A Season of Stillness – Part 2

Today my pastor, Dr. Bill Purvis, fed my hungry soul and provided strength for this weary heart.

I hope you will be encouraged by these nuggets of wisdom:

Listening to God

• It’s not easy to listen to God, when we already have our plans.
• It’s not easy to be open to God, when we are emotionally involved.
• It’s not easy to follow God, when it will cost us a lot.
• It’s not easy to follow God, when it does not make sense.

God always does his greatest work through the most unlikely people in the most unlikely places.

If you will not surrender and submit to God, then you will not know success.

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A Season of Stillness

“Be STILL and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

For the last 3 or 4 months, it seems everything in my life has related to this verse. I used to think I had this one down, this waiting in peace for God to act on my behalf. Not! In this season where everything points to “being still,” I am struggling!

In the previous post, I talked about God removing me from a position that I loved, knowing I had to be obedient to His direction. I didn’t know what He was calling me into, but just what He was calling me out of. A couple of weeks later, my mom who lives very close to me fell and fractured her hip. This led to many challenges and upheavals. Her dementia intensified, her rehab required almost 24/7 care with someone being with her at all times, and the doctors ordered her to move to a new facility with more care. This all required a lot of “being still.” Four weeks after moving to her new home, she fell again and we began our second odyssey of hip surgery, rehab, and dementia. This season of stillness is filled with stress and fear of what will come next. However, there is much grace and even sweetness as I hear my mom saying, “ I love you,” “I am proud of you,” and “I have the best daughters,” God is showing me such grace and mercy through those He has called and placed in positions to care for the elderly.

Added to the mix is the life changing decisions that have been a part of my son’s life for 15 years. He was pursuing what we believed to be God given dreams when the word came, “Surgery is required to deal with the pain in your throwing elbow and your chance for a full recovery is 50/50. Baseball may not be an option.” My heart cried out, “Why, God, why did you place this dream in our hearts?” My answer is again, “Be still and know that I am God.”

But how can I possibly ‘be still?”

There are moments of contentment, times when I know God has prepared this time for me. I know God wants me to minister to my mom and that is my calling for today; to care for the one who spent a lifetime caring for me. But stillness does not feel like enough! Shouldn’t I be doing more? And why is stillness so exhausting? Surely there is something else I can be doing. In this stillness, it often feels as if I am only existing and receiving the grace and mercy of others. I am so humbled by the people that are being a blessing to me on a daily basis. But how can this be right or good? Don’t I need to be doing more?

As I am going through this season of stillness, I take great comfort in knowing I am not the only one to struggle with the command to “be still.” In 1 King 19 is the story of Elijah as he struggles and flees to the wilderness just after successfully obeying God and calling down fire from heaven to show the followers of Baal that God is real.

I hesitated to put this one out because it is not complete – I am still struggling through this season! If you are also going through a time of stillness, please let me know. Maybe we can encourage one another.

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Are You Obeying the Handwriting on the Wall?

Do we really believe Matthew 7:7 –”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?” And if we indeed find it, are we willing to obey what we find?

Recently, I was facing a big career decision and desired to hear from God. I was concerned about getting it wrong. It was so important that I even asked my husband to make the decision—I told him I was praying that God would reveal to him what I was supposed to do.

The unusual part is that God placed three key verses on my heart about three weeks before the critical decision point. During this time, the verses continued to play through my mind. It was like He was saying,”Remember those verses? This is what I was talking about and I want you to pay close attention.” While I was grateful that God was guiding me through my decision, I found that the more difficult part was whether I would obey what He said—obey His obvious handwriting on the wall. His decision was the opposite of my personal desire on the matter. Would I follow Him?

Because it was such a big decision, I sought Godly council from people who were faithful to Him and would know how to guide me. As hard as it was to believe, everyone confirmed what I knew in my heart God was telling me to do. Not only did God confirm the direction I should go but He continued to confirm it for weeks thereafter. I think He knew that this was a hard decision for me and He wanted to continue to comfort me so I wouldn’t have doubts of His leading.

