The moving stories in our evaluation group left us all passing around the Kleenex. It was a blessing to hear every story, but Sylvia was last on Saturday and left us laughing. Don't miss reading her story below.
One of the things that I love most about She Speaks is the transparency of the women who attend. I think it's fostered by the authenticity of the lives of the women on our team--another thing that I love about the women that I serve with! She Speaks is a safe place to be "the real deal" and to open your heart to let God heal and convict. I hope Sylvia's She Speaks story blesses you as much as it blessed me.
I sat and stared at the laminated Scripture card I held in my hand. That verse in no way relates to the fear and doubt I had written on my response card that was now lying beneath the wooden cross where I had made the trade: response card with my doubts written on it traded for laminated card that had reassuring Scripture that God would use to speak to me about those doubts and fears.
Being a woman who friends describe with words like “steady” and “calm,” I’m not overly emotional and I was never a big fan of the weeping sessions that take place at women’s events. Mostly I just avoided going to the conferences and retreats in the first place. But She Speaks seemed different. I was confident God had something there for me to learn. I should not have been surprised that I would end up knowing Him better, and learning how well He knows me.
So, the laminated Scripture card…. As I had written my doubts on the response card, I had written a secondary fear, maybe even tertiary. I could not bring myself to write my primary doubt, as the entire weekend conference had brought message after message addressing that doubt. Pride prevented me from writing that doubt down, since with all the teaching I’d heard, that doubt should have been decimated, annihilated, demolished, destroyed, killed, massacred, butchered, slaughtered, and whatever other forceful synonymous verbs there are in the thesaurus. The teaching was that good!
But, the laminated Scripture card….I looked at the verse and read it again. “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43.4a) The tears fell fast and furious. Didn’t see that coming! I realized that God was not speaking to my secondary fear that I had written on the card, but to the fear that always crept to the top of the heap in my heart. God knew my heart!
Growing up in backwoods West Virginia was not that bad. I didn’t know I was poor until I was old enough to go to school and found out all the other kids had indoor plumbing instead of an outhouse. And they had running water instead of a well with a bucket. They probably didn’t have cardboard walls either, but there was no way for me to know as I was never ever invited to a birthday party or sleepover.
God did, however, gift me with the ability to succeed in school. And He did allow me to be born into a loving family. But once you think of yourself as a second class citizen, those feelings are hard to shake, and here at the conference they were again worming their way to the surface. I will never be as useful as the other women here. Why would God even want to try to use me as a speaker and writer?
The laminated Scripture card….there it was, “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” Precious and honored. Me! Highly valued. Esteemed in God’s sight. Precious enough for Him to give His only Son. Precious enough that He wants to know me and spend time with me. I am precious enough for Him to use this ordinary woman to do extraordinary things for Him….through whatever avenues He will use in the future. In a word, I am LOVED.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The moving stories in our evaluation group left us all passing around the Kleenex. It was a blessing to hear every story, but Sylvia was last on Saturday and left us laughing. Don't miss reading her story below.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I want to introduce you to another beautiful woman from our speaker evaluation group. Jodi Adams brought such life to our group with her wonderful word picture centered on a NASCAR ticket. (I can't tell it as well as she did, so beg her to retell it on her blog. It will stick with me for a long, long time.)
Please visit Jodi's blog to hear her She Speaks story. Have a great weekend!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
At She Speaks, we've taken on the phrase, "Grace, grace, grace" as a way to remind ourselves to address troubles, mistakes and unintentional offenses of all kinds. We all love it when grace is extended to us, and I appreciate the reminder that I need to be the first to give grace.
My funny, annointed, spirit filled friend, Micca, is pleading for grace, grace, grace today. At the end of her inspiring message on Sunday, she used a beautiful quote that she had heard in the movie Aquilla and the Bee. It turns out that the quote originated with Marianne Williamson, the author of several books that espouse new age philosophy. Micca would like for you to visit her blog so that she can apologize personally.
There are two things I want to say about it. First of all, Micca is a woman who loves God's Truth more than anybody I know. Her heart is pure in this. "To the pure all things are pure."
