Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"What Do You Say?"

It's one of my missions in life to raise children who say their pleases and thank yous. Aila says her little "Kick-you, Mommy" when I hand her her breakfast, which warms my heart. And Trevor is great with the "please" part of the deal, but then the moment he has what he wants, he's off like a flash, and I have to go after him with those token parent words: "What do you say?" Then he thanks me and is off to, I don't know, play with trains probably.
Makes me think of the way that I (maybe we) pray. We're SO good at the petitions, but lacking in the praise that should follow answered prayer. Please Lord, help me. Please Lord, heal me. Guide me Provide for me Bless me Protect me Show me Defend me Make a way for me. Boy, I can rattle those requests off like rapid fire, can't you?

And yet we're told to ask--even that we have not because we ask not! But when the Lord helps, heals, guides, provides, blesses, protects, shows, defends, and makes a way, sometimes I find myself so eager to get back to the stuff of life that I forget to be in awe of the One who delights in giving good gifts to His children. I think of myself of being mindful of what I have, and I feel very content. I don't at all spend my life wishing for more. But do I actually camp out and sort of dwell in a place of gratitude? Maybe not as I should.

I included this picture because I think I can be a lot like my 4-year old--quick to ask, politely even, but perhaps slower to thank.


Lord Jesus, fill my heart with thanks so that it can't contain it all and pours out of me. Let gratitude overwhelm me, and let me speak words of praise for every single providence.



"You turned my wailing into dancing,
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to You and not be silent.
O LORD, my God, I will give You thanks forever."

Psalm 30:11-12






Monday, December 28, 2009

525,600 Minutes (Ministry)

That song from "Rent" is running through my mind today (and now yours, too!)--and I'm just considering how I spent the 525,600 minutes of 2009 as it pertains to ministry outside my family--I'll do my family assessment over on our family blog. So was the Kingdom advanced in the way I spent my 525,600 minutes? At all?

I invited people to church, but they never came. I didn't lead anyone to Christ outside my family. But I was very intentional. I used phone calls, emails, Facebook, and these blogs to speak words of encouragement and truth over believers and those who have not yet chosen to follow. I prayed the Lord would show me who needed a word of blessing, and then I spoke it. I asked who needed a word of truth, and then I spoke it. And I asked the Lord to multiply my offerings in all of this. But the hard thing about this is that, at the end of the year when I am trying to see what the worth of this is, it's kind of hard to even know. It's not something that can be measured, I guess--at least not by me.

Maybe you're like me and can feel discouraged if this year came and went, and nobody decided to come to church with you, and you didn't lead anyone to Christ. But that doesn't mean that Kingdom stuff isn't happening.

I will say that 2009 was the year that I became reacquainted with my Bible and fell in love with the Word in a new way. And I know that is priceless. I am equipped with truth in a way I wasn't a year ago, and hopefully I can say the same a year from now, too--that I will have hidden even more away in my heart, and that I will have shared it with others, too.


"525,600 minutes...525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes, how do you measure the life of a woman or a man?
IN TRUTHS THAT SHE LEARNED
or the tears that she cried
in the bridges that burned
or the way that she died."

"Seasons of Love" from the RENT soundtrack

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Oh, Great. A Front Yard Veggie Garden.

I remember it far too well--the scene that still gives me nightmares. Several months ago I looked out the window and saw Justin and Trevor planting vegetables. In our front yard.



It's not like we live on a farm. No, we live in a normal neighborhood with a very picky Homeowner's Association. I just didn't see this going well. I was told that soon we'd have tomatoes, squash, even pumpkins sprouting up right next to our front walkway. Ooh, marvelous--a pumpkin patch in our front yard. I could just envision families coming to take pictures--all we needed was a tractor for hayrides!



ANYWAY, I secretly kept hoping that nothing would grow from those seeds. And at first I was optimistic, because nothing was popping up. Until one day I saw little green sprouts, and my heart sank. It wasn't long before there were big, huge veggie vines in my front yard. Veggie vines! Couldn't have been daisies or daffodils or tulips--had to be veggie vines.



And why wouldn't there be? After all, vegetable seeds were planted, so vegetables were growing. Why should I expect any other outcome?



And yet there are times in my life when I scatter sinful seeds of things I hope won't take root, won't yield anything. But then I wait expectantly for everything to come up roses. How my heart will sink when I see those little green sprouts that are anything but beautiful. Those seeds HAVE taken root, and they're producing something.



And yet in the same way when I pray for Justin or when I speak the Word of God over my children, I'm casting seeds there, too. And I can trust that we will see the evidence of that sowing process. Isaiah 55:10-11 say, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth, making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." All of this sowing of seeds--it will yield something. It won't return empty.

That Won't All Fit on a Nametag

When we meet people, the first thing we do is tell them who we are.

But that's just a name.

What if we had to expound a bit more? What would we say?

I have believed a very specific lie about myself over the last 10, 15 years. It has been a battle, it will be a battle. But it's a battle to be fought with the truth. Though the lie is specific, I'll be a bit more general and say that I have believed that I am not "enough," I guess, to reflect well on others. But I was wrong.

The Lord brought me to Isaiah 60-62 to tell me who I am. But I'll be honest, exposing those hurts to the truth was a bit like pouring peroxide on an open cut. A year ago I was going through Beth Moore's "Breaking Free" study and when I came to a day about how the Lord thinks we are beautiful, I didn't even want to do that lesson. My family had always made me feel lovely, but I encountered 3 people in high school and college who had told me otherwise. Loudly and emphatically, each in his own way. I had listened to lying lips who had told me all that I am NOT, and so I wasn't sure I even wanted the light to meet the darkness that had been there for so long. But finally after 3 days of avoiding it and the Lord beckoning me gently to seek His truth on the matter, I sat down and read the words, over and over. I had to (and still have to) choose to no longer believe I am less than "altogether lovely." And I cried. It DID hurt to face it. But then healing began. And so even though the beauty of these truths can still be hard to receive by one who has believed otherwise for far too long, this is truth. And I need to say it outloud, daily, and over and over again.

I'm Thea Sayers Sperry Nelson, but I am so much more...

* I am a branch He has planted, the work of His hands, for the display of His splendor (Is. 60:21). That means that I was planted and established, basically put here to show off His glory.

* I am an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord to display His splendor (Is. 61:3). Again, for whatever reason, I am here to reflect His splendor. He has not kept me hidden in a corner or been ashamed to be seen with me, but has made ME to show who HE is.

* I am a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand--a royal diadem in the hand of my God (Is. 62:3). Once again, His splendor is displayed on me!

* He summoned me by name and said to me, "You are Mine" (Is. 43:1). He called me by name and said I am His own. He didn't reject me--He claimed me!

So when I meet someone and tell them who I am, they'll get the nutshell version: "Hi, I'm Thea." But in my heart I know that, in Him, I am so much more. A lot more than I'll ever be able to fit on a nametag.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pardon Me, But There's a Roach in My Happy Story

I remember when Cheryl, a woman from my old church, told me how she had met her husband. It certainly wasn't your typical "Boy meets girl" scenario...

Apparently, she was at a restaurant and saw a roach crawl across her salad. Not being a fan of bugs, she screamed, jumped up, turned around to run away and plowed into some guy who happened to be walking behind her chair at that moment.

She ended up marrying that guy.

When I heard this I said, "I cannot believe there is a roach in your happy story!" But she didn't seem to care. After all, she was pretty happy with the ultimate outcome.

So tonight for no particular reason I was thinking back to all of this and realized that pretty much ANY story I've heard of blessing, redemption, providence, and God's mercies has included waiting, hardship, and pain--a "roach" in the mix, so to speak.

What about Hannah, who waited years without bearing a child, all the while being taunted and tormented by an unkind (and super-fertile) woman? Even one of those things would be plenty to endure, but she faced both. But God remembered Hannah, and she bore a son.

Or how about Job, who suffered the loss of his livestock, his family, and was afflicted with sores from head to toe--sure, the Lord blessed him with double at the end of it all, but what devastation he endured! I'm sure it seemed nothing good could come from all of that being part of the story.

Even the story of the end of Jesus' life had a "roach" in the mix, to put it mildly: Accusations, crucifixion, and ultimately the death of the One in whom many had come to believe. Everyone was left standing there wondering, "What just happened?" But Sunday was coming.

Perhaps you're on the other side of a wait, a hardship, a trial, and you can look back at the "roach" in the salad. And NOW you can recognize it as the thing that ushered you into a place where you could receive the mercies, the providence, the blessings.

But maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you're sitting down to a roach in your salad, and you can't see how anything good can come from it, and the whole situation is just crappy, for a lack of a better word.

I know it's hard. But be on the lookout for your story to change--perhaps when you least expect it to. That roach in your salad might just send you running smack dab into something immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Little "Seen" and a Lot of "Unseen"


Today Trevor was playing in the front yard and drew my attention to a weed by the tree. "Don't touch that," he warned. "It's thorny!" So I went inside and got something with which to dig up the weed. I kept pulling and pulling and pulling to finally end up with a 2-inch weed with a 77-inch root!!


I just feel like there are so many spiritual connections here:


* Sometimes a thorny weed has far more fueling it than we could ever begin to imagine.


* What is seen (this life and all it encompasses) is so very small compared to what it unseen (eternity). So why on earth do we live life according to 2 measly inches when 77+ await us?


*There are times that the Lord is up to great things--wide, long, high, and deep things rich with His love and His glory. And yet we assume He's up to nothing as we stand there staring at a stump of a weed.



Any others? Post a comment! :)

"But God."

"But God." My friend Denise has gotten me thinking about these words a lot. She's right--they're some of the most beautiful words ever.


I love that you can write anything in front of them. Anything! Stories of soiled souls, hopeless happenings, and seemingly unredeemable circumstances, and then swoop in right behind them with "BUT GOD" and the rest all fades in comparison.


"I was rejected by those who should have loved me." BUT GOD.


"My accusers breathe lies against me day and night." BUT GOD.


"I made selfish choices that hurt others and cost me my ministry." BUT GOD.


"I couldn't hold it all together and it fell apart." BUT GOD.



I was thinking about these words this morning especially as I read through Isaiah 60 and camped out on verse 2:


"See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
BUT THE LORD rises upon you
and His glory appears over you."


Darkness...thick darkness. BUT THE LORD.



And so often this "But God" part seems to always have to do with revealing His glory. Through our reprehensible deeds and those done to us, He is all about revealing His glory in us and through us.



________________________....BUT GOD.



Go ahead and fill in the blank. There's nothing in the first part of the sentence that supercedes the power and the glory and the majesty of the second.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You Never Know...

"You never know when you're making a memory."

I was reading through a book of quotations recently, and I came upon this one that has just been reverberating in my heart the last few weeks. I think it hit me because I have found it to be really true.

I think this includes great memories...and not-so-great ones.

I guess to put it another way, you never know how you are being used. GOOD AND BAD. You never know when your words may breathe life into someone who needed them more than even they realized. But you also never know how that sideways glance, that disapproving look, that hurtful word may also tear someone down and leave an indelible mark on someone's soul.

Recently in our small group we've been sharing our life paths, and it has been really interesting to see what we each identified as milestones and markers in our lives. It was interesting for me to consider what had left an impression on my heart over the course of my life--memories made.


* My dad didn't know he was making a memory when he chose to be beside me on a mission trip, or that I would never forget holding his hand to pray for the people we were serving.


* My 4th grade teacher didn't know she was making a memory when she told me I'd earned an academic award, but she didn't see how I'd managed to earn one.


* My parents didn't know they were making a memory when they took me to church. I found all I needed--or would ever need--because they did.


* My mom didn't know she was making a memory when she took me to pick out a special dress for my first day of school, even though I knew money was tight for her.


* My former student's dad didn't know he was making a memory when he looked me dead in the eye and said, "You are RIGHT where you are supposed to be" regarding being home with the kids. I hadn't even asked what he thought, but boy, did I need to hear it.


* My dad and Peggy didn't know they were making a memory when they showed each other love and affection.


* My college "crush" didn't know he was making a memory when he told me I wasn't attractive enough to date, that he couldn't "get past" my looks.


* My grandfather didn't know he was making a memory all those times he cupped my face in his hands and told me how very special I am.


* My grandma didn't know she was making a memory when she sent me an email telling me how proud she is of me, and that I am right where I am meant to be.


* My mom didn't know she was making a memory by staying up late to chop up walnuts to put in our pancake mix the next day so we'd have extra protein. That "chop-chop-chop" sound was one of love.


* My sister didn't know she was making a memory when she made that sign for me when she picked me up at the airport.


* My brother didn't know he was making a memory when he had that picture of us taken together.


* My grandpa didn't know he was making a memory with all those magic tricks. Okay, so he probably DID know... :)


* My dad didn't know he was making a memory when he didn't say much and just squeezed my hand when he walked me down the aisle. I knew that was all he could do or he'd probably go into the "ugly cry!"

* Justin didn't know he was making a memory when he told me Proverbs 31:29 reminds him of me.

I've got lots more--plenty of good ones that I'd love to list, and some not good ones that shouldn't even take up space on this post. But you get the idea.

But it makes me think about being careful, mindful, intentional. What am I passing down to my children? What mark am I leaving on those I encounter? I know that two of my greatest day-to-day struggles, the areas in which the enemy has really been able to get a grip in my life--are connected to memories I've listed here. AND YET I am able to stand in confidence knowing who I am in the Lord because of times people have left me with the memory of a blessing. What a gift those people have given, probably unknowingly. But either way, we've got one life to live. We must be so careful. We have the power to damage and destroy, or to strengthen and bless--we really do.

You never know when you're making a memory.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

...But I Tried to Warn You

Today Aila was walking around, munching on her favorite snack, a strawberry cereal bar. She kept walking a little too close to our dog Jack, and I could see him eyeballing what she was eating. "Aila, don't go near Jack--he'll take your cereal bar away from you," I warned.

I told her this two more times before--you guessed it--Jack was wolfing down Aila's beloved cereal bar. Aila was heartbroken.

I think the spiritual parallel on this one is pretty clear. How much more does our God try to warn us about the one who seeks to steal from us?

What's that thing that you aren't guarding with nearly enough diligence, in light of the fact that there is one who is out to take the things we value most? How about in light of the deep, unmatched love of a Heavenly Father who sees the unseen?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wanting


What does the Lord owe us? Are we due anything?

Anything?

I can see why this world trades up all the time. Apart from Christ, this life here is as good as it is ever gonna be, so it
better be good. I know I'd feel that way! Just sit back and watch...you'll see people trade up cars, houses, jobs and spouses. Not to mention constantly upgrading TVs, furniture, and countless different gadgets.

Always. Wanting. More.

Should we be able to have all we want? How about if we are
100% justified in wanting what we want? Are we owed health, long lives, and relationships that work the way they're supposed to? And does anyone have the right to stomp their feet if they don't have these things?

My life is full and rich. I feel so blessed, I can hardly take it all in. But I
want sometimes. And the things I want are very legitimate, even woven into my heart by the Lord Himself. So what happens if this life of mine comes and goes and my legitimate wants never materialize? Do I have the right to shake my fist at God simply because the things I want--but don't have--are legitimate?

Sovereign God, You have fulfilled countless desires of my heart--not yet all of them. But You don't owe me anything. Not wealth, not health, nor a life free of hardship. You don't owe me as many years as I hope to have on this earth, if in Your sovereignty You know it's best to bring me home before I would choose. And if not one more of my "wants" is fulfilled in my lifetime, You are good, and You are plenty enough.

You don't owe us the plans we've mapped out for our own lives. You don't owe us a ministry that does what we hope it will--even if we're doing it all for You, nor are we due the number of children we once hoped we'd hold in our arms. You've poured out so much, and we praise You for it all--but we're not owed any of it. What about couples who long for children but may never have them, and all the people who long to be married but remain single year after year? Did You owe Your disciples--Your friends--a painless death surrounded by loved ones looking on? That wasn't their fate. Each one of them entered into the glory of Heaven through the most terrible deaths. Or how about Leah in the Bible, who had to have been able to pick up on her husband's lackluster reaction when he found out he'd gotten her for a wife--shouldn't she have gotten to have the joy of knowing she was adored and cherished, rather than spending her life knowing she was unwanted, and was left wanting for her husband's affections? Even my friend Evelyn Rice--a woman who loved You SO MUCH--suffered with MS for seven years before passing away, leaving her family wanting for her.

YET YOU ARE SOVEREIGN--LORD OF ALL--and You give as You have purposed. And when we're left wanting here on this earth, thank You so much that You are enough--totally sufficient to satisfy. There are things we just won't grasp until we see You face to face. We know that this time of wanting here on earth is a blink of an eye compared to an eternity of wanting no more.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peace and Parasailing

When I was in college I had the chance to go parasailing in Hawaii. I remember paying my money and boarding the boat that was to take us out into the ocean. The boat captain had this maniacal laugh and a crazy look in his eyes as he took off. He floored it and we went tearing all over the water in the high winds. The 6 of us, all strangers to one another, seemed terrified as we held--white-knuckled--onto the boat for dear life. Once we got out into the ocean a bit, he slowed down, turned around and asked, "Who's first?!?"

