Purposeful Faith

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When Your Picture Is Not Pretty

Picture Is Not Pretty

I saw the truck driver out of the side of my eye from the sidewalk. He was unloading boxes. I shot him a side-smile, halfway knowing he’d get a kick watching me position my kids just right. It was going to be the Fall picture of all Fall pictures, mostly because the backdrop looked autumn-genius – pumpkins, mums and hay looked like artwork. C’mon, this was it! I balked at the beauty. Truck-man didn’t smile back; he just glared.

So, when he approached me, I got scared.

“Do you want to be in the picture with the kids?”

I sized him up all wrong.

You can’t measure a heart in a split-second.

Here he was: a good man breaking out of his timeline of delivering food to deliver us the perfect picture. I appreciated it. Did he know how badly I wanted things to feel perfect? How I wanted my kids to experience the warmth of this season? How I wanted them to see the colors and value in change? How I wanted to know – and remember – I was a good mother?

This picture, I imagined, would be the ones the kids gathered around. It was going to be me- looking cute and them – looking happy. It was going to be me – bringing them places they would love. It was going to be them – full of joy.

No one was going to forget it. Pictures are memorials of good times. And, random picture-takers are angels.

I shoved daughter up on the hay. She hated it. I pushed her up on a pumpkin. She toddler-cursed the seat. No matter where this angel-trucker stood – left,  right, center – I sighed, there was just no money shot. Daughter was done with it. So was I.

Why is it whenever I try to orchestrate good, it goes bad?

And, why do good acts of service so often fail?

Not only did I feel let down, but I felt like I wasted someone else’s time. I burdened him for nothing. Guilt arrived.

What is your dream shot?  Maybe it looks entirely different than expected?

Maybe you look odd? Less than? Or, maybe you feel guilty for wasting people’s time?

Embarrassed? Or, scared, even?

Sometimes, things just pan out – weird, ugly and wrong. And, what you’re left with are images blurred, skewed or haphazard. Ones that catch you with your eyes closed or with a double chin. They show the hatable things.

…The LORD does not look at the things people look at…  (1 Sam. 16:7)

What we look at worthless, God calls worthy…

Our picture is earthly, but God’s is eternal. So, while we see a snip-it, God sees more. He sees past the clothes, the facades and the faces, straight to the heart. He sees all the images lined up, like framed pictures on a wall going up the stairs. He sees our growth, our progress and our love expanding. The pictures please him.

We can’t always see from his view. That’s our real problem…

We don’t see much. We see the here, the now, the tears and the Pumpkin-fits. God sees the gallery in the Museum of his Faithfulness. He sees how the image of mourning gives way to joy 3 steps ahead. He sees how the grief gives way to gladness a couple feet beyond. He sees how mayhem will work itself into peace when his love develops.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness...  Ps. 30:11

Today,  I am encouraged to know beyond the externals, God cares far more about the picture of the internals.
I am encouraged to remember there is a vision to the pictures of my life.
I am encouraged to focus my lens on eternity.

With the filter of eternity, in this picture I see:

  1. We are all fighting to find our seat in life.
    Sometimes we just need another to come behind us to say it is okay to not know because God does.
  2. There is no perfect picture unless you zoom in on Jesus.
  3. What appears like a bad shot will be glorious, tomorrow.untitled-design-19

And, with this, I smile and know – that picture I took? It is a memorial. It’s a marker of imperfection, an image of my growth and a pointer to the glory that awaits. I’ll hold it close and look back on it fondly.

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When People Complicate Things

People Complicate Things

I thought about bringing them in. But, if I do everything will get turned upside down. There will be questions, problems, ideas and suggestions about how I should do things. There will be recommendations for how the games should be played and different ideas on how the event should look. There will be deep discussions on outfits. Whether to serve mushrooms or asparagus. There will be rabbit trails I am too busy to commit to – and honestly could care less about.

I want to move alone. I want to lead the charge.  Is there anything wrong with that?

People = Problems

I like:

Kelly = Leader
People = Quiet doers

Hate me if you will, but I am being completely honest. Sometimes I can’t handle people. I’ve always had an issue with them. They get loud. They get opinionated. They get political. They get whiny. They get long-winded (you open your mouth to speak only to have the words stolen from you). They get advice-oriented, especially when you already have a good plan in motion. They diss your ideas. They judge all the time…! They get critical. They hurt you.

Sometimes it feels better to shove people
down a rabbit hole and cover the top,
then let them give voice to things that might hurt you.

Ever noticed?

