It’s All in Who You Know

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Try to make it in any business and you’ll find this statement to be true. If you know someone on the inside, they can help bring you on board. It’s the basis of LinkedIn, the popular job networking site. You connect with everyone you know and all your friends connect with everyone they know. Then see if you can link with some of your friends’ connections that might be an asset to you. Which connection can help you get a job?

In showbiz, it helps to know someone who can get you an audition for great parts. In the music industry, when you have a personal connection with someone from a label, you’re more likely to get your music heard. Even in the writing industry, every new writer is encouraged to attend conferences, because in those conferences you can make personal contacts with people in publishing.

It’s the word “know” that stuck out in my quiet time reading this morning. I am reading the Bible through and am in Ezekiel. God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to give messages to the Israelite nation. Frustrated with the people’s worship of idols, God tells Ezekiel again and again to warn the people He’s about to bring wrath on them.

Each time God shares what He’ll do, He adds, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

“The inhabited towns will be laid waste and the land will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 12:20 NIV

After reading a few chapters, I noticed that phrase repeated over and over. So I did a little research. In the book of Ezekiel, the phrase “Then you will know I am the Lord,” is repeated 34 times! I investigated further and found variations of the same phrase consistently throughout the entire Old Testament.

“They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” Exodus 29:46 NIV

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other.” Joel 2:27

The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada.” The definition says, “to know, recognize, understand; to have sexual relations.” Woah. Wait. Did that just say the S-word? Did we just jump way off course?

Not really. You see, the idea behind the sex part of this definition isn’t the actual physical intercourse so much as it is the physical intimacy. Two people cannot get any close than sexual intercourse. So using the word “yada” means “to know someone in the closest possible way.” That’s what God is trying to get across to us. It’s what He’s been saying since the Old Testament times.

I want you to know me.
I want you to know I am your God.
I want you to know how much you mean to me.
I want you to know I am Creator and Ruler over all things.
I want you to know I’m with you when you are going through hard times.
I want you know I would never leave you.
I want you to know I see you.
I want you to know I hear your prayers.
I want you to know my ways are not like yours.
I want you to know I loved you so much I allowed my Son to die for your sins.
I want you to KNOW!

God brought His wrath on the Israelites for not knowing Him. They were driven from their Promised Land and sent into exile. Then as the New Testament dawned, God came up with another plan. A plan so people could know Him. He put skin on and came in the form of a man – Jesus. But His plea is still the same. Will you know me?

He’s not asking “do” you know me so much as “will” you? You see “do” you know God, simply asks, “Do you believe He exists?” Do you know who He is? And most people will admit they believe. But what the Creator of all things really wants to know is “Are you willing to know Him?” Would you agree to know Him in the closest possible way? Because knowing God on that level and understanding how He became flesh, died and rose again is the key to eternal life.

You see it really is true. The best things in life really are in Who you know. Will you accept the knowledge of Him today?

Carol

Preparing a Plan of Attack

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There are two ways to do just about anything – carefully plan or wing it.

Most of the time, I’m a carefully-plan-it kind of girl. I love making lists. I used to write out menus by the month. When planning a vacation, I’ll spend hours online finding the best places to stay, recommended stops along the way and highest rated restaurants. When my kids have a birthday, you can be sure I will create a Pinterest board and hunt the Internet for the cutest party ideas.

When I’m presented with the opportunity for a date night, I search movies and read reviews. I poll Facebook friends for best places to eat and search my closet for just the right outfit.

But somehow when it comes to my prayer life and dealing with those situations that seem impossible, I find myself winging it. Satan will throw me a curve ball, and I wildly swing my bat hoping to make contact.

Today, as I was reading in 2 Samuel about David trying to defeat the Philistines, I found good advice for creating a battle plan to overcome the obstacles in my own life. First David asked God, not his friends on social media, for direction. (Ouch. Let’s move on.)

“…so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered…” 2 Samuel 5:23 NIV

David asked God first IF he should attack the Philistines and then HOW he should attack. God responded, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees.” (2 Samuel 5:23) The Hebrew word used in this verse for “circle around” is sabab. It means, “To go around, surround, encircle, engulf.” It can also mean, “to change direction, to be surrounded, to change.”

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God gave David a plan of attack, but he gives us that same plan. When trials come our way, often we come straight at them and are knocked backwards from the blow because we aren’t prepared. Instead, we need to establish a plan of attack for any obstacle – for your failing health, for your marriage that grows stale, for your mounting bills and empty bank account, for the addiction you’ve been hiding, for the loss of your closest friend.

