Dominican Mission Trip Day Two

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Thankfully, our Tennessee team arrived a little before dinner on Friday night. So Saturday morning, we woke early and were ready to start the women’s conference. Maria, one of our interpreters, asked me a question the night before.

“How do you get up in front of a big group and speak like that? Don’t you get scared?”

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I told her that sometimes I do get a little nervous beforehand, but usually once I get started, God takes over. When you work in the strength God gives you, good things happen. But I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous Saturday morning. It was so helpful to have Alan with me.

Sometimes when I get in bed at night and am finally still, I struggle with anxiety. I keep scripture in my nightstand at home for nights when I can’t sleep. But one thing that really helps is having Alan touch me. Just a hand on my back, letting me know he is near, can calm me immensely.

So in the apartment where we were staying, Alan and I were to share a full-size bed. It was the bottom of a bunk bed. At home we sleep on a king-size bed, so I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit. But I have to tell you what a blessing that bed was. Every night when I went to sleep, I was touching Alan – I couldn’t help it in a bed that size. But that touch brought me such peace, that I was able to sleep.

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Isn’t it just like God to work out details like that in advance?

I got showered and dressed early Saturday so I could have a little time to spend alone with God before we left. I made sure I had my notes for my talks, my water, my insulin and my Bible. We drove the fifteen minutes to the church. It wasn’t until I walked into the doors of the church that I realized the one important thing I forgot – my contacts!!

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I could not see! Thankfully, the One Vision missionary, Claudia, offered to take the driver and the bus back to the apartment and get them for me. We started the conference with worship, so she had a little time. And about three minutes before I was to go on stage, she returned with my contacts. Praise God!

I was living out Amazing Grace. “…I once was blind, but now I see.” Ha!

I spoke to the women about how prayer is personal. We each have free access to the Creator of the Universe. He is our personal armor through prayer. The women nodded and responded as I spoke.

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Afterwards, we broke into small groups for prayer. Each of members of our team had a particular topic.
•Marriage
•Finances
•Unsaved Loved Ones
•Children
•Health

Alan and I led the group on marriage. First we played an icebreaker game. The ladies really had fun with that. We had them line up in order of height and then shoe size from smallest to largest, but they only had one minute.

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Then each group leader from the team had provided verses for their particular subject, before the trip, to be translated. So we were able to pass out sheets with a list of verses in Spanish for them to use in their prayers. We had our group read the verses aloud, because we know God’s Word is powerful and active. Then we asked them to split into groups of two or three.

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We spoke a few minutes about how important prayer is in your marriage and then gave them a particular topic. First we told them to pray for communication in their marriage – that lines would be open, that they would be willing to listen to their spouses and would be able to effectively communicate their needs. The groups took a couple of minutes to share their requests with each other and then prayed. We continued with four other topics in marriage.

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Each of the other team leaders was doing the same thing with their own breakout subject. After the breakout sessions, we had lunch. After lunch, I spoke again. This time I shared how prayer is powerful. I gave examples in scripture and in my own life.

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After my talk, we had the breakout prayer groups again, giving the ladies the option to choose another subject this time. So we led the marriage breakout again with a different group of women.

This time our group was smaller, so we decided to get in one big group instead of breaking up in groups of two. The great thing about this was the interaction we were able to have with the women. When they shared prayer requests, Alan and I were able to respond first with some advice and wisdom from what we have learned in our own marriage and from the marriage classes we used to teach. I really enjoyed sharing, and the women seemed to get a lot out of it.

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We ended that afternoon with more worship. I had many hugs and lots of words of gratitude from the ladies. I’m always in awe of the way God works.

We headed back to the apartment to rest before supper. We had a team meeting and prepared for the Sunday worship service and the rest of the conference. Alan played Claudia’s guitar, and we worshipped together and sang songs of praise.

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One of the groups, Rachel and Paula, shared how in their breakout session, the women prayed at the same time instead of taking turns praying together. They got the idea to get in a big circle at the end of their breakout and all of them prayed aloud at the same time. Rachel told us how powerful it was. So she asked if we could do it as a team before bed.

As we each prayed aloud, some in English and some in Spanish, I got chills. It was amazing. Hearing all of those prayers was loud and powerful. Think of how incredible our God must be to be able to hear every prayer that is uttered at the same time all over the world. All praises and glory and honor belong to Him. Amen.

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I’ll tell you about the rest of the conference tomorrow.