I throw them a carrot every now and then if they’ve been good. If they’ve been obedient and rule-sensitive down there.

But, if they’ve been a vwery bad rabbit, I tend to:

– Ignore them.
– Try to advise, derail or shush them.
– Avoid them
– Squeeze them out.
– Talk about them behind their back or in my head.
– Get filled up with so much steam, I exhale scolding words.

I punish those disobedient rascals. Mostly, I punish them because I am afraid of them.

Oh, boy…it’s true.

I am afraid they’ll: look better than me, come up with better ideas than me, steal my show, be liked more by other people, grace the world better than me, make me realize the ugly parts of myself.

Can’t have Kelly feeling uncomfortable! No way, friends. That is the first rule of avoidance. 

Better to diss than be dissed, right? Better to be the first one to walk out on that boyfriend, than to have him dump you. Better to let your eyes roam the room with your eyes, than to have others do it to you. Better to step away than have to deal with your friend liking the other girl more. Better to disassociate than associate with potential pain.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phil. 2:3

There’s that…

It looks the opposite of my approach. It’s one of those verses you recite because it sounds so beautiful. It sounds so Jesus. It sounds like, “Yes! I am great and humble and self-sacrificing and writing for Jesus (or fill in whatever holy excuse you use to not really love).

Self-protection is not holy affection, friends.

It’s a sack of nasty pride.

Am I being too hard on you – and on me?

Maybe. We’ve been hurt. It’s been painful. People have played – not nice. I know, I really know. It stinks.

Let’s throw a pout-party and squeeze our face muscles real tight and remember their icky-ness. Let’s.

Then, let’s toss them to the wind. Let’s let them fly away from us, because those past pains are holding us up from receiving present love. We are missing moments. We are losing joy. We are hiding away and into ourselves. We are losing the depths the real warmth that comes from letting someone really knowing you.

Our pride party is pointless.

Our joy is incomplete.

Our glass isn’t half empty, it is depleted.

He who is faithful to love operates in the gaps of people’s messes. If we are looking for pariahs of perfection, they don’t exist, but He does. He will layer in love, where they have left holes. Friends, it is not a person we are looking to fill us, it is God. We find him in the holes of man, for that’s where he leaves us – holy.

Prayer for Recovery of Relationships:
Dear Lord, today, I confess, I get scared. I get scared that someone will hurt me the same way as yesterday. It feels like a very real, present and oncoming threat. Help me trust you. Help me leave my heart in your hands, knowing that your wrapping of it is a covering that no man can penetrate. Help me believe that you are good, even when man is messed up. Help me know that my identity is in you and it is not indicative of man’s opinion. Lead me in your grace, mercy and fearlessness. Amen.

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Related Reading:

When People Are Disgusting

Broken Perfectionism

When The Other Girl Has it All

Has it All

Eyes trying to peep over the counter, they stood on tippy-toes. They were close, yet far enough the glass window preventing them from grabbing it. No touching allowed! They watched, as she ladled on the batter, shaped it, then carefully added the chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers. Like pent up children ready to bust into Christmas, they knew, I knew – something monumental was about to happen. Yet, I also knew WWIII might breakout…

The second the gigantic crepe was in their hand, I heard it,
“Mine, mine, mine.”

He watched, she took a bite, “My bite wasn’t as big as hers!”

She watched, yelling, “He got 2 bites.”

He ripped it a chunk as quickly as he could.

So did she.

He looked at us with frustration, “Why can’t I have more.”

She grabbed it and stared right at him, “Look what I have.”

They were so honed in on what the other had,
they  missed what they had.

So focused on the other’s portion,
they missed the chance to enjoy theirs.

So eager to win in the moment, they ruined it.

How often do we sour our sweet moments?

God, you should have given that to me. Why does she have the voice and the brains? Why don’t my kids act like that? How come every door is open for her to walk through? Why did she get the promotion and I didn’t? When will it be my turn? Why do I have to be the heavier one?

We sour sweet moments when we believe God hands us second-best.

I sat in church today. Up on the screen, they announced the women’s conference of all women’s conference. They showed the speakers perfect smiling faces, they highlighted their glorified messages, their idealized lives and their heart to bring Jesus to stadium-filled masses. Why aren’t I the model spokesperson for Jesus? I wanted their shoes.

They soured my sweetness.

The good in me went rancid.

My husband whispered,“Kelly, are you going to that event?”

“No way,” I whispered. “I am far too jealous.”

I didn’t want to go off.

