Category: Blog

By Brenda Marlin

(Taken from excerpts found in Brenda’s forthcoming book that takes readers on a journey to understand God’s powerful transformational love.)

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Trust is a big deal these days, or should I say, mistrust? Broken trust affects everything and causes us to become fearful, anxious, angry, bitter and self-protective.  Unless, we are able to hand off our offenses to God through forgiveness, we can get thrown off course and miss out on the peace and joy of the Lord in the midst of our trials and sufferings. When we trust our own hearts, they fail us, but when we learn in faith to trust God, our hope can overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit. That may seem easier said than done, but if we will take one step at a time, we will eventually find ourselves on a straight path filled with God’s purposes and blessings, knowing that God can be trusted with all things. If you live with much hurt and disappointment and don’t know how to trust, ask Him to show you how. He loves you and wants you to know Him in this important way.

Trusting God can be a daunting task for many, given how broken trust by others creates a negative road map of understanding within our logical minds. But, I have great news for you; God is greater than our worrisome thoughts and difficult experiences. He invites us to trust Him with all our heart, so that we can learn to depend upon Him for our answers.

I have learned over time that acknowledging that He is Lord over all my life and circumstances brings His supernatural power that supersedes all my weaknesses. Looking back over how He has taught me how to do this, I have learned many lessons on my journey, many were hard lessons and some were easy (I tend to be hardheaded, so it takes a little more grit and a few more lessons to get it through my head). Overall, when I learned to lean upon Him, I found Him to be faithful to show me the way. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but I can assure you, He can do the same for you.

Childhood abuse robbed me of the gift of trust. The heart of my soul stopped beating and turned cold. By all accounts, I looked alive outside, but inside, I felt ripped apart and ashamed. Drowning in the murky brown waters of betrayal and abandonment, I grabbed hold of unhealthy passerby’s who only offered a temporary life preserver from the negative feelings I had about myself.

Playing relationship games my heart was not prepared to handle, I learned firsthand, misery truly attracts the company of other dismal souls. Foolish agreements made to satisfy the selfish needs of others brought upon me an avalanche of painful experiences. Misplaced trust only reinforced the stinging punishment of betrayal I felt in my heart.

I can’t trust anyone! I can only trust myself!

As I built an almost impenetrable stony wall of self-protection around my heart, true love evaded me. I reached out for anything that appeared to bring some fun and relief into my life, but in the end, all things seemed to become meaningless acts of self-preservation. Then one day, a miracle happened, true love broke through my fortress. It had to be supernatural; it had to be stronger than the fortification I created to protect it. It was Jesus!

I don’t trust You! How could you allow a child to endure such things?

“I love you, Brenda.”

Then, show me how much you love me.

At the time, it seemed to be a stupid request to ask of Him. After all, I knew the words to the song, Jesus Loves Me (by Anna Bartlett Warner), but deep down, I knew my heart didn’t really connect with His love.

It was if He had waited with great anticipation for my invitation. Over the next few weeks and months, Jesus poured out His love into my broken heart through the love of His people and His creation. Unexpected calls of encouragement came. Opportunities for healing my broken soul brought forth new hope. A rainbow appeared in the sky after a big storm like a big colorful bow wrapped around God’s promised gift of love for me. It all came pouring in like a tidal wave of fresh water crashing onto my war-torn soul. After each new encounter of God’s love, I would hear in my heart, “See, that’s how much I love you.” With each demonstration of His love, I felt an increasing unquenchable thirst for wanting more.

Like a divine set up, next came a desire to want to know Him more through the study of His written word. As more proof of God’s love working through His children, within a short span of time, new friends came into my life. One gave me a brand new study Bible. She exuded love and mercy, reflecting that which she had been given from God. The Lord sent another friend who loved discussing what she learned about God through His Word. These discussions caused me to want to dig deeper into knowing Him. Then came yet another friend who challenged me to make a commitment to God to read the Bible at least five minutes a day. I took that challenge which changed my life forever.

Captured by the lavish love of Jesus, my eyes are opened; my heart has been awakened and beats again! All else pales in comparison. Over time, I learned that trust is developed through knowing who He really is and experiencing Him in an ever-flowing loving relationship. My soul was empty, anemic and misdirected until Jesus rend the heavens to come to my rescue. His love and mercy met my misery and now, my heart and soul are filled with His love and purpose. I soar in His presence and my song rises up to bless and honor the One who paid the price for my life with His own. He has conquered death, so I can live with Him forever in His kingdom.

