Learning to Love Yourself

We are often taught at a very young age we are not good enough, or we are taught that we are strange and not “normal.”  We waste time in life trying to be good enough and wearing masks trying to prove we fit in.

One of the young ladies that I coach recently had to face the fact that she so desired to be “normal” that she found a matronly woman in the community who fit her definition of “normal.”  She put the matron on a pedestal and steered her life in the direction of this woman.

It caused her to walk down the wrong path as she matured in Christ.  Her tree was growing crooked because she was bending to this woman was instead of becoming who God created her to be.  She had to take this “normal” woman off her pedestal and repent for hating her own life.

The woman I coach was rejecting her own path because she wasn’t trusting that God had written a good story for her life.  Friends – no one on earth is the epitome of normal.

In fact, there is no normal on earth, because heaven should be our normal.  Instead of striving to be “normal,” we should strive to be authentic.

We will be free from pressure and free from insecurity when we become ALL that God has created us to be. We will never be happy pursuing someone else’s life.  This is a counterfeit path that requires us to pretend to be someone we’re not.  We spin our wheels and never become our authentic self because we are pursuing an inferior and human definition of “normal.”

God doesn’t use cookie cutters.  He uses a potter’s wheel when creating us.

You are unique and you are loved just the way you are.  Ask God to show you who He created you to be.

Ask Him to take off the masks and to uproot the lies that you aren’t good enough.  One of the most overlooked aspects to love – is learning to love yourself!

Don’t be normal.  Be you!

Freedom in Obedience - Guest Post by Michelle Daugharthy

I'm so pleased to introduce my friend Michelle Daugharthy to you.  Michelle is a beautiful person inside and out.  She has allowed God to take her mess and create a beautiful masterpiece from her life.  She is a wonderful wife, mother, and actress!  She acts in commercials and small films AND she writes!  Enjoy this piece of wisdom that she has written for us.

I am going to say something that may sound counter-intuitive.

There is FREEDOM walking in obedience.

We were actually created this way.  We crave safe boundaries; it creates security.  A child will continue to push against any boundary you put in place to see if you really care enough to mean it.

“Yes! If you don’t play in the street, then you are FREE to stay alive! That is how much I love you!”

“Yes! If you are home by curfew and do not go to your boyfriend’s house alone, then you are FREE to not be burdened with the guilt that weighs from sexual sin! That’s how much I love you!” We can often fear that if we agree to walk in obedience to the Lord, He will ask us to give up something we love or do something really hard.

And He might. BUT, trust me, if He asks you to give it up, it is because there is something better in store!

A few years after my divorce, I was dating a man long distance for almost two years. It was a challenging relationship. He was a good, Christian man, but had some deep struggles with being OCD and over-critical that were less than life-giving in our relationship.  We broke up a few times, and each time I felt like we were supposed to get back together. He had so many of the qualities I longed for in a husband.

The thing is, he had a reeeeaaallly hard time committing to marriage because he was afraid he would regret his choice later. I always went back and just tried to “work harder” on our relationship. The deeply implanted wounds and issues were not healed, and things got very bleak and hard again.

When I was praying about what to do, I felt the Lord ask me, “If you knew I had something better for you around the corner, would you give him up?” I actually did not have to think too long…”Yes, Lord. I will do that and trust you.”

So I broke it off for good. He pleaded and pleaded with me to give him another chance, but I calmly held my ground. It was hard. I gave something up I really wanted. And it hurt. But I also felt peace in the midst of that because I knew I obeyed God. I felt more free out of that relationship! I was even able to get to a place of being ok if I did not get married again because I knew the Lord was enough and He was taking care of me.  Six months later, I met a man whom I was pretty smitten with right away.

Friends, God is SO good.

He knew what I needed in a mate, and I believe He had this man in mind for me. (God just had to perform a minor miracle and move him back to our city!) Long story short, we married about 2 years after we met. Now we have been married almost 9 years and have added two kids to our family, in addition to my daughter I have from my previous marriage. Is it perfect? No.  Do we sometimes struggle?  Yes. But it is GOOD.  So good.  And don’t we all want what is good, the best for us?

God is a good father and knows how to give good gifts – the best gifts!

That is what He loves to do! In fact, His word tells us how He likes to give gifts: “ …which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 7:9-11.)

Freedom does not mean just getting to do what we want.  Freedom is defined as the state of being at liberty rather than in confinement.  Friends, sin leads to confinement, to bondage….to slavery.  Obedience is for our protection, and for our promise for freedom!

Walking in obedience to God will always lead to greater joy, peace, and freedom! Will you follow and obey Him today?

How to Encourage Yourself in the Lord on Your Worst Day

Life is full of hills and valleys. I remember my grandmother in her late 70s dealing with a prolonged attack by the devil who sought to steal her peace by shutting down her secret place with the Lord. She couldn’t hear him very well for months on end and she had loved the Lord and served Him her entire life. 

The enemy will do his best to cause us to question God’s love for us.

It’s the strategy he used in the garden with Eve... “God doesn’t really have your best interests at heart. He’s actually just keeping you in the dark and controlling you.”

David had one of these deep valleys right before his destiny came to fruition.  (1 Samuel 30) David and his men came back to their homes after a long season of warfare. They found that their town had been ransacked. Their wives and children and all of their belongings had been stolen by the Amalekites. On top of all of that, David’s own men were so distraught that they whispered behind his back that it was time to stone him.

That’s a pretty low valley.

But David, the man after God’s own heart, did not fall apart and become a victim of his circumstances. David “encouraged himself in the Lord.”

David reminded himself of God’s goodness. He reminded himself of all that God had done for him. David worshipped the Lord in the midst of his valley. And even though he didn’t understand, he chose to trust God and he asked for the ephod. In our day this would be the same as opening the Word of God and asking for direction... or inquiring of the Lord and receiving direction from the Holy Spirit.

God gave David direction for recovering everything he had just lost. David didn’t realize it... but on the other side of the Kingdom at the very moment that he was choosing to encourage himself in the Lord, his very destiny was about to be fulfilled. David had been waiting for God to hand the Kingship over to him. At the same time David chose to not become a victim, Saul was being removed from office and David became King just a few days later.

The enemy fights us the hardest the closer we get to our breakthrough.

We must all learn how to encourage ourselves in the Lord like David did. We must learn to force ourselves to praise the Lord even if we don’t “feel” like it. We must remember His goodness even when our lives are seemingly falling apart.

We must always inquire of Him for direction. Even if we think we cannot hear God, He will find a way to get us the answer to our questions.

My grandmother praised God even though He seemed silent. She didn’t change anything about her daily devotions or prayer time. I will never forget the look on her face when she told me the storm had passed. She was so full of joy. She felt closer to the Lord than she ever had. She made it through the valley and won the victory!

You can make it through your valley as well. DECIDE that you are not a victim. DECIDE to praise Him and read His word. DECIDE to remember all of the good things He has day be for you.

DECIDE to encourage yourself in the Lord. Your destiny may be coming to pass on the other side of the Kingdom!

Shunning Lukewarmness - ARE YOU READY TO PAY THE PRICE FOR MORE OF GOD?

When I first ventured beyond the veil into the realm of the Holy Spirit, I surely had some fear to subdue. I liked the nice shallow water of the soul realm. Everything was nice and calm in the shallow end of God’s Kingdom. I was safe, and nothing about my faith was weird.

But I desired the Lord so much that I followed Him to the edge of the shallow end and faced a waterfall. I was unwilling to jump off for some time. But my relationship with the Lord was going nowhere and I couldn’t seem to get any closer to Him. I shared my dilemma with one of my pastors. I told him that I wanted more of the Lord but couldn’t seem to get any closer. He answered me with words of wisdom that opened the door to the craziest adventure of my life. My pastor said, “Do you need more of the Holy Spirit, or does the Holy Spirit need more of you?”

Initially, I did not know the answer to this question. But I soon found out that it was all a setup by Jehovah Sneaky! He had heard my heart’s cry for more of Him but gently revealed to me that if I wanted more of Him, I had to be willing to pay a price.

God said to me, “Tisha, are you willing to be a fool for Me?”