Secondly, God can even use a donkey's words for His glory! I stand amazed that God uses words that come out of my mouth to bring inspiration and Truth. He can even use a quote by an unbeliever to point to Himself. That was Micca's intent, and her message brought Him great glory and encouragement to the hearers.
Would you take this opportunity to visit Micca's blog and encourage her? She feels so badly about this. I want every woman who heard her message to let her know how God has used it. I know it will be a blessing for her to hear from you!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I was so happy to receive a story from Jennifer for you to read. As Jennifer shared the story of losing her "beautiful, red-haired boy" on Friday night, it was all I could do not to break down and sob. My thoughts were filled with Anson, my beautiful brown-haired 14 year old, but I just couldn't distract Jennifer as she told her sad but hopefilled story with composed grief. She inspired me beyond words. While my heart ached, my spirit soared. Please read on for Jennifer's She Speaks story.
Girls and their hair!! If it’s curly, we straighten it. If it’s straight, we perm it. Naturally dark, we highlight it. And too light, then we color it that perfect shade of auburn. In pursuit of just the perfect style that we can wash and wear in ten minutes or less, and that will make us look ten years younger and fifteen pounds lighter…it really is unbelievable what we will do to our hair. However, no matter what we do to it or what we do with it, God has told us He knows the exact number of hairs on our head!! I love knowing that my God knows me so intimately but this verse also reminds me that my God is a God of the details.
I was reminded of this more than once this weekend as I attended the She Speaks conference. When I first read about the conference, I asked God to help make it possible for me to attend. And He answered in a marvelous way. He provided the registration fee, allowed me to find a room at a great rate and even reconnected me with a college friend I had not seen in years so I could stop over at her house while traveling back and forth! I was excited and arrived at the conference praising the Lord.
Little did I realize just how much He had yet in store for me. I immediately met up with a friend I had only known previously through her blog. There was an instant friendship and I was so happy to have someone to start the conference with me. We chose a table for the opening meeting and one by one, God began to fill that table – one we thought we had chosen by chance – with amazing women. Amazing, not just because of their love for the Lord but also because they were hand-picked by God to walk beside me during this conference and meet my spiritual needs.
As a grieving mother feeling very vulnerable and definitely out of my comfort zone, it still awes me to know that God placed at my table three other mothers who had lost children and one who has a child right now fighting brain cancer – just like my son. These women knew what I was feeling. In the very same way, when I went to my evaluation group later that night, my “randomly chosen” group included a mother who not only lives mere miles from me but also has a son who has battled cancer and was treated at the exact same hospital as my son. We had an instant connection.
These details are not at all random but, instead, evidence of God’s involvement in the details of my life. Yes, He allowed me to be at the conference. But once I was there, He blessed me beyond measure with women who didn’t even know they were there to be a blessing! As the hymn writer once said, I stand amazed!! I was humbled. I was encouraged. I laughed. I cried. And I was inspired. Going to the conference simply to make myself more available, I am now even more excited to see what His plans might be for me in the future.
Monday, June 23, 2008
It just gets richer every year. Last Wed-Sun, I spent 5 glorious days with the Proverbs 31 team and 560 incredible women with a passion for spreading the Good News all over the world. She Speaks just gets better every year as I watch my friends live out their messages and hear story after story of God's incredible redemption and powerful works.
In the next week or so, I want to give some of my new friends a chance to tell their stories about the work that God did at She Speaks. I have a few of my own to tell, but I wanted to let them tell you about their experiences in their own words.
I'm still catching up on my sleep from The Big Sleepover (otherwise known as She Speaks!), so I'll start my stories in the next few days. In the meantime, check out Carol's story at her blog. This woman has one of the sweetest stories of salvation that I've ever heard. Ask her about it!
Monday, June 16, 2008
It's only two days until I leave for Charlotte for the Proverbs 31 annual conference, She Speaks. I can't wait! It's such an indescribable treat to spend 5 days with women of like vision. The group is always a blast. Just think about getting 550 women who love words together. There's not a quiet moment!
