Life Can Be “Pit”iful

pit2Last night I had the privilege of sharing a brief teaching, via conference call, hosted by Women of the Word. WOW is a ministry that I have the utmost confidence in their goals of honoring God and mentoring women.

My subject was “I Know I Have a Destiny but How Do I Get There?” We often labor over the thought of destiny, God’s will or His purpose for us. Yet, I believe it is impossible to miss destiny if we walk closely with God. The bottom line is that destiny is not reached by declaring it, but decisions determine destiny.

Declarations about God’s promise, provision and power are easy to make. Right decisions, when I don’t see Him at work, are not as easy. How will I walk with God on a daily basis? What will I decide in the moments when I am faced with hindrances, inconveniences, tests and trials? Those are defining moments in my walk with God. Decisions determine destiny.

On the conference call, we peeked into the life of Joseph. We only had time to look at the first defining moment for Joseph, where we saw that Joseph had a “pit call” moment in life. He was suddenly jerked from his happy home environment and thrown into a deep dark pit, and it was done by his brothers. Believe or not, it could have been worse, all but one brother wanted to kill him.

I want you to envision the pit. Picture it looking similar to a well. It was deep, dark, bug-infested and uncomfortable. While down there, the Bible tells us that Joseph’s brothers were having lunch. Imagine what it must have been like to hear them laughing over lunch and going on with life, after they just put his life in the pit.

Pit stops. We will all have them. It’s a time when we are thrown into utter darkness in life, and it’s often at the hands of those we thought would never do us that way. It’s easy to get emotionally stuck in the pit. Who wouldn’t feel angry, discouraged, sad or betrayed? Those are normal human emotions, emotions that we can take to God. We don’t have to hide them in His presence.

BUT … pit stops cannot stop our destiny or purpose. Pit stops are not bigger than God, nor are the people or situations that thrust us into those dark moments.  Our God is greater, awesome in power! That is without question!  The real question is what decisions will I make while in that pit. Will I throw up my hands and quit because it got tough? Will I check out on God because He did not handle it the way I thought He would?  Will my anger against those who put me there consume me, slowly turning into bitterness? On the wall of the pit, will I draw a large mural of those who hurt me, so I can stare at it several times a day, and hate those who dropped me in that hole? What decisions will I make in the pit stops of life?

I have decided to follow God. That decision is final. I think on the wall of my pit, I will draw a big picture of the Savior and Lover of my soul, the one who died for me. On another wall, I will paint the words, “He Is Lord.” I have decided that is what will  be the decor of my pit.

He has a path for me to walk, and He will get me from one step to another, until I am walking fully in the purpose for my life. Joseph followed God step by step. It was thirteen hard, unfair years before he even stepped into the true destiny God had spoken to him through dreams. He was thirty when he became second in command in Egypt, and lived to be one hundred and ten years old. Eighty wonderful years of destiny, after thirteen years of  difficulty and unfairness!

Joseph did not give up in the pit. He did not spend all of his energy plotting the demise of those who put him there. The Bible tells us over and over that God was with Joseph. I believe that was written for us, not for Joseph. He is living it in real time.  We have to decide that God is with us, no matter what wind is howling against our lives.

Joseph stepped into destiny at age thirty and stayed there for the final eighty years of his life. He couldn’t control what his brothers did to him, but he could decide to live for God anyway. He could decide to trust God anyway.

I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back, even when life is “pit”iful. How about you? Decisions determine destiny.

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:6


I Love The Church

love-the-churchAs a minister who travels to different churches, it is interesting to see the variety out there.

God’s Church is imperfect, mainly because WE are there. We, the forgiven, who are hopefully growing in Christ-likeness. We, God’s children, who hopefully understand it isn’t just about my needs, or having a “good” service, but about being a part of the mission of God in our cities. Just as in our own families – some never grow up, some are difficult to get along with, some are incredibly loving, some are clueless, some care deeply, some are lazy, some do most of the work. It is very much a family. I love God’s Church. He created it, so He must have felt we needed the family to get together.

My heart is touched as I follow the story of a church in Wisconsin. The pastor and his wife have three children, and two have disabilities. God laid it on their hearts to make a place for families with children who have disabilities. They have recently built a room for children with sensory processing issues, and we were thrilled to partner with them in this effort. Now, people in the community are starting to come to the church, people with special-needs children who had not been able to find a building suitable for their kids with sensory issues. Not every church is going to offer that.

How exciting to see people who are not grumbling about how the church is irrelevant, or uncaring, etc., but instead determined to make it a more caring place. More than we like to admit, there is great truth in the statement: Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Some say church is repetitious. So is life. So is school. So is work.  Then there are those times that a day in life, or at school is so exciting!   Church can be like that. We sing, we pray, we listen, we say hello, we go home. There will be days like that, but then there are those times when God is more tangible in His house, and it is a breath of fresh air. Church is about meeting God in His house.