I answered yes without much thought to the cost that I had just agreed to. I agreed to take the leap off of the waterfall into the deep, exciting, wonderful, and weird world of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know it at first, but it would be a leap would that cost me everything.

As I stepped beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies, I began to SEE with the eyes of my heart the unseen realm of spiritual warfare. I began to SEE and EXPERIENCE a realm other than the physical one. It was exhilarating. It was full of wonder. It exposed my fears and forced me to deal with my wounds. I had my feet in two worlds. The physical one and the spiritual one – and while I was enjoying getting closer to the Holy Spirit… the people around me were not happy about it.

I became “scary” to some of my closest friends. I became “crazy” to my unsaved family. I became “wicked” to the church I attended. In a very short time, I had become the “fool” that I had agreed to become in order to be closer to the Lord. I had been rejected by more people than I can count.

But… it was SO worth it!

You see, I was in very good company in the deep end of the Kingdom. Jesus Himself was considered a fool. He was Beelzebub to religious leaders. (Luke 11) He was “out of his mind” to His family. (Mark 3) His own disciple rebuked Him for talking about His crucifixion. (Matthew 16)

Jesus did CRAZY things like touching the lepers. He turned water into wine. He walked on water and told winds and waves to be still. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He rebuked unseen demons. He forgave sins and let the guilty go free. He talked to His unseen Father and heard Him talk back. He prophesied future events. And then to top it all off… he called a dead man to come out of the grave after he had been dead for four days.

This is the Man I follow.

This is the Kingdom which I belong to. The crazy one. The one that makes no sense to the physical, logical world.

Some of you have been asking for more of the Lord, but you have a fear of the Holy Spirit. You have a fear that He will make you speak in other tongues and do weird things like putting mud in a man’s eyes to heal his sight. You fear being mocked. You fear being called a “fool” by the world.

But this is the Man that you chose to follow.

He blesses the shallow end, but He lives in the deep end. He doesn’t always give you all the details. It’s not always safe. Honestly, it’s not always fun. But it’s where He is… He’s beyond the veil.

Jesus ignored the religious. He walked away from His controlling family. He patiently endured His disciples… and He finished His calling. He showed us HOW to live in two worlds at once.

He is inviting you beyond the veil to be a fool for Him. He wants you to hate the shallow end. He wants you to dive head first into His craziness.

Because -- it is in the midst of what this world calls “crazy” that His Kingdom is found.

Are you ready for more? Let’s take the leap!

A Reminder about the Simplicity of God’s Kingdom

Sometimes we make being part of God’s Kingdom too hard.

As Believers, I think we sometimes get caught up in the lie that we must have “understanding” about God’s Kingdom to be mature.  The truth is that maturity in God’s Kingdom is more about believing God than it is being able to explain the mysteries of God.

Understanding and taking part in God’s Kingdom doesn’t have to be so deep.  The mystery of creation and the treasures of salvation are hidden for little children to find.

Maturity is believing that the universe is in the capable hands of a Good God.

Maturity is knowing that God has your best interests at heart.

Maturity is having faith on the hard days and trusting that understanding will come later.

Jesus came to demonstrate the simplicity of God’s Kingdom.  He came to show us that having knowledge and understanding didn’t make us GREAT in His Kingdom like the Pharisees taught.  He came to show us that

FAITH

and

HOPE

and

LOVE

were the foundation of His creation.

FAITH

Maturity is not found in understanding.  Maturity is found in child-like

FAITH

.

FAITH

pleases God.

It delights our Father when we trust Him.

Knowing the Word of God is good, but having

FAITH

in the Word is better.

A two word prayer that is surrendered with great

FAITH

knowing God will answer is far better than an eloquent avalanche of empty words meant to impress man.

Instead of making Christianity so difficult, remember today that the God of the Universe loves you and is thinking of you this very moment.  He is never too busy.  He is fully engaged in your life.

HOPE

God has written out your story.  Every single page of it.  It’s a really great story – especially the ending!  Every ending is based upon

HOPE

!  There is the

HOPE

of heaven.  There is a

HOPE

in seeing your loved ones again. There is the

HOPE

of no more pain or sorrow or tears.

If we begin to let the warfare of this earthly life overshadow our vision, we begin to sink into hopelessness.  But hopelessness is a lie meant to derail us from becoming all that God intended.

When we put our

HOPE

in God and what He has prepared for us, we have stepped into His Kingdom.

HOPE

can only be taken from you if you allow it to be taken.

Hold onto

HOPE

today – Jesus paid a deep price for it.

LOVE

We all have a deep desire to be

LOVED

.  We were created with this need.  God Himself is

LOVE

and we are created in His image.  Coming to the realization of how deeply and fully we are loved by God sets us free from wondering if we are “doing enough.”

When Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom, he stripped away the heaviness of following the law and regulations.  He simplified everything by concentrating our focus on two essential pillars of His Kingdom.

LOVE God.

Love Him by turning your mind to Him.  Love Him by having a conversation with Him.  Love Him by obeying.  Love Him by trusting His ways.

…and LOVE your neighbors.

Love those around you.  Love them by serving them.  Love them by speaking the truth.  Love them by encouraging them to be all God created them to be.

Throw off the heaviness of thinking that you have to understand.  Throw off the heaviness of the law and its regulations.  Throw off the hopelessness that seeks to engulf you.  Instead, put on Faith like a garment.  Hold on to Hope like a lifeline.  And know that you are loved perfectly by your Heavenly Father.

The Kingdom really isn’t that difficult.   It comes down to

FAITH

,

HOPE

, and

LOVE

.

God's Word says… You have permission to like yourself

Sometimes we get caught up in the do's and the don'ts of God's Word.  But truthfully, if we would take a longer look, there's a lot more freedom in the Word than you may have been led to believe.

Jesus came to set you FREE from the law and free from your shame.

Use every freedom His cross has afforded you!  The blood of Jesus paid for your freedom.  There is LIBERTY in being in Christ.

The Word of God says…

You have permission to like yourself.

You have permission consider yourself a winner/champion.

You have permission to think you are beautiful (handsome).

You have permission to consider yourself royalty.

You have permission to be who God created you to be instead of who others have told you to be.

You have permission to think of yourself as God’s favorite.

You have permission to run the race like you are going to win!

You have permission to fully embrace the call of God in your life without feeling prideful.

You have permission to fail and not get mad at yourself.

You have permission to lay down past shame.

You have permission to raise your head and straighten your spine no matter what your past sins have been.

You have permission to have a sad day here and there.

You have permission to rejoice even during your worst day.

You have permission to fail forward.

You have permission to pour out your complaint to God.

You have permission to walk away from negative people.

You have permission to draw boundaries with people.

You have permission to tell people NO.

You have permission to not agree with everyone.

You have permission to get angry when people sin.

You have permission to be hated.

You have permission to tell God YES even if people try to convince you otherwise.

You have permission to speak openly about what God has done for you.

You have permission to speak the truth even if it hurts another person’s feelings.

You have permission to reach out to the “undesirables.”

You have permission to step out on the water, even if you sink.

You have permission to be a bright and shining lamp that fills an entire room.

You have permission to take some time for yourself and rest.

You have permission to eat dessert.

You have permission to be single and still whole.

You have permission to not have children and still be whole.

You have permission to not apologize for being you.

You have permission to dance while you worship.

You have permission to enjoy your life.

You have permission to believe in yourself and who God created you to be!

Don't Miss the Beauty of the Wilderness

God is a God of cycles.

He uses them all the time in nature.  The cycle of seasons from Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer is a cycle.    Fall is a dying away of the past season.  Winter is a time of hibernation.  Spring is a new birth.  Summer is a time of bearing fruit.  Then the cycle starts all over again.

There is a cycle of planting, tending, and reaping.  There is a hydrologic cycle evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

God used a cycle of feasts with His people on a yearly basis.

God likes cycles.  It's part of His nature.

In the Bible, He often used cycles with the men and women that He trained up.  Abraham went through a cycle to become the Father of many nations.  Joseph went through a cycle to become the savior of his people.  Moses went through a cycle to become the deliverer.  The Israelites went through a cycle as God delivered them out of Egypt.  David went through a cycle before he became King.  Even Jesus went through the cycle of God to fulfill His destiny.

