Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If it's encouraging, let him encourage...

Spiritual Gifts has been the topic on my mind and heart over the past couple of weeks, and I’m always absolutely astonished at how the Lord works in our lives through such things as: teaching, hospitality, discernment, and so many other gifts. Today, I’ve been listening to Pastor Mark from Mars Hill speak on the spiritual gift of encouragement. As I listened I realized that for many years this gift has been in the forefront of my mind and I often find myself utilizing it within my own life.

The gift of encouragement is not given to those faint of heart. It is not given to those whose walk on earth is easy. No, the gift of encouragement is given to those who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It's given to those who have seen, first hand, the power of looming death, extreme heartache, and almost constant disappointment. Encouragement is bestowed on those who have lost the loved ones, who have been abused, who have trudged through the most depressing and life draining circumstances of life. It is because of the trials, the valley’s, the temptations of this life, that those with the gift of encouragement are able to cheer on those facing similar obstacles. The encourager knows, from experience, how difficult life is, how out of control it can sometimes feel, and that the only way through the valley is leaning and relying on Christ as the root of our lives.

Sadly, those who don’t possess the gift of encouragement rarely understand, appreciate, or even get why the encourager is always so optimistic and happy. Often, the encouragers are avoided – pushed to the side because everyone doesn’t want their “cheery, peppy” attitude around them. People would rather wallow in their self grief than allow someone to come along side them and pick them up, dust them off, and give them the words and hope to carry them through their struggles. Thus, the encouragers are often those that live the lonely life or are told to quiet their words. The encouragers are downtrodden by those who cannot appreciate the gift of a friend who will love them no matter what, carry them when they can no longer walk, and have the deepest loyalty to those they love.

Another trait about those with the gift of encouragement is that they are often some of the most patient and forgiving people in the world. I look back on my 23 years, and I see mostly valley’s along the way with a few grassy knolls, but never the view from the mountaintop. So often I’m told that “life’s not fair” or “life sucks” or “you can’t get to that level”, but I refuse to believe any of it. For God did not give me a spirit of timidity – but of LOVE. And if encouraging others is my way of showing love, then I will continue to do so without ceasing – which means that I will lose friends, I will have people who despise me, and I will even have family members that just don’t understand me. But I can’t stop believing that God has something great around the corner. That the Lord is going to bless those who patiently endure their hardships and keep their faith in His promises.

Forgiveness is another factor for those with the gift of encouragement. I’ve been asked numerous times why I’m friends with certain people, or how I could forgive a family member who has hurt me in the past so much. The answer? I see them as the person that God has created them to be. Although it’s not easy sometimes, I find that forgiving someone and moving on from the past of hurts and fears is far easier than wallowing in my self pity for letting someone who has hurt me still have a strangle hold on my life.

And after learning all of this, it’s sad for me to know that people don’t like me because of my peppyness and optimistic attitude. However, I know that when someone needs a cheerleader or someone to carry them through the storm, I will most likely be able to be that person for them, encouraging, building, and edifying the person into a stronger man or woman in the end. And I'll be the one waiting with open arms for anyone who needs the love and support of someone when it feels like the whole world is crashing in around them. Thank you Lord for the gift of encouragement - although it's often not an easy gift to possess - it's one of the most rewarding and generous gifts I could ever want.

Encouragement – you can’t live with it… and you certainly can’t live without it.

Romans 12:6-8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us… if it is encouraging, let him encourage.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life is Short - Live it!

I don't even know where to begin... I found out earlier this week that a classmate of mine from High School passed away. I went to a small, private Christian School and my class had 67 students and we were truly one big happy family. I was at a swimming meet when I got the text saying that Elisa had died, and I sat on the side lines absolutely shocked. I didn't know how to react, I didn't know what to say, I just froze out of sadness and an overwhelming sense of the fragility of life.

Today was another one of those random days where I got punched again with the realization that life is short. My brother and I have been playing phone tag for awhile now, and we finally connected on my commute to work this morning. We were chatting about everyday life, the possibility of buying new cars, and how our family was doing. I got to work, and he said, "hey sis, I've gotta go... I'm at the emergency room - I love you!" and click.. the phone went silent. Talk about the way NOT to end a conversation with your little sister - mother of Sam a huge sense of worry came over me. Come to find out, my brother went to the hospital with severe chest pains that his doctor thought was the beginning of a heart attack. He's 33 years old, but my family has a long history of the men having heart attacks in their 30's and suddenly dying. You can understand the fear factor that I was dealing with this morning...