Carol

Dominican Mission Trip Day 1

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This is my second international mission trip. My second time to the Dominican, and I find it just as hard to put my experience into words this time as it was the last. So, I’ll just describe our day today.

Yesterday was a travel day. We arrived around 2 p.m. and had a two-hour drive from Santo Domingo to Santiago, which is the location of the new One Vision team apartment. After dinner at a restaurant close by, we all crashed. You see, our team had some issues just getting here.

First, there was a snowstorm in Knoxville, where half of our group lives. That half was not even able to make it out to meet us in Atlanta for our Thursday morning flight. So they had to re-book their tickets to fly in on Friday instead. Meanwhile, one of the five from Tennessee was sick enough she couldn’t travel. So that brought the Knoxville group down to four.

The four of us from Atlanta were also battling weather. On Wednesday when the Governor declared a state of emergency in many counties, the four of us decided it was best for us to get a hotel next to the airport. Alan and I got a room, but Joyce and Jack, the other couple, could not find one.

They decided to spend the night IN the airport instead. Around 10 p.m. as Alan and I were relaxing in our bed at the hotel watching television, Alan found a bedbug crawling right next to me on the bed! Needless to say, we dressed quickly and hightailed it out of there. We drove around for an hour in the freezing rain looking for another place. After calling more than twenty hotels near the airport, we finally found one. Long story short, it wasn’t much better than the bed bugs.

So, we obviously slept good our first night here. We were utterly exhausted! I just kept telling myself, “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in this world.” I knew we were under attack, and I was determined not to let satan win. (But I’ll be honest. In the hour drive through the freezing rain, I was ready to thrown in the white flag. But thankfully, I did not.)

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Friday morning, we headed to the children’s center and were greeted with a show! It was the Dominican Independence Day and the kids had prepared a cute dance with batons and a drum beat. Afterwards, we walked to the center where I prepared to take pictures of the kids who needed sponsors. Alan and Jack took a group of kids into the field behind the center (which by the way is actually the home of a sweet Christian lady named Matilde. Can you imagine sharing your home with 150 of the community children? That’s exactly what she does!)

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Many of the kids had made kites out of trash bags and sticks for Independence Day. I was shocked at how high those kites could fly! Alan and Jack let them fly the kites and directed them in some fun games. The little boys loved Alan and fought to hold his hand. Where ever he walked, there was a band of boys following. Joyce worked with some of the older girls. She talked about emotions and showed them how to go to God’s Word to help deal with those emotions.

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While I was waiting on Claudia to interview a few parents, I mingled with the kids. Maria, one of our interpreters, introduced me to a little girl. “She’s sick,” she told me. “Well, kind of. She has diabetes.”

My eyes widened. “Me, too!” I told Maria.

“She has Type 1,” Maria told me.

“Me, too!” I got excited.

Maria continued, “She doesn’t want to take her medicine.”

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Maria pulled the little girl aside with me and interpreted as I asked her questions about her diabetes and her insulin regimen. She told me she takes two shots a day. I asked her how often she tested her blood sugar, and she said she did it only when she went to the hospital ever so often. I shared with her that I tested ten times a day. And what I often consider a pain in the rear, suddenly became a blessing. Because I realized, I have great health insurance that affords me the ability to test ten times a day.

Maria helped me tell her that I have three children and a wonderful husband and life. “She is happy with her life,” Maria told her in Spanish.

I gave the girl a giant hug and told her to take care of herself. For the rest of the day, she continued to come to me and hug me.

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After taking pictures, Claudia asked me to share with some of the women who were there with their kids because they wouldn’t be able to come to the conference. She told me there would be five. At first I thought she wanted me to tell them about the conference in hopes that they would come, but she wanted me to give them a condensed version! No notes. No Bible in hand. Just what God had put in my heart.

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As I began to share with what turned out to be six women, a few more wandered up and what started as four, became six, then ten. Then a couple of men scooted in closer to listen to what I had to say. And noticing the adults had all congregating in one spot, some boys on bicycles rode over to hear.

I talked to them about prayer. Our conference is called A Woman of Prayer. I shared how God is available to all who call on Him. I gave them evidence of how God listens when we pray and how we can walk boldly into His throne room. I shared how God is powerful. I told my personal story of the doctors telling Alan they thought he had a tumor in his head, filling his sinus cavity and touching his brain. And I told of how God was faithful and pointed out that Alan was healthy and playing with their children as I spoke.

