Who Do You See In The Mirror?

Cat in mirrorAs I sat in the audience listening to a gifted, well-known speaker, fear began to overtake me.  I was one of three speakers at that weekend conference, and I was totally unknown.    The voices in my head began to say, “What are you doing here?  You can’t compete with her.  You have nothing to say.  You will put people to sleep.”

I literally went to the head of the conference and said, “She practically covered my whole message, so you can just give the women the afternoon off.  I’m okay with that.”

She replied, “No!”

When my session rolled around, my feet felt like cement blocks as I walked up on the stage and to the podium.  I wanted to cry, and I wanted to run away.    Though I had sought God, prepared a message and dressed just right (hey, I am a girl), I wanted to go home.  I had little faith in my ability.

I opened the Bible, read the scripture and then began to speak what God had given me.  The response was amazing.  Once I was done, and went back to my seat, all I could say was thank you, God, for believing in me when I did not even believe in myself.

While I very much believe in positive confession of who we are, and who Christ is in us, there are times that life can weight you down. God doesn’t give up on you when your confession isn’t perfect.  In the book of Judges, a man named Gideon felt totally defeated. His confession was basically, “I’m just a big weakling who can’t do anything.” God, through an angel, said, “I don’t think so.” Well, actually He said, “You are a mighty warrior.”

When Gideon listed all the reasons he was disqualified to be used by God, God rejected Gideon’s small view, and said to him as recorded in Judges 6, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Gideon went on to be the mighty warrior that God said he was.  The key to his success?  God was with Him.  God paid no attention to what Gideon thought of himself, or what others thought of Gideon.  What mattered is that God promised to be with him.  God did not expect Gideon to do it in his own strength.   God sees us not as what we are, but what we will be when His power is upon us.   Accomplishing great things is not about who I am, but about who God is.

Take another long look in that mirror, and see who God sees.  Over your life, God confesses, “Mighty warrior!”   He sees you much greater than you see yourself.

From Trash To Diamonds

flea-market-flip-title-shot-featOne of my most favorite TV programs is Flea Market Flip on HGTV.  Oh my goodness – I record FMF,  and binge watch several episodes at a time.  The show is all about looking for something that is all messed up, and envisioning what it could become. Each week amazing items are showcased; they are items which have undergone a transforming process.   The items are then sold for a major profit. Their value was maximized thanks to the hands of the ones who created the “new” item.    What was trash to others, became diamonds after being transformed by the hands of their creator.

I am so thankful that God transforms lives.  He looks at messed up people, people with flaws, people that others think have little value.  God looks at those people not as they presently are, but what they will become after His transforming process.

Many could be listed, but let me showcase some people who became diamonds because of the hands of the Creator:

  1. We met “Mary” in one of the states where we were pastors. She had lived a rough life, and had even begun to sell her body.  Mary was found by Jesus Christ, and He transformed her life.  She became a new creation.  Others saw her as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.
  2. “Susan” had quite a story.  She had lived in a horribly abusive marriage for many years.  What Susan had gone through at the hands of her husband is beyond comprehension.  One day she felt she had all she could stand. While her husband was sleeping, Susan shot him twice.    As a result, she was sentenced to several years in prison.  My husband led her to the Lord, baptized her and was used by God to help equip her for life change.  Susan eventually got out of jail, and was a new creation.  Others saw her as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.
  3. Then, there was a little girl named Barbara. Her life was rough while growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father.  The things she endured messed her up emotionally, and in other ways. God came looking for another “piece” to transform by His creative hands.  God took Barbara, and through a transforming process, changed who she was.  He would later open many doors of ministry to her, so she could proclaim the power of God to change lives.  Some saw Barbara as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.

It is so easy to look at people as losers, pieces of trash or not “worthy of the oxygen they breathe.”  God is looking for those messed up “pieces.”  He envisions them as diamonds.