I sat at my desk absolutely dumbfounded. Twice in one week BAM! and I'm reminded of the importance of living life to the fullest. And I started thinking about my life - why am I so selfish and focused on what I need do to for me? Why can't I see that I've never been willing to venture to Michigan to visit my brother? And why don't I see the needs and struggles of those around me? Why do I run from problems instead of facing them head on? And why in the world do I live my life for the everyday worries, instead of reacting to the prompts and desires of my heart?

All I can say is that it's time for me to take a few BIG steps of faith - getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself toward . It's time to go after those adventures, after those hearts desires that keep me thinking "someday". It's time for the someday to become today. So what am I going to do first? I have no idea... maybe I should start with a list of the important things in my life... and figure out where to go from there. So here goes...

Move out and on - Make the trek to Michigan - Travel More - Find the women's ministry to learn and grow from - Write the book - Buy the SUV - Camp, hike, bike, trail run - Pay off the debt - Invest more in those the Lord places in my life.

I guess what it boils down to is a complete renovation of my life. Stopping the crazy cycle of pleasing everyone else, and start living the life I've been called to. Which probably means me making some people sad or frustrated and even disappointed. The incredible part of it all is that the vision that I see is for the greater good of people outside my inner circle. I love those that Jesus has placed in my life (I wouldn't be who I am today without them), but I can't keep living in the safety bubble of my own little world. It's time to start taking the steps of faith, trusting in Jesus alone for my future, and following and doing whatever He says - not what the world and people say.

Mother of Sam this is WAY easier said than done... but I have to start somewhere and sometime - and no better time than the present!

Here am I Lord, Send me where you would have me be to grow, change, and become what you've called me to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All the Single Ladies (and guys too!)

Call me crazy, but I absolutely love listening to sermons online while I’m at work. They get me thinking beyond what’s happening in my work world to what’s going on in my heart. Today’s sermon was on the art of being single – and believe me it’s certainly an art.

Dear Single Ladies and Guys visiting TenaciousInsights! In a world where we’re constantly told that we need to be in a relationship to be successful, the fact of the matter is that the season of singleness in our lives is actually a great blessing. For it’s the single that don’t have to worry about the responsibility of others, and it’s the single who are able to take the extra time in their lives and invest it in amazing opportunities that those who are otherwise attached may not have.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, at Mars Hill in Seattle, discusses what exactly the single can do while they live their lives before marriage. Here are some of his great suggestions:

1. Serve – whether it’s in the Church or in the Community, when we are distraction free we’re able to use the free time we have to serve. Think serving in the kids rooms at Church, hosting Bible Studies, helping clean the streets of your city, etc.
2. Invest in the lives of others – for me it’s at this time of singleness that I’m more able to love on the people that Christ places in my path. Whether it’s coffee dates with a new friend, Cheer practices with a dozen teenagers, or meeting and greeting new people at Church – it’s this time in my life that I have the ability and time to seriously invest in others.
3. Focus on paying off debts/saving/giving – for a lot of us that are single, we’ve racked up Student loans or other debts that actually entangle us more than we realize. It’s at this time in our life that we’re able to get the 2nd jobs to pay things off or save for a house or trips or even just save more to give more to others.

I really appreciated the light that Mark put on the fact that singleness is actually a period of time that we should feel extremely blessed to be a part of. There were a few more things that were brought to my heart as opportunities that single people could be a part of:

1. Ministry – think missions trips, service projects, etc.
2. Adventure – when else in our lives are we able to pick ourselves up and move across the country? Or what about traveling to those places we’ve always wanted to visit? Or how about just trying new things? Or opening that business that you’ve always wanted? As a single person.. there’s really nothing holding you back…
3. Listening/Hearing the Call of the Lord – I don’t know about you, but it’s in the time of singleness that I’m able to focus a bit more on Christ rather than on what’s going on in my dating life. It’s in the singleness that the Lord is able to speak to our hearts, to grab 100% of our attention and lead us in a path and direction in which He would have us go.

