Who are You Hurting?

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I am blessed to serve women who struggle with food issues through First Place 4 Health. One of these women said to me, “I had an AHA moment…when I get mad at my husband I head to the pantry for pretzels!” My response, “Well, that really shows him.”

This is just a small example of how we can self-sabotage ourselves. Being cruel (mean, unkind) will not only hurt the person you are being mean to but will also hurt yourself. Are there attitudes you have or actions you are taking that are self-sabotaging to you? Identify them and then choose to change. Easy recipe but hard to do – do it anyways.

How's Your Meter?

This verse really came off the page to me when I was reading about a missionary in Africa who made the commitment to not complain for a year – including not complaining about the weather. My immediate thought was, “What?!?!?! How can you live in that African heat and humidity and not complain? And really is it complaining or just whining?” Then, I was reminded of this verse and that the Greek definition of all is….all. Not some things or some times but in all things do it without complaining.

When I pulled back and looked at the context of this verse and saw the reason behind not complaining, I had another “aha” moment.

So that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky… (Philippians 4:15)

If I want to be different in this world, I don’t have to be perfect (impossible any ways) or kind (good not different than many others) or vocal (which is really just preaching) but rather I need to not complain. As I ponder this verse more, I started realizing how often I complain. Delay in going through TSA – “

Read the signs, people. No liquids in your bag!” Traffic back up – “Where did they learn to drive?” Service poor at the restaurant – “How hard is it to make a grilled chicken salad?” My complaining showed me my pride, my lack of patience, my lack of grace and mercy and mostly it showed me what a sinner I am!!

I am not like the African missionary and committing to never complaining for a year, but I sure hope that as I am made more aware of my complaining I will be quick to quit and extend grace, patience and kindness so that I can shine like a star! How about you? How is your complaining meter?

Longing for a Fulfilling Life: Part 5

As I have asked before, (and will again for a few more times) do you have peace and contentment in your life? Are you living a John 10:10 kind of life? Do you believe Ephesians 3:20 can be a reality for you? Are you experiencing the transforming growth described in 2 Corinthians 3:18? As I have shared, living this type of life can be found in this verse:

So get rid of all uncleanness and all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21 Amplified)

We have already unpacked the following concepts, uncleanness, wickedness and humble. Today we will look at the concept of receive. Some of the synonyms for receive are to get, obtain, accept or to collect. With a humble spirit, we should pursue this Word of God. It is a not a passive activity but one that requires action. I have given this example in the past but I think in bears repeating as we learn what it means to “receive” the Word of God.

Suppose I told you that in your back yard about 50 - 75 feet down there was a treasure chest filled with gold and silver and rubies and pearls.  It was filled with more than you could desire or even count. It is deep down but if you can get to it, it is yours!!

However, there are a few, little caveats in this arrangement...you cannot use anything mechanical and the only time you can dig is from 4 - 8 each morning.  Now you do not have to dig the whole time but you can only dig for four hours per day.  You can use a shovel or a pick but you must do it yourself.  No one else can dig for you but, again, once you reach the treasure, it is yours and nobody can take it away from you and you can freely give it to others around you.

If this were all true, what do you think tomorrow morning would look like at your house (and it would look the same at my house if the treasure chest was in my backyard)?  At 3:59 am, you would be standing at your back door with your hand on the knob.  You would have probably slept in your clothes and I doubt you would have needed an alarm.  All the shovels and picks you purchased today at the Home Depot would be lined up just outside the door.  And when it is the top of the hour, you would start digging and would not stop until 8!

No one would complain that they are not a morning person.  Clothes would have been laid out the night before.  Breakfast would have been planned.  Emails and social media ignored. Car pools arranged and appointments deferred because nothing was going to stop you from getting your treasure.

The Bible says in Proverbs 8:10-11 and 18-19 that His wisdom - His word - is choice gold and better than precious stones.  Do we really believe this? If so, we do all we could to receive this treasure.

Next time we will look at the concept, implant.

What is TBG and What is Your Role?

Since my blog last week about writing down your goals, quite a few people have asked me what is The Barnabas Group (TBG) and what I will be doing as the National Managing Partner. TBG is a network of Kingdom-minded men and women who tbg-logo-big-pressprint-with-spacedesire to exploit their God given skills and talents to advance the Gospel. We are located in 12 cities across the nation and we meet quarterly to showcase para-church ministries that benefit from the pro-bono consultant level assistance TBG members desire to provide. TBG is unique because our members are our primary customers and not the ministry. Members donate an annual fee to learn how they can come alongside of these ministries to make an impact. My desire is for all of our members to grow in their love for Jesus and His Gospel as Barnabas did in the Scriptures.