God's cycle in our lives looks like this:  death to the old pattern, a time of "death to self" in the wilderness, resurrection, fruitfulness.

Specifically, in Jesus's life, we see this play out.   When He was baptized by John the Baptist, He was dying to the old pattern of His life.  Directly after the baptism, Jesus was sent into the desert (or wilderness) for testing (Mark 1:10-13).  He came out of the 40 days of fasting in the desert filled with power from the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:14)  Then he spent the next three and a half years with a great deal of fruitfulness until His crucifixion.

When Jesus was crucified He went through the same cycle - death to the old pattern (crucifixion), three days in the grave (or wilderness), resurrection from the grave, and then 40 days of fruitfulness ending in the outpouring of Pentecost.

Personally, I remember a very defined "Fall season" in my life.  I could feel myself headed for the wilderness.  I was resisting it with everything that was in me.  I felt my joy leaving me. I felt great sadness during the death and wilderness part of my journey.  I resented it actually.

I did not cooperate with my "wilderness" very well in the beginning.  But once the Lord got my attention in the desert and I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I began to see so much beauty.  There is great beauty in the winter season.  Everything is much slower.  It may seem like you are going nowhere... but there is a reason for winter.  It is during the wilderness that we are purified.  It is during the winter that our roots grow deep.

During the wilderness we learn that the only thing worth having is Jesus.

Life comes into focus in the winter/wilderness season. 

Every part of the cycle is necessary and important.  The winter/wilderness is probably the most significant part of the cycle.  But it is only as fruitful within our souls as we allow it to be.

Don't resist the winter.  Don't fight with God about the wilderness.  It is part of His nature.

Consider it pure joy - if you are traveling through the wilderness - because God is giving you an opportunity to mature.  

Don't waste the opportunity with self-pity. Understand that there is not a person alive who has escaped a wilderness period - even Jesus!

There is great beauty in the wilderness - ask the Lord to give you spiritual eyes to see it!

The Dark Night of the Soul - There is a reason for your valley

I remember heading into my “Dark Night of the Soul” at the age of 26.  I knew the Lord was telling me that I needed a season of discipline and I could see the valley just ahead.  I remember seeing the depth of darkness and the immaturity of my heart and knowing that I needed a time of cleansing.  I had no idea at that time that it would be a fifteen-year valley.  I specifically remember the Lord using Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “I Will Be Here”  to announce the beginning of my season of discipline.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,

And the sun does not appear, I will be here

If in the dark we lose sight of love,

Hold my hand, and have no fear, Cause I, I will be here

I will be here when you feel like being quiet

When you need to speak your mind, I will listen and

I will be here when the laughter turns to cryin'

Through the winning, losing and tryin'

We'll be together 'cause I will be here

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,

And the future is unclear

I will be here

It was a few days after this announcement that God began to use a series of incredibly difficult circumstances to weed out the issues of my heart.

My heart obviously had some closets that needed to be cleaned out.  I had some pride in places I didn’t even know existed.  I had some deep seeded rebellion in my heart.  I had some wounds that were so deep – I didn’t know if I would ever find the end of the pain.

I believed a plethora of lies.  Some of them were lies about God.  Others of them were lies about me.  Nevertheless, these lies kept me separated from my Good Father.

Up to that time, I had thought of myself as a non-selfish person, but the valley reveals all kinds of hidden sins.  I was completely selfish and self-centered.  I wanted MY way.  I wanted MY plan.  I wanted MY life to go MY way… the easy way.

It is in the valley that we learn to regard His ways as higher than ours.  We learn how tiny our plans are compared to His.  It is in the valley that we get a tiny glimpse of the suffering that Jesus went through on our behalf.  It is in the valley that we become ONE with Him.  It is the place where we learn no matter what life throws at us that we say “It is well, with my soul.”

Don’t get me wrong – just walking through the valley won’t actually change you.  You have to submit to the valley for it to have an effect on you.   If you pout all the way through the “Dark Night of the Soul” – you won’t learn everything you should learn through it.

But if you accept the valley time as a time of discipline, it can become the most amazing and intimate time of your life with the Lord.  The loneliness becomes aloneness.

The “Dark Night of the Soul” is hard.  It’s painful.  It’s even dehumanizing… but the point is not to actually dehumanize us.  The point of the Dark Night is to strip us of our flesh in order to become His.

There is a pearl in the very difficult “Dark Night of the Soul.”  There is a gaining through the losing. The pearl we gain is Jesus.

If you let the pain of the Dark Night forge you, the prize is that Jesus becomes your life.

If you waste your pain with fear or self-pity, you’ll still have to experience the pain without any prize at the end.

The Dark Night of the Soul is meant to be the place that Jesus actually conquers us… then He makes the most beautiful thing out of our lives.  It’s the place where we learn to completely trust in His ways.  We become willing to pay the same price Jesus did by carrying our cross without complaint.  It’s the place where we learn to wait upon Him, the place where we learn to bleed for Him, the place where we learn to love – no matter what is thrown our way.

The Dark Night is the place where we gain authority to stand in the middle of the storm and command it to be still.  It’s the place where we learn to BELIEVE God! 

We learn what the words the “I AM” really mean.

We learn that the I AM can see us through anything.  We learn that the I AM is sovereign over EVERYTHING.  Nothing escapes Him.  He is the God who sees!  It is in this fire that we learn to keep our eyes on Him no matter what.  We don’t turn to the right or the left no matter what is trying to seduce us off the path.  We may fall but His grace picks us back up dusts us off and encourages us to keep going.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.  He helps us to carry our cross.

Some of you might be going through a really difficult valley and wondering why God has seemingly handed you over to Satan.  Please hear this truth and take it to heart:  Your loving Father has not so much handed you over to evil as much as He is revealing everything in you that is in agreement with the evil one.  When we become dead to our flesh – truly dead – then Satan cannot touch us.  This is the reason for the Valley (or Dark Night) that you are in… to completely rid you of your flesh.

God is using the “Dark Night of the Soul” to remove everything that is not from Him – because He loves you and wants to live in you!

Romans 8:5-8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

THOSE WHO ARE IN THE REALM OF THE FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD!  Let the discipline of the Lord do its work and cleanse you from your flesh.  There is a reason for your valley!

Are you tired of being misunderstood? This will help.

Being misunderstood is really frustrating.

It can make you feel helpless to be misinterpreted, misread, misjudged, misheard, mistaken, and misconstrued. 

When people misunderstand one another, it creates separation.  It can sometimes instill a fear of rejection.  And worse… it can result in abandonment.

Misunderstanding between married couples can cause divorce.  Misunderstanding between pastors and their flock can cause a church split.  Misunderstanding among friends can result in broken relationships that are sometimes NEVER restored.

Misunderstanding is hard but when people want to use the misunderstanding to take advantage of you - they take what you say and twist it around and then accuse you of having poor intentions.

They did the same thing to Jesus.

The man who walked the earth perfectly.  The man who loved perfectly.  The man who knew the Father perfectly was misunderstood – and crucified for it.

It can be paralyzing to try to get everyone to understand you.  It can render you useless if you are frozen in fear that you will be misunderstood if you speak out on something.  You can spend hours explaining yourself to people who will still never get it.

There are a few reasons that misunderstandings between people occur. 

One of them is because the enemy is literally sending a spirit of confusion against your relationship.  He can use a “deaf and dumb” spirit to keep you from ‘hearing’ each other.  He can use a leviathan spirit to twist what you say – so by the time it gets to someone else’s ears, it doesn’t even sound like how you meant it.

Another reason we struggle with misunderstanding is because of pride.  When we attempt to be heard by a person who is walking in pride, it feels like we are hitting our head against a wall.  Pride makes a person think they are better than others.  Pride makes a person feel like they have everything figured out and don’t need to try to understand your heart.  It can also be an issue with our own heart.  

Pride can keep us encased in a bubble.  Without a speaking in a spirit of humility, we can cause others to misunderstand us because of our own pride.