Needless to say, I didn't volunteer.

Nobody did, in fact. Which meant the captain got to choose the first victim. Sensing my sheer terror (and undoubtedly preying on it), he picked me.

I was having serious second thoughts at this point. I mean, if I was having to hold on for dear life down in a boat, did I really want this guy dragging me through the sky, attached to the boat by a rope and some fabric? No, thank you.

Seemed I couldn't get out of it though. So they hooked me up and before I knew it, I was drifting up into the air. But I wasn't expecting what happened next...the higher up I went, the quieter it got, and the further up the chute carried me, the calmer the winds seemed. I could still see the now-tiny people down on the boat, still whipping around the water and getting wind-blown, but my own experience was become more and more different than theirs. And by the time I was up a few hundred feet, it was dead silent and the winds were completely calm. I just took in the magnificent view.
If ever there was a time that I really "got" what peace is, it was in those moments. We talk about "Peace on Earth" a lot this time of year, but what does that even mean? I don't think it's the absence of calamity, but rather a quietness in the midst of it, because we know that God is God, and that's plenty sufficient. As I drifted along way up in the air, chaos was not far away. It was visible to me, but I was not experiencing it. Up there I only knew quiet...and peace.
There's chaos in life, and if you're not up against calamity today, it's rounding the corner, for sure. But in Jesus Christ we can experience something different than those who don't know Him. We can fully acknowledge our circumstances without being tossed to and fro by them. We stand firm in Him.
Lord God, You are the Prince of Peace, and You live in me. I am indwelled with peace! Thank you that, in You, I can see chaos and calamity all around while walking in peace in the midst of it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where's Jesus?

This morning I was up early, tidying up. I was putting some books away when my eyes fell upon our nativity scene that sits on top of our toy bin shelf. Everything was in place except the most important part--the baby Jesus was missing.

I discovered He'd fallen onto the floor next to the toy bin shelf, and I put Him back where He belonged. But as I continued folding laundry, I realized that so far this December I've been all about the stuff of Christmas. Now, when I say stuff I don't mean the commercialism or the presents--it's more the traditions that I've put on a pedestal. Like right now as I type this, the house is lit up with Christmas lights, there's a fire in the fireplace, the aroma of mulled apple cider fills the air, and Christmas music is playing. It's beautiful. We've been doing our advent calendar each day, and at dinner each night we pray for the families who sent us a Christmas card that day. I LOVE traditions, and I LOVE this time of year.

But I haven't yet given a great deal of thought to Jesus' birth as much as I have these beloved traditions. Maybe I hold extra tight to tradition because I'll be 3,000 miles away from the ones who passed down those traditions to me, the ones who taught me early on that family is something precious. But as great as all these things are, Christmas isn't even about them.

Two years ago my grandparents sent a box of presents to us, and I took the presents out of the box and placed them under our tree. I was about to throw the box away when I realized it felt like something else was in there. So after another look, under a piece of cardboard in the box was a scrapbook my Grandma Eileen made of photos of me from birth until my teen years--some I'd never even seen before. She even included letters I'd written to them when I was really young. It was perfect, and it still means the world to me. Can you imagine if I'd missed out on what ended up the most valuable thing under my tree?

If I had, it still would pale in comparison to going through December with all its beauty and traditions and missing JESUS. I want to love Him more this Christmas, more than the traditions, more than family, more than anything. No idols before Him. Not even traditions that surround His birthday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Immediate Reaction to Hurt

Over Thanksgiving we were visiting family in Nashville, and we all went over to see the lights at the Opryland Hotel (amazing, by the way). I went in to use the restroom and the door to the stall swung shut pretty hard and--BAM--smashed the ever-lovin' heck out of one of my fingers. Immediately I put my hand up to try and minimize the throbbing.

So I'm standing there in a bathroom stall in the Opryland Hotel, hand raised, thinking to myself, "What is typically my immediate reaction to pain?" And I was thinking of emotional pain, like when I'm hurt, betrayed, or wronged, or even spiritual pain, like when I don't get what the Lord is up to, or when I'm disappointed that He moved things in a different direction than I had hoped.

Is it to immediately lift my hands?

Do I sulk, pout, vent to a friend, try to drum up sympathy, or do I lift my hands up to the one who formed my heart and has the power (and the desire) to bind it up and heal it?

It's been a week or two, and my finger is still a bit tender, but the pain isn't so great anymore that I need to walk around with my hand up. Even THIS speaks to me. We can rejoice in suffering because we know it produces in us a reliance on God of which we're just not as mindful when we're not hurting.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Monday, December 7, 2009

But Joy

Happiness is...

* a living room lit up only by candles, Christmas lights and a fireplace fire, and looking at it all while cuddled up with my family
* a flight booked to California
* date night with Justin
* listening to Trevor sing the "Doh-Dohdey-Oh-Doh" part to "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight"
* putting pigtails in Aila's hair and them watching them bounce around as she dances
* praying over my family
* getting booked to speak
* knowing child care is figured out for the children
* making a new friend
* a phone call to a lifelong friend
* having my quiet times by a lit up Christmas tree
* belly laughter
* loving going to church
* sleeping in
* dipping Oreos in milk
* green lights when I'm running late
* coupon savings
* warm clothes from the dryer
* getting Christmas cards and praying for each family that sends them

BUT JOY....joy. Joy is a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough. Joy is stripped down, simple, but magnificent all at the same time. Joy is abiding peace--calm in the midst of chaos--it's quiet colliding with cattle that are lowing and visitors who just felt compelled to come see the newborn king.

And joy is the steadfast knowledge that God is God, and God is good even when all of these "happiness" type things don't fall into place. There are lots of things on this list, and they're wonderful.

But joy surpasses them all. Happiness is not a given, not always readily available due to our circumstances. But joy is.

Joy to the world, the LORD has come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
and Heaven and nature sing...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Booked : )

November 22nd. I awoke with this terrible cloak of discouragement over me. Justin took Trevor downstairs for breakfast and I stayed in bed and just prayed. Normally I'm up early and downstairs, but that morning I stayed put and poured out my heart to God.

"I am so discouraged, Lord. I really believed you have called me to speak truth. But year after year after year has passed...where are the opportunities? It feels like I'm stuck in a wasteland!"

I really said these words. Especially wasteland.

I'd just hit a wall. I asked, outloud, why the Lord would SO burden my heart to proclaim truth, and yet not provide an avenue in which to do so. I had spent 2 hours the day before preparing for...well, I didn't know what. Just preparing, researching, putting in time to develop teachings that would be for, well, once again, I didn't know what. I think that's why the next morning I found myself asking, "What's this all about?" And I've been here before...a few posts back I wrote about preparing in the desert.

I opened up to Isaiah 43, which was really just where I was that morning as I've been reading through Isaiah. And I was struck by verses 19-21:

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; Don't you perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the WASTELAND.
The wild animals honor me--jackals and owls,
because I provide water in the desert and streams in the WASTELAND,
to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself
THAT THEY MAY PROCLAIM MY PRAISE."

After reading those words, I felt like I had new strength to keep going. Even in a pre-answers, pre-opportunities time, I felt ready to keep preparing once again for...whatever.

Well...ONE HOUR LATER, I was asked to speak at Cobb Vineyard Church's Women's League Kickoff event on January 22, 2010.

I am beyond grateful, beyond excited. My God WAS doing a new thing--springing up in the midst of my discouragement. Did I perceive it? No! But He was making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. I wish I had words to adequately convey my joy, my thanks. I love that He wants me to simply be in on what He is up to.

One month, twelve days to go until the kickoff. It's going to fly by. Good thing He kept prompting me to prepare--He knew what was coming!

The teaching is entitled "If I Do Not Lift My Hands to the Throne..." I'll close with the lyrics from the song that will accompany the teaching. I think the words are so very fitting:


I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned
in awe of the One who gave it all
I'll stand--my soul Lord to You surrendered

All I have is yours



Truly in awe of the One who gave it all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You're In a Battle

"No weapon that is forged against you will prevail."


Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking these words over my son. Sure, I elaborated so that it would all make sense to my four year old.