About the same time, I began reading Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God bible study. I bought it because our local Christian Book Store was going out of business, it was on sale, and my sister loves her. On day two of the study Priscilla talked about her mentor, Anne Graham Lotz, “For every major decision she has made, she can pinpoint a specific scripture verse as the one God used to personally direct that decision.” That hit me like a two-by-four. I wish I could tell you that I was strong enough spiritually that all my decisions were like that, but unfortunately it is seldom the case. On day three of the first week, another nugget, “When we obey, no matter how unusual His instructions may be, we create a solid foundation on which God can display His supernatural activity in our lives.” The study was feeding my hungry and aching soul. In week two, the study gave me the confirmation in what Priscilla calls the “Five Ms of Correctly Hearing God.” They are:

1. Look for the message of the Spirit.
2. Live in the mode of prayer.
3. Search out the model of Scripture.
4. Submit to the ministry of Eli. Seek the counsel of a wise, more mature believer.
5. Expect the mercy of confirmation.

A second book that has brought me much comfort and peace has been Joel Osteen’s book, I Declare. Day thirteen talks about embracing change, “That’s why God will turn the boat over. God may force you to move forward, not because he’s mean, not because He’s trying to make your life miserable, but because He has such a great desire to see you reach your full potential.”

Don’t be afraid of seeing the handwriting on the wall but be more afraid of not being obedient to what you see.

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Staying Focused While Living Your Daily Life

The story of David and Goliath (1 Sam 17) is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It is a strong reminder of who we are as children of God. So many people are living defeated lives because they look at the trees rather than the forest and focus on the immediate problem. They forget who they are in Christ. David reminds us of our high standing as a member in the family of God.

The passage depicts the Israeli army trembling in fear of an ungodly giant. Enter David, who was a child – not a warrior or soldier — who cared for his father’s sheep. Upon hearing Goliath’s challenge to the Israelites, David says,

“What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God.”

This little runt of a boy spoke boldly of the confidence in His God to take care of the situation. He spoke so powerfully that the King heard and wanted to speak with him. The first thing David said in verse 32 was, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” From a human perspective this was a sad, peculiar response. After all, here was a child who had no military training but yet willing to take on a mighty giant warrior. Further, when questioned about his abilities, he replied that he had protected his sheep from a lion and a bear. While this was admirable, it was not the kind of skill needed to fight an experienced warrior. However, David knew he would win the battle based not on whom he was or what he could do, but because he was a child of the most High God. In verse 37, he states his confidence, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”

Now, fast forward to our own lives. Like the Israelites, we get caught up in our surroundings and lose focus on God and what He wants to do in our lives. The lesson is, if God has given us a passion or plan, we must stay focused on Him or we’ll miss the prize. By looking around with concern and worry, we will always see people that are bigger, stronger, smarter and more capable than us. This will lead us to our inadequacies, not to our strengths. There were hundreds of warriors more qualified than David to meet Goliath, but they had all lost focus on God and that He is willing to fight our battles. As David met Goliath, he knew who was in control as he stated in vs. 45-47,

“Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand: and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beast of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

1 Corinthians 1:27 advises that God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Do not trust your abilities, talents, or gifts but trust the One who has given them to you, knowing that He has a plan for your life!

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Changing Your World

A few weeks ago, I heard a message from Church of the Highlands pastor, Chris Hodges. His series was entitled “Changing Your World.” One of the points in the message was about your sphere of influence, defined as the dozen people (on average) with whom you spend an hour per week. I realized that, before working at Women’s Hope, my sphere of influence was small. I was cocooned in a very small world where I saw the same people who were similar to myself and having the same values, beliefs and faith. My world consisted of my husband, my son and his friends, my church, my family and the people that I interacted with as a result of my son’s activities. I remember wondering and even praying about how I was going to make a difference in a world where I never ran into in anyone new or who wasn’t a mirror image to some degree.

My prayer was answered when I came to Women’s Hope. My sphere of influence changed and grew. I was meeting people that in normal daily life I would never run across. Their lives were so different from mine, with stories that are often sad, filled with hurt, shame, and despair. Every day in every encounter—my divine appointments—I am reaching out to people and encouraging them to seek God and find Him or to return to Him and be restored. My continual prayer is to live as Colossians 4:5-6 recommends, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Pastor Hodges encouraged us to know our story of hope and to be able to share it with someone in 3 minutes or less. At Women’s Hope, we get to practice that everyday. Nothing is more powerful than sharing who Jesus is to you and what He has done in your life. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” Thank you for sharing your story of Jesus with your divine appointments as you Change Your World!!!

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Finding My Life Work – Joining a Pro-life Ministry

I could have never imagined myself working in the Pregnancy Resource Center/Prolife world. This was not on my goal list or apart of my career aspirations. After finishing college in 1990, I began a career in information technology (IT) for a very fast growing credit card processing company in Columbus, GA – TSYS.