The first time you see Barnabas (his name means son of encoura ger) he is giving of his treasures. The church in Jerusalem was meeting the needs of all because of the generosity of the early believers. In Acts 4, Barnabas goes out and sells a piece of property and gives the money to the apostles to be used as they saw fit.

The next time you see Barnabas he is using his touch or sphere of influence. Paul cannot join with the other disciples to preach the Gospel because they were afraid of him.  But because the apostles trusted Barnabas they were willing to meet with Paul after receiving Barnabas’s introduction of Paul.

Later in Acts, you see Barnabas giving of his time. He goes on several trips with Paul to reach out to the churches across Antioch. Now while on one of these trips we know there was some conflict. Barnabas and Paul didn’t see eye to eye on something and because of that there was a separation between Barnabas, John Mark and Paul. However, we know Barnabas had to use his talent in the area of conflict resolution during this time because eventually John Mark and Paul reconciled and even if you have read the Bible just a little bit you know that Paul had zero conflict resolution skills.

Lastly you see Barnabas willing to risk his life for the Gospel. Because of Paul and his preaching, the Jews in Lystra are being stirred up to the point of trying to stone Paul but they would not be deterred but continued on to spread the Gospel.

My role as National Managing Partner is to serve our local Managing Partners so that our members will impact our world with the Gospel of Christ in more ways than just through their checkbook. My desire is to see all members become Barnabas’ and give of their treasures, touch, time and talent as well as being willing to risk it all for the Kingdom of God.

May I be found faithful!

If you write it down, there is power!

Write it DownFor many years now, I have written down my goals – personal and professional. Goals that were short term (less than a year and sometimes a week) and goals that were much longer (right now I have two goals that have “my lifetime” deadline on them.) I started this practice in the early 90s when I grasp the concepts by Hyrum Smith in 10 Natural Laws of Time and Life Management. What I have found to be amazing is sometimes just the process of writing them down brings them to completion. What I mean is that I have goals that I wrote down and then never intentionally worked on them and in some cases simply forgot about and later on I would stumble across the list and realize they had been completed. I think that is why in Habakkuk, God encourages us to write it down. “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV) Last summer, my coach, Steve Knox, encouraged me to take some time during vacation to write out some more goals and add the component of accountability by telling three people that goal and when I was going to accomplish it. One of the goals I wrote down was to be the National Managing Partner for The Barnabas Group (TBG) by 2020. The reason I wanted this role is because it would fulfill three of my values:

  • I love Christ and desire for Him to be glorified.
  • I strive for excellence.
  • I influence others.

And when I told the three people, they all encouraged me that I was on the right path.

Well, despite my time frame of 2020, God’s time frame was a bit earlier. On March 1st, Bob Shank, chairman of TBG-National, called and asked if I would be interested in considering taking over this role. As the Lord would have it, I was already schedule to be in Orange County, CA on the 2nd so we had breakfast along with Steve Esser, board member of TBG-National, and discussed what is the vision for TBG. There was an obvious alignment and I officially accepted the position on March 3rd and started immediately.

What is interesting is that of the 14 goals I wrote down in June of 2015, four of them have already been accomplished and I am on track with three others to be finished by June of 2016. Writing it down gives focus and clarity and in a strange way I think God thinks we really mean it when we do and His sovereignty is made evident as we work out these goals.

I would love to hear from you about any goals you have written down. Are you seeing them come to completion?

The Truth About Lies

Manipulation.  Embellishment.  Deception.  Falsehoods.  Untruths.  Little white ones.  Fabrication.  Slander.  Tale.  Whoppers.  Whatever you call them, they are still lies and if left unchecked it will cause disaster in your life! "How do I know?" you may ask.  I know because my life became a disaster as I continued to lie and believe lie after lie.  But don't just take my word, look at what Proverbs says about lies. Our lies will always find us out.  (19:5)

Lies for a time seem good.  (20:17)

Lives built on lies will crumble.  (21:6)

Lies are the root of all pain.  (25:18)

The Lord hates lying lips. (6:17)

What is so wonderful is that the opposite of lying is freeing and life giving.  Lies destroy but truth will set you free.  Oh it may be painful at first but in the end truth is the best course of action..in the small things of life - "You have a bit of spinach between you two front teeth and each time you say the 'th' sound it flaps just a bit" as well as in the big things of life - "You need to end your engagement because your fiancee is in debt up to his ears and is not anywhere near ready for marriage."