There is a two-fold answer to help you when you are being misunderstood.  The first is to remain humble in the midst of the misunderstanding.  Humble yourself and know that you might have to look for words that better explain where you are coming from.  But if you’ve done everything you can to explain your heart and you are still being misunderstood, you’ll have to submit yourself to God and put it in His hands.

Jesus didn’t mind to be misunderstood.  He was confident in His calling.  He was sure of what His message was

…even if people misunderstood.

…even if people crucified Him for it.

As we can see from scripture – he DID fully explain Himself.  It was the people who simply couldn’t understand.  Even Jesus’s disciples failed to understand. 

At one point people misunderstood Jesus’s sermon about His calling.  Five thousand people left His ministry because the teaching was too hard and they couldn’t understand it. (John 6:60)

Can you imagine that?  Being so misunderstood that you lose all but twelve of your friends?

I think sometimes we feel like it is our responsibility to MAKE people understand our hearts.  But that’s not completely true.  We do our best to help people understand our hearts, our message, our calling.  But if they cannot receive it – we submit ourselves to God and follow His leading if we are misunderstood.

Humble yourself before God.  Speak the truth in love.  Do not repent from the truth even if people do not understand.  Do not hold onto bitterness for those who misunderstand you.

Forgive…  and persevere!

Do not let misunderstanding steal your purpose in the Lord.  Don’t let it get you off the path!

Proverbs 4:25-27 Amplified Bible (AMP)

25 Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage]

And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity].

26 Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet,

And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.

27 Do not turn away to the right nor to the left [where evil may lurk];

Turn your foot from [the path of] evil.

Becoming More Excellent: An Easier Way to Keep Your Goals

I used to go through seasons of excellence followed by seasons of mediocrity.  I used to decide to set my mind to being excellent and after a week or so (sometimes even a few days) I would find myself back in my old ways.  Living a life of mediocrity wasn’t what I WANTED to live, but I couldn’t seem to shift my life into the excellence mode that I was reaching for.

Part of my problem was that I was giving myself too much grace.  I made a goal for myself to be more excellent but wouldn’t keep it.  Almost like I wasn’t keeping my word to myself. 

I made goals to spend more time with God.  I made goals to read the Word more.  I made goals to keep my house tidier.  I made goals to be a stricter parent and mean what I said the first time.  I made goals to exercise.  I made goals to do more fasting.  I made goals to journal faithfully.  I made goals to pray for everyone I said I would pray for.

However, after a few days of living my new goals of excellence, I would “reward” myself because I was doing so well at attaining my goals.  I would give myself a day off.  <----- greasy grace.

Then I would get back to my goals for a few more days and give myself another few days off.  <------ really greasy grace.

After all, God loved me whether or not I kept my goals.  He wouldn’t be so hard on me.  He loved me unconditionally, so I could just rest in His grace.  Right?  Isn’t this what we tell ourselves when we don’t keep our own pledge.  “Oh well… God loves me – I don’t have to keep my word.”

The Body of Christ in many ways is not excellent because we don’t really mean what we say – and we give ourselves way too much grace… more than the Lord would give us.

God wants us to be excellent.  He doesn’t want us to keep rules and regulations to be excellent – but He does want us to keep our words.  He does want us to be disciplined.  He does want us to obey Him.

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.  (John 14:21)

During a season of discipline from the Lord, I struggled to live a more excellent lifestyle.  I had been trying to keep my new goals – but I was doing it as though they were rules.  The Lord helped me with this by giving me a huge revelation that really helped me to do a complete shift into excellence.

He said, “Tisha, follow through with the words you say and achieve the goals you set simply because you love Me.  Do it out of our relationship…not because you are following rules.”

This really helped me.  I began to keep the goals I set to read the word and spend time in prayer because I loved the Lord, not because I was following a set of rules.  I began to pay attention to my words.  When I promised someone that I was going to pray for them – I either wrote it down, or I prayed for them right then so I wouldn’t forget.  If I set a fasting or an exercise goal,  I looked at it as though I was accomplishing a task that would bring me closer to the Lord, not as a punishment.

If I had a directive from the Lord, I would do it immediately!  I obeyed immediately because I wanted to show Him that I loved Him.

Did you see that in John 14:21 that there is a reward for obeying the Lord?  If we obey Him, He shows Himself to us.

This reward is so worth it!  God reveals Himself to those who obey Him!  As I have sought after excellence and disciplined myself in the Lord, He has revealed Himself to me, and I now know Him better… simply because I obeyed!

Become more excellent!  Mean your words.  Keep the goals you make. Run this race of life in order to win the prize!  The prize is Jesus!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

How to Become Bolder for Christ

It’s exciting to see the Body of Christ wake up and begin to be bold about the things of the Lord.  You can be sure that the enemy of our souls is not happy about this awakening.

One way that the enemy is trying to silence us – is to make it “not cool” to preach the truth of God in a public place or on social media.  He can’t afford to lose a hold on the people who are living in his darkness.  It is the truth that sets people free.  The Spirit of the Lord dwells where there is LIBERTY.  

So our adversary is pulling out the oldest trick in the book to make us intimidated by using the “disapproval” of the world.

The world keeps shouting “BE KINDER!”   But what they really mean is “BE QUIET, because if you don’t agree with me – you are not being kind.” 

Their shouts are actually meant to subdue us from preaching the truth of Christ.  Somehow the enemy has twisted the preaching of God’s truth as unkind.  But really it is just the opposite – it is a kindness to the world that we boldly proclaim the truth, even if they do not listen.

Peter and John ran into the same thing in Acts 4.  The religious aristocracy commanded them to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

The response of Peter and John is notable and it is the very key to being bold for Christ.

Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God, For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:19-20

They were more concerned with what God thought of them than what man thought of them.

This is how we become bolder for Christ:  We obey God, not men.

When I was first venturing out to speak more publicly about Christ I remember trembling because of what “man” might think of me.  The Lord helped to put my feet on the rock instead of sand by helping me to BELIEVE this verse in Psalm 19:14.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in YOUR sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

The only person who has to be pleased with your bold words is the Lord.

We should seek to accomplish two things as we step out and speak boldly about the Kingdom of God and His truth.  We should seek to have His words and His heart.

If we have God’s words but not His heart – we can become a clanging cymbal.

If we have His heart but do not speak His words of truth – we can actually be disobedient.

Ezekiel struggled to give the message of truth that the Lord wanted him to prophesy to Israel.  He had the Lord’s heart but resisted speaking His words.  The Lord said, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” Ezekiel 2:7.

Later in Ezekiel 3, the Lord tells Ezekiel that if he does not preach the truth to people in order to turn them from their ways that God will hold Ezekiel accountable for the sin of the people.

Youch!!

That one stings!

If you have a truth from the Lord that you do not speak because you are afraid.  You will be held accountable at the judgment throne.

Let us press on to be bold for the Lord and be willing to be rejected because of our message about Him.  Let us learn to fear the Lord more than we fear men.  It is by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony about Jesus that will ultimately help us to overcome!

This is my prayer for you:

“…that whenever you speak, may words be given to you so that you will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” (Eph. 6:19)

A Word for Those Who Want to Quit

I know that some of you are carrying your cross and you are very weary.  I know that there is GREAT temptation to lay down your cross and say – “It’s over, I give up!”  But I want to encourage you today that there is a great victory ahead and it is important that you do not quit!

The Via Dolorosa is literally translated “the way of suffering.”  It is the path that Jesus took up through the city to the hill of Golgotha while carrying His cross.

He didn’t complain.  He didn’t whine. He didn’t blame others. He just focused on His assignment.

To die.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Click Here)

kind of feels like this: Maybe we have been beaten up with words by our brothers and sisters, the enemy may be piercing our minds with doubts and lies and accusation.  We feel completely alone, no one is standing with us and we are frustrated that we are STILL required to carry out our burden for the sake of His Kingdom.

Honest moment: In my Dark Night I told the Lord over and over and over and over that “It’s not fair!!!”  I hated it.  I whined.  I complained.  I blamed everyone else.  I had a terrible attitude for several years of my pathway on the Via Dolorosa.  I definitely had some “rebellion” in me that needed to be weeded out.