We talk a lot about how he is indwelled with the Holy Spirit since he asked Jesus to come and live in his heart. But we also talk about how there is one who is NOT our friend. I have spoken to Trevor about the enemy, Satan. And I tell him that this enemy tells us lies and wants to take things away from us. He does NOT have good plans in mind for us as our God does.


Sometimes Trevor says he wishes he could fight Satan, and I tell him that we do fight with a sword--the Word of God. And THAT is how we do battle. I tell Trevor that every time he says one of his Bible verses that he has been learning, he is doing battle against the enemy.


"No weapon that is forged against you will prevail" (Isaiah 54:17). I love this verse! Anything that comes against you, against me, against anyone who Christ indwells, WILL FAIL. It will not stand, it will not succeed, it will not prevail! Greater is He who is in us than the one who roams the earth, intending to steal, kill and destroy.


I don't just say these things to Trevor in his waking hours. We sang together last night until he fell asleep, and then I began praying that truth over my son. I really am desperate to see him walk in truth throughout his life, and to LOVE the name and renown of our Almighty God. I want his life to be all about doing damage to the devil's schemes as he proclaims the truth of the Word.
video

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Kite Pictures

When we were getting married, Justin and I went through a lot of childhood pictures for a video for our rehearsal dinner. I thought it was really cool that each of us had a "kite picture." But then I took a look at the backs of the pictures and discovered they were taken only 3 weeks apart. So in the same season with 3,000 miles between us, we were two children out flying our kites in the wind.

There's no way we could anticipate that He was ordering our steps and that our lives were being unfolded in the way they were. But exactly 20 years later, that little boy and that little girl were pledging to walk the rest of their days together.

I think sometimes we don't live in enough anticipation. And it really affects the way we live. I think if we were to get a quick glimpse of what was in store, we'd make some different decisions, walk in God-confidence, and basically LIVE ACCORDINGLY. Even then I was the future Mrs. Thea Nelson, even though I didn't know it.

If we knew the way the Lord is preparing us now for future blessings and future glories, what would it change? Neither Justin nor I knew what God was up to back then...BUT HE WAS NO LESS UP TO IT! And sometimes just because we don't have things laid bare before our eyes, we assume nothing's in the works. Not true!

So now I consider that you and I are the future ______________________ (something to be determined), but whatever it is, I know it is for His glory and the renown of His name. And just because the evidence is not yet before our eyes does not mean it's not in the works.

Will I live accordingly? Will you?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When It Feels Like a Waste

Ever feel like what you're doing is just a waste?

Let me paint you a picture. Feel free to fill in the blanks with your own situation.

So basically Isaiah is chattin' it up with God in Isaiah 49.

God says, "You are my servant, and you will bring Me glory."

But Isaiah replies, “But my work for them seems so useless--like it's all in vain!
I have spent my strength for them without response. Feels like it's for nothing and to no purpose. It's all a WASTE."

Sound familiar? In Isaiah's case, it was all about the fact that he was laboring on Jerusalem's behalf and seeing nothing come from it.

What is it in your case? What's that thing that feels utterly useless?

Your time poured into a ministry?
Your hours spent building into the lives of your children?
Your efforts in your marriage?
Your prayers for the one who really needs them but refuses to recognize it?

Ultimately, though, even in the midst of what feels like wasted time Isaiah says, "Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand;
I will trust God for my reward.”

And God Almighty replies,

“At just the right time, I will respond to you.

And I will make My mountains into level paths for them.

I WILL comfort you and have compassion on you in your suffering.

You say I've deserted you and forgotten you. Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your (YOUR, reader!) name on the palms of My hands. Always in My mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins (i.e. your walls, your circumstances, what you're going through--it is EVER BEFORE MY EYES).


And the bottom line is this: Those who trust in Me will never be put to shame--those who hope in Me WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED (that means YOU, you person reading this blog right now. When you have trusted ME for the outcome, your trust is not misplaced).”


So you seemingly have nothing to show for your labors. Your efforts seem to yield no fruit--I mean, zip, nada, nothing--or maybe just far too little fruit for your liking. It's frustrating, I know.

But today we can claim truth over it all. We can love and serve confidently, knowing our walls are ever before Him--He sees it all--HE KNOWS.

So what's that thing that FEELS like a waste--a waste of your time, your efforts, and probably most importantly--YOUR HEART?

It is not a waste. It is NOT a waste. IT IS NOT A WASTE! Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. "Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Rorry."

Lately my tiny Aila has been doing things that warrant an apology. Nothing too terrible, but an "I'm sorry" is in order.

And when she apologizes, it comes out, "Rorry." So when she smacks her brother (who, between you and me and the deep blue sea, just might have had it coming), she gives him a hug, a gentle touch, and has to tell him she's "rorry."

It happened this morning, even. Hit. Hug. Gentle touch. And "Rorry."

In those moments, I want to scoop her up and give her a million kisses, because there is something so precious to me when I get glimpses of her contrite heart. Even when she has to have a quick time out, she melts into me in a new way when it's over. My heart is tendered toward my children when they hurt over something they've done (in their own 2-year old and 4-year old way). I think it's appropriate, whether we're young or old, to be grieved by our own sin, and to come to the Lord in apology -- where He will surely welcome us.

Makes me think of Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

He welcomes us warmly when we come in confession and contrition. We are not met with an angry hand, but with open arms. And when I as His daughter return to Him, with love He receives me when I come to say I'm "rorry."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Hands in the Trash Can

This morning I was holding my favorite pair of earrings as I leaned over the trash can. And thanks to my "spoiler alert" title of this post, I'm sure you can guess what happened...

For those not so quick on the uptake, I dropped one of my earrings right into the trash can.

Unfotunately, the trash was pretty full, and the earring was pretty tiny. So dooooown it went.

Had I not loved this pair of earrings, I would have just let it go. I mean, all kinds of fun stuff was in that trash can. Egg shells, and the dirt emptied from the vacuum cleaner, to name a few. It was gross. But thankfully, after some digging, I retrieved my earring and washed it off. A couple of times.

A far deeper loved motivated my Jesus to go "dumpster diving" for me several years ago. My life was in a pit of sin--I was wearing the muck and the mire of my depravity. And yet I was worth it to Him, and He went in for me and pulled me out. He made me clean--white as snow, in fact. Covered in righteousness where filth had once been.

"He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion" (Psalm 103). Beautiful!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Within Boundaries

We've discovered something new about our new dog Jack. We can open up the door and he'll run out, do his business, and come back in.

UNLEASHED!!!!
This is foreign to us! Our last two dogs were total escape artists. If we were to ever try that with them, they'd be halfway to the Dakotas within the hour. We always had to keep them on a leash if they were outside at all.

I was kind of mulling this over this morning. Even though Davey and Sadie were constantly running away, I loved them so much. And I don't love Jack any more than I loved Davey and Sadie just because he stays within the boundaries. But I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that he does. I mean, I am just ecstatic to see that little doggy running around the yard, all the while staying within the boundary lines.

God's love is for those who are constantly crossing the lines just as much as it is for those who stay within them. But how it PLEASES Him when we walk within the way He has established for us. Psalm 16:6 says, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." His boundaries are good. They preserve my life.

There are lots of days when I don't even want to cross the boundary lines He has established. I recognize them as pleasing. But then there are other days when I just don't feel like being "confined." And on those days I'll wish I didn't want to cross them, but I do. Lord, where I want to cross the boundary lines, let me desire to do what pleases You more. I know You love me regardless, but I want to obey. So please strengthen me to trust that You have loved me so much that you set up boundary lines for me in pleasant places, and have prepared for me a delightful inheritance. And I know that to believe I'm being confined and constricted is a lie, because true freedom is only found within the boundaries You have established. "I RUN in the paths of Your commands, for You have set my heart free" (Ps. 119:32).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Poverty and Scarcity

This week it's come to my mind more than once (okay, several times) how I used to sleep soundly through the night and sleep in (until about 7-ish) most mornings. "Used to" is the operative phrase here. But not lately. No, lately the Word has been beckoning me at the most ridiculous hours. Yesterday at 3am I just had to know what the Bible says about being sustained (see two posts down from this one). I could not wait until morning to learn what it says about the way God upholds us. And while it's not always at crazy hours, I'm still usually beckoned out of bed a little earlier than I'd like to be conscious. But it's a hunger that pulls me out from under my comfy covers, excited to encounter what the Lord has prepared for me to come across in those pages. It's like I cannot wait for the collision between my heart and the truth I know awaits me.