Thank God that He can change trash into diamonds.  Barbara knows. Indeed she does!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I Am Disgusted With Disgusted

DisgustingI’m disgusted with the word disgusted.

Newsflash:  we live in difficult times.  Well, I guess it’s not much of a newsflash.  Right is now wrong, and wrong is now right. It is so difficult to see some of what is happening all around us.   The pressure is on!

My heart aches every time I hear God’s people say, “Well, if you are gay that is disgusting.”  Or, if you embrace this or that, “You are disgusting.”

How can we minister to the lost effectively when we hurl insults?

There are many spiritually sick people today, and they need Jesus Christ to change their lives.  I was spiritually sick for many years.  In my teen years, I am sure there would have been “church folk” who thought I was disgusting.  Actually, I was a hurt little girl trying desperately to find my way.  While I might have been disgusting to some, I was deeply loved by God.   I needed His love, grace, forgiveness and healing.

Do you know the difference between a believer and an unbeliever?  It’s the condition of the heart.   As believers we now have redeemed hearts, and a redeemed heart should be broken over the person who has a sin-sick heart.   Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost.

While I believe in standing up for the Word of God and right living according to His Word, our greatest impact will not come by getting in people’s faces.  It will come by getting in their hearts.    When is the last time you prayed, “Oh, God, let me lead someone to Jesus today?” “Oh God, lots of things will try to upset me today, but use me to be a voice for You.”  “Father, I pray for _________ who is trapped in sinful lifestyle.  “Father, save _______, and use me to help reach him/her.”

The greatest way that the Church will impact the nation is returning to the Great Commission:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus died for the person(s) we find disgusting.    As a matter of fact, I confess, “Jesus died for the disgusting Barbara Benton.”

God loves sinners.  Do you?

Becoming Friends With A Bee

BEESpring has sprung in the deep south!  I love the blooming flowers, the green grass and the warm, sunny days.

Over the weekend, my grandsons were playing in my backyard.  There was running, laughter and playing with the sand table.  There were also about half-dozen bees that continued to visit us.  Andrew thought it was so cool and smiled and was ready to be friends with a bee.   Yikes!   Today, kids have watched so many cute cartoons that show friendly bees, snakes, mice, lions and other creatures of nature, that now it’s easy to think of these creatures as something fun.   While the bee, in itself, is not bad, if one gets tangled up with the bee, that’s another story.

It is our job to teach and model, that while these creatures might look fun and harmless, they can be harmful, even deadly.  While the boys were smiling at the bees, Grammy was quick to tell them that the bee will hurt them, so don’t go near it.

As I have watched over the last decade, so many things have become cute and fun, that are really harmful.   There are things, that appear to be fun and life-fulfilling, and yet have been detrimental, especially to our youth.  Too much has been packaged as normal and inviting.   My heart breaks to see a ten-year old child engaging in or preoccupied with things that should not even be in their young minds.  Yet, it packaged as cute and fun all around them.

It is an hour when parents must be parents.  Teachers of God’s word must be teachers of God’s word.   Clearly in many instances, right and wrong are spelled out in the word of God.  Warnings of consequences are written in black and white.   Why are we so afraid to say that?    While we must not say it in a rude and hateful manner, we still must speak the truth in love.

I want to be a “mother in Israel.”  I want to speak the truth in love.  I want to have a voice that speaks God’s wisdom.

It’s not a time to make friends with a bee!

Let The Party Begin

celebrate-yourselfWe recently had two of our grandsons over for a morning.  I had been sick for a while, and we had not spent much time with them, so I had to see them!

Joseph is such a sweetheart, and is on the autism spectrum. Sometimes we have to work through little things, and I often clap for Joseph through every little accomplishment. We worked through something that morning, and I clapped and celebrated every time he did it. Eventually he was doing it on his own, but he would look and me, clap and say, “Yay!”

Joseph has learned to celebrate his little accomplishments.  Joseph has learned to celebrate himself.

