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Blessing in Disguise

Recently my husband and I have been hit on every side with health issues and job issues. The old adage rang true: when it rains it pours. Timing has been terrible and even though we know God will provide, we have struggled to trust when the solution isn’t visible.

However, in everything, perspective is important, and our focus so often gets lost when the wind and waves start to come crashing in. Tonight I realized that even though this season has been difficult, it has been a huge blessing in disguise for us in many ways. We have been able to focus on our health, re-evaluate what had become our priorities and what our priorities really are, and have spent more time together than we had been able to previously in our marriage. As hard as it’s been, I know that I am thankful for this hard time.

I wonder how often we dismiss a blessing as a curse, or how quick we are to forget that God can turn any desperate situation into something good. Genesis tells the story of Joseph, a man sold into slavery and undeservingly thrown into prison. Just when he thought that he had been forgotten, God raised him up to the position of second in command in Egypt, and through him saved the people of the country and surrounding areas from death in the midst of a major drought. When his brothers who sold him into slavery came before him needing mercy and food from his hand, he said this: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

Might I suggest to you today that what man has meant for evil in your life, God means it for good? That situation you are facing: the rejection, the rumors, the injustice against you: God will redeem it.

Who knows what God will bring out of this season, but I know one thing for sure: our eyes are on Him. He has called us to save lives for His Kingdom, and today we are one step closer to doing that!

Commit your way to Him today and trust Him for the things you can’t control. It may be a short time in coming, or like in the case of Joseph, it may be years. Do not lose heart. The Lord is your defender. He is your strong fortress. Run to Him!

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I’m Over It

The big challenge that God has given me in this season is to take responsibility for my life. One of the big areas that He has called me to take responsibility is my health.

For 14 years I have struggled with chronic pain and digestive issues. It has been a ridiculous amount of pain and stress. I have had to leave multiple ministry assignments early, have been unable to participate fully in others, and even recently had to resign a job in large part because my health issues became a level of contention. I recently weighed in at 200 lbs: the heaviest that I have ever been. The brutal honest truth is this: I need to go on the offensive with my health. Something needs to change. I’m over it.

I’m tired of being held back because of my health. I’m tired of being a victim (and acting like a victim) of pain. I do not like the woman that I have become in the pain. I have surrendered for too long when God has called me to be a victor.

Two weeks ago we decided that things were going to change. We joined a wellness company that replaces the toxic chemicals in our home with cleaners and personal products that are not harmful. We started taking vitamins and exercising regularly. About a month before that we started eating vegetables with almost every meal and making sure we had enough protein in our diet. In a couple weeks I will be planting a small vegetable garden to begin eating some basic foods that are not filled with pesticides and hormones. We don’t do things perfectly, but we are on the right track.

For both my husband and I, taking care of our health has become a major priority, and I do not believe that this is in any way separated from our spiritual lives. God has given us our bodies and the ability at our fingertips to make better choices about what we consume. There are far too many things that God has called us to accomplish in our short time on earth to let things that we do have some control over be an obstacle to accomplishing His will.

So this is my statement – I’m over it. I’m over having health problems. I know that I cannot control everything related to my health or my husband’s health, but we can make better choices. And we choose to do so. Stay tuned for the progress.

Oh, and you should read this verse:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASB

Blame Game

It was a great Sunday of music and encouraging preaching. The service was ending, and all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere came the Holy Spirit inspired word for the Church: “You alone decide how dynamic your relationship with God is. You cannot blame anyone else for your complacency.”

To those who were listening, it came like a bombshell, and it is perhaps the most important lesson that our generation needs to hear.

How many of us have it written in our DNA to blame others for who we are, the decisions we make, and where we are in our relationship with God? The underlying issue is our lack of taking responsibility for our lives.

How many times have we used phrases like, “He made me so mad!” and “He offended me!” without even thinking? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Couldn’t it easily be said as well, “No one can offend you without your consent”? The truth is that I CHOOSE to be mad and I CHOOSE to be offended. What would happen if I took responsibility for my emotions?