Friends, it’s time we fight back God’s way. We need to sabab our issues with prayer. Circle them. Engulf them. You see, because its only through prayer, praise and thanksgiving that we can “change direction.” You are not defined by the series of events that have happened in your life.

You are not defined by your diagnosis, your divorce, your size, your upbringing, your financial status or your education.

You are who God says you are. And He says you are chosen. (John 15:16) You are an heir. (Galatians 4:7) You are part of a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Satan will try to distract you and get you off your game. Don’t let him. He’ll tell you you’re not good enough. Don’t believe his lie. Be ready, friends. Arm yourselves for the battle by preparing your plan of attack. You see, in the woods that day when God told David to sabab, or circle around, He also told him to listen for the sounds of marching in the tops of the trees, “because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” (2 Samuel 5:24 NIV)

Don’t be shaken. Don’t be afraid. The Lord your God, the Sovereign Creator of all things will fight for you. Put on your armor and sabab. The battle has already begun.

Carol

One Thing that Completely Changed my Walk with God

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Eight years ago, my life changed completely.

I hint about it in my story on my “About Me” page. But let me tell you more. I lived a good life – attended church, prayed when needed and was a Christian. But I had a suspicion that I was missing something. I loved God, knew Jesus died for my sins and had accepted that He was my salvation. But still. I wondered if there was more.

My Christian life was mundane to say the least. I made a decision to accept Christ at age 10. I sang all the songs, heard all the Bible stories and attended Vacation Bible School every summer. When I joined Facebook quite a few years ago, I reconnected with some high school friends. One of them had become a Christian after high school and was very vocal about it on Facebook. After I posted a Bible verse, she private messaged me and asked, “Did you become a Christian after high school, too?” She was super excited for me.

Only one problem. I was a Christian all through high school. Why is that a problem, you ask? Because she should have known it by the way I lived. I didn’t attend parties or drink alcohol with my friends, but my Christianity was so subtle that people didn’t know for sure.

I think I lived most of my life that way. I was a checkbox Christian.

Do you attend church? Check.
Are you a Christian? Check.
Do you know Christ as your Savior? Check.

But there wasn’t the passion to back it up. Honestly, I believe this is an issue with lots of people who grow up in church. You lose the spark. You somehow lose connection to the fact that someone allowed their only child to suffer and die for you. Your relationship with God has as much passion as an old couple watching TV on the couch – her snoring, him with his hand tucked in his waistband. Blah.

Wondering if there was more to my relationship with God, I became fascinated with the idea of seeking Him. The Bible tells us if we seek Him, we will find Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

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So I made it my quest to find God. I decided to start with reading the Bible. I grew up in church, so I could tell you the books of the Old and New Testament in order. I could quote passages. I had completed many a Bible study. But I had never read all of it – straight through. So that’s just what I did. I had tried it before but never made it past Leviticus.

But this time I was determined. I would read a few chapters each day and then ask myself what God was trying to teach me. Then I’d pray. I tied my boots tight, pulled up my socks and began the hike through those gilded-edged pages. Determined, I even marched through Leviticus.

And somewhere in the middle of the Old Testament, I started having “A-ha” moments. Pieces of the puzzle fit together in my brain. I had a new understanding of how things happened. All those stories I had heard and studied before made sense in a brand new way.

And I found God.

He was there all along. In the pages. In my prayers. In my praises.

And friends, He changed me. My close friends will tell you how different I am. I can’t help but bring God into my conversations. I look at the world through different eyes. My sister-in-law once told me I was like Moses after the burning bush experience. When you have been in the presence of God, YOU WILL BE CHANGED.

Reading the Bible through changed my life. It took me a while to complete it. I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was more than a year. When I finished, I flipped back to Genesis and started again. When I finished that time, I bought a chronological Bible and started the third time.

This week, I finished my chronological Bible. It took me two years and a month to do it. I tell you this not to brag but to encourage you to read the Bible from beginning to end. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Cor. 10:17) I challenge you to start with Genesis and work your way through.

If you feel stuck in life, if you are struggling with your marriage or finances or family issues or health problems, if you see God working in the lives of others and want Him to do the same with you, seek Him. Look for God in the pages of His Word.

I promise He will accomplish more than you can imagine. You will be changed. You can NOT encounter God and walk away the same. It’s just not possible.

Are you ready to see God up close and personal? Then get started.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Gen. 1:1 NIV

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

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