Some of us can only see ourselves through a negative light.  We look at everything we have ever done wrong. We look at how much we weigh.  We look at how much farther we should be down the road. We look at the accomplishments of others.  After all that looking, all too often we can see no good in ourselves.

Stop and think for a moment.  What can you celebrate about you?    I know some are having a hard time coming up with something, and that ought not be!  Are you kind to others?  Are you an encourager?  Are you a good parent? Are you a prayer warrior? Have you grown in your relationship with God?

Today, I challenge you to celebrate YOU.  Celebrate what God has done in YOU and through YOU.   As a matter of fact, I challenge you to comment on this blog by writing something good about you.

Let the party begin!  Celebrate YOU!

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works! And that my soul knows very well.” – Psalm 139:14

When “Hosanna” Changes To “Crucify”

PalmAs we celebrated Palm Sunday weekend, my mind began pondering what the real day must have been like. There was Jesus riding on a donkey.  There was Jesus, being praised with shouts of, “Hosanna, hosanna!” filling the air. What a celebration day!   What an electric atmosphere it must have been!

Yet, just a few days later, some of the same people were ready to take back their “hosannas,” and shout, “Crucify!”

People can sing our praises one week, and be hoping for our destruction the next.    (Just keeping it real!)   How did Jesus react?  Jesus just continued traveling in the will of God. With all the shouts of praises, He did not get a “big” head.  He just rode into town to do the will of God.  He never forgot His purpose.

Later, when some of the same people were ready to kill Him, Jesus just continued yielding to the will of God.  At that point, He did not say, “Forget this! Forget people and forget the will of God!  I’m over this!”

Jesus could have easily walked according to the praises of people.  “Hosanna!” certainly sounds better to the ear than, “Crucify!”

Along with many others, I have gone down the road with people shouting, “Hosanna!  Oh, Barbara, we love you!  You are a mighty woman of God.”  Yet, the time came, when some of those same people cried, “Crucify her!  Get her out of here!  She is evil!”

I don’t make the above statement to evoke sympathy, but to say that one cannot walk the will of God expecting to please people.  Thank God for the times we can please both God and people!   Still, we all must face the fact that people can turn on you in a New York minute.  People are … well, they are people.

One of the saddest things I see is the number of people who have gotten off the donkey, and quit riding into the will of God, because someone is no longer shouting, “Hosanna!”

“Hosanna” did not lead how Jesus walked his life. God did.  People were not what he lived for, but people were who he died for.

Today, get back up on that donkey, and keep riding into the will of God.   In the end, Jesus had victory over people, death, hell and the grave.  In the end, Jesus was raised to sit at the right hand of the Father.   In the end, Jesus had the shouts of heaven.  Heaven had the last word and it was, “Hosanna!”

Red and Yellow, Black and White

 

keep-dream-alive-black-white-hand-shake-martin-luther-king-jr-mlkTimes have changed through the years for this Southern Belle.  I live in a large neighborhood in a very quiet suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.  I love living between my two neighbors. On each side, we are blessed with sweet little widows, and both are African American.  I love to stand in my yard and chat with them.

One night as I was walking, I passed my neighbor’s home, and noticed her car engine was running while the car was in the garage, yet no one was in the car.  I assumed she was about to leave.  After walking three miles, I returned home, and noticed that the car was still running and no one was in it.  I knew that was not normal for my neighbor.  I went to my Vestee’s door to check on her.   It took me a while to get her to the door, but she was so glad I did.    The car had not been driven in a while, and she went out to start it so that the engine could run, but she forgot about the car.

We exchanged phone numbers that day, and I told her to also give my number to her daughter, in case they needed me to check on her.

I also love talking with the neighbor on the other side.  Betty is a talker!  We can go on for a very long time.  I had not seen Betty outside in a while, so I expressed concern to my husband.  “This is just not like Betty.  I know something is wrong, or she is gone away.”   Finally, I saw Betty one day, and I knew immediately she was fighting for her life.  Betty has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We have talked, and she knows I am praying for her.  I have sent her a card, and I want to visit when she is up to it.