In my life, I was blessed to have people speak truth to me that uncovered the lies I was believing.  Those truths were painful to take at times but because of the love for me of the truth speaker it made it just a bit more palatable.  And in the end, those wonderful truths brought freedom and life.

Why don't you take some time today and examine your life to see if there are any lies that you are believing?  Or why not ask a trusted friend if he or she thinks there are lies you are acting on in your life?  Of you are really gutsy, why not ask God?  It may be painful at first but in the long run it will set you free!

The Barnabas Group

I Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  According to the dictionary on my MacBook, steward means a person employed to manage another's property, especially a large house or estate.  And even the original Greek word used in the Bible, oikonomos, has the same connotation of one who manages someone else’s estate or affairs. A friend of mine is a wealth manager – he manages or stewards his clients’ monies and does it based on their preferences.  If my friend were to say to one of his clients, “I know you wanted to invest that money in Coca-Cola but I decided to spend it on my son’s college tuition.  I hope you don’t mind – you have plenty," he would be fired and I am sure that some ethics committee somewhere would be calling.

The management of one’s estate goes beyond just finances but includes hiring and firing staff, building and remodeling facilities, land usage, etc.  This is true for believers as well.  Often we think of just our tithe or financial gifts when discussing stewardship.  But it goes so much further than that to include our time, talent as well as touch (or sphere of influence.)  As believers, we have an obligation to the Owner of the estate to manage His affairs well.

The Barnabas Group, where I am blessed to be the managing partner, is all about helping people be good stewards of the estate that they have been given.  Our mission is to leverage the time, talent, touch and treasure of marketplace and other Kingdom leaders to help ministries transform lives worldwide.  We are all about connecting leaders and changing lives.

We have an abundance mentality and desire to see the release of generosity in our communities with the utilization of everyone’s unique gift of time, talent, touch and treasure to God’s service.  We do this through quarterly breakfasts in which three to four pre-vetted ministries are able to present their organization as well as their needs to our membership.  When their mission connects with someone’s passion, then we have been successful.

How are you doing on your stewardship?  Does The Barnabas Group sound like something you would be interested in being a part of?  I would love to have you at our next breakfast.

 

Forgiveness...Why So Hard

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4.32

Forgiveness is the willingness to relinquish the pursuit of justice in response to who’s wrong you.  A willingness to free them of the debt that they owe you.  Our motivation to do this is because God forgave us.  Because of the shed blood of Jesus, God’s justice was satisfied and He has forgiven us of the debt that we owed to Him.

Even with this great motivation, forgiveness is still one of the most challenging character traits to walk out.  What makes it so difficult is our inability to forget the offense.  I wish that when I forgave someone the memory of that offense could be wiped from my mind but that is just not the case.  When this happens, I often want to seek justice for things that have already been forgiven and shed the blood of war in peacetime as David said to Solomon in I Kings 2:5.

David’s army commander, Joab, lost a brother in war at the hands of the enemy.  After the war was over and the peace treaty was signed, Joab went and killed the man who had killed his brother.  He sought justice for a wartime offense after peace had been established.

Unfortunately, I can do the exact same thing.  Now, it might not be that I go and murder someone but often times I have extended forgiveness to someone, they have responded appropriately and we are fully reconciled.  Then, one day, week, decade later the memory comes back and I seek justice, again.  I want another, “I’m sorry.”  I am seeking forgiveness in peacetime for something that was already covered.

When the memory comes back, instead of going to the forgiven offender, I need to go to God and ask for Him to heal me in that area and to walk out the forgiveness that was freely given to me.

Bear with Others

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13 Forgiveness is one of the hardest acts God calls us to do.  As the wickedness in the world increases, the level of offenses increases as well thus making forgiveness even harder.  To truly walk in forgiveness for these offenses takes much prayer, ministering and even counsel to move beyond the offense.

Many times I focus more on the 2nd half of this verse, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” and the overwhelmingness of that concept almost paralyzes me.  “How can I forgive that offense?”  “It hurts so much”  “They will just do it again”  “It will not change anything” are some of the mantras I start rehearsing in my mind and I often do nothing to move past the offense.