How many times have we blamed our upbringing for the ways that we fall short as adults? Maybe it is inability to cook, lack of tidiness in the house, or a struggle to connect with someone due to past trauma. Perhaps it is a fear that leaves us paralyzed and held in emotional bondage. Perhaps it is an inability to keep a budget. Maybe we struggle with submitting to authority. It is understandable for things to be more challenging for us based on past experiences, but the problem lies in choosing to stay that way for years and not grow. What if we took responsibility for our challenges and trauma? What if we reached out for counseling, mentoring, classes, or a friend to come alongside us as we grow? Maturity does not allow for excuses; maturity takes responsibility.

And what excuses do we give for our immature relationship with God? Perhaps we think we do not have the time to invest in reading Scripture or prayer. Perhaps we feel that we do not have the tools we need to dig deep into the meanings of passages. Perhaps we feel that we do not have a support system that pulls us in and encourages us to grow. The truth is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. How we choose to spend that time is based on the priorities that we either actively or passively set for our lives. Why not be active in deciding how your limited time on earth will be spent? And here is an idea: YOU become the support system that encourages people to grow in Christ. YOU step up and challenge the community around you to KNOW Christ and grow in Him. YOU be the change!

I fully believe that when we take responsibility for our lives, we will not have time to feel sorry for ourselves or blame others. We will be too busy living productive and healthy lives that not only benefit us and our families, but bless those around us. Ask God to point out to you the ways that you have blamed others or your experiences for your lack of growth. Seek His forgiveness, and move forward in maturity!

Backstage Pass

*Ding*

I picked up my phone and there it was: a text from a friend that simply quoted Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The text message came out of the blue from a friend that I had not heard from in many months. He told me that he was praying for someone else, but the Holy Spirit told him that this verse was for me, and it could not have come at a better time.

“Do not be dismayed.”

With both my husband and I facing health challenges as well as career changes, we have had to choose many times a day to trust God, that He knows what He is doing and that He is working things out. Discouragement is a temptation, but we choose hope.

In the middle of this season, God has reminded me in a powerful way of His calling on my life to ministry and has sent many little reminders along the way that He is up to something; that He is planning something and that soon He will draw back the curtains and we will see that what He has been doing was beautiful and worth it.

Unfortunately, in the season, we don’t get a backstage pass. Steven Furtick says that we live life forward, but we only understand it in reverse. I believe that in heaven we will all have a big light bulb moment when we realize the depth of God’s activity throughout the journey. Until then, we trust. We trust His love for us, we trust His power, and we trust His timing.

Are you walking through a season right now that is hard to understand? Do you struggle to see how God will provide for you? Go back to His word, read Joshua 1:9. Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be dismayed. Why? Because the Lord is with you. He never left, and He never will. That’s reason enough to choose to trust Him today!

The Shampoo Bottle

We see miracles of provision in the midst of obedience, not before.

Whoever said that following Jesus makes life easier has clearly never followed Jesus. Plain and simple.

Is it worth it? Absolutely…5,000%.

Life goes through seasons, and every difficult season is difficult for a different reason. Sometimes life is difficult because of choices we have made and we must pay the consequences. Other times things are difficult because of circumstances we find ourselves in that are not our fault. Other times life is difficult because God has entrusted us with much because He wants to prove His great strength and faithfulness.

I’m currently in that third one.

Can I say right now that I am so thankful for the journey; for God’s wisdom in how He leads us and orders the events in our lives? I’m so thankful that God often didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to, that He put up with my stubbornness and gently led me along the best path, even though I couldn’t see how it could possibly be good. I am learning that He truly does know best, but it’s a humbling process to not only realize that I’m not in control, but to also understand that I really don’t know what’s best. Oh how much more I see my need for Him now!

I pretty much feel every day that I can’t handle everything that I have been given. From early in the morning until late at night I zip from here to there, and most of the time I’m in charge of whatever I’m doing and there are people looking to me for leadership. To me, that’s intimidating. In the past, it’s been paralyzing, and I’d be lying if I said the temptation to freeze mid-step isn’t constantly there. What keeps me going? Grace. Beautiful, wonderful, faithful grace from God. It’s a supernatural kind of strength. It’s wisdom flowing at just the right time.