I remember one Christmas when I complained A LOT – the Lord rebuked me through a Christmas song!  ♫ You’d better watch out!  You’d better not cry!  You’d better not pout!  I’m telling you why… Santa Claus is coming to town. ♫

It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah 1:19-20 “

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

OUCH!

I was obeying the Lord by not quitting and not giving up.  But I had a dreadfully selfish defiance about the cross He had asked me to bear.  Isaiah says that there are two elements to receiving the “prize” or the best from the land:  We must be obedient AND willing!

For a season I was not willing to carry my cross.  Yet, the patience and discipline of God brought me to a place of dying to myself so I could trust Him and say “Not my will but Yours be done.” 

In fact, it was a really good thing that He helped me to overcome my rebellion, for after that I faced even more difficult circumstances that required an even deeper death to self to carry my cross.

This is kind of a difficult truth to absorb – but if we are to carry our crosses daily – it means we must walk the “the way of suffering” every single day.  Even after your season of testing, you will still carry your cross on the Via Dolorosa daily.  One of the purposes of the Dark Night is to acquaint you with this path.  You actually become friends with this path because you realize that the Via Dolorosa actually leads to life.  It becomes less painful because when you are dead to yourself and your emotions, you can embrace suffering because you know God has a plan and your pain has a purpose.

In Mel Gibson’s the

Passion of the Christ

, the scene that impacted my life the most was when Jesus was carrying His cross on the Via Dolorosa and stumbled right in front of His mother.  He looked up at her with blood streaming down His face.  He was unrecognizable.  He was being whipped and people were shouting terrible things against Him.  It was during this most terrible trial of His human life that He looked at His mother and said, “Look mother, I make all things new!”

You see, Jesus knew He was accomplishing His purpose.  He knew the path of suffering He was on would actually bring LIFE to the WHOLE earth!  It is hard for us to believe that a path of such pain and suffering could be God’s will for us.  Everything within us wants to avoid pain.  Every fiber of our being cries out for self-preservation.

This is exactly how the enemy can deceive some into a ditch on the path of life.  He convinces you of this lie:  God is gracious and loving and would never require such suffering of His people. 

And then there’s this half-truth:  Jesus died so I wouldn’t have to. 

I love this piece of wisdom from Bob Sorge.

He says we must remember that there are two elements to the cross.

1) S

ubstitutionary = Christ took your place on the cross.

2) Identificational = Jesus wants you to join Him in His suffering.

When on this very difficult part of the Dark Night you must resist both lies.  The very reason for our “crucifixion” path is because it leads to more life than you can ever imagine. 

Why is the Lord asking you to walk this path?  Is it to set your family free?  Is it to spread the gospel?  Is it to prepare you for ministry?  Is it to bring redemption to His earth?  There IS a reason that you are on the Via Dolorosa and if you are willing AND obedient – you will make all things new within your sphere of influence.

The other ditch on the opposite side of the Via Dolorosa is this lie:  God is requiring too much of me. I cannot handle it.

I admit – it does seem that God gives us more than we can handle.  But His answer is that we’re not doing it alone.  He is carrying the weight of the cross with us.  We must resist the devil’s attempt to make us feel alone.  We must use our faith muscles, which produces perseverance and ultimately leads to maturity.  This is where we apply the verse: 

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

  Philippians 4:13

Let me share some practical advice for those of you who are struggling to submit to the “way of suffering.”

As simple as it sounds one of the key ways to overcome this trial of wanting to quit is to “take another step.”

Depending on where you are at on the Via Dolorosa this could mean a variety of different things.  It could be the tiny baby steps.  Like you simply make your mind up to breathe through the pain until noon.  And once you pass that mark you breathe until 5PM.  Then you breathe until bedtime.

There were other times during the Dark Night that I would set my mark out a little further.  For instance, just make it through the weekend, or make it until Christmas, or just make it through the summer.  This really did help me to get through the difficult ‘way of suffering.’

I will never forget the story of Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal in

Lone Survivor

.  He tells the story of losing his entire squad in a fire fight in Afghanistan.  He had a broken back, a broken pelvis, broken nose and bit his tongue in half, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.

As He lay dying against a tree looking at the moon, feeling sorry for himself He said, “I kept thinking I was still alive they (his fellow seals) fought and died, but I’m still alive so the mission is still on.  So I reached out and grabbed a rock and I drew a line and I used my elbows and crawled to it.  I decided if I died, I died.  If I made it to the line… I would draw another line. I’d fall down a hill and crawl up another one.  I did that for seven miles…. I am not going to stop. It’s not an option. I’m a Navy Seal.  When you go into training they take away everything that you are or ever were, and then they mold you into what they want you to be.” 

Marcus Luttrell DID make it home.  He was harbored by an Afghan village and then returned home to America.  He was made whole and healed and has inspired the entire country with his bravery.  But he had to lay down his “victimhood” and resolve to keep going despite his circumstances.  I can’t imagine how his body ever healed itself after all of that.  But as David Crowder wrote in his song, ♫ Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. ♫

This is the perfect example of what the Via Dolorosa is.  It is hard!  It is painful!  You want to quit! But something inside you says it will be worth it.  You are making all things new.  Just keep going.  Don’t quit.  Draw a line in the sand and when you reach it, draw another one to reach for.  Just keep taking another step.

You WILL reach your destination!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.”

  Galatians 6:9 (emphasis mine)

Guest Post: Growing Through the Empty Nest

My friend Donna Cronk is a beautiful person inside and out.  She is a reporter at our local paper and I have been thrilled to learn from her about writing and book publishing.  She is an encourager and she loves to use her writing to shine the light of Christ.

     Donna has been an empty nester for a few years now and I just love that God has opened so many doors for her.  

I always try to learn what I can from people who are a season ahead of me in life.  It can make the path of life much easier!

     Today we are swapping blog posts.  I asked her to write this blogpost about her testimony and I know it will encourage many of you who are approaching the empty nest season.  

Thanks Donna!

- Tisha

Growing Through the Empty Nest

By Donna Cronk

They say the Peace Corps is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I don’t know about that, but it’s what I’ve always thought about being a mom.

But it’s hard, this mom thing. Sam was born with a heart defect and we went through scary surgeries with him. Then came Ben, who cried nearly every waking moment his first year.

Yet life settled into a routine of normalcy and there were soaring moments: a grand-slam homerun here, a glowing health report there. There were pizza nights and family vacations, Colts games and supper on the stove. I loved raising our sons, and I couldn’t imagine my life once they fled the nest.

Truth is I dreaded the empty nest with a passion. What would I

do

with my evenings without baseball and band, soccer and Scouts? How would I sleep wondering if the 

boys were in bed, safe and sound? How long would I go without hearing from them?

And worse, I wanted a do-over. I wanted to take back the occasional harsh word, be more

spiritual

, for all of us to attend Sunday-school classes instead of sleeping in, be less critical, smile more, read to them more. Be less tired. I could do better. Why

hadn’t

I done better?

I also berated myself because I thought I should be more prepared for, not undone by, the inevitable empty nest.

But long before I was ready, they were raised. On a single, late-August day, they

both

moved out: one to a city apartment, the other into a college dorm. My husband, Brian and I moved them both that day and by midnight back home, our house felt haunted by their absence. Neither boy would be coming home. I was overcome by sadness, the silence so loud it was deafening.

“God, what could You possibly have for me now? What could be half as engaging as raising those boys?”

I pouted. For a long time. I’m not proud of that.

I had gone from a full house to an empty nest in one day. Ben would still return summers and for a time after college graduation. But life had shifted on that August day to our post-kid era.

I did several things that autumn. I joined a Monday-night Bible study. Tuesday mornings I arrived ultra-early in the town where I work for a community-leadership course.

Walking past my older son’s room, which he had stripped of furnishings for his new digs, I felt pain. On his closet floor appeared a stray Batman cape from a childhood action figure. Bits and pieces of his youth remained, shed like old skin he no longer needed. My husband urged me to redecorate his room. Get a new bed, paint, the works. 

So I did.

I was busier than I had

ever

been, trying to push back sadness with study and activity. Brian, on the other hand, had a new pep in

his

step. “This is what you raise them for!” he boasted, not understanding my state. “Would you rather they stay on the couch all day, not go to school or work?”