However, if instead of focusing on the second half of the verse, I focus on bearing with others, walking in forgiveness becomes easier.  Not because in any way it lessens the offense but because it causes my heart to begin to softer towards others and to the things of God.  (Please note that this bearing with others may or may not apply to the offender.)

I like to think of bearing with others in the terms of extending grace to them.  Yes, they just did something that could cause me to be offended but I am going to think the best of them and just extend grace.  Yes, what just happened grieved me but I am not going to seek justice in this matter but release them of the debt I believe they owe me and trust God to deal with them.   Christ Jesus on the day He was crucified bore the burdens of our sins and our offenses on His physical body.  Through His Spirit, we can bear with those around us and move toward forgiveness and beyond the offense.

When you are offended, are you quick to seek justice for that offense or are you quick to bear with them and extend grace?  Through out the day today bear with others and intentionally extend grace to all who are around you.

Not Getting to My Flesh

Anyone who has ever been on a mission trip will tell you that the key to having an amazing time is flexibility.  My church's mission leaders as well as the in-country personnel plan and coordinate for as many problems as possible but whenever you are operating in a third world (or for that matter outside of the US), things do not always go so smoothly.  Time schedules Emilliovary.  Machines break. Supplies are depleted.  If one is not flexible and willing to adjust to this challenges, the mission trip can be miserable.  However, even though one has knowledge that flexibility is important and even the desire to be flexible is present, the walking out of that flexibility can be difficult.  In October, during HFBC’s Living Water International mission trip to Honduras, I learned how to practically take this head knowledge and heart desire and implement it into my daily life. We were blessed to have a wonderful in-country leader, Emillio (see photo above.) He did an amazing job!  As we were driving through the mountains of Honduras on the way to Saba, our home away from home for the next six days, Emillio spoke a line that I will never forget.  “I am not going to let that get to my flesh."  What was so impactful about this line was that it began with the thought process. I have been on enough trips to respond with flexibility when challenges happen, at least on the outside, but have been know to pick up an offense or respond, in my mind, judgmentally.

I remember distinctly one-time things were not going correctly (at least as I saw it) and I started to grumble and complain in my mind while I still had a fake smile on my face.  (To be honest, I don’t think I was fooling anyone but myself.) Immediately, Emillio’s line came to my mind and I repeated it to myself and my “pasted-on” smile became a true grin as I chose the better way.

What has been so cool since returning to Houston is that that line works here as well!  I can make the decision as to whether or not I will let something get to my flesh.  When I choose to be flexible, I have won the victory and the enemy and my flesh have been defeated!  As always, I go on a mission trip to help others but I ALWAYS get impacted and transformed.

Time at LifeHouse

Life has been a bit challenging for me lately.  Here is a quick update on what is happening... After much prayer and counsel, the Lord has confirmed that my time at LifeHouse has ended.  I resigned on the 10th of February and my last day will be March 31st.  There is much sadness in my heart but I have full assurance that this is the next step I am to take. iStock_000004237399XSmallRecently, a dear friend of mine shared a word with me that has given me a great comfort for me these last few weeks.  "Obedience is more important than understanding."  As I have been walking this path these last few months, I have often asked the Lord, "Why?" and He has not answered.  He has simply said take the next step.  He truly is only revealing to me my next step and it is long after the sound of the previous foot fall fades that I hear, turn to the right or turn to the left - walk this way.

Praise the Lord that He has taught me to live a very frugal lifestyle and to live debt free.  Because of that, I have the ability to take the time after my last day at LifeHouse to wait, pray, study, rest, etc. so that He may reveal to me the next step.  I don't know what the future holds but I do KNOW these things:

1.  He holds the future. 2.  He loves me BIG. 3.  This path is for my good and His glory for if there was a better path for me to walk He would have taken me down that path rather than this path. 4.  He who began a great work in me will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. 5.  The plans He has for me are to prosper me and not to harm me; to give me hope and a future. 6.  The plan is much bigger than I can imagine and there is excitement in that.

As the Lord brings my name to your mind, please pray for me as I walk through this new season in my life.

Every Need is Not a Personal Call

Recently, I wrote a guest blog for a friend's website (www.RussMasterson.com) for a series he is doing called Lies Overheard in Church.  Here is what I shared:iStock_000004084820Large Lie:  If you hear of a need, you are called to fill it.