Because I’ve come to see… women who walk with unaddressed sin are walking time bombs. As time passes, something ticks them off.  And it is never pretty.

I don’t want to live exploding jealousy, but exploding love.

So, when I see even the smallest elements, I stop. I just shut it all down – and look. I look for Jesus.  And, what I’ve come to see is he leads me, Willy Wonka-style, not into a big chocolate vat – but into the waves of my heart.

When you, first, seek Jesus’ heart, you find yours.

New rhythms of humanity surface. I see humans just like me. I see different missions for different children. I see that other’s great callings in no way diminish mine.  I see a daddy meeting me in the gap, with love. I see it all. When I invite Jesus in.

What has soured your sweetness?

Is it a neighbor who is a little show-offy?
A colleague who always does right?
A winner who never loses?
A beautiful gal who, you figure, is BFF with the mirror?
An outgoing one who has it all together?
A successful one who is at the top of the charts?
A relationship you are not a part of?

I think about that crepe again. From another angle, it truly could have represented sugar cubes. That is how sweet it was. But, my kids enjoyed it as much as rock soup.

Jealousy steals our sweetest blessings, so we can’t even see them. 

It’s often, not that we don’t have, but that we just don’t see.

What we do see, though, is the girl on the left and the right. Eyes glued, we analyze her clothes, beauty, success and everything else. Then, jealousy speaks up louder – it speaks vile. Chit-chat, that’s mean. Comparison, that’s damaging. Actions, that scar people. Not only that, but it drives us right by God’s plan.

We look back and say, “Where did God go?”

Well, we left him 4 blocks back, nearly right before we hit the lamppost on the side of the road.

Jealousy is crash-route for Christians. Ride or die – baby!

God, though, in his mercy, is something else; He is Savior. He offers us guardrails so we don’t crash. They’ve saved me a time or two.

4 Guardrails for Jealous Hearts:

– Realize:  All relationships are permissible, but not all relationships are profitable. If someone is gossipy or comparison-oriented, it may be time to step back.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. 1 Cor. 10:23

– Pray: If you lift a person up, instead of critiquing them, you might find you start to love them. You’ll see purpose arise out of hatred.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4

– Submit: Lay down and see the height of your Father’s love for you. If you believe he is Creator, don’t you believe he will create something amazing on your behalf?
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Jo. 10:27

– Admire: If you can’t deal with girl’s God-shining glory on earth how will you endure God’s numero-uno glory in heaven? You don’t want to look like a fallen angel who can’t handle God’s glory, do you? Choose to admire his glory – in others – today so you can bask in it tomorrow.

Your sweetness is not found at the end of the yellow brick roads, friend, it is found at the end of yourself and the start of the Father that cannot contain his love for you. Get yourself there and your heart will get right.

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Why Christian’s stay Blind and Struggling

Blind and Struggling

I’ve been praying lately, to be rid of this flesh-eating bacteria. I know, trust me, I know, it sounds weird. And, I guess you wouldn’t even call it a “flesh-eating bacteria,” because it is more like “soul-eating bacteria.” Or maybe a “peace-eating bacteria”. A “night-time sleep-ruining bacteria.

It chases at my heels telling me I should settle tomorrow’s emotions rather than claiming right now’s peace. You too?

Worry.
It smothers hope; making you desire fix-it dope to feel better.
It exchanges the peace of God for fear of _____.
It stunts the muscles God plans to grow during trials.
It debilitates peace.
It corrodes holy.
It eats joy, causing doubt.

This is why I pray so often, “God, I don’t want to worry. I don’t want to continuously think about people or problems one day longer.”

Because these things blind me. 

..Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” Mark 8:22-23

Do you see anything when you worry?

Where does worry incline your eyes?

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Mark 8:24

People like trees? Jesus, the miracle-maker, the Prince of Peace, the great physician left this man seeing – trees?  Did the greatest healer – fail? What kind of jacked-up miracle was this?

Let’s consider this deeper…
When the blind man opened his eyes, following Jesus’ touch, “He looked up and said, ‘I see people.‘”

Notice: The blind man did not focus on the Man with Power, but the people with none.

The very God before him – he did not see.
But, he what did see was – his issue.

Where do your eyes head 10-minutes after you get with God?

To people? Problems? Predicaments?  

Sometimes our focus prevents us from seeing – and receiving – God’s greatest work. Like a stray lover, we look at everyone but our first love; we miss his best intentions towards us. We can’t see, because we are too busy looking elsewhere. We become infected with the virus of looking-at-man, looking-at-issues or looking-at-distractions. We partially see God, but we mostly do not.