So as I've kept thinking these past few days about the sleep I've lost, a passage from Proverbs ran through my mind. I knew it word for word but didn't know the reference--and that's the cool thing about being in the Word--it was just one of those verses I've read enough times that it was being embedded deeper into me each time I did, even though it's never jumped out at me until now. Well, after a bit of searching, I found the words in Proverbs 24. Verses 33 and 34 say:

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come on you like a bandit, and scarcity like an armed man."

To me, this has always meant that a lazy man will be without. But this morning the Lord spoke to me about all the times when I did sleep through what should have been my quiet times and said,

"Those days were marked by poverty and scarcity....

Poverty of spirit. And scarcity of fruit."

Wow. I mean, wow. What a terrible shame! But I have to look at it from the flip side...So if the opposite is true now--if my life is now marked by wealth of spirit and abundance of fruit, then it seems that giving up a few zzzzz's is hardly too high a price to pay.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Podcasts!

A few more podcasts have been added -- Click HERE to listen!

The most recent podcasts are:

Jodianne Adams - Treasure Map / Putting it Back in the Box
Rae Cook - Spiral of Simple Obedience
Thea Nelson - No Flame for the Candles

Blessings!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sustained

Recently a friend asked for prayer that she will be sustained. So last night I woke up in the night and began praying for her, and as I prayed I felt the Lord revealing.

It seemed He was saying, "I already AM sustaining her."

Then he gave me a mental image of a woman in a boat out in the middle of the ocean. She was frantically moving arms and legs in a swimming motion. Someone else in the boat asked, "What are you doing?" And she replied, "I'm out in the middle of the ocean--I have to swim or I'll sink!" Her friend says, "Right, I get that--but we're in a boat. The boat is holding us up and keeping us from sinking."
It really spoke to me. In the midst of vast oceans in which we could so easily fear slipping under, we need not fear. He is under us, around us, over us and within us. He is sustaining us. He is that boat we're in out in the middle of the water. No need to frantically flail about--He is holding us up.

I felt prompted to pray differently--not that He WILL sustain her, but more that His sweet sustenance, which is already in full effect in my friend's life, would be undeniable and more than evident to her in all her ways--that she will stand in God-confidence knowing He upholds her cause.

"So do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will UPHOLD you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10


Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who SUSTAINS me.
Psalm 54:4

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That is Some Seriously Strong Breath

No, I'm not talking about that person in your office who seriously needs a Tic-Tac.

In my quiet times I've begun to notice a recurring theme about the power that is in the breath of God.

It is spoken of OVER and OVER throughout the Bible.

So what does it matter? Well, this is the powerful breath that BREATHED life into you, His creation, so that you may live. It's the same breath that BREATHED all Scripture, making it powerful enough to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. And it's the same power we find in Christ BREATHING His last so that you and I may live.

But there's more...
* At the blast of his BREATH, they are destroyed (Job 4:9).
* By His BREATH the skies became fair (Job 26:13).
* The BREATH of the Almighty gives understanding (Job 32:8).
* The BREATH of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).
* His BREATH produces ice (Job 37:10)
* His BREATH sets coals ablaze (Job 41:21)
* Valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth are laid bare at the blast of BREATH from His nostrils (Psalm 18:15).
* The starry hosts were made by the BREATH of His mouth (Psalm 33:6).
* With the BREATH of His lips He will slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).
* His BREATH is like a rushing torrent (Isaiah 30:28).
* The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the BREATH of the Lord blows on them (Isaiah 40:7).


Now that is some seriously strong breath.

Let everything that has BREATH praise the Lord.
Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

I really don't like red lights. Okay, so maybe it isn't so much the light that bugs me, but more the fact that I don't like being told, "Nope, not your turn. Can't go now. Gotta wait."



Today I left North Star's communion and prayer time--an AWESOME time in the middle of the day to meet with the Lord--and was running a couple of minutes behind as I headed to a meeting. "Come on, Lord--I need some green lights here," I prayed. So I came to an intersection, only to get stopped at a red light. I furrowed my brow and waited for the light to turn.

So I kept driving and came up on the next intersection. A green light! And the next intersection--also a green light! Things were looking up. And do you know that I drove the rest of the drive there--almost 6 more miles and at least 8 more stoplights--with nothing but green lights? I made it to where I was going in record time!

I pulled into the parking lot and headed in for my meeting, all the while marveling that I had hit every green light except the first one. And in that moment I realized that the annoying red light I'd encountered had actually set the pace for me to hit all the rest of the lights when they were green!

I've come to a red light or two in my life, and I've usually gotten annoyed at having to wait, having to stop, having my pace interrupted, having to just be okay with the fact that it's just not my time and not my turn. But each and every red light has made a way for me to hit green ones at just the right time further down the road.

So the next time I get frustrated at the red lights, I need to remember that THE LORD ORDERS MY STEPS. And every "stop" prepares the way for every "go."

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Tenacious, Ginormous Spider

The mother of all spiders has been hanging out on my sliding glass door for weeks now. He's nothing short of huge...and tenacious as all get-out.


I first posted about him on our family blog a few weeks ago. Here he is (this is the back of him):

I feel like I'm learning a thing or two from this spider (or mini-tarantula). Every time we open the sliding glass door, the web is torn. Every time it rains, it knocks the whole thing down. But over, and over, and over again, that spider keeps spinning the most magnificent webs. If one gets destroyed, he's back at it again, and in no time we've got another masterpiece in the doorway.

I've been a bit of a "One and Done" kind of girl in the past--like I don't do very well getting back up on the horse when I get knocked off. But I'm trying to grow in this. Maybe I just need to learn a lesson from that tenacious, ginormous spider on my back door.


In the Desert...Prepare

Isaiah 40:3

In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;

make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.


I've been sort of chewing on this verse this morning. I think because the way the verse looks in my Bible is just like how it is above--and the line "In the desert prepare" was one line that almost seemed to jump out at me. And while I don't think it's a good idea to pull Scripture out of context, it was as though the Lord really wanted me to consider these words this morning.

In the middle of the desert, prepare the way for the Lord. Clear a way (how it says it in the Hebrew) for our God.

This is a bit of a desert time right now. And I have felt an urging of the Spirit to just keep preparing. I even had a conversation about this very thing last week--I just know this is a time to be preparing so that when the Lord says, "Here we go," I'll be ready.

But it's not just about preparing physical things--it's a heart thing, too. And I love how we're called to "clear the way" for our God. So in my heart, what needs to clear out? Search me, O God, and know my heart-test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way ever-lasting--keep me from the path of temporal things and lead me along of path of things that with last FOREVER.

So can you relate to the whole "desert" thing? Maybe you're walking the wilderness, too. I really think that all we need to do is be faithful in what He has called us to do today, and in doing so, you are, and I am, preparing the way.

For the LORD!

How cool is that?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Won't Back Down

I never thought I would find myself deep in worship during a Tom Petty song, but it happened this week.

The closing song at church on Sunday was "Won't Back Down." I've heard it a million times before, but this time I heard it anew:

Well, I won't back down
No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
but I won't back down

I bet Tom Petty never imagined that his song would have some girl ready to stand up with arms raised. I didn't, but everything in my spirit responded when I heard those words. I had been feeling a bit discouraged in ministry this week and found myself questioning my call a bit. "Toss in the towel" has come to mind a time or two this week--After all, right now is a season of preparation for things to come, but when the "things to come" are unseen, it's easy to cease praying, cease preparing, and back right on down.

But I can't back down, and I won't back down. Too much is at stake. And as for discouragement in my calling? Well, all I can say is that GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD. So you can stand me up at the gates of hell and I won't back down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How I Know it Wasn't Poison Ivy

This morning I had an allergic reaction in my eye and told Trevor I needed to go get my eye drops since my eye was itchy. He said, "I think it's poison ivy." I told him I didn't think so, but he was convinced that was what I had going on. Finally I said, "I know it's not poison ivy because the only way to be affected by poison ivy is to be in it."

And in that moment I thought, "And so it is with the Word of God."

I'm not going to show a reaction to being in the Word if I haven't cracked open my Bible in days or weeks. I'm not going to be affected by truth if I haven't been exposed to it. The only way to get truth on me is to be in it.