I told them to pray with purpose. That God listens when we pray. Then I gave the plan of salvation. I walked them through the steps in case anyone there had not accepted the gift of grace that Christ brings – all of this with the help of an interpreter.

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After we left the center, we stopped by the home of a sweet boy who needs a sponsor but wasn’t able to come to the community center to have his photo taken. Claudia, the One Vision missionary, explained how he has partial paralysis of the brain. His name is Gregory. At the Lord’s prompting, I asked if I could pray for Gregory with the family. They pulled up his mosquito net so I could sit on his bed and touch him as I prayed.

And here is what I have to share about that moment and that prayer: first – I am a mom. And because I’m a mom, my heart broke for this family. They had a very meager home with holes in the roof. But their love for their son was so evident. And second, I am an emotional person. I tell you that to say, if I was working in my own power, I could. Not. Have. Prayed.

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But God. God took over and the Holy Spirit certainly guided my words for this family. I was honored to be allowed to be a part of such a sweet moment. But you must know, I walked out the door swallowing back a sob.

Claudia and I returned to the bus, and we headed to lunch. My heart is full. I am overwhelmed at the ways God would allow me to be used today.

Please continue to pray for the team as we start the actual women’s conference tomorrow morning. Praise be to God! And if you would like to sponsor a child through One Vision International, please contact emily@onevisionintl.org

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Carol

Learning to Have Patience

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“Mama, will you play my new game I got for Christmas with me?” Grace asked. It was a floor game; not one you can play neatly at the kitchen table. I imagined crawling around on the floor to play and my back hurt just thinking about it. Exhausted but determined to spend time with my five-year-old, I agreed.

Then the phone rang with an important call from the body shop where my car was being fixed. “Just give Mama a few minutes to handle this call, and then we will play your game. Okay?”

I took the call while Grace paced around me in circles. After twenty laps or so, she wandered into the den and played with matchbox cars. When she heard me end the call, she came running. “Now Mommy? Can we play now?”

“Almost,” I told her. “Now I need to make a quick call to Daddy to explain to him what I found out.”

“Okay,” she shrugged her shoulders and walked off to the playroom. But minutes later, she returned holding her brand new game with the entire lid ripped in two.

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Shocked, I exclaimed, “Grace!! Why did you do that?!” She just looked at me with tears teetering.

I quickly ended my call with Alan to talk to Grace. Less than ten minutes had passed from start to finish for both calls. I didn’t ask her to wait that long. Sitting down at the table to assess the damage to her new game, I looked my daughter in the eyes.

“Grace, why would you tear into your game like this?” I knew the answer. She wasn’t patient enough to wait on me to help. But what I couldn’t understand was when it first began to rip, why didn’t she stop immediately? Why continue to rip off pieces of the box and tear the entire lid in half?

I walked to the garage for clear packing tape and returned to repair the box while Grace and I had a chat.

“Honey, did I tell you I would play this game with you as soon as I got off the phone?” Her curly head nodded, her eyes on the floor. “Did you believe me when I said it?” She nodded again. “Don’t I always keep my promises?” She looked up with fat tears in her big brown eyes.

“Yes,” she said, lip quivering.

And as I said the next words, the hairs stood up on my arms, and I listened as I spoke, as if I wasn’t the one speaking them. “Grace, when I make a promise, you have to trust I will keep it. You cannot rush ahead and do things on your own. You knew you couldn’t open that box without my help. Since you didn’t have patience, you made a big mess.”

I knew God was speaking the words directly to me.

I’ve been working on writing a book proposal for “Sheep to the Right: Becoming the Everyday Misssionary” for almost seven years. I wrote. I stopped. I had a baby. I stopped for a long time. I wrote again. I stopped again. But on the day Grace ripped her game open, I was close to finishing. I wondered if I was crazy for thinking God told me to write it all those years ago. He promised me He had a great plan for it. I questioned that, too.

God can speak through anyone and anything – and that includes yourself. He can place words in your mouth you didn’t know you had and use your everyday situations to tell you exactly what He wants you to hear. And He did. He reminded me of His promise and warned me not to push ahead.

So, I actually finished the book proposal last week and sent it to some of my trusted people to critique. I’ve already got some changes I need to make, but I will complete them and try to be patient during this part of the process. You see, after I repaired Grace’s game, we played together – just like I promised.

And I know God will keep His promise, too. He just told me so – last week.