If we focus on people over the person of Jesus, we’ll never see progress. But, if we focus on the person of Jesus, before the face of our problems, we will face peace.

When we:
1. Wake and seek Jesus as our first thought, our day often is established.
2. Pray and expect God to answer, we get excited to see.
3. Look in order to find God we, many times, do.
4. Ask to see the Lord’s handiwork it becomes more obvious.
5. Hope and request to feel his love, it circles.
6. When we believe that God can do the unthinkable, we perceive God can do the unthinkable.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:25

I don’t believe this man could see because hands were – on his eyes,
but because Jesus was entirely – in his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, the second time, unlike the first time, he didn’t see problem people, but Jesus, all Jesus, the full-force of Jesus in power and glory, standing right before him. You simply cannot come face-to-face with Jesus – you simply cannot let him into your heart – without something miraculous happening.

This man? With the radiant power of Jesus before him, all he could do – was see. For, Jesus, the man known to have eyes like torches (Dan. 10:5-6) opened his vision to a whole new path. A path to recovery. 

He saw everything clearly. Mark 8:25

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Come Away With Me

Post by: Karina Allen

I’m a doer by nature. I’m always on the go. I’m a mover and a shaker. My schedule is full and my planner is happy. I like it that way. However, sometimes my body does not.

Like right now. I think my body hates me. I have been exhausted for the past several weeks. Summer, for me is just as busy as the rest of the year. I’ve had a few trips and the travel always wear me out.

So here I am. Pretty much every morning I have woken up tired, which makes for an incredibly long day.

So, what do I do about? If you are in the same place, what do you do about it?

I’ve been sensing that Lord wants His children to rest a bit more and strive a bit less.

The Lord knows what’s best.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;” Psalm 23:2-3

I more than often think I know best. I tend be strong and independent. I push myself to the limit expecting not to crack. The last thing I want is to experience burnout. But that is where we are heading if we continue to move at a breakneck speed. It’s interesting how these verses in Psalm 23 say that He makes me lie down. God knows that we don’t want to stop. We don’t want to rest. We don’t and sometimes can’t be still. But that is when He does His best work.

Restoring comes out of resting.

God is the giver of rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Matthew 11:28-30

Rest doesn’t have to be a fight for us. God intended for it to be a gift to us. He delights in giving us rest. We trade off our heaviness and weariness in exchange for His joy and ease. Problems don’t disappear. Hardships still exist but The Lord’s joy brings us strength. So the weight of our circumstances don’t crush us.

If you’re feeling weighed down and overwhelmed, do not lose heart.

Trust that God knows best.

Trust that He will give you His rest.

Trust that He delights in restoring your soul.

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Karina AllenKarina
is a devoted follower of Jesus from New Orleans, Louisiana, but has made her home in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. She spends much of her time leading worship at church, writing, reading, dancing and mentoring the next generation. She has a huge heart for serving and missions. She is an advocate for the local church especially the one that she attends, Healing Place Church. She also enjoys working out, traveling, photography and going to concerts/conferences.

Karina believes that every woman has a God-sized dream on the inside of them and it is up to an encouraging community to help nurture that dream. Her goal in writing is to see women get a revelation of God’s Word and discover how to apply it to their lives in order to walk in freedom and live the life that God intended. But the most important thing to her is to live out the call of Isaiah 26:8…For His Name and His Renown are the desire of our souls! You can connect with her at “For His Name and His Renown.”

Do you Unknowingly Worship Perfection?

Pursuit of Ideal

First house: Smelled like urine.
Second house: Was painted orange and red.
Third house: Was on a super-highway.
Fourth house: Was a construction zone.
Fifth house: Felt like a cave.

Every house didn’t work, yet, every city before this one didn’t work either.

First city: Wasn’t business-centric enough.
Second city: Wasn’t pretty enough.
Third city: Wasn’t modern enough.
Fourth city: Wasn’t exciting enough.
Fifth city: Wasn’t clean enough.

I crashed on the couch, tears streaming. We had 3 more weeks left before kid had to go to kindergarten and, with an expiring lease, we were going to be homeless. In dark and non-impressive hotel room, I wondered if it wasn’t the fault of the city, or the houses, or the climates or the ice or the people? Who was to blame? I also, resistantly, wondered if the problem was much, much worse.

Was the problem – me?

Did I want to give up because God didn’t give me
every check-marks-the-box item on my list?