I am in a really good church. Do I like everything about it? NO! NO! NO! But, I plan to be a part of what is God is doing there, understanding it operates like a family as described above.  Having a bad experience with one family member does not make the whole family bad.  I have said many times, “Some of God’s people need to come with warning labels.”

There are thousands of churches in the USA.  If you can’t serve, attend,  or be a part of the one where you are, find one where you can. But, know that it will be like a family which means sometimes it will be about your needs/desires, and sometimes it will be about touching other members of the family. Sometimes you will get your feelings hurt, and sometimes you will hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes you will disagree, and sometimes you will be disagreeable.

We are family – my brothers and my sisters and me.  I love the Church.

Dish-Towel Lack

Psalm 37v25In our forty-three years of marriage and ministry, Gaylon and I have known lean times and fat times, and I am not talking about weight. Let’s not go there! We’ve had times when our budget was unbearably tight, and we have had to pray down divine supply.  I am not in the camp that buys things, and then asks God to make the payments just because I want something. Wanting and needing are not the same.  I do, however, confess and live by Philippians 4:19 which says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

One time when things were a bit tight, I was spending money on no extras. My dish towels were so thread-bare that I could almost read a book through them.  I decided to go to a local store to purchase dish towels.  As I was perusing the kitchen supply section, I saw a set of three dish towels that matched my kitchen. They weren’t the cheapest ones, but I knew they would last longer.  I picked up a package of three, and a couple of other items, and proceeded to the checkout.  After ringing up my order, the clerk told me how much I owed. I knew it wasn’t enough, and as much as I wanted a good deal, I wasn’t going to be dishonest about it. I looked at the sales receipt, and said to the worker, “I think there is a mistake, because the dish towels rang up for only a penny.”  She said, “Well, I can’t do nothin’ about it because that’s how the computer rang it up.”  Not wanting to do the wrong thing, I requested to see the manager. The manager looked at the receipt and said, “It’s probably wrong but we can’t do anything about it.”  My response was, “So, if I go back and get all you have, I can get them for a penny.”  She said, “Yes, you can.”  The cashier said, “Ain’t that a blessing.”  I smiled, went back and bought all the dish towels they had for a nickel, and I had “no dish-towel lack” for years!

I could tell many stories like that of the dish towels. I love it when I look at my life and say, “Ain’t that a blessing.”  I have seen God’s hand move in our behalf over and over and over. As a matter of fact,  for years we used to have a large “Manna Jar.”  In that jar were things like toy tires, or a picture of a dentist’s chair, and other replicas that had a story of the provision of God.  We would use that to talk about the supply of God.  It was a testimony to ourselves and others that God shows up in life when we desperately need Him.  We even kept a Manna Jar at our church, so the generations would have a memorial to this incredible God that we serve.

After forty-six years of serving God, I’ve known good financial times and bad financial times, but like David, I can testify, “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25.

“Ain’t that a blessing!”

I Met Her on Facebook

FacebookHer name is Melissa and I met her on Facebook through a mutual friend who lives in Georgia. Melissa and I were fifteen hundred miles apart; I was in the heart of Dixie in Alabama, and she was in the frigid city of Bangor, Maine. Our mutual friend, Ruby, was involved in a Facebook discussion on the topic of forgiveness, and Melissa commented along the line that there was no way was she forgiving the hurt that had been done to her! That was never going to happen!

We all got into a friendly discussion about forgiveness, and that in itself is miraculous – a friendly discussion on Facebook! I offered to send Melissa a CD where I had taught on forgiveness, so she sent me her address, and also a friend request. Eventually, I did learn that she listened to the CD, but I don’t recall that we ever discussed forgiveness again. Her hurt was deep, and was a major part of why her walk with God had become very shallow. Unresolved pain and unforgiveness has a way of messing with our God-walk.

Melissa and I did not really keep up with each other on Facebook, but I read her posts often. I felt drawn into the life of this woman I did not know; this woman who had hurt; this woman who was stuck in unforgiveness.

A surprising thing happened one day! Melissa messaged me and wanted my opinion on something. As I warn most people – I do try to give advice from a biblical perspective, which might or might not feel so good at the moment. I assumed I’d probably never hear from her again, but over time, I heard from Melissa many times.

“God, have you connected me with this woman that I don’t even know.” I knew the answer was yes.

One day I was contacted by the wife of a pastor in Bangor, Maine. Kim, the pastor’s wife, wanted to know if I could come for a ministry weekend in Bangor. There would be a women’s gathering on Saturday, and I would speak at a couple of churches on Sunday. Once the date was arranged, I remember smiling at the hand of God being at work. “God, I know you are setting up a divine appointment for me to meet Melissa. I know You are up to something.”

I contacted Melissa and asked her to come as my guest and she accepted. I was so happy! I knew God wanted to heal her everywhere it hurt. The conference in Bangor could not come fast enough! As I arrived at the airport that morning, I kissed my husband, and walked into the terminal. As I walked up to the counter to check-in, I was told that my flight had been delayed for two hours. Because of my connecting flight, I knew I’d be cutting it close, but I was sure God would get me to that conference in Bangor for many reasons, but one big reason was Melissa.