This might not seem like a big deal to most, but it is to me

As a child growing up in the south, I saw a lot of social unrest.  (I know it was in other areas as well, so let’s not get sidetracked.) My first time of experiencing integration was when I was in the seventh grade, and I was twelve years old.  As I look back now, I realize much of what happened, happened because we were raised in environments where we learned to judge people from the outside, not the inside.  I certainly don’t defend that position, but at that time, that’s what we knew.

Thank God, I learned better, and raised children who were taught better!

God’s word shows us how Jesus dealt with the issue of judging folks from the outside.   In fact, Jesus literally walked right into the issue when He dared to minister to the woman at the well.   Simply because she was a Samaritan, she would have been thought of as “less than” by the Jews of her day.   Samaritans were originally Jews, but later intermarried with Gentiles. The intermarriage created a mixed race, and the “pure” Jew hated them.

The animosity between the two groups was so great that the Jews would bypass Samaria as they traveled between Galilee and Judea. They took a longer route in order to avoid going through Samaria.  Jesus could not make everyone else do the right thing, but He could do the right thing.

My heart is saddened as I see race relations in this country taking a big step backwards.  I know it’s not a popular subject to discuss, but it needs to be discussed. There’s a lot of anger out there.  I find it sad how quickly we point the finger at each other, calling one another racists.   I refuse to be drawn into that!  Like Jesus, I can’t make anyone else do the right thing, but I can do the right thing.  I am going to treat people as people.  I don’t care if they are brown, black, white or mixed. I refuse to take a step backwards, even if others choose that path.

I love my two neighbors.  All of three of us are old enough to remember the “bad” days, and all three of us remember when being neighbors would have been impossible.  Now, we laugh together, cry together, pray for each other and lean on one another.  I am here for them.

I refuse to sign-up or be drafted as a soldier in the war on people. Others might, but I choose not to be in that army.

Christian love is a bridge, not a hedge.

Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.” –  Acts 10:28

 

It Will Be Okay

I'm OkayI’m pretty sure God gave grandchildren to keep laughter in our lives.  It’s so much fun to watch them grow and discover the world. Andrew, who will be three in July, loves life!  He is on the move and curious about things around him.  Andrew also has a little streak of drama in him!

As a baby and a toddler, when Andrew would fall or hurt himself in some way, we were all quick to scoop him up.  Andrew could turn a slight bump, into a major incident.  He would cry and cry and cry and cry and cry and cry, and Andrew is a loud crier.

The little bumps of life became big bumps to Andrew.

Over time, Andrew’s parents stopped making a big deal over a little deal.  They began to say to Andrew, “You’re okay, you’re okay.”   Andrew began to realize, “I’m okay.  It’s a bump.  I’m okay!”

When Andrew visits with us now, he will bump something, or trip, and we might not even realize it. Then we hear Andrew confessing with his mouth, “I’m okay. I’m okay.”

Andrew has grown and matured, and the bumps of life no longer stop him in his tracks.

All of us have bumps in life – lots of them!  Some of them are large and painful, but many are very small.  Don’t turn every small bump into a drama or a social media post.   If we are children of God, walking in step with Him, WE ARE OKAY.  We must become people who can simply look at the bumps of life, and say, “I’m okay.”  Bumps hurt, and are an inconvenience, but we walk with God.  “We are okay!”

Confess it today.  Calm yourself down.  Don’t make drama out of every little thing.   There are enough big things in life, so let’s not turn a little thing into a big thing.

Do you walk with God?  If so, say it aloud, “I’m okay!”

