Category Archives: Christian Living

A Message of Hope From the Manger

The farmhouse is only half decorated.  We put up a lot of twinkle lights: on the fireplace mantel, sprawled across the buffet, outside on the front porch, and on the Christmas tree, but that’s the bulk of my decorating. Twinkling lights everywhere kind of make up for the lack of other decorations, in my mind. (Also a fire crackling in the fireplace. And hot cocoa in pretty mugs. That’s perfect decorating, right there.)

Oh, and I also got a wreath from Trader Joe’s and put it on the smokehouse outside (which everyone thinks is an outhouse building, when they first drive into the farm.) While we were at Trader Joe’s, the cashier saw my daughter and I in deliberation over a new brand of cookies. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get them.

He opened the canister and  said, “Go ahead, try them out first.” The two senior ladies checking out behind me heard the cashier’s words and came over to peek at the cookies. I motioned them to join in and we had an impromptu tea party, right then and there, courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Honestly, the generosity and cheerfulness of the place was so heart warming. My daughter and I walked out of there, wheeling our full cart, and singing “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come” at the top of our voice.

I so love Christmas. But I’m already eagerly anticipating New Year’s Day, the day of fresh beginnings and new resolutions.

It’s actually because of what we celebrate on Christmas Day, that I do look forward to what comes next. It’s not just the birth of the Savior, but His overcoming life He lived- and lives through us today- that we celebrate. And emulate.

And here’s His trajectory:

From the humble manger—> to influencing the whole wide world.

So don’t despise the day of small beginnings, Zachary 4:10 tells us. You can add to that,  Don’t despise the day of:

  • humble beginnings
  • insignificant beginnings
  • troubled beginnings

Do you know the opposite of the word despise? It’s

Those are all the words we need to apply to our humble beginning, our shaky start we made to any dream we felt called to. And it’s never too late to get back in the saddle of any dream we had set aside, out of discouragement, and start moving forward with it again.

If we don’t despise Jesus’ birth in the lowly manger (but instead we respect and cherish that scene), then we shouldn’t despise ourselves or our own humble, meager beginning…of anything.

That start of your dream? That shaky beginning you made when you went back to school? That relationship you wanted to build on the solid ground of integrity and love? Don’t despise it. Don’t disparage yourself or hang your head down in shame. Don’t kick yourself, or let anyone else kick you, if you’re down or not on track– because you’re not out of the running, friend. It’s not too late.

It’s time to accept your past, cherish that dream you have, that calling to help and give back, that desire to love again. And respect yourself, your humble beginning; and respect the process that is at work.

We go from strength to strength, Scripture tells us. From the manger, then out to impact a whole wide world.

I’ve got a big dream– with a humble, seemingly insignificant beginning. And you do too.

Pick that broken dream back up and get on with what you know you want your life to be about.  Forget how much you stumbled about in the beginning, how you missed connections or lost your way.

Move forward with God leading you, from the place of the manger scene, and out to the whole wide world.

Advertisements

If You’re Hurting, This Message is For You

A couple days ago I was at the Dr’s office with my daughter and sitting in the crowded waiting room, waiting for the doctor to see her. She’s had a rough time getting over what we first thought was just a cold– and it morphed into a 4 week round of sickness that really had her beat down. There was a lot of coughing and sniffling and phones ringing going on in that waiting room.

And then my phone rang.

A young woman asked for me by my name, saying she was looking for some counseling. I had a hard time hearing her, and I couldn’t quite get her name nor the name of the person who she said referred her to me. I told her I would love to talk with her further but that I was at the doctor’s office and could she text me her name and phone number so I could call her back later, after the appointment?

She said she would do that. But I never received a text from her that day.

When I looked into my call history to see if I could find her number and call her, I found it was a private, unlisted number. There was no way for me to contact her now. There was no way for me to call the person who had referred her because due to the noisy room and the poor reception, I couldn’t quite get the name of who she said had referred her to me.

So a woman reached out to me for help. And I cannot reach her. And that thought breaks my heart. But more importantly, I wonder how broken her heart is and if she is okay?

My husband and I have a ministry where we do a type of crisis counseling for marriages at the breaking point. Many times the couples have already tried formal counseling with a trained marriage therapist, or they sought counseling at their church, and they’re still at the end of their rope. They’re at a crossroads and need help at that very point –or their marriage might not make it.