As the two women walked into evening worship, one looked frazzled and exhausted – definitely not the countenance one would expect on the Sabbath.  “Jessica, are you ok? Why the downcast face?”  “Oh, Karen, 3 year old choir this afternoon was crazy.   My ears are ringing from the decibel level of the kids’ singing and my knees hurt from sitting in the baby-bear chairs.”  “Jessica, you barely liked your kids when they were three – why in the world are you doing preschool choir?”  “Well, Karen, if I don’t do it, no one will.”

There are countless frazzled and exhausted Christians serving in churches who are serving only because they believe the lie that by hearing a need they are the ones who are to fill that need.  Even, the great evangelist D.L. Moody believed this lie for many years.  Every need is not a personal call for you or for me.  Nor is it even for God…  In Genesis 2, God sees that it is not good for man to be alone but instead of filling that need with Himself, God creates Eve to meet that need.

Too often we will start doing Kingdom work and then ask God to bless it.  That is kind of like a private in the army making plans for the day and asking the commanding officer to make available the needed supplies.  Instead, we need to listen for a personal call from the Lord and then respond in obedience with full assurance that God will provide the necessary supplies – emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

  • Are you exhausted in the “work”?
  • Do you dread doing the “work”?
  • Are you drained after finishing the “work”?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, I am not saying you have missed the call of God but it would be the first place I would look.  What lies do you hear at church?

Doing the Hard Thing

iStock_000009788302XSmallThat I may proclaim it fully and make it clear [speak boldly and unfold that mystery], as is my duty. - Colossians 4:4 (Amplified Bible)

This is Paul’s prayer request to the church at Colossae. God’s chosen evangelist to the Gentiles is asking the saints to pray that he would have boldness! I don’t know about you but this gives me great hope. This says to me (and I am no theologian) that sharing Christ did not come naturally to Paul and he needed prayer to not only do it but to do it well. It was not an easy thing for Paul but hard.

Recently at LifeHouse, we have been able to do the right things even though they have been difficult. There was the call telling a homeless woman that LifeHouse is not a fit for her at this time. Or the time our housedad maintained self control when a resident was yelling and cussing at him. Or the tragedies of watching a resident walk away and choose to live on the streets rather than submit to the guidelines.

Hard things but, oh the fruit that comes from doing it. Paul’s obedience in the hard things is still bearing fruit today. We have seen fruit already from these difficult things, too. Residents making wiser choices. Seeing self control modeled. However, in God’s economy, we don’t always see the fruit the next day. The mark of spiritual maturity is how long one is willing to wait between obedience and blessing. It says in Galatians  that if we do not grow weary in doing good, in the proper season (and this could be a long season), we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

As always, the future will bring more hard things for us to do but we know that much more fruit will come from it. Please pray that we will have the wisdom to do the hard things at the correct time and that we would do them well.  What hard things are you having to obey the Lord in?

Questions at Night

Are we turning the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy into an opportunity for growth for the pregnant woman? Are we really making a difference? The needs are so great!! How can two homes for 11 mothers and their unborn babies make a dent in the chaos and craziness that we see all around us? These are questions that can keep me up at night… questions that roll around in my head after hearing some of the stories from those in need. One was from the friend of a pregnant 16 year old Spanish only speaking girl who already has a 2 year old and is in a domestic violence situation. Another came from Houston Independent School District administrator concerning a homeless16 year old with her 3 year old and she is pregnant again. Or another call from Star of Hope shelter (who are already busting at the seams) concerning 3 pregnant women aged 20, 21 and 30!!

When I begin questioning, the Lord is so quick to cause me to remember His faithfulness in the past and His equipping for the future. He reminds me of the residents who still call houseparents months and even years after leaving LifeHouse to “just check in.” He reminds me that some of Jesus’ most impactful ministry opportunities were done one on one (see the woman at the well or Nicodemus.) He reminds me that He has given us a vision to reach beyond our current services and provide a greater level of post-partum support.

These are exciting, and to be honest, scary times at LifeHouse but I often hear the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” My translation is "do it afraid!" He will never leave us or forsake us. I don’t know what questions roll through your mind at the end of the day but I pray you will be encouraged to remember Him! If you get the chance, let me know what you are doing afraid.

The Next Right Thing

For those of you who do not know me, I am the consummate planner! Making to-do lists is a joy to me which is only surpassed by checking off a completed task on these lists. As LifeHouse moves forward into its third decade of ministry, there is not a specific plan to follow or clear action steps to take. There is not a book at Barnes and Noble entitled “Running Maternity Homes for Dummies!” I am definitely in a place where I must constantly be on my knees asking God for directions. Can anyone else relate? What I continue to hear from Him is, “Just do the next right thing.” One step, one decision, one day at a time. I believe this is not just a word for me but a word for the residents that live at LifeHouse. Just do the next right thing.