I take that back. One woman described it best when she said that she's renaming it "He Speaks". That couldn't be truer! Both years that I've attended, God did a tremendous work in my heart and spoke so clearly. The highlight of the conference are in the silences when only He is speaking.
Because I'll be gone, I won't be blogging. I will be paying close attention to what He wants me to share with you when I return. All of you who have written promising to pray have meant the world to me. I can't wait to tell you how your prayers have been answered. For those of you who will be there, please come find me. I'll love putting your face with your name and getting a real hug instead of a cyber-hug. Any of you who are in my speaker evaluation group, sleep tight knowing that God is about to teach you and build your dreams. We're going to have a ball!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
If you are visiting from today's devotion, welcome! I'm finishing a little series on the Marys in Jesus' life, and I'm ending with my favorite Mary. It's Mary of Bethany who was Lazarus' sister. If you're encouraged by today's post, I invite you to take a look at the previous 2 posts about Mary's journey of growing faith. The last installment fits perfectly as an application of today's devotion. Isn't God good?!!
In our first glimpse of Mary, she is sitting at Jesus' feet hanging on His every Word. Just think about what Jesus might have been saying. I can't really imagine Jesus making small talk, can you? I'm sure He was winsome, but He had a timetable and a mission to fulfill. When we look at scripture, we see that every action was intentional and every word measured. In Jn. 8:28-29 Jesus says, "...I do nothing on my own by speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." In speaking only what the Father had taught Him, we know that Jesus' words were full of truth, and light and explanations of the things to come. And so His words were The Word.
Mary listened to Jesus' Words, and she believed them. She let them mold her life, her thoughts and her actions. When it was obvious by Jesus' Words and actions that it was time for Him to die, she was ready. Even though everything in her wanted to deny the Truth because of her love for Him, she believed Him, and she acted. John 12:18, Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13 tell the story. Mary entered the room where Jesus was and poured nard, an oil used for anointing dead bodies, on his feet and then in an act of complete love and intimacy wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume, and Jesus knew that Mary understood. While everyone else was still in denial about the price that would have to be paid for their freedom, Mary got it, and she joined her heart with Jesus' heart.
She paid a high price to align herself with Jesus' Word. The price was not only financial as she counted out the coins to pay for the expensive perfume. It was social, too. The intimacy she showed as she poured out the nard and kneeled to wipe His feet with her hair was sure to cause whispers. It was so inappropriate in the world's eyes. She didn't care, though. All she focused on was showing Jesus her love for Him and her complete belief in His Word.
This account always moves me to tears. Am I willing to align myself-- all of myself--with God's Word at any cost? When it doesn't suit my circumstances, will I align myself with His Word? When it doesn't match my emotions, will I align myself with His Word? When everything in me wants my own way, my own comfort and my own opinions, will I align myself with His Word?
I've failed in the past, but Mary's reward makes me long to succeed in the future. After defending Mary like a knight in shining armour, Jesus says in Mark 14:9, "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Amazing! Incredible! Because if we will align ourselves with the God of the universe and Jesus His Son, He will align Himself with us. That kind of oneness with my creator is the deepest desire of my heart.
Just a quick update...thank you, thank you to all of you who have prayed for me. I know your prayers were effective, because I had a huge breakthrough yesterday and came close to finishing the book proposal. This has been a much more challenging process than I thought it would be. I've had this topic on my heart for several years, so I thought it would be easier to write. It makes me laugh. As much as I LOVE to read, I've never given much thought to the process those books went through to get into my hands. Very interesting! Anyway, all of your comments encouraged me and spurred me on. Thank you!
Back to Mary...
John 11 tells the next chapter in Mary's life with Jesus and it follows the death of her brother, Lazarus. Please make time to read John 11:1-44 today so that you can let God speak to you from the richness of this passage. I'm just going to touch on a few thoughts.
When Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus right away. He was their friend, after all. They had entertained Him in their home, fed Him meals and loved Him. And they knew that Jesus loved them, so they sent word to Him. And they waited. And they waited.