I stood up, staring at the city’s horrid heatwaves, the dirt, the grime and the lack of hot restaurants – from on high. I wanted something better than what was pretty good. Each place, there was a something that prohibited me from my everything.

pursuit of ideal

When you search for perfection like a flawless diamond,
you pretty much always walk away with nothing.

I turned my hands; I hold nothing.

Lately, I’ve been spinning my wheels, considering how to market a book I am desperately afraid of. The idea it won’t do well – blockbuster even – stops me in my tracks. It makes me nervous.

So I waste days. I hold nothing.

God puts someone on my heart. He gives me a gently nudge to gently love. I don’t want them to think poorly of me. I don’t want to seem overbearing. I don’t want to rub them wrong way. I get insecure I won’t handle it well, right even.

I turn away. I hold nothing.

What have you been subconsciously turning down because you figure there is no way it will:
1.) Be good enough?
2.) End up good enough?
3.) Make you look good enough?

When we seek ideal, we usually make idols out of desired results. 

We set up perfectly folded and lined items on our shelves and dictate they sit perfectly, yet if one should unfold – or look out of place – we get ruined. The image haunts us.

But the truth is, God has, nor never will be, a God of false images. He is a true God who calls on his children to have true faith. Abiding faith that knows things don’t always have to look well – to end well.

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7

Do I believe this way? Do you?

What would happen if rather than sulking in self-pity,
we rose up in selfless-thanks for what God will do through a small seed of trust?

I haven’t done this, but I want to. I’m resolute I will.

Starting right now, in order to beat my inner-demands for perfection, I will start a new cycle:

  1. Pray
  2. Believe
  3. Wait (& act if prompted)
  4. Pray
  5. Believe
  6. Wait (& act if prompted)
  7. Give thanks – even if it’s no-man’s-land.
  8. Pray
  9. Believe
  10. Wait (& act if prompted)
  11. Give thanks – even if it still appears to be no-man’s land.

Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. Ps. 38:9

O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear… Ps. 10:17

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The Beauty In Imperfection

Beauty In Imperfection

I am delighted to welcome Pamela Mercer, from CrossLife Church in Florida, to the Women’s Ministry Monday Series. Pamela’s words are honest and thought-provoking. It is a pure joy to welcome here words today…

Post by: Pam Mercer

Several years ago, my life as I knew it ended with three little words. “You have cancer.” The events that followed were rushed and intense. Suddenly, everything that, by definition made me a woman was taken from me. Within two months time, I lost both breasts and had a radical hysterectomy.

imperfection of beauty

These were moments that could define me as someone who lived by faith or who took the easy route. I could have believed I was inadequate. Instead, I made a distinct choice to believe the truth of God’s word and my relationship with Him. He was my hero when He died for me and He was still my hero when I needed Him in extraordinary ways. He is the beauty in our imperfection both in the ugliness of life and in our humanity.

Through all of this, I realized things:

1.  I never felt like I quite measured up. 
There was always someone prettier, smarter, had more things and seemed to have it easy.

2. Despite our feelings, we have the ability to choose how we think and feel. 
We can focus on eternal things or we can focus on temporal.

3. If we solely follow our feelings, we will live a miserable existence. 
As women, there are not enough emoticons to describe our feelings in a 12-hour period. Our feelings run a 100-yard dash with no sense of direction. Yet, when we choose to follow the principles of God, we recalibrate our hearts toward Him. Our life, our relationships and our feelings follow. Our heart choices will dictate our feelings. What we believe and who we love will change the way we live and the choices we make.

We can believe fleeting feelings or we can believe all-consuming truth, like this:

Ephesians 2:4-5 say, “Because of His great love for us, even when we were dead in our sin made us alive in Christ, so that, by His grace we are saved.”

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”

Psalm 107:8-9 says, “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love; for His wondrous works to the children of man. For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul, He fills with good things.”

No matter how you may feel, the Lord our God is always in our midst.

Beauty In Imperfection

He alone can save us from our sin. He rejoices over and loves you (individually) with a never-ending love. He feels a lively or triumphant joy; rejoices exceedingly; is highly elated or jubilant over YOU!!

His love is steadfast. I love the meaning of the word steadfast. His love is loyal; faithful; committed; devoted; dedicated; dependable; reliable; steady; true; constant; solid; trustworthy; firm; determined; resolute; relentless; single-minded; unchanging; unwavering; unhesitating; unfaltering; unyielding; unflinching; and uncompromising.

With truth so amazing, why do we feel unloved or inadequate?

The key to remember is this: When satan feeds our heads with lies, our heart follows.