Your story may not be like mine, but like me, perhaps you have experienced an inability to trust God for one reason or another. By saying, “yes” to His plan of salvation and asking Him to be Lord of your life, you too can experience His everlasting love and fullness of life. He is extending His offer of eternal salvation to all who believe and say, “yes, I do!” Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-18 NIV

If you have never said “yes” to God’s plan of salvation, check out this link, which will help you walk through it. http://billygraham.org/story/have-you-heard-the-good-news-of-salvation/

Trusting God completely is possible; after all, you trust Him for your salvation, so just take the next step and ask Him to show you how trust Him with your whole life. Make Proverbs 3:5-6 a life verse to remember and then believe in faith that His love, mercy and grace will show you the rest of the way.

I’m praying you receive an even deeper revelation, wisdom and understanding of His everlasting love for you, so that you may know Him better.

 

By Laurel Strasshofer

It’s the question that has stayed with me since I recently heard a snippet from a speech given by inspirational American conductor, Benjamin Zander in which he states:

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound…He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful…I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.” He continued, “If the eyes are shining, you know you are doing it…” 1

A few months ago, I was getting dinner for my grandchildren. I was tired and admittedly distracted and a little less-than-patient as I was focusing on “getting it done” (a flaw I will battle forever, I think).  My grandson was excitedly prattling on about something when I reacted to him in harshness. I don’t remember his words. I don’t remember my words. I only remember how instantaneously his bright, joy-filled eyes were cast down and how he appeared almost shamed.  It broke my heart to know I was responsible for that, and I have not forgotten how his eyes and spirit changed because of my voice.

In that moment, I remembered one of Zander’s challenges from that speech, “If the eyes are not shining, you’ve got to ask a question… ‘Who am I being that my children’s eyes are not shining?’”  Ugh…   I also thought of Proverbs 15:4:  “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.”  Double ugh!

But I am a slow learner.  Apparently.

It was not too long ago in a staff meeting one of my own team members shared her “low” for the week had been that she felt she “failed two times” a few days earlier.  She was attempting to make light of it, but it was easy to see she was still impacted by what had happened, most likely by my own part in how I handled the situation.  I was glad for her honesty, and at the same time, her words genuinely pricked and grieved me. Many things could have contributed to her demeanor, and in my weakness I would have preferred to leave the blame there.  Still, I knew in my heart that as her leader I was largely responsible for the state of her spirit at that moment, and I needed to work to mend it. I had to consider the possibility of my own role in the situation.

Isn’t it true? So often we will naturally lean into blaming those we lead – whether our children, our coworkers, or our ministry team members – for their low demeanor, lack of passion or mediocre performance. While we as individuals do have responsibility for our own attitudes and actions, I don’t believe the latter was necessarily Jesus’ focus when he spoke on things pertaining to what makes a great leader.  He always made the shepherd responsible for the tender care of the sheep.  He always emphasized humility in leadership.  He always focused on the intentional pursuit of the lost one. He also basically said, “If you don’t like what you are seeing in those you lead, uh… check the mirror.”

Seriously.  Check it:

“And He also spoke a parable to them: ‘A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.’” (Luke 6:39&40 NASB)

Is it possible that he meant the one who follows will reflect what he has seen demonstrated by the one he looks to for leadership?  Or, that a student will only rise to the spiritual, professional and emotional heights that the leader allows or takes them?  I believe he meant ALL of that, and then some.

I do believe as Christ-followers we are responsible to raise those we lead to new heights – to help them fulfill their potential. And, so when someone in my sphere of influence is cast down, I am compelled to ask myself what kind of leader I am being.

Actually, Benjamin Zander said best what I genuinely desire. Toward the end of his speech, he stated how he measures “success” in leadership. He said,

“For me, it’s very simple.  It is not about wealth or fame or power, it’s about how many shining eyes I have around me.”

What a measure of success as we lead in the varied roles in which we are privileged to be serving!

Paul actually brings it home in his letter to the Philippians:

 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the for of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:3-7 NASB; emphasis mine)

In reading this, I am convicted that making those I lead 100% responsible for their passion, motivation and sense of security is not an attitude of humility or regarding them as more important than myself. It is one of pride and lacking in mercy – especially in light of all Christ has done and continues to do for me daily as I learn to walk with Him.  I must become more introspective and humble myself to be willing to see what is in their eyes as a potential reflection of how they are being led. I must be brave enough to ask:

  • “How am I awakening the possibility in other people?”
  • “How is my leadership being reflected in the faces of those around me?” Or, as Zander puts it,
  • Who am I being that my [spouse’s, child’s, coworker’s….] eyes are not shining?”

