Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's Next?? - Part Two

Yesterday, I started a special one-week series considering these ideas:

What’s next??? 

What does God have for me now?

~ Now that I’m finished with school? 
~ Now that my kids are out of the house? 
~ Now that my baby is in kindergarten? 
~ Now that my spouse is gone? 
~ Now that we have retired? 
~ Now that I am unemployed? 
~ Now that… (fill in the blank)

All of us come to moments in our lives where we sometimes have to ask, “What’s next?”

We get caught in one of those “in between” seasons – a time when we are leaving one season of life behind and entering another one.
How do we find God’s will and learn what He has next for us – one step at a time, one task at a time, one moment at a time.

By way of review, yesterday we concluded that we can begin to know God’s plans by doing these general things:
1)      Surrendering all we know of us to all we know of Christ.
2)      By purposely spending time alone with God and His word daily.
3)      By doing the next thing – all that’s in front of us to do.

Today, we are going to begin looking at some more strategic steps we can take to discover all that God has for our lives – especially when we get caught in one of those “in-between” seasons.

To begin with, we can start by super-soaking our minds and hearts with good material. This material may come in the form of print books, e-books, online blogs and forums, and radio programs and podcasts. It can come in form of great conversations with positive friends, sermons, class lectures and millions of other places. 

The key is this - begin to fill your mind with positive and encouraging information during this transition period. When we are in “limbo,” it helps tremendously to flood our worlds with good materials.

Consider a few great print/e-books:
(These are books I am reading or have read and found to be very helpful during transition seasons. Of course there are many others, but these are some that have impacted me recently and personally).

Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado…

~ This little gem is both book and workbook. I found it to be a great tool – easy to read and utilize.

Amazon.com describes it this way:

In Cure for the Common Life, he (Max Lucado) offers practical tools for exploring and identifying your own uniqueness, motivation to put your strengths to work, and the perfect prescription for finding and living in your sweet spot for the rest of your life.”


Surf the Woods by Holt Condren…  

~ Holt is a personal and life-long friend who has written a wonderful book about living an extraordinary life. I’m enjoying his book right now.

~ Amazon.com describes the book in this manner,

“Do the dreams you once had feel dead? Somewhere along your journey, you may have abandoned your dreams for the monotony of the "safezone" and now you are just going through the motions of life. This book will give you renewed hope that the dreams you once aspired to can be a reality. Holt's gripping stories and principles will make clear that God designed you for ambitious purposes that you can begin living today.

Holt Condren is a successful entrepreneur, men's ministry leader, and avid wilderness explorer. He is also the lead mountaineer on a team of scientists and archaeologists that are exploring Mount Ararat in search of the remains of Noah's Ark. With his combination of business and adventure skills, Holt helped found TrailblazeNow, an organization that helps move men through their fears and into their God-inspired dreams.”


Be Still My Soul by Elisabeth Elliot…  

~ This gem is one of those rare books that causes you to allow God to deeply search your soul. The Lord has used this book to impact my life like none other in a long time. I have just finished reading it.

~ Amazon.com describes the book in this way:

“We have a way of making Christian concepts complicated, and Elisabeth has a way of untying the knots with grace. Elisabeth Elliot offers a beautiful and inspiring collection of insightful reflections on living the Christian life. Drawing from her rich personal experiences as a missionary, a wife, a mother, a widow, and a speaker, Elliot illustrates biblical concepts such as hope, peace, and prayer with clarity and grace.”


Consider a few great websites:
(These are blogs or sites of friends I personally know or people I greatly admire. I’m sure there are many others, but these are a few that I peruse regularly).

http://www.smellingcoffee.com

http://www.heartchoices.com

http://melaniedorsey.com

http://lysaterkeurst.com

http://www.jenniferrothschild.com



Consider a few great radio programs/podcasts:

http://www.insight.org  (Ministry of Chuck Swindoll)

http://www.daveramsey.com/show/radio/  (Radio with Dave Ramsey)

http://www.lwf.org/site/PageServer (Ministry of Adrian Rogers)




This is in no way an exhaustive list, but it is a starting place.

When you are in limbo, it helps to super-soak your world with great material – in every way you possibly can.

Think of it as a thirsty person drinking from a fire hydrant!

That’s all for today, but I’ll return tomorrow with another practical suggestion for beginning to answer the question, “What’s Next”??

Blessings to you as you take the next step,
Melanie

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's Next? (Part One)

I recently wrote a blog about jobs, finding God’s will and accepting whatever He sends our way.

There was a great response to the blog, and so many good questions that I decided to do a one-week feature blog divided into several parts answering this question: What’s next?

What’s next???

What do I do now??

What does God have for me now?

                    ~ Now that I’m finished with school?

~ Now that my kids are out of the house?

~ Now that my baby is in kindergarten?

~ Now that my spouse is gone?