Yet, if we fill our heart with Christ, then Satan has to go.

They cannot occupy the same space.
The light cancels out the darkness.

Darkness must flee.

C.S. Lewis has said about seizing truth, “We are afraid we will lose something, but we lose nothing, we become the greatest version of ourselves. We fear we will have no more personality, no more distinction. That is so untrue. The truth is, we will never be more ourselves with the fullness of our personalities and the uniqueness of our giftedness as when we wholly give ourselves over to our faithful God.”

Let truth grab hold of your imperfections to replace them with beauty!

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About Pamela MerceThe Beauty In Imperfectionr

Pamela Mercer is the wife of Dr. Dwayne Mercer, Senior Pastor of CrossLife Church. When Pam and her husband came to CrossLife in 1993, God gave her a vision for the women in the Oviedo and
surrounding areas. This passion led to developing a team, from which, CrossLife Women’s Ministry was created. The ministry has grown significantly and God has changed many lives through retreats, rallies, mentoring and Bible Studies.

Pam currently serves as Director of Women’s Ministry at her church.
CrossLife provides consultation for new Women’s Ministries, as well as,
Existing ministries. This involves speaking at various events.

Pam is a woman with a heart in pursuit of God. Her passion is to lead
women to reach their full potential in Christ. She seeks to live
authentically and with intentionality. She shares in an insightful and humorous way that
connect with women of all ages. She and her husband are the proud parents
of 3 adult children, 2 daughter-in-laws, 3 granddaughters and 3 grandsons.
All of their children are serving God in their own ministries.

Living Beyond Comparison

Living Beyond Comparison

I am delighted to have the fabulous Kristine Brown join us today as she shares about comparison. This can be sure-fire way to lose perspective and her blog reminds me to keep the focus of my eyes narrow and the intentions of my heart clean. Thank you Kristine – and welcome today! I hope you are blessed.

Guest Post by: Kristine Brown

She lived in the shadow of someone else. Someone pretty important, as a matter of fact. Day in and day out she watched this graceful lady. From where she stood, it looked as if this other woman had God’s hand of blessing on her all the time. Of course, it was hard to see clearly when walking behind her at a distance.

She couldn’t get used to her new life in the shadows. And on top of that, she endured ridicule. If only I had a friend, she thought. She struggled to see beyond her bitter circumstances.

Her name was Hagar.

Hagar found herself in a new role as servant and handmaid to Sarah. Conflict started early in their relationship. And as the family dynamic changed, tension grew between the two women.

Sarah sat in a place of honor as Abraham’s wife. Abraham had heard a solid promise from God that he would be the father of a great nation. God also assured him this promise would begin with a son from Sarah. But Hagar’s position as the mother to Abraham’s first-born only increased the difficulties between Sarah and her servant.

Soon that son arrived. Sarah gave birth to Isaac. And with this new addition to the family, the comparison voice grew louder and louder. Hagar felt unnoticed and unimportant compared to Sarah. Without realizing it, she allowed comparison to lead her away from the God who saw her.

Our situations may be different, but Hagar and I have a lot in common. We both let the destructive voice of comparison whisper into our hearts.

I too have felt the compulsion to compare myself to another woman. I’ve listened to the lies comparison tells me – lies that sound something like this…

She is more talented than me.

She is more capable than me.

She is noticed more than me.

Maybe you’ve heard them too.

If so, then you understand how devastating this voice can be. You know the doubt it causes. And maybe – like me – you’re ready to silence it once and for all.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2 ESV

The comparison battle once affected every area of my life.

My parenting. My role as a wife. My work. My ministry.

I couldn’t see the beauty of God’s plan. Comparison distracted me from the path He created just for me.When I realized how much I’d let its condemning words alter my thoughts, I resolved to find a solution. I went straight to God’s Word, and my discovery began in Hagar’s story…

When Hagar had enough of the hurt, she called out to the God of Abraham and Sarah. That day she learned a vital truth.

God desired to be the friend Hagar so desperately wanted. He was not only the God of Abraham and Sarah. He was her God too, and He made her a steadfast promise just like he did for Abraham – a promise she could count on.

Tweet: Relying on God’s promise is my first step in conquering comparison. – #OverItBook

“The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’” Genesis 16:10 NIV

God had a plan for Hagar. By listening to His voice instead of the destructive words of comparison, she took a bold step. She believed the promise.

Sometimes that first step is all we need to get back on the right path. The question is:

Am I ready to take that bold step? Am I willing to rely on God’s promise and let go of comparison?