Through the teaching of our Houseparents, the advice of our professional counselor and much prayer, the teens and young women of LifeHouse will realize what is the next right step. Proverbs 4:18 says, “...the path of the just and righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines more and more (brighter and clearer) until...the perfect day.” (Amp.) As I take the next right step… as the residents take the next right step, the path becomes clearer and clearer. Of course the opposite is true also. If we do not stay on the path of justice and righteousness, the path becomes darker and darker.

Would you please pray for all of us to remain on the path of Truth? Would you pray that together we can do the next right thing?

May you, too, do the next right thing.

What is Success?

Many people have described me as a bottom line person. As the Executive Director, one of the hardest parts of my job is defining the success of the ministry. Is it babies saved? Is it decisions to follow Jesus Christ? Is it number of residents ministered to? Is it the number of residents who remain until the end of their pregnancy? Of course, all of these are great indicators of success but stories like the following about just one resident throws a wrench in my “bottom-line-ness.” Sidney* had already experienced too many struggles in her first 19 years of life. Her mother had sent Sidney back and forth between relatives here in the states and in Africa most of her life. At 17, Sidney was kicked out by her mother and moved in with a friend, Sally*, and her family. When Sally’s mother found out Sidney was pregnant, she gave her a proposition:  leave the house or have an abortion. For Sidney, although this is not how she wanted her life to be, being pregnant was a blessing because she was told that she would never have any children due to a botched female circumcision that had occurred during her time in Africa.

Sidney thought on this for almost two months before returning to Sally’s mother with the decision to give her baby life. Sally’s mother found LifeHouse on the internet and brought Sidney for her interview. Sidney with her bubbly personality was a natural leader around LifeHouse. She had grown up eating fast food and using paper plates, so she did not know how to cook, wash dishes, or even how to use a dishwasher. By the time she left, she had a notebook full of recipes she enjoyed cooking. It had become fun to her! Her confidence began to grow.

Another area where Sidney grew in her confidence was in completing goals. She came to us feeling as if she had never finished a single thing that she had started. She had failed her senior year by just two credits so we enrolled her at Tegeler Career Center and learned she could complete her high school degree in just a couple of months. Sidney set high goals for herself and worked hard and completed her classes in under two months. She was excited to receive her high school diploma and see that she can finish things that she starts.

Lastly, but most importantly, Sidney accepted Christ while here at LifeHouse. During devotions at night, Sidney listened intently to every word the houseparents said and asked many questions later. One night, she decided to follow Christ and was baptized after church by one of her housedads.

Although Sidney left the LifeHouse before the end of her pregnancy, she was a completely different woman than when she stepped through those doors. She left on good terms and with dreams that she never thought could be possible before.

I may not be able to quantify in a neat little formula the “success” of Sidney but I do know that Sidney is just one of many lives that have been significantly impacted by LifeHouse. What a joy to be a part of a ministry were we are able to have not only eternal influence on women’s lives but we are affecting their day to day lives. May we all continue to find this type of “success.”

*Name changed for confidentiality.

Counting It All Joy

During the aftermath of a major storm in Houston, the Lord really spoke to me from James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that  the testing of your faith  produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” These trials are all a part of my sanctification process. They come my way not to show God my level of faith but to show me how much I trust Him. He was so faithful to me but I still whined and complained to Him because things did not happen the way I wanted them to happen.  Talk about being immature. Talk about not persevering. God, through the difficulties of life following the storm, showed me that I was lacking something and I needed to be willing to persevere to gain those things and be complete.

How about you?  How does your “structure” hold during the storms of life? The storms will always show our weaknesses – whether that is in our families, homes or churches. Those little cracks that we thought were fixed are just painted over and as the tension mounts the paint crackles and the weakness is exposed.

But the good news is that if we are willing to do the work, the once weak spot can be repaired even stronger than before. The question is are we willing to do the work? We can keep the blue tarps on our roofs for a long time and just go up and add more nails or more tarp during each storm. Or we can be willing to have the entire roof exposed for a short season so that a deep repair can be made and the leaks will stop.