I have this shampoo bottle that I almost threw away over a month ago. It seemed like it was empty, but since I’m the type of person to try to get the very last drop out of everything I use, I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away as long as I could still get something out of it. So I have kept using it. Every day. For over a month.

There is no scientific reason why shampoo should still be coming out of this bottle. It really is my little miracle, and every day I take a shower and find shampoo still coming out of the bottle, I am reminded that this is how God’s strength works – best in weakness, more fully when there is nothing left of ourselves to give. Somehow in those moments, God still keeps giving. And it makes no rational sense at all.

Yesterday I was reading the story of the feeding of the five thousand. I learned once again that we see miracles of provision in the midst of obedience, not before. Jesus didn’t pray over the loaves and the fish to suddenly see a thousand baskets full of food appear before them. The disciples had to begin to hand out the fish and loaves, probably expecting a riot when five people were fed and the rest became jealous. However, they kept giving…and giving…and giving…and what on earth, Jesus? There’s still more here. And how in the world did we have more afterward than what we started with?

Well, guys, that simply how it works.

I just want to remind you today to keep pressing on. If God has called you to the position you are in, He is faithful to give you everything you need to do it – but He won’t do it until you are emptied of yourself and are totally dependent on Him coming through. Step out when you can’t see the ground beneath your next step. I don’t understand how He does it, but He always comes through. Always. Did I mention always?

Be blessed today!

More Than Enough

We say we want to see miracles, but we never want to be in need. We say we want to see God’s supernatural hand, but we never want to be lacking in any way.

Just how strong is God? Just how many times will He come through?

Whether we want to admit it or not, these questions tempt us to bail when we are faced with the decision to be obedient or walk away. I didn’t realize how much I struggled in the area of faith until the end of July when I started my position at the church. I began a season that requires intense trust, wisdom, and perseverance. Have I done these things well every time? Probably not…but I have discovered that where my ability ends, His begins.

I guess today I am sharing a testimony.

I have found myself in more moments in the last two months than ever before where I have had to step up and do something that I knew I did not have in my hands what I needed to see it through. I had no idea how things would tun out in the end. The only thing I was sure about was that God had called me to do it, and that was all I needed to know.

It has been in these moments where I have seen God supernaturally bring people around me, or give me supernatural energy, or bring financial provision, or…so many other things. The other day God asked me, “Have I ever not come through? Then trust Me through this next thing too. Just get up and do what I have asked you to do.”

This past Sunday night, God brought to fruition a dream that He planted in my heart a year ago for an authentic acoustic worship service. It was a time of simply singing and enjoying His presence, and it required being able to sing for over an hour straight. A lot of work went into the practice and preparation for it, but two days before the event I felt a cold coming on. The day of the event arrived and my voice was nearly non-existent.

I knew that God wanted this event to happen, so cancelling was not an option. Then the sweet moment came on a drive with God in my car. He spoke sweetly to my soul, “I’m going to take away everything that could possibly make you think that this event happened because of YOU. I want it to be about ME, and I want there to be no room for question.” And that’s what He did. I began singing, and my voice held through the end of the service. My friend singing with me was fantastic. God showed up and all of us were blessed. God’s 100% record of faithfulness held, and it was beautiful. Oh…and it was all HIM.

We say we want to see miracles, but we never want to be in need. We say we want to see God’s supernatural hand, but we never want to be lacking in any way. The truth is, we have to be willing to be put in tough situations for the sake of obedience. We have to be willing to be weak. God wants to make it obvious to a watching world that He’s more than enough for any need that we could ever face, and that He will come through on His Word every time.

Do you need an extra boost of encouragement to trust Him today? Whatever situation you are facing, focus on the Word He has spoken over your situation. Has He ever not come through? Then you can trust Him with this one too.

I See You

In an age where we are more “connected” than ever, we are ironically more disconnected than we have ever been and we are longing for real companionship.

I thought I knew her well, seeing her come into the bank often. Each time we would have a small conversation about what is going on in her life and she would leave. And that was that.

Until today. As she was getting ready to leave, she mentioned to me that she was thinking about moving in a couple months.