My answer is a resounding yes. Will you join me? I’d love to share with you more about Hagar and two other remarkable women in Scripture. Through their stories we can uncover the secret to overcoming comparison.

And when we do, we will also discover God’s plan for us is more than we could ever imagine possible.

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Over It SPINE (1)The Over It book is available on Amazon in paperback or e-book.  To purchase your copy, click here. ***Proceeds from the sale of each book will benefit the More Than Yourself, Inc. scholarship program.

Author Bio 1Kristine Brown is a writer, dramatist, and teacher. She helps women and teen girls navigate the ups and downs of real life. Kristine devotes her time to family, freelance writing, and her non-profit ministry, More Than Yourself, Inc. You can read more about her book at www.morethanyourself.com/over-it. Connect with Kristine on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Missing Your Real Calling

Missing Your Real Calling

Day in and day out, I write on this blog.

Monday comes. I write.
Tuesday. I write.
Wednesday. I write.
You get the point…

When God goes about calling,
one is wise to go about doing the following.

We all know that, right?

Three things normally happens when one listens to God:
1. They learn things shocking about themselves or become shockingly healed.
2. They get a chance to break their selfish bones and regrow more humble.
3. They find themselves falling in love – more and more with Christ.

So, what confounds me is – if there are so many wins about serving God,
why do I sometimes feel I am running a losing game?

One where I get dry-heaving on a track that never ends
and all the same never gets me past my personal victory line?

It sometimes feels like an endless cycle of wanting – more?
Is this how God intended it to be?

When I began writing, each morning, I prayed. I asked God to give me the right word for the right person at the right time. It need not reach millions, just one. I sought his heart over mattered. I worked accordingly.

I listened. I expected. I believed.

Yet as time went on…

Little voices started to out-speak God. Other megaphones got louder, and his soft whisper got muted. Other’s progress got apparent and mine looked lousy. Other holes of insignificance and insecurity developed within me, and I demanded writing fill them.

I rushed. I hurried. I doubted.

I planned and agenda’d. I saw futures, perhaps, he didn’t. I told people to get close to God, when I myself, was existing not as close to God.

I sounded a little like this:  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:12)

Recognize the voice? It is called: Pharisee.

Pharisee = One who talks God but walks far from God.
Pharisee = One who tells others, but can’t hear himself.
Pharisee = One consumed with facades and not the face of his heart.
Pharisee = One driven by power, not powerlessness before the Powerful One.
Pharisee = One who resembles purity on the outside, but looks like dead and flaky sin on the inside.

Do you look something like a Pharisee?

In work? At home? With kids?

With your husband? In life?

In a way we all do.
Little tip: Admission and confession is the first way to stop Pharisee in its tracks.

Jesus had these kinds of words for Pharisee-types: You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in. (Mt. 23:13-14)

Wow! Them are hefty words! Certainly, Jesus won’t shut out believers, but we can certainly shut the door right on his face!

Clearly, Christ warns – he doesn’t endorse this kind of behavior. It never does, nor never will, get his stamp of approval, his blessing nor his push behind it.

And, if it doesn’t have Jesus, I don’t want it, do you?

Really, receive this word for a moment – If it doesn’t have Jesus, I don’t want it.

Do you believe that? Live that way?

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:2). Will we open it and welcome him in?  Not voices, not pressures, not demands, not schedules, not editors, not pride, not progress-climbing, not  one-upping, not social climbing, not ambition – but Jesus? Love.

Love in. Love poured out.
Humility restored. Humility abounding.
Grace upon grace. Grace upon grace dispersed.
Open arms. Grabbing the likes of our poor soul – others who need help.

Jesus always brings wins (see number 1-3 above for reminder), when we abide in him, with him and through him in every moment of our limited moments that make up this thing called – life.

Let’s not outpace the champion, for I fear, at some point, we might look back and see we ran the race as – the loser.

We don’t want this. We want to live in Christ’s victory. We want to go – with Him, because he is the way. The only way. The winning way. Every. Single. Time. Let’s hold on to that.

God, I am sorry. Please help me. Help me and then help me some more. You are all I need. Amen.  

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Here’s How It’s Gonna Be….

Post by: Jami

Our four-year-old son Sam is a riot.  Perhaps because he is so much younger than our four biological children, he is used to being the center of attention. He is accustomed to his demands and commands being heard and implemented.  We all roar laughing when he says, “Wisten to me, here’s how it’s gonna be…. I want a sammich and some juice box. Den I going to watch Batman.” And no, we don’t fully comply. Yes, we correct him. Still he says it.