Overall, I think it’s absolutely VITAL that as someone who is single, that we should evaluate our lives – really looking at what needs to change or how we can be better using our time, this time, of singleness. Not worrying about Prince Charming or the Perfect Girl, but focusing our time and energy on the passions that the Lord has laid on our hearts. Earnestly, deeply going after the desires that only we have. Each and every one of us has a different plan and a different direction given by the Lord. What will you do with the gift of singleness? Where is God calling you to go? What is He calling you to do? What steps do you need to take to get your focus on the right track?

SO much to think about here friends… but hopefully you found this encouraging. God is so faithful and speaks specifically to us through those somewhat nagging feelings of “go and do this”. Listen to those desires… follow them with all your heart… let God be your centerfold… and you can’t fail.

Amen! :-)

Take a listen, if you’d like, to Mark’s sermon at:

Friday, July 10, 2009


This past week I’ve really had some time of introspection and perspective. As I was sitting at my desk at work on Tuesday, I looked up and saw the array of pictures that adorn the wall next to me and I realized that some of them are from 4 years ago. I started reminiscing about where I was at in life during each snapshot. In one particular photo I was at the first wedding of a friend from my graduating class, probably thinking to myself, “when do I get to be married?”. Another photo shows me nearly 3 years ago at my 21 run with all my girlfriends – I was dating my first “official” boyfriend at the time, and we dated for another year after the snapshot was taken. Then there’s me utterly enjoying my single life last year at a lake for the weekend with friends (and my semi-rebound crush). Boy was that a crazy, fun weekend! As I look further down the wall I see photos of all my closest girlfriends getting married to the most incredible guys, and I’m touched by their love and respect for one another. And then I look at the photos from this past year and I see how much has changed in a years time. I started 2008 coaching 2 cheer squads. I ended 2008 in a relationship with an incredible guy, and 6 months later it was done. And in the past 4 months, I’ve grown, traveled, coached, served, and lead in great ways that I never, EVER thought I would have the ability to do.

I’m not going to lie – the breakups, the silly choices I’ve made, the loss of family members, my financial struggle while in college – deeply hurt and burdened me at the time I was going through them. But would I trade one hour, one minute of those struggles for a happier time? Absolutely not. For it’s in the trials, in the struggles, in the temptations of life that I fall flat on my face before Jesus and realize that living for myself and my selfish desires is no way to live at all. And I look back on the hearts I’ve broken, the people I’ve disappointed, and the pain that I’ve caused others to feel and I am saddened by my actions, but I’m grateful for the wisdom and love that I learned and gained through the experiences.

And then I look at my life now and realize that all the worrying brought me only anxiety. All the anger brought my only bitterness. All the sadness brought me only depression. But Jesus is bigger than my worry, anger, and sadness – and in the middle of each and every difficult circumstance of my life He has been the one to pick me up out of the miry clay and set my feet back on His firm foundation. He’s set my eyes and my direction on Him and Him alone, so that when my eyes wander to the ways of the world, He reminds me to stick close to His side for guidance and direction.

As I look at the people who have made rather large impacts on my life over the years, I’m reminded not of the bitterness that I harbored for so long or the hurt that struck me to my core, but I’m reminded of the lessons I’ve learned through relationship with them. My first boyfriend is getting married tomorrow – and it’s a weird feeling to think that he’s married (because he swore he was never the marrying type), but I’m so incredibly happy for him because he’s found the woman that is perfectly suited for him. My second boyfriend is dating someone new, and I wouldn’t change the fact that we broke up for anything. Although he was an incredible guy, he wasn’t the right guy for me. The best part of all is that I wish both of them only the best in their lives and I know that God has great plans for them. For through them I grew into the woman that I am today, and even though they don’t realize it, I’m grateful for the time they invested in me, and the lessons I learned through dating each of them.