There was no risk of having poison ivy--I was nowhere near it. But neither is there a hope of being transformed by the Word unless I am exposed to it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A New Start at 42,000

On Saturday night I attended Ruby Berry's 60th birthday party. It was amazing to see this woman who spends her life pouring out love onto others, surrounded by the people who have been blessed by her faithfulness. And there were lots of people who had known her for years, who have done life with her, who shared stories of living and serving and growing in Christ together with her. It really impacted me and moved me to tears...
...not all happy ones.
You see, the Lord first gave me a glimpse of it in the Bible study I'm doing (The Search for Significance)--the fact that I AM GUARDED here. To a fault. Sure, I love. A lot. I care about the people around me here. But the past two or three weeks it's become (even painfully) obvious that I have a wall up living here in Georgia.

In California, I think I was pretty much wall-less. Born, raised, happy there. When Justin and I moved, it was certainly out of a "need to" rather than a "want to." And God's hand was very much in it--but sometimes God's leadings leave us kicking and screaming a bit, and that was how it was. And so even though God's compassions and provisions were evident on a daily basis here, I have come to realize that I have never let myself truly, truly be all here in my heart.
Even more than SIX YEARS LATER.

Another factor is that I am held back by fear of rejection. My first year at Mount Paran, I asked another teacher if she and her fiance' would like to come over for dinner. She didn't respond, changed the subject, and even seemed to avoid me for a bit. Later, I discovered that she had about a billion friends already, so I tried not to take it too personally that she didn't need one more. But all I wanted was ONE. And it hurt me very, very much, and set up how I would approach future interactions. Or, avoid them altogether, should I say.

I cried the whole way home from Ruby's party. All I could think was how Ruby has loved and opened herself up and been vulnerable, and the fruit of her faithfulness was all over that room. Jam-packed into that room! And yet while I do love and try to show love to those around me here, and I do try to be honest and real, I go out of my way to avoid any scenario in which I could be rejected. I don't call people up and ask to go to coffee or hang out very much, or like EVER. In a group setting, I'm fine. But one-on-one I'm just so gosh-darn scared of being rejected that I don't reach out to people. What do I have to show for six years here? Knowing that I haven't really tried, simply because it didn't go over so well the first time I did. I love Justin, Trevor and Aila with reckless abandon. I am lavish and unreserved in it. And while I genuinely care deeply for the people here, I can guarantee that if you don't live in this house or out in California, I have only been so willing to let you in. I'll happily love you, but won't go so far as to let you get close enough to hurt me. And it's terrible, tragic, and a waste.

So as I drove and cried and prayed, fully realizing the need for a change, for a tearing down of that wall I've so carefully constructed, I noticed that my odometer was at 41,999. The end of something. I pulled over and took a picture. Then when it hit 42,000, the beginning of something new, I took another picture. Kind of a visual to represent the end of this guarded season of my life and the beginning of sticking my neck out there. The start of taking risks. The commencement of a life that's more vulnerable, more susceptible, more real, more capable of giving and receiving love in this great state of Georgia.
Looks like we'll be here for awhile, so I want to be all here.


I don't know who reads this. But if you're someone with whom I've been guarded, I hope you can forgive me and be patient with me as I try to do things differently in His strength.

Guess I'm starting over at 42,000.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stolen

Stolen from both our cars Friday night:

Some cash
GPS charger
Debit card

Left:

The actual GPS (good one, guys--but I'm thankful for your blunder here)
My driver's license (phew--saved me the trip to the DMV)
Checks (Maybe they weren't Red Sox fans)
The new teaching I've been developing (should I be hurt they left this behind?)
An atrocious mess of the contents of my purse strewn about the car

I'm sure you're thinking, "WHY was your purse in the car overnight?" Well, I had a lot to carry when we got home late Friday afternoon and I intended to go back out to the car and get my purse. And then I forgot. Truth be told, I've done this before and nothing bad ever happened. Also, I didn't lock the car, but I don't think that would've deterred the thieves because they picked the lock on Justin's car and got in.

It's just a different world we're living in. And I am realizing the mundane AND spiritual implications of
GUARDING WHAT IS VALUABLE. This world has thieves--people who will take what's yours without batting an eyelash, and will leave you picking up the pieces. But there is also a thief who roams about the earth, looking to sneak in and rob us blind. Rob us of our influence, our ministry opportunities, our marriages, our families, our ability to see God for who He is.

By leaving my purse in the car AND leaving it unlocked, I was practically begging to be robbed, and that's exactly what happened. But in what ways do we leave ourselves WIDE OPEN to be robbed of what is precious by the enemy of this world--the one who sets it all up, executes it, and then walks away to leave us with a terrible mess?

Hmmm. It's just gotten me thinking.

PRAISE GOD for the truth of John 10:10. I mean it--PRAISE GOD!

"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy,
but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Open-Handed

"God honors an open-handed approach to ministry. If our main goal is to grow ourselves, this will be hard. But if our main desire is to grow God's kingdom, we will be fine with seeing some opportunities as meant for others. I don't want assignments that might be better suited for others."

Lysa TerKeurst (Excerpt from The Reason We Speak by Mary Beth Whalen)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Push Me Forward

This morning I was breaking down Nehemiah 1:11, and I loved the beautiful words of truth that were uncovered:

"O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servants who DELIGHT in REVERING Your name. Give your servant SUCCESS today by granting him FAVOR in the presence of this man" (NIV).

Other words for DELIGHT in other translations: Delight, desire, want to
Other words for REVERING in other translations: To worship, to fear
Other words for SUCCESS in other translations: Give help to, prosper your servant
Other words for FAVOR in other translations: Mercies, compassions

I wanted to know what some of these words meant in the Hebrew, so I checked them out using the Strongs numbers:

DELIGHT (chapets): delights in, desires, takes pleasure in, willing
FEAR/REVERE the NAME (yare' shem): fear and reverence His fame and renown
SUCCESS/PROSPER (tsalach): TO PUSH FORWARD.
FAVOR/MERCY (racham): Compassions, tender love, great mercy


So Lord, I pray for "success" today AS YOU DEFINE IT--that You may push Your servant forward in bringing reverence to your fame and renown. Please let your favor--your compassions, your tender love, and your great mercy surround me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Covering Over Our Home


Long story short, our little mini-flood required a bathroom re-paint. So as I went along, I painted Scripture references on the wall. I really love having the Word of God around our home. I'm not superstitious, but when we were house-hunting, any sort of idol in a home was a deal-breaker. And on the contrary, I felt such a peace in this one home--this itty bitty, otherwise unimpressive home--but then I saw that the Word of God was tucked away all around the house. That didn't end up being THE home for us, but the one that was, I want to fill with truth.

I want His Word in our home, around our home, being read and spoken and LIVED in our home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In The Morning When I Rise

I am really loving my mornings these days. I sneak downstairs and read Isaiah by candlelight, and it's been awesome. And while Isaiah has, at times, been one bear of a read (it's a lot of judgment in the first 40 chapters and then redemption after that, but I'm only on chapter 32 now), it is one of the most densely-packed-with-truth-to-chew-on books of the Bible I have ever read!

I'll be honest--I haven't always been so eager to spring out of bed, even to encounter truth. Most days it's something I really look forward to, now that it's a habit. It was downright difficult at first. And even now it's still occasionally a stretch for me to pull myself out of bed. But it has been SO GOOD. Makes me wonder what I've missed all those days I slept through my quiet time. Now I feel like I don't want to go through a day without covering my mind and heart in His Word, but I have gone through many, many a day that way. Uncovered.

Lord, thank You for hemming me in each morning with Your Word. I really, seriously, absolutely desperately need it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Teaching

Yesterday's teaching at Cobb Vineyard Church...it went well! No anxiety, just peace. Totally His faithfulness. One thing I've felt strongly is that there is no point in speaking truth if it will soon be forgotten--so I was SO thankful that the comment I heard more than anything was that they would remember what they'd heard. Praise God! Life change comes about when truth sticks. I love it!

Thanks for the prayers!

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Hour Out

Getting ready to head over to Cobb Vineyard Church to share "Does God See?" Last night I had an awesome time of reading through some of Jeremiah and the call on his life to speak, then I drove and prayed, practiced, and then just had a time of worship.

I feel ready.

Thank You, Lord--we can all speak the words Hagar proclaimed in Genesis 16: You indeed are the God who sees me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

36 Hours Out

It's Saturday night, 10:02pm. On Monday morning at 10am I'll be doing a 15-minute teaching for a small group of women at Cobb Vineyard Church--it's sort of a trial run to see how I do before an audience. Lots of praying and practicing and praying some more...and it's nearly here now.

So grateful for this opportunity to go speak truth!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Consequence...Seriously?