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**Mission trip update! Thank you for those of you who bought t-shirts. The fundraiser was a great success and we raised almost $600 for our mission trip. Please continue to pray for the team as we prepare. Thank you!

*phone pic credit

Carol

Meeting a Princess

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I wasn’t expecting to cry.

I went on mission trips as a child – upper state New York twice, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – but never out of the country. We drove into Mexico, sightseeing, when I was twelve, but other than that I had never left the U.S. at all. So this was my first-ever international mission trip (or any trip out of the country).

We had driven through an area that looked like something out of the movies. People were living in small shacks with barbed wire here and there. Roosters and dogs ran loose.

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The rented pink bus stopped, and our team from One Vision International walked down a dirt path towards the children’s center where we were to spend the afternoon doing a Bible story, crafts and taking pictures for the kids who still needed sponsors; I took in every detail. A mother was bathing her twin girls in her back yard. They took turns standing in a large pan, because beneath it was clay dirt. She washed their hair and scooped water from a large barrel behind the house, pouring it over the tops of them as they squealed.

The girls were absolutely adorable, shyly grinning as we walked past. But I couldn’t help but think of the differences between that and shower time at my house – where the kids would complain if the hot water was going and their shower was lukewarm.

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When we arrived at the children’s center, the kids were precious and happy to see us. The love they had for the One Vision missionaries was obvious. As we milled around, intermingling with the kids, one girl stood out to me. She was beautiful and stylish. She wore a white button up and a cute jean skirt and flats. Around her neck was a lanyard with scripture in Spanish. She reminded me of my daughter, Faith.

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Trying to make conversation, I asked if I could look at her necklace. The lanyard had small laminated pages with the Bible verses. I tried reading them aloud – butchering beautiful Spanish words as I went. She giggled and read them to me the correct way. I loved the way God’s Word flowed out of her mouth. Although I didn’t understand the language, I could recognize bits and pieces of familiar verses, so I repeated them to her in English.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son…”

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“¿Cómo se llama?” I nervously put words together I hadn’t spoken in years, but remembered from a simple Spanish book I had as a child.

She pointed to herself and said, “Lady Diana.”

One of the One Vision team walked over and confirmed her name. “Yes. She told me. Her name is Lady Diana. I believe she is named after Princess Diana. I think she said her mom was a big fan.”

“Combien?” I asked her, thinking I was asking her ‘how many’ in Spanish. I wanted to know her age. But my default “other” language was French. So, instead, I asked her “how many” in French.

Emily, from One Vision, laughed at me and asked Lady Diana her age in Spanish this time.

“Diez,” she told me holding up both hands with ten fingers.

“Diez? Ten?” I asked. “My daughter is ten, too!” It was in that moment the floodgates opened, and I started bawling. I was in a foreign country, miles and miles away from my family, doing what God had called me to do, and I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at His goodness. Overwhelmed with ache for my family. Overwhelmed at how similar and how different this sweet girl was from my own daughter Faith.

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“I just realized how much I miss Faith.” I told Emily, not completely able to put all my feelings into words. Emily chuckled and explained to Lady Diana why the crazy lady from the United States was bawling. Diana smiled and hugged me, stroking my hair.

I think I loved her instantly in that moment.

When I returned home and told Alan and the kids about her, Alan insisted we become her sponsor. And so we did.

So in a month from now, I will board a plane, with Alan and the rest of the One Vision team, to fly back to the Dominican Republic. I’ll bump down a dirt road in a bus (I hope it’s pink again.) and walk to a cinder block children’s center to be greeted in Spanish by the sweetest faces. And I’ll be scanning each one looked for a certain princess – the girl who stole my heart – Diana.

And I just might cry.

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**One Vision asked me to return this year to help put on another women’s conference. Alan is going with me this time. We are raising the money for this mission trip by selling t-shirts again this year. You can purchase the gray shirt from last year, or Alan has designed a new blue shirt this year.

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If you are able, I would love it if you would purchase a shirt or make a donation. If not, would you please pray for us? Pray for God to give me the words as I prepare to speak to these women at the conference. Pray for safe travels and for good health for the whole team. Also, if you can share this post or the link to the shirts, I would be so grateful. Thank you! Here are the pics of the shirts. Click HERE to go view them on the fundraising site.

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Carol

Letting Go of Me

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Have you ever seen someone else do something or achieve something and you looked on with envy wondering how you could make it happen for yourself?

I have.