I’ve also met with women on a one-to-one basis to encourage and coach them through any troubling life issue that they’re having trouble dealing with. Together we dig into the truth of God’s Word, the principles of healthy living and having a sound mind, and we prayerfully unite to make a breakthrough of sorts; or at least to initiate the beginning of a breakthrough– so that she at least walks out of our time together without that foreboding sense of I Can’t make it through this! hanging over her.

But I couldn’t do this with that woman. I couldn’t even offer an encouraging word in that busy noisy setting I was in, other than “I will call you right back!”

I don’t know what exactly this woman was calling me about. But I do know that she tried to ask for help. And that tells me that she’s possibly already on track– because she initiated a call; she reached out.

I want to tell her and every one of you who is hurting– Don’t stop! Don’t stop seeking the compassionate help that everyone deserves when their situation is critical, when their load in life is unbearably heavy. Don’t stop asking for someone to meet with you. Look for a capable, kind person with the resources and background experience that you need for the situation you’re in. Don’t be afraid to say what you’re feeling! Please call someone for help. And if you can’t reach them, call again.

One of the hardest things about going through a crisis or facing a troubling situation where you feel you’re not equipped, is the accompanying loneliness or isolation that you might be experiencing. You have a major problem, when you’ve got a major problem–but add to that a sense of being alone in the journey, or cut off from fellowship, or if you mistakenly felt rejected by God, and you now have an unbearable burden.

We weren’t meant to face challenges and fight battles as a Super Solo Survivor.  We are capable people but we are human– we need to grieve, mourn our losses,  and be real about the pain we feel. Hiding our trauma or our anxiety keeps us bound up in that. It’s time to get real about what we face, what we cannot deal with on our own. It doesn’t mean we are weak or an inferior Christian– it means we feel, we ache, we hurt, and we heal.

This has been a rough year for me, emotionally, with complex problems in some surprising relationships that have worn me out, worn me down a little. But I’ve also had certain precious relationships grow in richness and love and comfort. There’s been hugs and prayerful support and sometimes that compassionate listening ear that lets you just pour it all out. We need to pour it out. Don’t let the pain build up inside, my friend.

Most of all, keep asking God to show up in your messy distressing scene– He is  able to make Himself at home in the midst of your crisis, and permeate that whole yucky scene with His fragrant aroma of peace. Powerful peace in the midst of it all, peace in spite of it all. Ask Him to surprise you with His miraculous comfort, His surprising connections that lead to friendship and true fellowship, His unlimited resources for all of your needs.

To the girl who called for help, I’m praying for you.

And to the girl who hasn’t yet made that call, this might just be that nudge that you need, that sign that you asked for, to let you know– you don’t have to journey alone.

Post Mountain Top Pep Talk on FEAR & ANXIETY

If you’ve recently made a breakthrough in your life, but now you’re struggling with fear or anxiety, I’ve got a pep talk for you that will cause you to stand up straight and march on!

I’ve recently spoken at 2 Women’s Retreats here in the Northeast and I can tell you that the women in this region are still strong, still kicking, and that we don’t go down without a fight. And that even if we go down, we come back up …because

NOTHING CAN KEEP YOU DOWN!

Sometimes after you’ve heard an invigorating talk and you’re ready to implement some new strategies in your life or determined to break an unhealthy pattern in your life, you get all fired up…only to get cooled down by criticism or naysayers, problems that balloon into obstacles, or just that old enemy of your soul who doesn’t want to see you break FREE.