 

1http://www.tv.com/web/ted-talks/watch/benjamin-zander-classical-music-with-shining-eyes-1545529/

By Lisa Blanco

I fed Adley for the last time before going to sleep, hoping she’d allow me to get at least a good cat nap before she needed me again, but I think a cat would have slept better than me. Adley woke up at midnight, 2:15 and 4:45. After the last feeding, I gently laid her back down, and then my 5am alarm went off. I pushed the snooze button and started to walk back to bed. I stood at the doorway, very tempted to lay back on that pillow. I knew things ran much smoother when I got up before the children, but I was also exhausted. I gave it another minute of thought, then prayed for help and walked downstairs to start the blessed coffee.
As I poured the coffee into the cup, I poured all my trust in there with it. “As long as I get a few cups of it, I can gather myself and be patient with the children today.”
I didn’t fully realize I had directed this thought towards an unknown pagan god of coffee as I sat down on the couch to pray to the one true Living God and read his word, (thank God for his patience).

I opened my Bible and began to read a little with tired eyes. I was just making my way into a passage and ready to gain strength for the day when the baby monitor crackled. Sure enough, Adley began to cry. I waited and waited, but she did not stop. Before I made the climb up the stairs, my head fell into my hands and I prayed one last prayer before my time alone was done:
“Lord, I tried. I want to rise early and meet with you before my day begins. I want to hear from you and read and pray before my kids wake up. I have done everything I can to make this happen, and yet you have allowed my baby to wake again and it has interuppted my time with you. It’s your power that causes them to sleep and to awaken them, so why right now? How am I supposed to commune with you in this long season of busy life?”
I lifted my head, feeling more tired than before. The other monitor lit up as a voice loudly cried, “Mommy I have to poo poo!”

This is a picture of what my nights and the early hours of the morning can look like. For a long time I have struggled with joy and thankfulness that God calls me to as his child. I love my children tremendously; they are deeply precious to me. But what I struggled with is feeling (rather believing the lie) that God cuts me short in my time with him, or for some reason that it seems he doesn’t provide the time. I believed that my only time to hear from God and receive help and wisdom was before my children woke up. I thought my only hope for being kind and patient with my children was if I had read my Bible, put the dishes away, and put some kind of order to our downstairs before they came down.  And if none of these were able to happen? You could just forget any kindness and gentleness (or any fruits of the spirit really) from me.

But over the last month The Lord has revealed all the ugly that has been going on in my heart. It sounds strange, especially after reading this, how obvious it should all seem, but I was blind to how much I really have been relying on my own strength to do what God has called me to do.

When I read Colossians 3 and how God calls us to walk and talk like a child of God with patience and gentleness and to be thankful, I don’t have to feel burdened. I used to, but God is rescuing me. Because if I read the chapter before, I’ll find Colossians  2:14 tells me that God has canceled the record of debt I owe by nailing it to the cross of his Son. And even further back in Colossians 1: 20 we are told that Christ’s work on the cross not only cancels the debt we owe for sin, but then he also presents us holy and blameless before God. So God isn’t holding a record against me of all the times I have failed with my children (or put my trust in the pagan god of coffee); he’s erased it and is conforming me into the image of his Son.  I am therefore free to pursue gentleness and patience with my kids and start over in repentance again and again–not burdened to pursue it, but free.

While rising early before the children is still my goal each day, God has shown me that it’s not where my hope lies, and it’s not the only time he wants to commune with me. It’s not only the quiet, alone times he wants to talk to me, make me like Jesus, and bring to mind his Word so that I might fight sin. He isn’t just the God of help for early morning times of trouble, but the God who is our very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
I have found that it’s also in the moments when the baby rises early that the Spirit asks me: Now, will you trust that The Lord will sustain you even if your plans did not pan out? Will you trust he’s making you look more like Jesus by sacrificing your time alone to care for these children? Will you trust that you can still obey and walk in patience even without the planned time of reading? Yes, it’s those times I can serve The Lord with gladness. (Psalm 100:2)

I have found that God is making me more like his Son and communing with me not just before my kids refuse to listen, but when I’m actually swimming IN the pool (or is it more like a dirty, murky lake?) of disobedience from them, and they have fought hard against my instruction for hours, and I have done everything in my power to warn them: “Listen to me! We don’t have to drown today! Listen to my instruction! Listen quickly!” It’s in those waters God has shown me 2 Thessalonians 3:5-

“May God direct your hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.”

That has been a life-giving verse for me when I feel I’m drowning in the murky lake of disobedience inside the walls of my house, alone, when no one else can see but The Lord. And that verse quickly helps me fight in two ways:

1. The Lord loves both my children and me deeply, so my heart can quickly reach for thankfulness.

2. Jesus is steadfast and never runs out of patience and love towards those for whom he laid down his life.

So I don’t have to throw in the towel, because Jesus never does.

By Christian Bonner

How do you feel about the word “balance,” because personally I have a love-hate relationship with it. No matter the age of a woman I talk to, it is clear that we struggle to feel our lives are appropriately balanced, even though we desire it. We have many different roles we live in daily and to be honest, balance is necessary in this thing we call “life”.