The funny thing about reminiscing is that I wouldn’t change anything about my life today. God has spoken to my heart for years about the fact that He’s got plans for my future – and big ones if that. I was reminded of the importance of living my life for Jesus and forgetting about the “responsibilities” that the world lays on my shoulders by this great guy that I actually went out with last week. I'm really grateful to him because he actually shared with me that he felt it wasn’t the right time for me to have a boyfriend (which I now kind of agree with) and He really challenged me to stop living to make everyone else around me happy (I’m a people pleaser by nature) and start going after the desires that the Lord has laid on my heart. And it hit me… I’m holding myself back from the blessings, plans, and desires that God has for me. My human nature is hindering me from making the tough choices and going on the great adventure that my Father has been writing on my heart for years. And I finally realize that it’s time for me to step out in faith and make the changes that I need to in order to do the things that Christ has called me to. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the adventure to begin.

And this time, I want to be able to look back at the pictures and think, “wow, I did it! With Jesus by my side, I did the things He called me to do. I broke the mundane mold of my everyday life... I did it!”. Lord, that’s my prayer today – take me on the great adventure… take me where you would have me go. Lead my steps, and let me not be hindered or distracted from the plans you have for me. Here am I Lord – send me!

I’m SOOOO excited right now!!!

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send? And who will go fro us?’ and I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!.” – Is. 6:8

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Faithful in the Silence

Do you ever have those times in your life when the Lord feels so present, so real, so active in your life that you wish it would never end? In what circumstances of life do you feel closest to the Lord? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can almost guarantee that its in the times of heartache, disappointment, and overwhelming emotion that Jesus often shows up in the most powerful of ways. It's in the times of struggles, when we fall face first before the Lord that we sense His overwhelming, powerful presence speak to our hearts - almost guiding every step we take. It's His love that embraces us, His strength that carries our burdens, and His grace that gets us back on the path of life.

But what happens when you come out of the valley's of life - when things seem to get better, easier in a way? More often than not it seems as though there is a sudden, almost instantaneous silence between us and the Lord. The voice that once spoke so clearly, is suddenly muffled by the excitements of life. It's at this time of transition that it's as if Jesus feels distant... unreachable - to the point that we wonder if He ever really was there in the first place. We no longer hear the still small voice in the distance. Sadly, it's been replaced with the hum of the everyday - the screams for attention that the world so often throw our way.

Unknowingly, the noise of everyday life slowly makes us deaf to the calling of the Lord. It's in this place that our passions become distant memories, our callings become seemingly impossible to achieve, and the one thing in life that kept us solely focused on the eternal is suddenly replaced with "options".

The terrible part of all of this is that it's in this space - in this time - that the voice of the world overpowers the voice of God. And we have a choice to make - will we once again succomb to the pressures of the world (which leads to guaranteed failure and disappointment) or do we choose the road less traveled - the path of constant rededication to the calling of the Lord. Obviously the easy option is to choose the world - to choose what we can see, feel, taste, hear. It's the self sacrificing, daily taking up our cross, dying to self option that is choosing Life and choosing Christ. Then why is it so hard to keep on the track of the everlasting instead of the track of instant gratification?

As I was reading further in the book of Luke this morning (specifically chapter 18), Jesus describes what not to do when it comes to getting closer to Him - in the midst of the silence of life. In verse 10 Jesus begins to describe a certain Pharisee who prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not like the "sinners" of the world (tax collectors, evildoers, robbers, etc) and that he was a "good" Pharisee and gave a 10th of all he had. This man shows exactly what NOT to do when it comes to following Christ sacrificially. For even though the Pharisee lived his "perfect" sinless life, in his "perfect" little world - he was actually sinning - cutting others down so he would be glorified.

The story continues with a tax collector coming before the throne of God and saying the simple phrase, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner". What faith this man has! What humbleness! He sees his faults before him, he sees himself slipping into the snares of the world, and he repents - asking Christ to have mercy on him and guide him in the path in which he should go. Out of these two men, the tax collector is the one Christ admires - the one Jesus teaches, grows, and sends out to change lives for him.

So again I ask, how do we stay on track with God in the midst of a screaming world? By admitting our faults- our sins - and begging for mercy as we walk this road of life. Earnestly seeking Jesus 1st and foremost in every circumstance, and trusting that His way - although difficult, rugged, and less traveled - is the only way to a life eternally fulfilled. Amen!