A few days after "flood day" I was driving home from the store and found a ROAD CLOSED sign off to the side on the road I was on. I hesitated--should I go? Just then, a Fed*Ex truck zoomed past me down the road. "Good enough," I thought, but I proceeded carefully, looking ahead to see if there was any water in the road.

There wasn't any. Not a drop. As a matter of fact, it hadn't rained in two days.

The Fed*Ex truck turned into a subdivision, and I kept going...

...right into a COP TRAP. AAAAAAAAAAAh!!

I've been pulled over before...Never cried once. But this time, I was straight up into the ugly cry and could. not. pull. it. together. I'm sure the guy thought I was trying to get out of the ticket, but I was genuinely REALLY upset, REALLY mad at myself.

So did my tears change anything? Nope. I still got my big fat stinkin' $130 ticket that I am taking on extra work to pay off. But here's the thing--I honestly thought I was not really going to get that ticket. I thought my justifications for heading down that road were totally legitimate...
* I thought maybe they hadn't picked up all the ROAD CLOSED signs after the flooding
* there was NO water anywhere
* the road looked fine as far as I could see
* the sign was off to the side
* I just followed the Fed*Ex truck...

...but so what? The sign said ROAD CLOSED. Enough said. I should not have been driving down that road. I drove right past the sign that told me to stay away. I wish I had followed that instruction. I didn't, and I am paying (literally) dearly for it.

After being handed my ticket, I headed back to where I came and found another car heading down the same path I had just taken--a path that led to consequence. I flagged the driver down and urged, "Turn around! Don't go this way!" That driver listened to me, turned around, and headed away from the consequence.

Smart guy. Wish I'd been so smart.

I get it, Lord. Thank You for calling me to obedience. I don't want to sin so that grace can abound, I want to obey. I really do. None of this "Oh, I thought this was a gray area" or "But I know You'll forgive me." Only obedience. And just because I don't always get why it's so important for me to heed the warning, still you say, "Obey." Enough said.

Thank you that you discipline those You love. Thank you for calling me to something deeper than excuses and countless ways to justify my sin. Thank you for correcting me--though it hurts, though it is not pleasant in the least, I am thankful that I'm justified by your death and resurrection. I know You love me.


"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but instead is painful (Preach it!!!). But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace for those who are trained by it." Hebrews 12: 11

P.S. Recently I saw the other entrance to Nance Road, the road on which I got my ticket. When I saw the mess on the other side, it struck fear in my heart. Let's just say that from where I actually was on that forbidden road, I couldn't see it, but I was headed for danger. I was actually quite fortunate that police officer was there to intercept me and turn me around toward safety.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And Like a Flood...

On Sunday, September 21st we sang these words in church:

"And like a flood, His mercy rains--unending love, amazing grace."

I was standing there singing these words and thought of how a severe flood requires the old to go and the new to come. New carpet, new drywall, sometimes new everything. And it struck me that HIS MERCY has the same effect on us--in light of His incomprehensible mercy, the old has to go and the new comes in.

It poured that day. Seemed just like one REALLY rainy day.

But by the next day there was widespread flooding--roads and schools closed--chaos.

A house across from Trevor's school (right around the corner from us) flooded and caught fire, leaving the family with nothing. So very many people are having to start over from nothing, We were okay--no flooding at our place. We were really grateful, but brokenhearted for those who weren't so fortunate.

Then came Thursday.

That evening we ran a quick errand together as a family--we weren't gone more than 15 minutes. But we returned home to our own mini-flood. Water was rapidly pouring out of the upstairs toilet (the tank had a HUGE crack in it...HUH?!? and it kept filling up and spilling out)--and as quickly as we moved to get all the water up, there were several leak spots all over our ceiling downstairs. We'll likely need to replace the flooring up there, all due to water run amock.

Makes me think of mercy run amock in my life. God's love and grace--they rush in and command a change in me. Selfishness is torn out and replaced with love. My apathetic heart is exchanged for one filled with compassion. His kindness leads me to repentance.

It's all over the news--floods can be utterly devastating in the worst way. But how thankful I am for the flood of His mercy that devastates my purposes and plans and makes a way for His--the rush of His grace that prepares the way for all things new.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Podcast!!!

This has all been a few months in the making--but they're here!!

The Women's League Speakers' Bureau podcasts!

Click HERE to listen to a short online devotion. It'll only take 3 minutes of your time!

Jodi's is "A Moment." Mine is "Where Your Eyes Rest" (added today). Rae's podcast will be added next Monday. Then each Monday, a new one will be added.

Blessings! Thanks for listening!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Under My Feet

One of my favorite songs is "Shadowfeet" by Brooke Fraser (if you've visited our family blog, it was on the playlist until recently). The line that is really speaking to me today is:

"EVERY FEAR AND ACCUSATION UNDER MY FEET
When time and space are through, I'll be found in You."


The past week or two I have been dealing with accusations.

Unsubstantiated ones.

And anyone who knows me knows that I am wired to tread lightly and that I do not try to tick people off. In fact, I err on the side of really, really, really trying NOT to tick people off. To a fault. So when it has come my way more than once in the last two weeks that misunderstandings have led to me getting lashed out at by those who do not know me, it has really burned. And while I desire to have a teachable heart and have been trying to evaluate these situations and consider if I need to own any of it, ultimately I've been brought back to who the accuser is. And boy, does he make me mad.

I think back to when I was pulled over by a police officer who seemed pretty nervous approaching my vehicle. Once he was at my door, he proceeded to accuse me of driving a stolen car.

Oh, yeah. That's JUST like me to do something like that.

He wasn't even the least bit nice about it. And by the end of his tirade I was ready to ask for the guy's badge number (but didn't, in keeping with the whole "don't-like-to-tick-people-off" thing).

Somehow I was able to convince the guy I wasn't some felon on the run (though I really give off that vibe, I know) and was on my way, but there was something about being falsely accused that did not sit well with me.

Nor does it now. Prayerfully the Lord has really brought me to the peace that I am not to own these unmerited accusations--by strangers--those who do not know my heart.

But I praise the One who sees my heart--the One in whom I am found.

He is my DEFENDER. He is my ADVOCATE. He speaks on my BEHALF. He's my MEDIATOR. And because of His victory over sin and death, and because I am, by His grace, found in Him, these fears and accusations are UNDER MY FEET in the strong and mighty name of JESUS.

And so I say to the accuser, you may have struck the heel of my Jesus. But He has crushed your head (Genesis 3:15). You are under His feet.

And your accusations are under mine.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What's This For?

Exodus 17. I've read it many a time--it's always been a fave. But this time through reading it with our small group a few weeks back, I saw the passage with new eyes, and it has really been life-changing. And THEN in the weeks since, the Lord has been adding to it and unpacking that passage more and more, and really, really shedding some light on some things.

Sorry to be vague. It's just that I don't yet know what this is all about, and I need to pray it through. But it seems that there just may be a time to get very UN-vague about this.

Can I just say that my God really just blows me away? He WANTS to make mysteries known to us, I am believing that more and more as I meet with Him daily. He is faithful to illuminate things in our hearts and connect the dots in the coolest ways!

Praying He will provide the opportunity of His choosing--a time to be un-vague. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Here Again

I've been here before. Like when Justin and I first said to each other, "You're the one." Like when I saw positive pregnancy tests for my kids.

When I say "here" I mean that place of a hope being fulfilled. A dream becoming a reality. A vision coming to pass. And a wait ending.

It was back in 1996 when the Lord first spoke into my life about communicating His truth. A woman told me she thought the Lord had weighted my words, so to speak, that my words would be used to bring about healing in peoples' lives.

I won't lie, I kind of thought she was crazy.

Then nothing more until summer of 1999, when at the end of one of the very toughest days of my life, I was asked to speak at the Mount Hermon End of Summer banquet. And God seemed to use the words He'd given me to say...

...But then more waiting. More silence. More "What is this about, Lord?"

Then two writers' conferences, both with great promise. At the first, I was asked to write an article for a Christianity Today publication, but that ended up getting scrapped a few months after I returned home. At the second, Bethany House wanted a book proposal from me, and an agent wanted some of my work to review. In the end, even though both were very complimentary of the work I'd sent in, both said it came down to one thing: "Nobody knows you." I had my foot in the door twice, and then lost it without really feeling I could have done anything differently to prevent it.

So, more waiting. More silence. More "What is this about, Lord?"

Fast forward to March 9, 2009. I had lunch with a really remarkable woman--a visionary, for sure. And in the months since then, opportunities have begun to unfold. Opportunities I never could have imagined...