Well, no.

One day during all of this Brian made a seemingly unrelated comment that somehow unleashed my imagination. He said, “When we retire, I can’t think of any place I’d rather live than Liberty, Indiana.”

Now this was a surprise. Liberty is a little farm town of no particular pedigree. It’s my hometown, and where we met when Brian arrived as a new teacher. My parents have passed away but I still have family there.

I don’t know if we will ever

really

return, but the idea of starting over back home, of returning to the comfort of our roots got me thinking that my life wasn’t over just because the boys were grown.

Maybe God had something new for me:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – Philippians 1:6.

Somewhere during all of this, I began writing a fictional tale about a woman who has a series of losses - her husband, her job, the hands-on mothering of her sons – so she returns to

her

hometown and opens a bed and breakfast.

But the move didn’t solve her problems. It brought new ones. She had to decide that whatever happened  – if she lost her inn, if loved ones didn’t support her, if her finances went belly up, if life in her hometown didn’t work out  – if she believed that the Lord was at her side through it all, and she leaned into Him, it would all be okay; she would have what (Who) she needed.

And I had to make that decision too. I am a Christian and I believe that God gave me this fictional story to work through my empty-nest angst. He showed me that He doesn’t want us to be so attached to any particular age or stage or place or people that we can’t move forward to what he has for us next. He knows what we need:

“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” -  Isaiah 65:24.

But not only did He have a message, He had new plans! He was creating this new thing for and in me – that of a Christian-fiction author. Before long, I had written not just a story, but a book! And if you have a book, there’s no need for it if you aren’t going to share it. I decided to take this huge risk and encourage others to read it. 

Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast

was published.

(Click HERE to read the first chapter.)

This spring, I published a sequel,

That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland

. This time the message resonated that we are to bloom where we are planted. My characters had to make some big decisions about where they would allow God to plant them.  

(Click HERE to read the first chapter of "That Sweet Place")

But wherever it turned out to be, the message is good news for us all: that God can and does use us everywhere, anywhere, and even right where we are to accomplish His purposes.

I don’t know what He’s got for me once this book-related journey ends. But it will be whatever He wants me to do. I’m all ears:

“Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” – Psalm 96:1-3.

I still miss having my boys around, but just as it was time for them to grow up, it’s time for

me

to grow up too.

Yet in my sadness, I had forgotten this: just because they have flown the nest doesn’t mean a mother’s influence is finished. I’m still their mom! I can still share what I think and believe and the ways to do that are easier than ever through texting, social media and when I’m lucky, in person.

God’s not done with my story! He’s got a new chapter for me to write – and to live. He’s not done with your story, either.

Donna Cronk is a newspaper journalist in New Castle, Indiana. It’s her delight through writing and speaking engagements to encourage women in living their dreams and blooming where they’re planted. Her novels are:  Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast

and

That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. Both are available on Amazon and from the author. Visit her website:

www.donnacronk.com

or email:

newsgirl.1958@gmail.com

.

Has God Ever Spilled Your Iced Tea?

Did you know that when an airplane is off course by a single degree it will miss its target by 92 feet for every mile it flies?

That would equal one mile off target for every sixty miles flown.  Or if you are flying from New York to Los Angeles that could put you 40 miles out into the Pacific Ocean!

One simple degree off the flight path can keep you from reaching your destination.  The longer you travel one degree off – the further from your intended target you’ll be.

The same is true in life.

If our trajectory is off course by even one degree and we could begin heading in a direction that is detrimental to our overall life purpose.

However God’s grace is so amazing that He always give us a course correction.  We can always trust that He will show us if our flight plan is headed in a wrong direction.  Our Heavenly Father desires for us to fulfill His purpose for our lives.

Sometimes however, we don’t catch the subtle corrections that He brings to us.  Our mind might be closed to the fact that we could possibly be off course.  We could be walking in pride and we are resisting His course correction.  Or we may simply be in deep pain and aren’t able to discern that He is asking us to change direction.

I love how a pastor Keith Moore describes the “iced tea correction” from the Lord.  These subtle little nudges to get back on course are gentle.  Like if we were holding a glass of iced tea in our airplane.  The little corrections wouldn’t even shake our glass of tea as long as we’re paying attention and make the necessary changes.

But if we’re not paying attention, God might send a more forceful nudge to get us back on track.  It would be like God shaking our glass of iced tea to get us to make a course correction. 

But if a shaking of our iced tea doesn’t wake us up and get us to move back on the path God has for us – then God is willing to spill our iced tea with a SHOVE to get us back on course.  God isn’t being mean when He upends our iced tea… It’s because He loves us.  If we’ve travelled SO LONG down a path and are off course by a large degree then to get us back on course it’s going to take a big spill to get our attention.

This is precisely what God did to Saul the Pharisee in Acts 9.  He knocked Saul off of his horse, blinded him for three days, rebuked him in front of his friends and told Saul that all of his entire ministry had been in vain – because Jesus was real and He was calling Saul to come and suffer on His behalf.

God spilled Saul’s iced tea.

He spilled it because He loved Saul and saw that really there was a Paul underneath.  Saul had become prideful and unteachable and was persecuting the God he was trying to serve.  I’m sure that the Lord sent little nudges to Saul to get him to repent… but they didn’t work.  Saul was completely off the path that God had set forth for him…so God sent a giant shove to Saul and spilled his iced tea.  Fortunately for Saul it worked!  Saul repented to the Lord and God miraculously transformed Saul into Paul and he finished his calling on the right path!

God does the same thing with us.  Little nudges to repent, if not heeded, turn into a more forceful prodding and if that still doesn’t get us to repent – God gives us a great big SHOVE to wake us up!  We then have a choice.  We can continue down the wrong path and end up at the wrong destination or we can allow the shaking bring us to repentance.  If we do repent, God will transform us and we will end up right on target!

Try and listen for the little nudges of correction from the Lord.  Try and listen when the tea in our life begins to slosh about.  But if for some reason all of those things don’t get our attention – let us welcome the Lord to spill our iced tea!

My Divine Appointment at a Donald Trump Rally

I was blessed to be offered VIP tickets to the Donald Trump Rally in Westfield, Indiana on July 13th. We got there early enough to be on the VERY front row... only there were no chairs. So we got there at 5:15 and Mr. Trump was supposed to speak at 7:30 (But didn't actually take the stage until 8:30).

There is nothing left to do but stand and talk to your neighbors...for what ended up being more than 3 hours!

My friend and I met some people around us and I was specifically intrigued with the woman next to me who was in a wheelchair.

She was in her 40s and her husband had the biggest servant's heart toward her. She exuded joy and didn't want people to go out of their way on her behalf.

As I observed them, I was especially touched by their relationship and how he tended to her. He was gentle and and attentive and yet not helicoptering over her. My friend and I had introduced ourselves but as the night wore on and we had come to the end of things to talk about.

I silently prayed for God to help me encourage this woman who was in the wheel chair... Knowing what I was about to hear - He probably smiled at my prayer.

I bent down and made a more concerted effort to get to know my new acquaintance. I started off with complimenting the person who had earlier prayed for our country from the podium. She agreed it was a powerful prayer and that our country certainly needed it. She asked what I did and I told her I had a ministry in my hometown.

She wrote down the name of it and then asked me a few bold questions about the ministry. Since she was courageous to ask me some personal questions... I asked if I could also ask some personal questions. And I will forever be grateful that I found some gumption to ask!

I asked why she was in the wheelchair and how long she had been in it. She said that she had Multiple Sclerosis and that she had had the disease for 20 years but had only been in the wheelchair for the last 2. I went on being bold and asked if there was any chance that her condition would get better. She said no there wasn't - outside of a miracle she would deteriorate until her death.

As she told me this there was not a hint of self-pity at all. She was thankful for a believing husband who had a strong relationship with the Lord. She said, shortly after she was married that her doctor told her that he did not recommend that she have kids. She said, "Are you telling me I can't have kids?" He said, "No. I said I don't recommend it."