Sometimes I find myself defining what balance should look like by looking at others. But God’s design for us isn’t to compete or compare with others. The amount and type of hats that one wears isn’t always the same as another person, nor is what the Lord uses to help us find balance. Instead of looking at others, we should seek Him personally and try to define balance by what the Bible says it is. (Matthew 6: 33-34)

I heard a business leader once share; “True balance isn’t walking through life on a tightrope with a monkey on our backs, trying not to fall off”. Though it can certainly feel this way and we do all we can to stay on that rope, one unexpected event, task, comment, failure, etc., knocks us right off.

So, what is true balance?

Here are some ways others have defined it:

  1. An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady and to remain in a steady position without falling – Oxford Dictionary
  1. A desirable point between two or more opposite forces-Wikipedia

Now look at two ways the Bible uses the word balance:

Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight”

Leviticus 19:36, “You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt”

These verses are referring to cheating others, or better yet, the importance of NOT cheating others. When we get out of balance, we cheat someone or something that God has placed in our lives. It can be ourselves, our spouse, our boss, church, children, friends, etc. I believe we know this and deep down, that is part of the cause of our distress and desire for true balance.

With that in mind, let’s talk for a minute about a scale, like the one pictured below.

scale1

 

As you can see, these specific scales have two sides. It works by putting an item/weight in one bowl and the other is slowly filled up until both sides are of equal weight.

I would like to designate the use of the bowls with our Wikipedia definition in mind (a desirable point between two or more opposite forces), because truthfully, we are “between” two forces.

Held in one side are the forces of this world; its obligations, temptations, desires, family, etc..

The other side holds the force of our relationship with Jesus: efforts to please our Lord, getting to know him and living in his will, etc..

So, as our day unfolds, the sides fill up.

We may get up and read our Bible- bing! a few weights on the God side.

Then the kids get up, we feed them breakfast, that’s like 5 weights on the other side.

We pray, a couple more weights on the Jesus side.

We get ready for work, another on the “world” side.

We do this all day, all week, all month and all year long. Sometimes we are so involved at church or a ministry, we can feel like we have too many weights in the Jesus side. Or we are working overtime that we barely have time to put weights in the Jesus bowl.

We spend our lives doing this, trying to stay balanced, when just one tiny weight from either side knocks us out of balance.

Herein lies the problem.

We are putting our relationship with Christ on the same level as everything else, and we have started seeing our imbalance as a problem to be solved instead of what it really is:  a symptom of where our relationship with the Lord is. To my knowledge, the Bible never instructs us to keep enough of God in our lives so we can balance with the world. It says the opposite as you can see in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

To do this, I suggest we change our idea of how balance is found.

What if we pictured our lives with the Bible and our relationship with God as our foundation? If we put that foundation under the scale, more specifically, under the bowls, they don’t move at all.

1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”

Ephesians 2:19-20 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…”

We need to build our lives in a way where the foundation is so solid, we won’t feel imbalanced as often.

We build this foundation by loving the Lord:

Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.

We build it by seeking the Lord:

Colossians 3: 1-3, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.

We build it by finding our strength in Him:

Isaiah 41:10, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand”.

As we do these things, searching Him out in Scripture, we realize that we are first, above all else, women of God. When we stop defining ourselves by our hats and others, we see our true balance comes from knowing who He is and who we are in Him. As we grow and rest in that knowledge, we then are more sensitive to His guidance in our daily lives. We have more confidence in Him and what He has placed before us, which leads to wisdom in what we choose to do and to a feeling of better balance. It is also easier to gather ourselves when we do get the feeling of falling out of balance, because we know where to direct our hearts.

Let me reassure you that I still struggle with finding the feeling of balance. As life changes, which is quite often with little ones at home, I try to stay focused on the one constant, my Lord. I encourage you to do the same.

Things to consider:

How do you need to adjust your view of what true balance is?

What areas do you need to surrender to the Lord that may be causing you to feel like you are walking a tightrope?

What can you do to keep your relationship with the Lord above the level of the world?

By Raena Isaacson

Dear Hurting Moms:

“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” ~Ecclesiastes 4:10

We are not intended to walk this journey alone. When we’re broken, Christ uses friends to help glue our pieces back together.

I’m inclined to hide when I’m suffering. What about you? (more…)

By Dr. Deb Waterbury

My husband and I were painting the house this past weekend, which is a little easier since I really don’t have too many fears.  As a matter of fact, I most likely need a good dose of fear sometimes just so that I can stay on track.  Consequently, I had no problem whatsoever going up that ladder to paint the eaves on our house.  It’s beautiful up there, and having grown not one fraction of an inch since I was measured in the seventh grade at a whopping five foot nothing, any time I can see up high is a real treat.  I scaled that ladder like a pro, and all the while my husband was cautioning me to be careful.

Be careful? I thought.  This is great!

And then I ran out of paint. (more…)