In the 11 years I worked there, I experienced much change and growth. I started out as a mainframe programmer (COBOL) and then moved to programming some of the earliest voice response systems. From there I moved into Process Management. Because TSYS was such a rapidly growing company, Process and Quality Management was not a part of the early years. I got to do some of the ground breaking work in this field for this company. It was a challenge but also very rewarding work. After several years of working in Quality and Process Management, I moved into managing IT training. This work continued to feed my passion for helping people enjoy their work and creating a more peaceful and manageable work environment in what is often very stressful working conditions.

In 2001, I began working as an IT training consultant. This allowed me to work from home and to be a more active part of my sons early school years. During this time, I worked with companies with large IT departments to identify and customize training for their programmers. While I enjoyed working with clients like Regions Bank, I did not find cold calling a great fit.

In 2005, I began to pray that God would show me his dreams and goals for my life and that I would want what He wanted for me and not what I wanted for myself. In 2007, my Bible study group did a service project for a non-profit organization in our town called Women’s Hope Medical Clinic. We went in and cleaned the base boards for their facility. I had no idea what this organization was doing in our community. For some reason though, I kept being drawn to find out more about them. When I first realized they were a Pregnancy Resource Center and a Pro-life organization, I was not excited. While I have always been pro-life, I had not been impressed with the pro-life movement. My experience, while limited, was that they were rude, in your face, zealots and not very loving and kind in their approach. So while there was interest, I also had many misgivings. In the Fall of 2008, I found myself going through a 20 hour training session to become a volunteer Client Advocate. Wow that was such an amazing life changing experience. I heard from a woman who had gone through an abortion and saw her anguish and pain. I heard from a teacher about how to share Jesus with hurting people. Every part of that training put the emphasis on God being present for every encounter that we would have with a client. I still was not sure why I was there and what God was wanting from me but I thought oh well I have some time so I will just continue on with this experience. After the training, I started volunteering some time and was coming to the clinic to shadow the more experienced Client Advocates. That was such a blessing to watch Godly women love and encourage those that came to us for help. As it became clear that they were going to let me start meeting clients on my own, my panic started increasing. I remember standing in the parking lot praying, “Please don’t let me have to meet with someone today by myself. Their problems are so big and what if I don’t get it right.” As you can imagine my faith grew by leaps and bounds as I began realizing I had to hear from God in every situation. I had to be sensitive to His Holy Spirit speaking to me or all I was going to be doing was making a noise. God did prove to be very faithful and in May of 2009, I came on staff as the Client Services Director at Women’s Hope Medical Clinic. I now encourage other people to volunteer and take those scary steps to reach out and help hurting people, who need to hear a Word from our Savior Jesus Christ.

For more on this journey and life-changing work at Women’s Hope Medical Clinic, see my blog: http://www.encouragingservants.wordpress.com

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God’s Love Story

A few years ago I heard a sermon by John Burke from Austin Texas. He has a love for lost, unchurched, immoral people who are far from God or may have never even experienced anything to do with God or religion. One of his new members at his church is so excited about going to this church because of the reception, warmth and acceptance that she felt while attending. As John was getting to know her, he found out that she had been in a broken relationship with her best friend for over a year. However, after becoming a Christian she decided to rebuild that friendship. When Pastor John asked what had caused the rift in the friendship, she replied that her girlfriend had gotten pregnant while having a three some with her husband. Need less to say Pastor John was shocked (as you and I would be to, if we were talking with a church goer and they shared that story). However, Pastor John heard God speak to him and say John “be quiet and listen to what she is saying”. As John listened further, he found out she had been sexually abused as a child and all through out her life had thought that love and acceptance came through sexual expression. It is only as Pastor John and the church have counseled her and shown her Jesus’ Love has she realized how wrong her thinking and ways were.

As shocking as I found this story while listening to this pastor tell it, I realized we at Women’s Hope meet people just like her everyday and we have the opportunity to share with them God’s Love and Mercy. Is this not what we as believers are placed here for – to draw others to him, to give them his Grace, acceptance and unconditional Love? We are meeting with young men and women, that many of us would never in our daily lives encounter. We are asking them if they know Our Heavenly Father and how much He loves them just as they are. I am so amazed at the opportunities that walk through our doors and at your willingness to embrace them and share your faith and hope. What an awesome God we serve and what a great ministry that Women Hope allows us to have.

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