She went home to her husband quite distraught and told him that the doctor recommended that they shouldn't have any kids. She said she cried and threw a little pity party. As she was telling me the story she smiled really big. She said, "But my husband said, 'Honey we don't ask the doctor if we can have kids. We ask the Lord.' So we prayed."

One month later she was pregnant.

And since then she has had 6 children altogether! Ages 14 to 3.

(You could have knocked me over with a feather!)

She said, "I was always going to be here with my condition. I was always headed for a wheelchair. But I was going to be here whether I had children or not. I am so glad that I was able to have six kids along the way."

She of course wants the Lord to heal her. But trusts that He knows what He's doing and He sees her and has a perfect plan for her and her family.

I asked if I could pray for her and I did pray that God would heal her body...but I added "Nevertheless not my will but Yours be done."

My problems seem a little less serious today. I'm leaving my self-pity at the cross.

------------------------------------------------------

If you would, pray for my new friend Jennifer who is battling MS.  Pray for her healing and pray for her strength.  Wouldn't it be simply amazing to see her healed???

Feeling Stuck? Could This Be the Reason...

My oldest son Josiah just graduated from High School.  It was a great weekend!  So many friends and family celebrated this milestone with us.  I was asked the question several times “How was I doing?”

And my answer was “I am doing GREAT!  I am so excited to see what God has in store for him.”

It occurred to me that a lot of people go through a time of grieving during these “life transitions.”

Grieving isn’t always just about death.  Grieving is a way of handling the transitions that come with this earthly life.  Grieving is basically a process of coming to grips with the reality that your life isn’t going to be the same anymore.

When a transitional season hits we CAN go through these stages of grief:  denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression (not necessarily in that order)  and then we hit that final stage of acceptance.

In my experience as a mentor, I find that people get stuck in one of these stages during the shifts of life.

When trauma hits our life we can sometimes not completely deal with all of the stages of grief in order to make a healthy transition.

In a more benign circumstance, let us take the example of a child leaving home.  If a parent has not fully come to acceptance of the new season, we may tend to try to hang onto our child longer than necessary, creating a strain in the relationship.  We can get angry that an adult child isn’t calling often enough.  Or we could bargain with them to get them to come home more often. “I’ll do your laundry, give you money, or buy you food if you come home and visit me!”

Possibly we could get stuck in the denial/isolation phase of grief when a child leaves home.  This is where we are offended at the difficulty of transition and we try to protect ourselves from the perceived pain of the transitional season.

In a more serious event, if a person has been traumatized by something like abuse – they still must travel through the grieving stages to become free.  Abuse victims often live in denial, sometimes for years.  The first step to getting free from the pain of abuse is to stop pretending it didn’t happen.  This is a form of isolation. 

Other abuse victims get stuck in anger.  The difficult thing to process is that forgiveness is what will get you out of the anger stage.  It seems counter-intuitive.  Because getting justice or revenge would make more sense.  But the Bible says, when we forgive others – we ourselves will be forgiven.  We can get out of the “anger stage” by asking God to forgive the abuser… not because they deserve forgiveness – but because we ourselves need forgiveness for our own sins.

Depression can also be an easy stage to get stuck in – but depression only steals your life.  It is a rain cloud that doesn’t have to stay!  Depression CAN be overcome by worshiping and praising the Lord for His goodness.  Praise is actually a tool to defeat depression because it ties up the enemy’s hands against you. (Psalm 149) 

READ MORE ABOUT THAT BY CLICKING HERE.

Getting stuck in denial or anger or depression is not the healthy way to process our pain.  We must allow ourselves to completely walk through the stages of grief and not stop walking until we reach acceptance.

Here is the thing that Believers need to understand:

Acceptance doesn’t make us the victim.  It doesn’t make a person weak to come to a place of acceptance where we acknowledge the pain of a trauma or a seasonal transition.  Acceptance is the place where you KNOW that God is just and He has our best interests at heart. He WILL turn it all for your good.

Acceptance is the place that Believers of Jesus Christ say, “I may not understand this transitional season of pain  – but I KNOW that I can trust Your plans for me.”

Getting stuck in the other stages of grief means you are caught in the valley of the shadow of death.  We were never called to stay there… we are called to walk through it.  We are called to fear no evil because His hand is with us. (Psalm 23)

I don’t know what you might be struggling with today.  But no matter what your pain is – whether it is big or small, all of it matters to God!  He is the healer!  He is restorer of lives.  He is our hope!

The way to get unstuck from the grieving of the valley of the shadow of death is to put your hope in the Lord.

We need to make it through the transitional seasons in a healthy way.  The enemy can take us out of commission if we get stuck in one of the grief stages.

Ask the Lord to show you if you are stuck in your pain because you haven’t fully grieved.  Go ahead and grieve.  Take your time.  BUT DON’T STOP IN ONE STAGE.  Keep going!  There is hope!  There is a new season God has planned for you.  Let God renew your strength.  Let Him renew your mind.

It may not look like you thought it was going to look… but I know a Savior who can take the rest of your life and WOW you with His plan!

What To Do After You Fail A Test

Have you ever failed a test God has given you?  I have failed too many to count!

But in failing – I have come to understand the character of God as truly long-suffering.  God is so patient with me when I fail.  He is so gentle to pick me up and brush me off and tell me He’s not angry.  He simply wants me to try again.

One time He said to me, “Tisha, if I have told YOU to forgive people 70 times 7 – don’t you think I hold Myself to the same standard?” 

His love NEVER fails.

One time a friend of mine failed a Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego moment.  She was given an assignment by God to stand up and speak truth to leadership.  But her desire for peace was so great that she bowed down and retracted her word in order to be at peace in her relationships.  She wanted the praise of men more than the praise of God.

As she was processing what happened the Lord pointed out the verses from Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar,

we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.

 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

She came to the understanding that she felt the need to defend herself when giving the word.  This was something that God wanted her to understand – just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – there was no “need to defend herself before leadership in this matter.”

It was a precept that she needed to learn in order to fulfill her calling as a prophetic voice.

The Lord was not upset with her at all.  He promised her she would take the test over again.  And to use the time wisely to gain strength in order to not “bow” to the approval of men.

I love how God is so patient with us as we grow and mature in the Kingdom of God.  He knew my friend would fail – but had her take the test anyway so she could see the weakness of her heart and repent.

This is how God builds his people.   He gives us lesson upon lesson upon lesson and then lets us take tests to prove the strength of our hearts.

He did this with the people of Israel when they were delivered from slavery.  He took them into the desert to teach them how different He was than Pharaoh.  He gave them lesson upon lesson about His faithfulness and His ways.  Then came the test.

They were supposed to cross into the Promised Land – but they believed a bad report of the 10 spies who said the Promised Land was filled with giants.  Instead of listening to God they bowed to the words of men and failed the test.

God then had them wander in the wilderness for 40 years teaching them lesson upon lesson until it was time again to take the test.  This time Joshua did things a little differently and had the “spies” report directly to him instead of the entire camp.  They passed the test this time and were able to inhabit the Promised Land.

God did not take the Israelites directly to the Promised Land when they came out of the slavery in Egypt.  His kingdom doesn’t work that way.  He is not a Lottery God. He doesn’t just hand us our destinies.  He must build us into our destinies.

It is the character of God to build lesson upon lesson.  We must learn the ABC’s before we can write books.  We must learn His ways before we can prophesy in His name.  We must know His word before we can teach His people.

Whatever it is God is calling you to do – be patient with the process.  Know that His ways require lesson upon lesson and then we take a test.  Don’t beat yourself up if you fail a test.  Just get up and try again.  God is more patient than you can fathom!

Once we pass a test, we receive promotion.  Sometimes we get caught up with wanting to be promoted before we pass the test.  Let me help you out here --- You MUST pass the test first!

This is what you need to do after you fail a test…    

You need to persevere!

Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.

 James 1:12 (GNT)

When Life Is Most Confusing...


As a freshman in college, one of my dear friends was facing several serious difficulties in her life.  She was pregnant out of wedlock and the father of her baby was not emotionally mature enough to help her.  Her parents didn’t have a lot of money to help her with college or baby expenses.  She knew that college was important to her future and she chose to take the difficult path of staying in school even though she would have the baby mid-semester.  It was really a lot to deal with as an 18 year old.  And the unanswered questions were taking their toll.  What is the future going to bring?  Can I really do this myself?  Should I include the father?  Who can I trust?