As the two-hour wait was about to end, I approached the desk again, and was informed: We cannot get you to Bangor until late Saturday night. WHAT! I am on a divine assignment. God is about to do something big. I rebuked it and I bound it, yet, I never left Birmingham to go to Bangor that weekend. God, how could this happen?

Melissa told me she was bummed that I wasn’t coming, but I encouraged her to go to the women’s day anyway. She did go, and she did enjoy it, but no real change seemed to manifest in her life. But..God was just getting started!

The next year I did go to Bangor as one of the speakers at a Women of the Word conference, and I encouraged Melissa to come. She agreed and even registered for the extra session, a Friday luncheon, where I would speak. As time approached she realized that she has missed the fact that the luncheon was on Friday. She was so disappointed because she had an important event at work that Friday, and would need to be there. “God, what is going on?” I prayed and asked God for a miracle, and He did it. Melissa was able to miss the event at work and attend our luncheon. When I walked into that room that day, I was looking for one woman – Melissa. I knew God had ordained this time. God was looking for her, too, and He began to work on her heart.

Melissa ended up attending the entire weekend of the conference, and speaker after speaker touched her heart, and God did amazing things. God absolutely changed Melissa’s life. I was speaking at a church that Sunday, and as tired as she was, Melissa made it to that service.

This Sunday, August 17, 2014, Melissa, will be baptized in that church she visited the Sunday I was in Bangor, Maine. She has told me that she loves God, loves that church, loves the worship, and that the pastor and his wife are real people who are the real deal. Melissa has joy in her voice and attitude now. She is no longer enslaved to unforgiveness. God has set her free!

Why have I taken you down this long journey?

I want us to be reminded once again that God is fully capable of putting the right people in our paths to bring us, and our loved ones to Him. His hand is not shortened that He cannot save. He can take messed up schedules and still work miracles. He can change things at work to fulfill divine moments that He has on His calendar. He can heal us where it hurts. He can restore our joy. He cares enough to send someone fifteen hundred miles on an airplane to meet a woman who is hurting. God is the arranger of all that needs arranging in order to change a life.

From Facebook to God’s book – don’t you just love it when God sets up divine appointments!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

There’s A Pharisee in Me

the-pharisee-in-meThe words were stunning and shocking. The doctor, after much testing said to me, “Mrs. Benton, we are 99% sure you have ovarian cancer, and it has already spread to nearby lymph nodes. You will need surgery to remove all the disease, and by my side will be a surgical oncologist, who will check all the organs to see how much the disease has spread.”  That was nineteen years ago, and praise be to God, I am still here!  He still works miracles!

The Sunday after my surgery, I was not able to be in the church service. A friend of mine was so grateful for the miracle God had done in my body that she began to dance with the joy of the Lord. Others began to join in and celebration erupted in the house. Then, an unbelievable thing happened. One man looked with disdain upon the celebration, citing that my friend had never danced this way before, so why today?   He could not celebrate the great victory because he was too busy being a Pharisee – righteous enough to dance when he wanted, but eager to tell others why they shouldn’t or couldn’t!

Please don’t think my intention is to be hard on my fellow believer.  We all have some Pharisee in us, and when it shows its face, religion can get real ugly real fast.

“On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. (Luke 6:6-7)

Jesus showed up in church one day and saw a man with a withered hand. Jesus just can’t help being Jesus – filled with compassion and eager to heal. It was a beautiful thing Jesus did as he healed that man’s hand and set him free. What God did that day was incredible. Yet, in that same service, some of the “church” folks were watching, not to celebrate what was right, but to point out what was wrong.

It is so easy to sit in a church gathering looking for what we don’t like, or seething over the one thing we disagreed with in the sermon. In our minds, we can turn the beautiful things of God into something ugly real fast if we let the Pharisee take over.

Pharisees don’t seek to love and heal those around them, but to show them every little thing that is wrong with them. Pharisees could never enjoy the presence of Jesus because they were always trying to make sure every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed just right. If even one thing wasn’t like they thought it should be, church was over for them. How many times did they miss the presence of Jesus touching them because somebody offended them by the way they did something?  Pharisees loved the best seats. They wanted to be seen. How many times do we walk away from the things of God because no one noticed me, or no one spoke to me?

Beloved, the presence of Jesus is always where two are three are gathered in His name. He is there to touch us, cleanse us, renew us and empower us. Don’t miss out on what God is doing because you see someone who is not quite living up to your standards, or, you see a leader that has done you wrong, so no way are you rejoicing in that service!

The Pharisaical spirit is from Satan to keep us from entering into the life-changing work of the Spirit. That spirit is determined to kill the life of Christ in you. As a born-again, Spirit-filled child of God declare boldly, “Pharisaical spirit, get out of me. You will not rule my worship or my ability to enter into God this day!  You will not destroy me or hinder the work of God in my life, my family or in my church.”

How well I know that I must be careful about the Pharisee in me.

Let God arise and His enemies be scattered!