So here is your Post Mountain Top Pep Talk, for any who need shoring up; for any who experienced a recent revelation and now things are a bit murky and gray:

  • You are not going back into a state of fear or anxiety. You’re done with that gripping attack on your mind, that lie that you are at risk, at a disadvantage, or that you are no match for the problems or challenges you face. That kind of feeling of panic comes from forgetting that not only is God for you, but He Will COME THROUGH FOR YOU EVERY TIME. Just remember, the way God comes through is never the way we thought He would. He’ll use a variety of interesting circumstances and people to reach out to us and pull us up to a place where we can stand on solid ground. When a scary situation occurs and your initial reaction is complete fear, remind yourself that God won’t drop you, and God won’t leave you. Remind yourself that the biggest battle is to keep your trust in HIM alone, so that your mind won’t become a playground for Anxiety and Panic to run about freely.
  • You’ve got a Sound Mind. The soundest of all minds respects God, experiences and knows His love day by day, trusts fully in Him, and can respond to Him in love- not out of fear or dread.  A sound Mind is clear, settled, and at rest. It’s at rest because it is set on God’s unlimited power and on the truth of God’s pure motives towards you– He wants you to be at peace. So accept the peace. Embrace it. Because what you dwell on is going to become more real to you!
  • When you go through the Valley of Disaster, just remember you are not going to live there permanently. You are just traveling THROUGH it.  And that you are going through it with God at your side. And He’s out in front. And He’s behind you as well. You’re covered. He’s like a Seal Team x 7. What’s more, He can work all things together for good, and can transform your trouble into a time of Hope. And Hope is not a light feathery thing– it’s an anchor for your soul!! 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that the alpha team of Faith, Hope and Love outlast anything.
  • Lastly, if you’re going to have an expectation of anything, which is a type of faith, have an expectation that GOOD is ahead. Have godly convictions that line up with God’s Word. Jer 29:11 says He has good plans for us. So we should learn to expect good from God and not dread what’s ahead! Dreading things is looking forward but only “seeing” bad things coming down the road. When you dread the future, you are anticipating and expecting negative things and literally experiencing the fear of them happening– before they’ve happened. Proverbs 11:23 tells us that the expectation or the hope of the righteous is only good! Dreading is a type of reverse Faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that we should have our Faith (confident assurance) in God and have the certainty that what we are hoping for is waiting for us. Is God’s good plan waiting for you– or is it a life of misery and hopelessness waiting for you? 

Let me shout out the answer to that last question: Nothing but God’s good plan is waiting for you. His peace, his path of abundant resources and abundant grace, are in His hands and those hands are stretched out to you today.

He’s saying, “I’m a Big God. I’m bigger than your fears. My heart is bigger than the heart of those who want to bring you down. My plan for your life is bigger than the plan you would have for your life. And my plan is for your GOOD. So, yes, I’m a Big God, a capable God, a powerful God. But I’m a Loving God too. Merciful and Compassionate and Strong and Wise. I’m telling you, you’re safe, with Me.”

As the song goes, He’s the God on the mountain, and the God in any valley you might walk through. I’ve found Him to be completely trustworthy. And because of that, I’m finding myself….Fearless and FREE.

Come join me on this journey.

The Secret To A Stable Family Foundation

Want to know the Secret to having a Stable Healthy Family? It takes more than Love!

In the healthiest of families, there are certain spiritual elements at work helping to create a functional environment of warmth, connection and joy. Obviously, love is the foundational principle of every family. But if love is the foundation and you don’t build any walls or put a roof on your house, you’ll be exposed to the elements and your family won’t be warm, safe and secure.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Love chapter, but it ends with this powerful truth: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” Besides love, faith and hope are instrumental in bringing daily encouragement and perspective to your family.

The Spiritual Temperature Of Your Family: Faith

Faith is seen in a family that has rock-solid convictions. And while you cannot force your children to believe in God, you, as the parents, can demonstrate what real faith is.

Having faith in God does not mean you don’t battle doubts, experience stress or always behave perfectly. But if the parents set the tone in the family and show what faith in action looks like, you will see your children respond. This kind of faith is contagious and emboldening.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  —Hebrews 11:1

Radical faith is not doing crazy things, but actually staying sane and solid in Christ in a crazy world. If you maintain the spiritual temperature in your home at the setting of faith, your kids will be able to question out loud, expressing their doubts and feelings, and you as the parent will have the opportunity to open Scripture and talk about their concerns, showing your resilient faith in a God who never changes. There will be a growing confidence in your family as a result of growing faith.

The Anchor Of Your Family: Hope

Most family members know all about the anticipation of presents on key celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas. Everyone looks forward to that. But that same anticipation of God is a key element of hope.