Many of our residents come covered in blue tarps with a desire to be healed but just like you and just like me – they must do the work. We can lead, guide and direct – even plead – but they are the ones who have to make it happen.  Sometimes the residents will do just that and it is wonderful to see. Other times residents choose painful and unwise paths. When this happens we have to let them go and not enable them in that process. Knowing where that fine line is takes much discernment, wisdom and prayer.

May we continue to be faithful when trials come our way so that when trials come to others we can be there with the wisdom necessary to walk alongside them and teach them to count it all joy!

The Lord’s Pleasure

Many of you may recognize the name, Eric Liddell, from Chariots of Fire. Liddell, in the 1924 Olympics, was a 22-year-old Scottish athlete who said no to self and yes to God. He dropped out of his best event—the 100 yard dash—because the qualifying heats were held on a Sunday. He entered the 400 yard dash. Even though he hadn’t trained for it, he won the gold medal. When asked about his running, in his heavy Scottish brogue, he says, “When I run I feel the Lord’s pleasure.” Upon reflecting back over the last three years, this line continually comes to mind. As I watched almost 100 volunteers from First Presbyterian Church re-sod our yard, I felt the Lord’s pleasure. As I watched the Board discern the future of the ministry – to add services or not add services, I felt the Lord’s pleasure. As I take phone call after phone call from young women needing assistance, I feel the Lord’s pleasure.

Did I have to say no to self and say yes to God through this time? Absolutely. Was I fearful at times? Anxious? Overwhelmed?  Weary? For sure. But whenever I stopped long enough to look to the hills to see from where my Help comes from (Psalm 121:1-3), the anxiousness dissipated, my strength was renewed and I was able to do it afraid.

God desires for all to feel His pleasure – for all to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” The “little” things for our residents are their babies. For our staff it is the five or six residents under their care and instruction. For me it is the operations of the ministry. What is the “little” thing in your life that brings the Lord pleasure and will cause you to one day hear “Well done”?

Thinking Too Small

Not too long ago, Anthony, LifeHouse’s operations director asked me about the possibility of getting a piano for the ministry. His wife, Jessica, is a trained and extremely gifted pianist and ministry would be greatly impacted as we experienced “live” worship. I thought this was a wonderful idea but did not see it happening anytime soon. A few weeks passed and I thought I would just call William Taylor, Mission Pastor at Houston’s First Baptist Church and see if he knew of anyone who might want to donate a piano. “Actually, Becky, I just received an email 10 seconds ago from our Deaf Church that they have a piano they would like to donate.” Well, that sounded a little bit like God might be in on this. Anthony contacted Pastor Arthur Craig of the Deaf Church and as he explained a little bit about the piano, Anthony asked, “How big is it?”  “It is a baby grand!” So after lots of lifting by the staff and some wonderful volunteers, the piano arrived at the LifeHouse campus! The favor of the Lord is still upon us!!!

However, that is not the heart of what I want to share. Not too much later after the piano’s arrival, I went to Galveston for a few days to seek the Lord about the future and vision that He has for LifeHouse. As I prayed the Lord so gently spoke to me about the future and that I needed to believe Him for BIG things. He said, “I don’t just want to give you a nice upright piano. I want to give you a baby grand!” Oh how often have I settled for less when God has so much more for me.

Gift from GodAs C.S. Lewis says, “...it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

My friends, may we not settle for mud pies but be obedient to Him, ask Him for HUGE things and believe Him to fulfill it in due time. What HUGE things are you believing God for?

Words are Optional

One of the most amazing statistics from the LifeHouse ministry is the number of unbelieving residents who accept Christ. Over half of our residents who do not know Christ accept Him while living at LifeHouse!! What is interesting is that evangelism is not a major “push” of the ministry. There is no plan to share Christ after so many days or the third Thursday of each month is revival Thursday. We simply try to do what Christ would do and the residents usually come to a staff member and ask how to be saved. Recently, a resident, Michelle, turned to a staff member during the church service and asked if he would walk down front with her to receive salvation. Later he said, “I felt like I was walking her down the wedding aisle.” In many ways, he was—at that moment, Michelle became a part of the bride of Christ and will be eternally changed.

The quote by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words” aptly describes the LifeHouse ministry. The Gospel is preached through a hot meal, a listening ear, a clean bed, a ride to the doctor’s office and even discipline as the resident realizes that there are consequences to choices made. May I live a life that both demonstrates the Gospel and at times speaks the Gospel. Have you had a chance, recently, to preach the Gospel and not use words?