Jesus, knowing God's will for the situation, waited for two days where He was before He set off for Bethany. He arrived 4 days after Lazarus had been put in the tomb.
Vs. 20 is really interesting. It says, "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home." This is where my own Martha-heart gains some hope. Martha is learning! Can you imagine how devastated these sisters were? How disappointed that Jesus hadn't come through? In the following passages, though, Martha reveals what she's learned:
- She's learned to RUN to Jesus
- She had learned that God listens to Jesus' intercession
- She had learned that Jesus Himself is the Resurrection and the Life and the Messiah
These are huge truths. How had she learned them? Evidently she eventually sat at Jesus' feet and listened. Because these truths sank deep into her heart, she ran to Jesus when he arrived in Bethany. Some people read her statement in vs. 21 as accusatory, but I think it's a statement of faith because of the following verse. Martha had come a long way!
But what about Mary? She didn't run to Jesus. We aren't told why, but I can speculate from my own life. Her grief and her disappointment made her want to hold Jesus at arm's length initially. It's another story for another time, but I've reacted that way to Jesus myself. The amazing thing about Jesus, though, is that He loves us enough not to go away. He sent Martha to call for Mary personally. He didn't punish Mary for her disappointment by letting her stay sequestered and missing her brother's resurrection from the dead. He reached out to her, and she found Him irresistible.
When she saw Him, she fell at His feet. She said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." In her response, I hear all the mix of grief and hopelessness and faith and disappointment. Instead of chastising her, though, Jesus cried with her. He is amazingly tender.
Times of suffering of any type bring all kinds of emotions into play. Jesus lived here on earth so that He could feel the same things. He understands our pain, confusion, disappointment and despair...and He calls us to come to Him. Times of suffering are when our theology becomes applied science. Theology sounds intimidating, but it's simply what we believe about God. Most of the time we don't have to examine our theology much during happy times, but the rubber sure meets the road when times become harder.
No matter what you're facing today, I can assure you that Jesus is calling to you by name. What do you believe about Him? Do you believe that He's Savior? Do you believe that He's the Redeemer? Do you believe that He's the Healer? Do you believe that He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for you? If you believe those things, I urge you to push through the hurt, the disappointment and the confusion and RUN to Jesus. He's waiting to weep with you and to do a work.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Here’s the promised post about Mary. It’s a joy to write about her, but I have to confess that I’m stressed out. So…I have a favor to ask. If you read this post, will you pray for me? I’m launching out in faith by presenting a book proposal to a few reps from publishers at our upcoming She Speaks conference. I’m brand new at this, I’m way behind, and I’m freaking out a little. Would you pray for time and inspiration to finish the proposal? Thanks!
Now about Mary… I love her, because she was a woman intent on knowing Jesus. The preciousness of the stories about her interactions with Jesus is seeing how He nurtured friendship with her and saw her as a person of value and worthy of His time.
Luke 10:38-42 introduces us to Mary in a story with which most Christian women are well-acquainted. It’s the famous Mary and Martha story. If you’re not familiar with the story, I encourage you to stop and read it now.
Traditionally, Martha is seen as the bad guy in this passage. Being a “doer” myself, I prefer to think of her as a work in progress! After all, she did open her house to Jesus and the disciples. I think her heart was in the right place to begin with, but her motives probably shifted toward perfectionism along the way. I can identify. Can any of you? Because of that wrong motivation, she missed a blessing. While she hurried around, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.
V. 39 says, “…Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” There’s something important to notice here. First of all, Mary sat close to the Lord and right at His feet. This was the traditional posture of a student to the Rabbi. She didn’t stand far away in the corner of the room straining to catch bits of Jesus’ words. Amongst all the visitors that Martha was working to serve, Mary boldly sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. She violated social norms, because she just couldn’t resist Him. She just had to KNOW Him.
What social norms is God calling me to violate in order to know Him? Is it getting up at an uncomfortable or radical hour before dawn? Is it taking the phone off the hook and getting back to friends later? Is it saying “no” to volunteer work or (gasp) a job at church? Is it limiting entertainment time or “me” time? Is it taking a righteous stand against the activities of my social group?