~ Now that we have retired?

~ Now that I am unemployed?

~ Now that…  (fill in the blank)

All of us come to moments in our lives where we sometimes have to ask, “What’s next?”

Maybe, like so many of my friends, you are asking that very question today.

Maybe you are wondering what you are to do next.

Over the next 7 days, I’m going to post a blog answering this very question.

Today, let’s just think about that question in broad strokes.

As I was posing that very question to the Lord just a few weeks ago, He sent me some incredibly wise advice from two of my favorite mentors – Elisabeth Elliot and Adrian Rogers. On the same day, I read a chapter by Elisabeth and heard a sermon by Dr. Rogers. Their words were eerily similar.

In essence, this was their advice when asking the “what's next” question:

1)     First, surrender yourself completely to the Lord. Give yourself completely to Him.

Romans 12:1-2 is a familiar verse to many. In the NKJV it reads:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

In the Message Bible, it reads like this:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

In practical terms, you can present yourself completely to Christ in a variety of ways. Some suggestions include:

    ~ Pray aloud – talking over the concerns of your heart with the Lord.   Verbally surrender to Him.

   ~ Journal – write out your surrender and detail the concerns of your heart.

   ~ On index or note cards, list out the each of the parts of your life that you want to surrender. Take these cards and give each one to the Lord as you pray.

The goal is to daily and completely give all you know of yourself to all you know of Jesus. Keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19, NLT


2) Commit to spending quality time alone with Him daily in prayer and Bible study. 
Yes, this seems like a “given” but it is not. So many good people neglect times of daily prayer and Bible study. Make the time. Find a place. Have a plan. Spend the time.

This daily time alone with Jesus is where you get wisdom, knowledge, insight, answers, power, peace, hope and so much more.


3) Do the NEXT THING. Do all you know to do next.

~ This is one of missionary Elisabeth Elliot’s favorite phrases… "do the next thing." Do what’s right in front of you to do.

When asked how she survived her husband’s savage murder on the mission field, she answered simply that she did what was next to do. She got up, got dressed, fed her young child, and went about the business of her day.

Today, you and I may not know the next “big” thing in our lives will be. However, we can do the next “small” thing.

We can unload the dishwasher, wash the car, drive the carpool, pay the bills, make the needed phone calls and do anything else that needs to be done.

It may not sound glamorous or important, but doing the next thing is what’s next.

One of my college professor’s had a wise quote that she shared with us about finding God’s will for our lives:

“God doesn’t lead by a spotlight but rather by a flashlight. 
We will not see very far down the path. 
We’ll have to just take it slow and follow His lead. 
We find His will be following the small light of the flashlight, 
one step at a time. ” (Dr. Anita Baker)

Today, if you don’t know what to do next, just do the next thing.

When you can’t change anything else, change the sheets or the light bulbs.
As my Hebrew professor (Dr. Kirk Kilpatrick) liked to say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you learn Hebrew? One bite at a time.”

How do we find God’s will and learn what He has next for us – one step at a time, one task at a time, one moment at a time, and one bite at a time.

In summary, we can begin to find the answer to “what’s next” by:

1)      Surrendering all we know of us to all we know of Christ.
2)      By purposely spending time alone with God and His word daily.
3)      By doing the next thing – all that’s in front of us to do.

Tomorrow, we will begin to look at some more specific and intentional ways to answering the question: “what’s next?”

Praying for God to give you victory today as we follow Him…

Blessings to you,
Melanie

Friday, October 17, 2014

God answers prayer - but not always in the way we think He will!

For the past few months, our family has been fervently praying for something…

We’ve been praying for this mom to get a paying gig – a big girl job with a real salary and some nice benefits.  Everyone else in the house is gainfully employed, and it has just seemed logical to all of us that Mom should work as well.

So, we prayed, looked, talked, searched and I set out on a mission to get to that job!

And, I found several…

My first job was a part-time employ where I was to assist with book repair in a school library.  I was to work for 10-12 hours a week alongside a wonderful library staff.  I showed up for work early on a sunny Wednesday morning, set about my tasks and worked for approximately two hours before being "let go" due to unforeseen clerical and communication errors.  It was hard, but it was clearly a closed door.

My second job lasted a little bit longer.  I was hired by a small Christian college, started attending staff meetings, made many phone calls, began some great Excel spreadsheets, sent thousands of emails and notes on Facebook, and started to really love the work I was doing. However, due to a lack of funding, that job lasted for only about two weeks.  I was let go and encouraged to seek out other employment. Again it was a closed door.

I’ve also applied for several other positions, both part-time and full-time, only to be met with more closed doors. The harder I’ve looked and tried, the more it has seemed like the “no access” and “restricted” signs have gone up. Doors have remained closed and locked. Leads have dried up. People have said, “No thanks.”