...and you know what was funny? That very day I had a very important quiet time. I was going through Beth Moore's "Believing God" and read about how many people didn't "GET" Noah's calling. Made me think of how people assume I'm supposed to do this, that, or the other thing career-wise, because that's what seems to work on paper. Noah building the ark for years before the rain came--that didn't exactly "work on paper," but it was the calling on his life. I also read of Joshua's army who walked around Jericho--SILENT--for 6 days. And walking around a city looking like a bunch of crazies didn't exactly "work on paper" either. But it was what the Lord had established for Joshua. But on the 7th day, it was time to open his mouth and shout.

I've understood years of silence--long stretches of "It's not time to open your mouth yet." But there was something about that morning--and then all that came out of that day that just seemed to say, "You're starting the seventh lap. Get ready to open your mouth."

I was recently just sitting silent as I listened to some of the opportunities that I just might get to be a part of in the time to come. I had no words. I just sat motionless, wordless as tears streamed down my cheeks...

...for I am in that place once again. And when I say "here," I mean that place of a hope being fulfilled. A dream becoming a reality. A vision coming to pass. And a wait ending.

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, August 14, 2009

FINALLY...a She Speaks recap!

I am finally getting around to writing about the phenomenal weekend that was SHE SPEAKS.
* Fair warning here--this may only be interesting to my parents and grandparents. But here's how it went:

Oh, and a few posts back I wrote that no matter what was to come, those ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS moments I shared with Justin, Trevor and Aila the night before the conference started are ones that I will never forget. I mean it--it all brought tears to my eyes. THEY ARE MY FIRST MINISTRY and I can't even express the joy I had spending that time together with them.

THE SWEETEST MOMENT OF THE WEEKEND:

When the conference wrapped up, there were several women waiting in the lobby for rides, airport shuttles, etc. when Justin and the kids came down the hall to get me. I was reading when I heard Aila's voice waaaay down the hall shouting, "MAMA!" and I turned to see them all running toward me. I won't even apologize for it, but we all made quite a scene in that hallway--the kids PLOWED into me and we were rolling on the floor (all dressed up still) and laughing belly laughs. I looked around and saw several women watching us--crying and smiling. To the end of my days I am going to remember that moment as one of my sweetest. :)

First, the Lord did a LOT of speaking. Seems like it should have been called "HE Speaks!!" He really spoke to my heart through his Word and during my prayer times--it was SO MUCH good stuff that I have to give the nutshell version--it really came down to two main points. Seems strange to simplify them to these two points, but this could take all the live-long day if I don't:

1. Doesn't matter about my inabilities. He has established me as a planting of the Lord to display His splendor. And though I am small, he still has chosen me to display His glory and splendor, which is ANYTHING BUT SMALL.

2. I also felt Him calling me to a deeper level of repentance and righteousness. Just sort of like, "Okay, Thea. This is where we're headed--turning away from anything that has a hold on you, and forging on to something so much deeper, more challenging, and sweeter. Are you coming?"


Okay, so on to the conference. We opened with the advanced marketing track, which was really interesting and gave me a lot of good insight into things for the future--websites, newsletters, marketing, etc. I won't lie, I was a little bit like a deer in the headlights with everyone asking things like "Now, how do I connect my blog that has 3,000 visitors a day with my website?" Not exactly anything I am dealing with at this point. I had a bit of a freak-out morning shortly before the marketing track began in which I asked "Am I really supposed to be here?" and God answered "Absolutely." Needless to say, that's the nutshell version of that conversation. But it was good to really be built up right before going into the sessions where people were talking websites, bio sheets and marketing for more bookings--otherwise I think I would have REALLY felt like a fish out of water. But it was SUCH good info, and hopefully things I'll be implementing in the not too distant future, I pray!

Another moment that REALLY hit me is one that may not have even registered with anyone else, because it was spoken in passing, but OH how it hit me: Lysa Terkeurst, president of Proverbs 31 ministries, said she went and spoke to a group of women at a church, and when she finished there was a standing ovation, applause and praise. Yay for Lysa! But then her marketing guy called the church 6 months later and asked how the women and the women's ministry was better off or had grown of changed because Lysa had been there. Well, pretty much nothing had changed. When I heard that, it totally HIT ME LIKE A TRUCK. I mean, why waste anyone's time if LIFE CHANGE is not the end result? I know GOD is the one to change hearts. But just like Andy Stanley emphatically says, if they don't remember it 5 minutes after they walk out the door, how can that truth really begin to bring about a change in their lives? SO TRUE. I really feel that burden as I've been putting together talks. If there is no take-away, then it's back to the drawing board. People need to know how truth can TRANSFORM. I even came up with a tagline based on THIS VERY THING.


NOW...ON TO THE EVALUATIONS!!

Speaker Evaluation Group -- FRIDAY

This was the night for my 3-minute testimony. As I was ready to get up and speak, I all of a sudden got VERY nervous. I've been fine standing up in front of 300 people to share, but there was something about standing up in front of 12 other speakers with CLIPBOARDS that terrified the ever-loving heck out of me! Not to mention that it is my story--my life--and a difficult although redemption-filled snapshot of my life. I knew I was visibly nervous, which made me even more nervous! Other than the nerves, it seemed to go fine. I received the following feedback:

First, the POLISHING POINTS (things to work on):

3 people gave polishing points.
"You seemed a little nervous."
"I could tell you were a little nervous, that's all."
"You did NOT need to be nervous!"


And then there were thankfully many PRAISE POINTS (I'll share just a few):

"Felt like you were very warm and connected."
"Great passion with a powerful story to tell."
"Very memorable."
"You are a gifted communicator."
"Gripping from the start."
"You connected with your audience."
"Keep doing exactly what you're doing."


Speaker Evaluation Group -- SATURDAY

This was the night to share "God Stretch (Oil & Flour, Fish & Loaves)" which was my 5-minute Biblical teaching. After Friday night's "NERVE-FEST 2009" I spent a lot of time praying. I was frustrated because it felt like my nerves got in the way--so I prayed that the Lord would really strengthen me to speak His truth!

Well, what a difference. IN HIS STRENGTH, I walked up completely calm, moved the podium out of the way since I just really felt I did not even need the notes near me, and then IN HIS STRENGTH I spoke. It felt like it just couldn't have gone better!

First, POLISHING POINTS:

There was just one this time: "Watch the shade of lipstick you wear." Hmmm. Okay, that's one to think about, since it's the lipstick I wear EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! So... mental note--go get a color consultation at the mall. Noted!

And then the PRAISE POINTS -- again, I will put just a few:

"The best tithing message I've heard--and I've heard a few!"
"You are so genuine."
"You are a wonderful teacher."
"Girl! What are you doing in BEGINNING speaking?"
"You have a fabulous stage presence."
"What a great, needed message from the heart."
"You were so awesome! I see God's Holy Spirit pouring through you! It was truly amazing to listen to you teach God's Word. Please continue to use this speaking ability for God's kingdom."

And, HALLELUJAH after Friday night's Nerve-fest, it was good to read "You seemed very relaxed." Thank you, Heavenly Father! It was ALL YOU!!!


The weekend was really an awesome time to get to know Jodi, who is a gifted teacher of the Word, the one who is leading the podcast team, and is just an all-around FUN gal. I love that she loves "The Office" too. It was just really neat to get to talk through this passion we share to speak in His name. Also, I got to spend a bit of time talking and praying with Rae, also on the podcast team. And then Christy, an awesome woman who I met prior to She Speaks (and she ended up in my evaluation group)! So many phenomenal women.

Another really big highlight was spending time in the PRAYER ROOM. They had a room set up for women to just go in and pray. It was just awesome to be in there. And they had several names of God on pieces of paper on tables around the room, like El Shaddai (God Almighty) and Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will Provide). The staff prayed over each conferee and put their name next to one of these names of God. Mine was EL ELYON -- God Most High. INDEED!

In the end, I just felt all the more that I am truly pursuing a calling that the Lord has given me. It was really, really exciting. There's that little part of me that feared the American Idol Audition experience, where someone gets up and swears they were made to sing, and once they start to "sing" it is just all kinds of wrong. It was nice to get some confirmation that, in His strength, I can do this. Because of His great mercies, He is equipping me to speak in His name.

Phew! If you made it this far (anyone still with me?) pat yourself on the back. And THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for praying and checking in with me on how it all went!

Looking forward to many more amazing things!

P.S. Podcasts have all been recorded. So exciting! I am so, so thankful just to be a part of it all. Hopefully very soon I'll be posting a date that our podcasts will be up on The Women's League website!