Mary didn’t stop to consider the cost. She just knew that she had to be at His feet. John Piper says, “The time it takes to dig deeper into the heart of God is often repaid by striking a vein of gold or an oil gusher. The effort is repaid with joy and power beyond all expectation.” There is a price to pay for knowing Jesus. There is always a cost of sitting at His feet…but the reward is so much greater. Mary knew this secret. She was willing to face her sister’s wrath and the whispers of those around her. Why? Because the reward of friendship with Jesus and the even greater depths of truly knowing the Son of God was the treasure that she sought. Her reward was well worth the price. Tune in for part 2 in a couple of days!
This is an excerpt from a weekend retreat that I lead called “King of Hearts: Jesus, Lover of a Woman’s Soul.” If you are interested in this retreat for your church or finding another speaker for your event, please visit the Proverbs 31 Ministries website.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Have you read the children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Many of you probably know the book, but it has a funny premise. In the beginning of the story, a child gives a mouse a cookie. Then the mouse wants milk. Then they need a broom to clean up crumbs. The story goes on and on and shows how one thing leads to another, leads to another...
My blog this week could be titled If You Buy a Chest on Craig's List. I got the deal of the century on a brand new chest for my bedroom! I had been seeing this chest on chest that was exactly what I wanted. It was posted several times, but life was crazy with being a soccer mom. I never got to go see it. Last Friday, though, it was posted again at a deep discount. My sweet husband took time off work, borrowed a van, and off we went. It was gorgeous, and we bought it. When we got home, Barry started looking on the Internet to see how much it retailed for. We got it for $3,000 dollars below the retail price! I knew we were getting a great deal, but paying 10% of the original cost really got my motor running!!!! (Moral of the story: There are great deals on Craig's list. Check it out, but be careful. There are also lots of scams and some yucky/crazy postings. I stick to the sales areas.)
So Barry and Anson lugged the heavy thing upstairs and plopped it in the middle of the room while I vacuumed the inch of dust that had accumulated under the ramshackle buffet that I had been "temporarily" (now 4.5 years later!) been using as a dresser. When I thought about how heavy the new chest was, I thought we should paint behind it before we moved it into place. Keep in mind that 1/3 of another wall was already painted the dark taupe that I had already painted in the bathroom. I was testing to see if I liked it, but 8 months later it was getting on my nerves.
My saintly (yes, he just keeps getting better through this story) husband helped me to paint the wall behind the dresser and then said, "Let's just get to it and paint the whole room." Yeah!!! By late Saturday we were finished. We have high ceilings and an office/loft in our room, so it was quite a job. I must be getting old, because I was exhausted.
So now I have a new chest (did I mention that it was the deal of the century?) and freshly painted walls. I didn't have any curtains, though. Hmmm... what's a girl to do but go shopping? After all, I had saved sooooo much money on the chest! I've ordered 2 sets of curtains to try from Penneys (50% off!!!), added some accessories, and I'm almost done. The only thing left is to find a deal on a bedside table. Back to Craig's List....
See what I mean? That's what I've been doing instead of writing on my blog. I hope you all will stick with me while I finished this flurry of nest feathering. In the meantime, Luann's blog on being obsessed with God refocused me after becoming obsessed about decorating. God showed me one time that I had let the obsession with decorating an old house that we were redoing become an idol. He told me to quit watching HGTV for a year and to cancel my subscriptions to all my home magazines. I don't want a repeat of that, so I repented quickly this time! Thanks, Luann!
Next week I'm going to post 3 posts (I'm announcing it for accountability's sake!) one of my favorite women in the Bible--Mary, Lazarus' sister. Hang with me, and I'll share pictures next week. I'm a little embarrassed that my bedroom looks so much like Lysa's, but I promise that I'm not a crazy stalker girl (Well, I am sometimes, but that's only when I'm stalking a potential mentor. It doesn't extend to decorating!) I'll also try to share some of the inspiration that I've gotten from Mary.