I was only 18 myself and hardly had any life experiences to help her on her journey.  But a story kept coming back to my mind that my music teacher had told us in class one day.  Her sister had come to visit her and she had hit a patch of black ice on the way to her house.  Her car swerved and she was about to crash as she heard a voice say “Let go.”  And she let go of the wheel and the car ‘righted’ itself on the road.  I remember thinking at the time that it was such a cool ‘angel’ story.  But as I related it to my precious friend’s predicament I began to see that story as so much more.

I wrote this poem for her, published it in our college newspaper and dedicated it to her nickname for the sake of anonymity.  However, I don’t believe I really had the wisdom to write such a thing at 18.  I think that God knew my friend needed some encouragement and I was just the message deliverer.  I am so proud of how well my friend’s life has turned out.  There are no words to describe what a beautiful person that she is and what a wonderful son she has raised.  She is an inspiration to many.  

And 24 years later – I am publishing this poem and her story once again!

Letting Go
There once was a woman on a cold winter’s day
who decided to visit a friend
She jumped in the car without thinking twice
of the snow, the ice and wind.

She was driving along and came to some curves
for which she wasn’t prepared.
The car began to slip and slide
and the woman was frightened and scared.

The woman tried to steer the car
straight on the road once more
But all attempts to gain control
made the car swerve even more.

Then she heard a voice loud and clear,
a calming, soothing sound.
“Let go!” it said.  “What?” she replied
but there was no one else around.

She wasted no time in obeying the voice
and lifted her hands from the wheel.
In an instant the car was redeemed from its fate
and Someone else controlled the wheel

When life is most confusing
and I can’t tell right from wrong
When decisions face me from all directions
and I just don’t want to go on.

I think of the woman who trusted the voice
and believed when the need was real
And I give to God my confusion and pain
and gladly let go of the wheel.

© 1991 Tisha Sledd


Your Story's Not Over Yet...

Last week I found the notes that I had written out for the first sermon I ever preached.  It was during my

“Dark Night of the Soul.” 

The sermon was called “I Trust Him with My Story.”

You see each one of us has a story.  We serve a story-telling God.  This is why He gave us a book full of true stories.  The Bible has recorded the stories of men and women who have succeeded and failed, and more importantly – God has shown us the end of ALL stories… the return of Christ for His bride and everlasting peace in His Kingdom for those who believe.

God is still keeping track of our stories.  Revelation points to the books that will be opened at the end of the age.  One of those is the book of life, those whose names are written in this book will enter the gates of heaven to live there for eternity.  The other books are those who have recorded our story. We will be rewarded according to what is recorded about us in those books. (Rev. 20:12)

I think Naomi had the roughest story of any woman in the Bible.  When famine hit Bethlehem her husband moved them to Moab to escape the famine.  Her husband dies in Moab.  Then her two sons marry and then also die.  She is left with two daughters-in-law in a foreign land with no income and no extended family.

The famine lifts in Bethlehem so Naomi decides to go home.  She tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their families and then she says something that lifts the veil about the anger she feels about her story:   “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!"

One of her daughters-in-law Ruth insisted on going with Naomi back to Bethlehem.  When they reached Bethlehem Naomi told her family and friends, "Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

How many of us have blamed God in the middle of our story?  I certainly have.  I have told Him that I felt like He was against me.  We often get so discouraged and so bitter at life’s circumstances that we say “God you are a terrible story writer! I quit!”

But do you know the rest of Naomi’s story?  Do you know that even though she had to be on welfare and even though she had no husband or children…  Naomi’s story was far from over.

You see, God was not hidden from her pain.  God did not take offense at being blamed for her empty life.  Though He never gave an explanation for the dire circumstances that Naomi found herself in, God did not leave her story unfinished.

Without Naomi, her daughter-in-law Ruth never would have found Boaz and married him.  Without Naomi, Ruth would have never given birth to a baby boy named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David, who was the great, great, great, great… grandfather of Joseph, the father of Jesus.

Naomi’s story was integral to the coming of the Messiah!

At the end of Naomi’s story, God closes the gap by giving her a baby boy to bounce on her knee. A baby whose name we would speak 4000 years later. 

God uses Naomi’s painful story to bring the most beautiful ending of all – the story of the Kinsman-Redeemer.

Because of Naomi’s perseverance, Ruth met and married Boaz.  The story of Boaz foreshadows Jesus Christ, the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer who will redeem a bride for himself—the church.

I know some of you are angry with God.  I know some of you are bitter at your circumstances.  But please hear me when I say… No matter where your story is right now – it is NOT the end.  You can trust God with your story because He is sending you the ultimate fairy tale ending.  He is sending Jesus our Kinsman-Redeemer!

Some of your stories are simply in a difficult chapter.  Some of your stories are at the tipping point.  There are always villains in God’s stories.  There are always conquerors in God’s stories.  We must choose to believe God, even in the darkest chapters.  We must choose to persevere even when it looks like all hope is gone.  We must choose to obey even when our bitterness rises up.

Believe that God is a good story writer and that He has plans to write a GREAT one for you!  He has proved it over and over in His Word.  Press on in the midst of your pain like Naomi did.

Lift up your head – the story’s not over yet…

The Dark Night of the Soul

This Article was published in the Courier Times on June 21, 2014

By Tisha Sledd

This past week, my family watched “The Ten Commandments” with Charleton Heston.  It's old school, but I still think some old school culture is relevant for the next generation. We 'forced' our boys to watch it a little at a time.  My youngest exclaims “It's four hours?”

During the part that we watched this

week, Moses lost everything he had in Egypt and was forced into the desert.  Although “The Ten Commandments” does not adhere strictly to scripture, it is truly thought provoking to think about how much Moses lost at age 40 when he left everything behind.  He probably did have a woman that he had imagined his life with but had to let her go.  He left behind his family, his comfort and money and had no direction as to where he was going.  All he had were the clothes on his back and the hand of God on his life.

I was explaining to a friend the other day about the phrase “Dark Night of the Soul.”  It is the season of life where you lose everything except for God.  We don't talk about it much anymore maybe because we focus more on the gentle lamb part of God rather than the lion in today's culture. 

The Dark Night of the Soul is all about the Lion of God.  It's the part of life that He uses to shape us into being His servants.  It's where the flesh is sanded away, we're required to give up everything, and everyone seems to turn against us.  It is in the middle of this night that we truly find what we're made of.  When we come to the conclusion that we are made of nothing and our confidence in ourselves is crucified, it is then that we learn the only place to put our confidence is in God.

There is not a hero in the Word of God that did not have to go through the Dark Night of the Soul.  David spent his Dark Night in caves.  Joseph spent his Dark Night in prison.  Elizabeth spent her Dark Night barren.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her Dark Night in shame and misunderstanding.  In more recent history, you will find that most men and women who do great things for God had a Dark Night of the Soul: George Washington, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Corrie Ten Boom.  These are all people who had to pass the test of perseverance through difficulties in order to become the 'heroes' they were called to be.

While reading Daniel in the word one day, I remember thinking that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had gone through a major test at the fiery furnace.  And the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said “No, Tisha, they already had passed the test.  The testing was done in private.  This trial was to glorify Me.” 

You see dead men can't lose anything.  This is precisely why the Dark Night of the Soul is necessary for God's people to go through.  Because it puts to death everything within us.  It puts fear to death. It puts doubt to death. It puts pride to death.  A dead man can't be confused, or offended, or frightened, or lustful, or deceived.  If every fleshly desire is put to death within us we become the devil's worst nightmare.  We become fearless.

Jesus experienced His Dark Night of the Soul during the 40 days in the desert.  The next 3 1/2 years were simply walking out His purpose, even death on a cross. 

I firmly believe that there are heroes that we have never heard of because they did not persevere through the Dark Night.  They quit.  It seemed too hard.  Or possibly they forgot the promise that God gave them before the Dark Night.  Because you must cling to the promise through the difficult night season.

The Dark Night of the Soul is an honor.  It is the call to be Christlike.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.