When we are hopeful, we learn to anticipate God’s work in our family. Especially during trying seasons of stress, teenage turbulence or health scares, it’s important to maintain this attitude of hope. When your hope is in the Lord as a family unit, you will take turns encouraging each other through the trying times.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  —1 Peter 1:3

Every family benefits from knowing their foundation is solid and lasting. Be hopeful always in the Lord. Have faith in God and your confidence as a family will grow. Love will be the foundation that stands the test of time.

You can build your family on these timeless truths and celebrate them daily as a family that will not fail.

 

Read more articles at Believe at Christian Mingle

This Is My Story: The Power Of Your Testimony!

Many Christians have had the blessing of being raised in godly, loving homes with plenty of Sunday school and church meetings. Their lives can look nicely packaged and clean, while yours, as a new believer with a rough background, looks like you’ve come from a war zone. But never underestimate the power of your story, no matter how much you’ve had to overcome.

Your testimony is all about the tests you’ve gone through and the faithfulness of God to bring you through them. It’s not just about what you’ve had to overcome, but how God entered into your story. What God did for you, He will do for others. And it’s time to share your story.

Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Past

No matter how painful or dysfunctional your past is, remember that all of us can say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If you have pretty serious “offenses” in your past, they are not any better or worse than the sins and mistakes of anyone else’s past in the eyes of God.

The Bible tells us that we all have come short of the glory of God. But likewise, we all have received grace upon grace from Him. Lift up your eyes when you share your testimony of where you come from, knowing that God redeems every one of our lives from the pit. Never be ashamed of the power of God’s provision to take a painful past and give it a promising future. That’s your testimony and you’re sticking to it.

Don’t Share Every Detail

Be discreet with certain details of your story, as they would affect others involved in your past or as it might affect you in your future. This may seem like I’m negating what I shared in point #1. But there is a wisdom and a timing in sharing graphic and troubling scenes from your past.

Know that there’s a price to pay with your testimony once you go public. Are you ready to start talking about certain painful turning points in your life? How will your sharing of these stories affect any others who were part of your past? Is sharing specific details of your past even necessary? If you’re not comfortable getting into specifics, you can discreetly share things in whatever measure of candidness you feel is appropriate.

Look For Those Who Need Your Story

Of course, you are not ashamed of what God has done in your life. And we all have a testimony of sorts, because we all have a yesterday when we were not what we are today, because of the grace of God. But being willing to share your testimony also can involve being willing to get before certain segments of the population that specifically could benefit from your story of His intervention in your life.


Read more at Christian Mingle Believe and leave your comments here!

More Than Chills and Signs: How To Experience God’s Presence

Here’s the good news for those of you who have gotten frustrated in your walk with God because you don’t feel you are disciplined enough: growing in your faith is not just about discipline.

I’ve spent over 40 years pursuing a relationship with God that certainly involved what some call the main “spiritual disciplines” of prayer, Bible study, accountability and fellowship. There’s no doubt that these are crucial for a healthy walk with the Lord. But as I look back on some key turning points in my spiritual walk, there were definitely times when I was just spiritually needy and emotionally desperate – and I experienced God’s life-changing powerful presence.

More than giving us chills and supernatural signs, God wants to meet our deepest emotional needs in an encounter with Him. While you can’t build your faith on feelings alone, they nonetheless are part of experiencing God’s presence. Emotional hunger and honest expression of your feelings can ignite a wave of spiritual renewal.

Be Hungry For God

Be open to God “showing up” in times when you desperately need Him.

I remember one pivotal moment in my life when this occurred. I was coming home from my junior year of study abroad in Spain. It had been a long year, exciting but also lonely, and I had battled anxiety and anorexia. I was feeling very vulnerable as I sat in the airport in Madrid, hungrily reading a devotional my mother had sent me.

The airport speakers were broadcasting all these songs in Spanish and I was reading my devotional in English when all of a sudden something amazing occurred: just as I was reading the words about how God is like a bridge over troubled waters, the American song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” breaks through the loudspeakers.

I raised my eyes to the speakers, incredulous that God was speaking to me in literally my own language! I heard the message loud and clear that God was saying: “Lauren, I am with you, everywhere, and always.” Tears streamed down, and joy and hope welled up in me. I can remember and actually “feel” that experience, even to this day.

….

(Continue reading this article at Christian Mingle Believe)