If we are honest, we’d probably all admit we’ve had those thoughts before. With writing and speaking, it’s so easy to look on with envy when others have great success instead of rejoice. Why were they asked to speak at such a big conference and not me? Why did they get a book deal so quickly when I’ve been working so long?

We all want the prize – the mirror ball trophy – the golden cup – the seat next to Jesus. It’s a struggle that’s been going on for years upon years.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. Mark 10:35-38 NIV

In case you haven’t noticed, my last post was October 30 and even that was a repost of something I had written long ago. I’ve been struggling with that. Asking God why He hadn’t inspired me. Usually, the only time I’m uninspired is when I’m not spending time in His Word. But I’ve been there. I’ve spent morning after morning reading His Word and pouring out my heart in prayer.

I’ve been super busy, but still I’ve found time to do all my freelance writing. But nothing here on my site. I’ve worried God about this. “Lord, I’m going to lose my readers and followers.” He was silent.

“God, look at her! She is launching another new book!” Silence still.

“God, please let me write! Lord, am I still supposed to write? Send some encouragement.” The day I uttered that prayer, I received an email congratulating me for one of my stories making it into another Chicken Soup for the Soul book. (Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom Coming out March 2015)

I cried, knowing God sent encouragement but still my website remained unchanged. No new words to share. I praised Him anyway.

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I started incorporating some serious praise in my daily time with God. I listened to worship songs on YouTube singing along and lifting my hands here at the kitchen table. I poured through the words of the Bible and found myself weeping over the miracles of Christ, His death and resurrection and the stoning of Stephen.

But today, I started my day reading THIS post by Jon Acuff on the difference between inspiration and comparison. Then in my quiet time I read the story of Simon the sorcerer. It’s in Act 8 if you want to read it.

Simon heard the gospel from Philip and was saved. Then he saw Peter and John lay their hands on believers and watched them receive the Holy Spirit. It was powerful! And since Simon, who was a sorcerer or magician by trade, like to put on a good show he envisioned the awesomeness of having that type of power.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:18-19 NIV

Peter rebuked Simon telling him:

“May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (v.20)

It would be so easy to gloss over this story and think, “Ha! I would never do that. I have never offered to slip our pastor a $20 to let me give the invitation. That’s crazy!”

But.

What kind of pushing and manipulating have I done with God? God, I’ve baked goodies for the widow down the street. Can you hook me up with a speaking engagement? Or Lord, I just donated all of our old stuff to a homeless ministry. Think you could send that book proposal this way now?

Because isn’t that the way the world works? You do this to get that.

But y’all. That’s NOT it. God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. It’s the opposite of this world. Jesus told James and John just that after they asked for special seating.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

And just in case I may have attempted to gloss over Simon’s story in Acts 8, the Lord plopped Philip and the Eunuch’s story right after it.

You see, the reason Peter and John came to Samaria (where Simon the sorcerer lived) in the first place was because they heard people were accepting God’s message there. Guess who was the one preaching it? Philip.

Philip had a great ministry going in Samaria. The Bible tells us many men and women were being baptized. But in the middle of this great ministry God asked Philip to “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) God sent Peter and John to take over in Samaria while he sent Philip elsewhere. It would have been so easy to say, “Hey! This is my ministry! I’m not leaving!”

But Philip didn’t, and we know by reading the rest of the story he was allowed to participate in the conversion of an Ethiopian Eunuch. God had a plan for him there. But Philip would have missed out on it if his heart wasn’t in the right place. Philip wasn’t focused on Philip. Philip was focused on God. And God’s message for the world.

And friends, that’s what God has been reminding me. It’s not about me. It’s not about speaking engagements, book deals, number of followers or how often I write on my website.

It’s all about Him.

The comparison thing? It takes the focus off of God and puts it on us. The trying to “buy” the Holy Spirit? It’s like trying to buy the spotlight. The holding onto ministry so tight you aren’t willing to let someone else take over? Again, the focus is on us.

I’m obviously a slow learner. But God has been teaching me the lesson of dying to self. My wants, my desires, my love for the spotlight all have to die. It’s a matter of heart. As I’ve read the Bible through, over and over again that’s the same theme I see.

It’s a heart issue. When we put God first, others next and ourselves last, we view the world the way He does. It’s hard to be judgmental when you are Christ focused.

So, I share my flaws with you because we are in this together. And just maybe there’s something in your life that you need to give to God. Maybe you struggle with the same things as me. It’s time we do some letting go. It’s not all about me. It’s about Him.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

*photo credit

Carol