog
I love to teach
I love my church
I love my pets
I love my child
I love my husband
I love my life

So here it is, I Love God.  And I asked Him to remind me when I'm not showing Him my love and when my eyes get out of focus and all I'm seeing are those nasty idols again. 

What are your eyes focused on?  Do you have double vision?  Are you you focused on God or on yourself.  Do you seek Him first or your own golden calf idols? 

Leviticus 19:4 "Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God."   Deuteronomy 28:13-14  "The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.  Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them."

"Dear Heavenly Father please keep my eyes focused on you.  Give me the desire to put you first always.  Lord I don't ever want to have to guess how much I love you, but to know it as I know how much you love me."  "And dear Lord for my sisters in Christ who wrestle with idols of their own, please give them the desire to break them into little pieces, before you have to do it for them." "In Jesus Precious name I pray." AMEN!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Confession #25 - Whatchaya Waitin' For?

Brick walls.  They are ugly and block some truly magnificent views.  These "views" are blessings; they are the answers to our prayers.  So many times when we are waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers these ugly brick walls pop up.  They may come up because of sin or perhaps  Satan is preventing us from realizing a dream God planted in our heart.  In either case I don't think that God intends to keep us from our blessing.  I think many of us mistake these proverbial brick walls for God answering no to our prayers or we might even believe that He's just saying wait.  I don't always think that is so.  I believe that if it's sin that has built the ugly brick wall, then we need to systematically remove it brick by brick with confession, forgiveness, and repentance until we can get through to that blessing.  If it's Satan who's put up the wall, then by all means kick it down!!!   But sometimes that brick wall exsists because we are not doing our part to help our prayer to become a reality.

Just the other day one of the pastors from my church posted this on facebook:
"Another piece from Bob Goff's book, "Love Does": I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity they had hoped for. But I've always wondered if, when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him. Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down. Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in."
I somewhat agree.  However this is how I see it, a closed door is God's way of saying no, but a brick wall, that isn't.  In Psalm 27:14 the psalmist says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and wait."  and Psalm 114:5 says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope." 

Many of us Christians have come to believe that if we pray in faith and sit around waiting on God to move, eventually our prayers will be answered.  While I do believe that sometimes God works like this I tend to think that God wants us to put our faith into action. Believe it or not, we have the power and the ability to break through to the blessings God has in store for us. 

I also agree with the author Bob Goff, that God places desires deep in our hearts because He wants them for us.  God builds our faith to enable us to help realize this desire.  However, it's up to us to put that faith into action.  Too many times we think we need to just "wait" on the Lord, but honestly if God gives us a desire, we are not supposed to sit around literally "waiting"  doing nothing to accomplish this.  We have to put faith into action!   It may take a while to knock down that wall but if we do our part and allow God to do His then we can get through those brick walls eventually.
About a year ago it became necessary for me to take on a part time office job.  Anyone, who's looking for part time office work these days knows how hard these jobs are to find.  I remember feeling strongly that it would be terrific if I could just get a part time job at my church and I continued to have this desire.  I shared the feeling with my cousin and she asked, "Do they have any openings?"  "No," was my reply.  "Okay well do you know if they need someone with your qualifications?"  "I don't know," I said.  "Well do they have the budget to create a position for you?"  "I don't think so," I answered.  "Well Joanne," she said, "I think it's a pipe dream."  But I didn't, I felt like God had placed that desire in my heart for a reason.  So I decided to pray about it.  I prayed and prayed and trusted God but I didn't wait around for an answer.  I kept looking for a job.  I'd send out my resumes and I reasoned that if it was God's will for me to work somewhere other than church than I'd get a job and if not something would open up for me.  In the time I waited I actually took down a brick wall by putting my faith into action.  I did my part, I looked for a job and God did His part.  Almost a year had gone by and no job offers, however, in May the church offered me a part time position. 

Since then God has placed a new desire in my heart. I've been praying about it and trusting God.  For a few months, I've been hoping that this dream will come true but recently God has reminded me that if I am to realize this dream, I have to break through that ugly o' brick wall and actually take all the necessary steps to make that dream come true.  So I've decided that instead of just sitting around waiting for some amazing miracle to occur, that I need to do the work it takes to make that dream a reality.  If it's God's will, as long as I'm doing my part, He will do His.

So whatchaya waiting for?  Are you just waiting for your dreams to come true or are you going to break through that brick wall and get your blessing!

Father, I confess that many times I've waited around on my tookus instead of doing my part.  I pray that you would help me to always recognize when I'm faced with a brick wall and just how to break through it to receive the blessing you have intended for me.  And Dear Lord, for my sisters in Christ who are starring at their own brick walls, I pray that you would put a sledgehammer in their hands today."  AMEN!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Confession #24 - I'm Proud to be a Prayerful American

Election day is rapidly approaching.  Do you know where you stand on the issues?  Do you know which candidate you will vote for?  Many of us do.  I, unfortunately, do not.  Please don't take that as a request for more information or opinion on whom I should vote for.  My confession is that I have yet to choose the candidate who will receive my vote. 

For me this election is less crystal clear than past presidential elections.  On certain issues I agree with one party and others I agree with the other party.  I have no personal feelings toward either Republican or Democratic candidate.  I know many people feel strongly for or against a particular candidate because of religious, financial, or personal reasons, this is not me.  However, once election day comes, I'm praying to have my vote sorted out.  But that's just the point, I am praying. 

Honestly, as important as it is to be informed about the issues, the candidates, and to vote, I think it is equally important to be praying for our leaders, our election and our country.  Prayer is crucial, because no matter who wins the election, and no matter what issues our country faces, God is bigger than all of it and God can heal our Nation.  God can and will guide our leaders to take the direction He has planned for our country's future if we pray.  Let's not just be proud to be Americans let's be proud to be prayerful Americans. 

A terrific example of how God can change the hearts and direction of our leaders is found in the book of Ezra.  In chapter four the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, receives a letter from his associates warning him that the Jews were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.  They warn the king that rebuilding the city would mean trouble based upon the history of Jerusalem's past.  The king issues a command that work must stop and the city must not be rebuilt.  However, in chapter seven, God has changed the heart of the king who says in vs. 23, "Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven."  And in vs. 27 it say, "Praise be to the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king's heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem..."

It doesn't matter what country you are living in, be it a Democratic nation, a Capitalist nation, a Communist nation, etc., God can change the hearts of it's leaders, but we must pray and trust that He will. I believe we should be praying every day for our nation and our leaders.  God's word tells us, "You do not have because you do not ask God." James 4:2b.  God expects us to ask and the more of us that ask in His name the better, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven."  Matthew 18:19

"Dear Heavenly Father, today I confess that I have yet to pick a candidate to vote for, but I pray that you would guide me in this decision.  Father I pray that no matter who wins the presidency that you will be leading them and guiding to make the decisions that reflect your will for our nation.  Father I also ask for a call upon my sisters in Christ to be praying for the leaders our nations and the upcoming American presidental election as well.  In Jesus precious name." AMEN