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23

The Jonah In Your Boat

JonahMost of us know the story of Jonah and the big fish.  Jonah was a man on the run from God, and wanted nothing to do with the will of God.  As he was on a ship trying to run away, a storm sent by God (that will upset someone’s theology), began to endanger all aboard the boat.  Jonah told them the answer was to throw him overboard.  The men did not want to throw him overboard, so they tried to row Jonah out of the storm.  The longer Jonah stayed on board and out of God’s will, the more tumultuous the storm became for EVERYONE on board.  Finally, the only answer was that Jonah had to be thrown overboard.

Let’s look at a few quick takeaways from Jonah:

  1. Running from God opens the door for a tumultuous life. Life is difficult enough, but it is faulty thinking, when one thinks I can do it on my own.
  2. When God is dealing with people who are running away from Him, stop trying to row them out of God’s dealings. Often the storm is from God, so an individual can see that bad choices can ruin a life.  Parents, we do this so often with our children!  We try to row them out of consequences.
  3. There are times in life that we might need to throw a relationship overboard, so God can deal with the person, and calm can return to our lives. This is not a decision that should be made lightly, but there are times it is necessary.  As a matter of fact, the soldiers did it as a last resort.  They first threw all their cargo overboard.
  4. God can speak to and restore those that are overboard. If you read the short book of Jonah, you will find that it only took a few days in the water and in the fish, for Jonah to realize this was not what he wanted for his life.  The Bible records that Jonah began to communicate with God, and God got Jonah back on course.

Take a good look at your life today.  Are you trying to outrun the will of God?   Are there people you are trying to row out of the dealings of God? Are there things that need to be thrown overboard so the waters of life can become calmer?   That might include relationships, or other things.

Perhaps this seems like a harsh word today. It’s really not.  It shows a God who is in hot pursuit of us.  He does not easily let us go our own way, and even when we do, He keeps His hand upon us.    God could have just let Jonah die, but God pursued Jonah.    The Bible actually says God “appointed” the fish to save His prophet.

Beloved, God is pursuing you today!   He never gives up on you.  There will be appointed things along the way saying, “Come on back.”

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2).

Laying It Down To Pick It Up

Lay-it-DownTwo-and-a-half-year-old Andrew Benton loves life.  When this grandson of ours visits, he wants nonstop play and activity.

Recently Andrew had a large toy in each hand, and saw another that he wanted.  He could not pick up the new toy,  because he wasn’t willing to lay down what was already in his hands.  He fussed, tried to figure out how to do it, but to no avail.  I kept saying to Andrew, “Lay it down, so you can pick up what you desire.”  But, no, no, no!  Andrew never did pick up what was before him, because he was not willing to release the grip on what he thought was so precious.

Andrew was overloaded with his own stuff.

One of the greatest enemies of walking in what God has for us, is holding on to things that we need to lay down.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Let’s lay down the failures of the past, things we cannot change, and walk in the new day God gives us. This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice in today!
  • Let’s lay down the disappointment of Church folks, and become a vital part of a local church.  The oyster puts up with the irritant of sand, and winds up with a pearl.
  • Let’s lay down the hurts that are suffocating us, and release them to God.
  • Let’s lay down the negative self-images, and thank God for who He made us to be.
  • Let’s lay down wishing we had a certain gift, and pick up the anointed gift God has given us.  There are miracles in every anointed gift that God bestows.
  • Let’s lay down bad, harsh attitudes, and pick up joy.
  • Let’s lay down Facebook and other media, and pick up the Word of God.
  • Let’s lay down a wagging tongue, and pick up words that heal and offer hope.

I could go on and on.  We all fight these kinds of battles, and it’s easy to hold on to these things.  The power is in releasing stuff that keeps us from walking through the open door God has for us. As a great  Bill Gaither song says:

In the things familiar we find security
Resisting all the changes that days and years can bring
When God decides to lead you through an open door
Inviting you to walk in realms you’ve never known before

Beyond the open door is a new and fresh anointing
Hear the Spirit calling you to go
Walk on through the door for the Lord will go before you
Into a greater power you’ve never known before.

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress …” (Hebrews 12:1b NLT)