I am really no different than Sam.

I think I am in control.

In the mass treasure trove of things God finds entertaining, I am certain I am on His play list. And no, I don’t think He sits on high with a jeweled remote control making me dance. I believe in free will, unfortunately not only do I believe I have free will I like to verbalize my free will in an obnoxious fashion.

When we started our foster-to-adopt journey I told God, “I will take in any child, as long as they are foster-to-adopt. I don’t want to get hurt and losing a child would hurt too much.”

And I have free will, no one is the boss of me and like a four-year-old I assert myself.

Here’s how it’s gonna be….

As we readied our home for two adoptable little girls, I prayed that they would be happy with us and I asked God to bless them. I told God that after their placement we were done.  When my phone rang and I saw the caller ID I knew, my girls were finally coming. We would be a family of nine. I would be a super mom! We would adopt them and live happily ever after.

But the voice on the other end of the line informed me the girls were moved to another city and they would not be coming to us.

I got hurt. 

A few months later we got a phone call, late in the evening, about 10:30 pm. The call was from our agency. An infant baby boy was alone at the hospital. He was injured very badly.

I questioned, “Is he adoptable?”

And the caseworker replied, “Well Jami, I don’t know, but he’s alone.  And he is hurt.

As I drove to the hospital I told God,Here’s how it’s gonna be…. I will go sit with him.  I will pray for him and I will cuddle him. I won’t fall in love with him.  I don’t want to get hurt.” Later in the sterile hospital room, lit only by city lights and a beeping bedside monitor,  I held the tiny battered cherub and read scripture to him. I told him about Jesus and prayed for God to ease his pain. I was overcome with love. And as we both drifted off to sleep I heard a voice, deep in my soul whisper,

“Here’s how it’s gonna be…. This is going to hurt.”

The journey was filled with anxiety and heartache, it was a rollercoaster of the unknown, and a division of my heart like I hadn’t known was possible.  As much as I adored this boy, I wanted good things for his family.  I didn’t want them to lose him, and I didn’t want him to lose them.  I told God how to fix it and I told God what I would do.  But no one is the boss of the God of Israel.

A few months ago our agency called. They had an infant baby girl that needed placement within the hour.  We accepted and I went into the closet to “pray.” And I told God, “Here’s how it’s gonna be…. We will care for her. But we won’t fall in love and after this one, I am done.” And we loved on her and played with her and bought sweet little girl clothes.

Then I met her parents.  Walking wounded, in love with their baby. Good and decent sinners, just like me.  And I heard a still small voice deep in my soul whisper,

“Here’s how it’s gonna be…. This is going to hurt.”

I recognize my prayer life is no different than the verbiage our four-year-old son implements when he is telling us Here’s how it’s gonna be….” My prayers are rarely prayers of submission. I believe I am in control.  I organize and coordinate how I want things.  And these aren’t really prayers. These are bossy demands.

A colossal contradiction to prayer in communion with a God that seeks to bless not curse.  A God that delivers us from evil, and parts seas for safe travel. A God who brings the Savior of the World via a virgin birth. He is master of all that is creative and spectacular. He is the maker of heaven and earth.

Here's How It's Gonna Be.... (2)

Much like we laugh at Sam for thinking he is the boss of us, I picture my God on high shaking His head. A gentle smile and a sweet adoration for me, His girl. A booming chuckle escapes Him. And a small voice deep in my soul whispers,

“Oi vey, Jami, here’s how it’s gonna be. This is going to hurt. But you are mine, I will not leave you or forsake you. You will follow this calling I have put on your heart. You came to serve, not be served. You will be last, not first. I am right here, work with Me – chin up darling – let’s do this together.”

And my soul is well – with my God in charge of how things are gonna be.

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:7-8

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547592_3961306391397_890561921_n (1)Jami Amerine is a wife, and mother to anywhere from 6-8 children. Jami and her husband Justin are active foster parents and advocates for foster care and adoption. Jami’s Sacred Ground Sticky Floors is fun, inspirational, and filled with utter lunacy with a dash of hope. Jami holds a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (yes Home Ec.) and can cook you just about anything, but don’t ask her to sew. She also holds a Masters Degree in Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Her blog includes topics on marriage, children, babies, toddlers, learning disabilities, tweens, teens, college kids, adoption, foster care, Jesus, homeschooling, unschooling, dieting, not dieting, dieting again, chronic illness, stupid people, food allergies, and all things real life. You can find her blog at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.