But, then about two weeks ago, God did the most unusual thing… He answered our prayers for extra work. But He didn’t do it like we thought He would.

We were asking Him to provide for our needs and expenses. And He did. However, He didn’t do it as we were expecting Him to do it.

Instead of sending me a job, He instead sent my husband a second job.

Out of the blue, my husband was contacted about a part-time music minister position in a wonderful little church in the area. 

A mutual friend had submitted our name to this church, without us knowing about it.  We met the pastor and people, interviewed, visited and were graciously invited to join the staff just a few days ago. 

We start next week serving at Gracepoint Baptist Church in Cordova, TN alongside John & Gena Allen and Jacob & Sarah Blair. We are indeed blessed, but we are also very surprised by the way God has worked!

God provided.

~ Just not like we thought He would.

~ Just not exactly as we prayed He would.

~ Just not altogether as we assumed He would.

~ Just not in the way that we were thinking He would provide.

In fact, He didn’t really consult us at all!

Isn’t that the way God does things – in His own way and time?

Isn’t that like our God – to show up as He wishes to show up!

Consider Isaiah 55:8-9:
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 

Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.

‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

We are made in His image, but we are not “god”. God is God, doing things as He reasons, plans and pleases.

z He is wiser.

z He is smarter.

z He knows better.

z He has insights into things that we don’t have.

z He sees what we cannot see.

z His perspective is perfect.

z He viewpoint is ideal.

z He makes the best decisions.

z God knows best – always!

Although it may not feel like it, look like it, seem like it, taste like it or smell like
it – God knows exactly what He is doing in your life and in mine. He has a plan!

So today, you may find yourself asking the Lord for something.

Maybe you too feel the need for a job...
Or cash,
Or a friend,
Or healing,
Or hope,
Or help,
Or some other sort of miracle.

Today, will you accept whatever God sends your way – whether it is what you are expecting or not?

Will you allow God to work as He wishes to work – no matter how hard it is to trust Him and His plans?

Will you accept His answer – even if it comes wrapped in unusual packaging?

I know I want to…

Blessings to you,
Melanie

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's a little rough out there right now!

In the past day or so, reports of discouraging happenings have been coming my way.

Friends are sharing a long list of painful and disheartening events:
    ~ A car that was broken into…

    ~ A little grandchild badly burned on a hot stove…

     ~ A mother who has fallen and broken her wrist…

     ~ A grandfather who is trying to recover from pneumonia…

   ~ A mom who is losing it – literally…

   ~ A car that has bitten the dust…

   ~ A job that will never materialize…

   ~ A child who has walked away from the church…

   ~ A heart that is in pain…

   ~ A day that looks impossible…

   ~ A marriage that may not survive…

I don’t know where today finds you, but if you are like most of us – you may be dealing with something challenging right now.

As I opened God’s Word this morning, I was reminded that challenges have been around since the earliest of days. So many of the books of the Bible were written about and by people who were struggling with life’s ordeals.

David is one of my favorite Bible characters; he writes with such honestly and insight. His words spoke to my heart this morning to encourage me. I pray that the words he penned will encourage your heart as well.

Consider just a few of his prayers – the way he cried out to God when he was hurting and in trouble:

“I cry out to you because You answer me.
 So tilt Your ears toward me now—

Listen to what I’m saying!”
(Psalm 17:6, CEB)


“Bow down Your ear to me,

Deliver me speedily;

Be my rock of refuge,

A fortress of defense to save me.”
(Psalm 31:2, NKJV)

“Save me and rescue me,

For You do what is right.

Turn Your ear to listen to me,
And set me free.”
(Psalm 71:2, NLT)

“Bend down, O Lord,
And hear my prayer;

Answer me, for I need Your help.”
(Psalm 86:1, NLT)

Don’t turn away from me

In my time of distress.

Bend down to listen,

And answer me quickly when I call to You.”
(Psalm 102:2, NLT)


What’s most amazing about these cries for help is that God heard them – every one.

Consider some of God’s responses to David’s pleas for help:

Every time I call to you, God, You answer me.”
(Psalm 17:6, ERV)

“I will call to You whenever I’m in trouble,

And You will answer me.”
(Psalm 86:7)



Because He bends down to listen,

I will pray as long as I have breath!”
(Psalm 116:2, NLT)


“I love God because He listened to me,

Listened as I begged for mercy.

He listened so intently as I laid out my case before Him.

God is gracious—it is He who makes things right,

Our most compassionate God.

God takes the side of the helpless;

When I was at the end of my rope,
He saved me.”
(Psalm 116:2 & 6, MSG)

No matter where you are and what you are going through today, remember this: you can call out to your God anytime. 

He hears you...



He cares deeply about you...


He is YOUR heavenly Father...


He loves you...


He bends down to listen to you...


 and He will answer you.


Why not take a minute and talk to Him right now?

Blessings to you as you do,
Melanie