Me: Where are you thinking about moving to?

Her: Oh, down with my daughter.

And then she added something that has touched and challenged me ever since:

“Nobody sees me. I go to Walmart and the grocery store and nobody sees me. Nobody realizes how lonely it is being here, all alone without family or friends.”

And we could have had an amazing conversation after that. However, I was so stuck in my own head, trying to figure out what I could say to her and not get in trouble with my job. And before I could resolve that in my mind, she walked out the door.

Oh how I wish I would have said to her, “I see you! Do you know how important you are? Do you know how special you are? Do you know how loved you are?”

I wish I would have just stepped out from behind my desk and given her a hug.

And it’s made me wonder how many people all around me every day feel the same way but don’t know how to say it out loud. I know that I feel that way often too. In an age where we are more “connected” than ever, we are ironically more disconnected than we have ever been and we are longing for real companionship.

The movie Avatar had a big impact on me when it taught me the simple phrase, “I see you.” In the movie, they used it like a greeting, but it had a deeper meaning. It meant, “I’m not simply walking by you nor am I dismissing your presence. I am making a conscious effort to be here with you in this moment. I see you.”

That means the simple five minute encounters with customers throughout the day, or the eight hours that I spend with my coworkers. I am praying that God would help me to focus in more on where He has placed me and with whom He has placed me. What could be more important than that?

In Deep

I don’t know about you, but I REALLY want to see God do something amazing in and through the Church. I want to see courage arise in the lives of those who follow Christ. I want to see genuine faith demonstrated. I’m tired of the Sunday commitment and the title. I want to see the life lived out.

Last night we started tackling the creation of what will be the Outreach Office. We are painting, repurposing, and forming a space that will be a refuge and place of prayer for many people. It is exciting to see things form, even though there is a long way to go.

As we were working, our friend Mark stopped by and we all began discussing how we see God moving and reshaping so many things. Mark compared it to driving on a curvy road through beautiful mountain scenery. There is so much to observe all along the way.

And it’s true that the world around us is changing dramatically. However, it’s important to note that it’s not just changing in a bad way. I believe the Church is being called up from the ashes like never before in history. The question is: will we answer that call?

If we do, we will see things that we never imagined happen in our communities, nation, and world. I don’t know about you, but I REALLY want to see God do something amazing in and through the Church. I want to see courage arise in the lives of those who follow Christ. I want to see genuine faith demonstrated. I’m tired of the Sunday commitment and the title. I want to see the life lived out.

The Church is standing at a moment of decision. Mark used the illustration of jumping off the diving board for the first time. There are some who go up first and jump, and others who stand back and watch them, trying to build up the courage to do it themselves. I think that’s truly what it means to encourage each other – to give each other courage to climb up that ladder, walk to the edge, and jump.

Can I speak right now to all who love Jesus, to those who follow Him? Can I speak to those who are afraid of taking that step, any step, toward that choice? Let’s do this together. Let’s go in deep.

Jesus uses the illustration of a seed that must die for new life to rise up. The same is true with us. We must die to our fear, selfishness, and pride. We must get to the point where there is no hesitation when we hear His voice. As the Church, we must be unified for one purpose – to see light conquer darkness and to see God’s love conquer the world of hatred that is rising up so powerfully right now.

And you know what? I’ve read the end of the book…and we win. Jesus wins. Do you realize what a big deal that is? Remember that – when times get hard and you want to back down. Remember that – when everything inside of you is screaming to take what seems to be the easy way out. Remember that – when your life is put on display for the cause of Christ. We win.

So take that step. Climb that ladder. Walk to the edge and jump. Come on, Church! Let’s go in deep. The time is NOW.

Like Only You Can Do It

You don’t have to do things the way they have always been done…or even the way they have ever been done. God created you unique, so be unique. Love Jesus and disciple others…and do it in the way that only YOU can do it.

Right now I am sitting in Starbucks listening to carefree music over the speakers that should be calming me down, but is actually annoying me. I had dedicated tonight to working on leadership material for this training course I am developing, but the whole evening has gone downhill. Weeks of work and 45 pages later and I am considering throwing it all out the window and starting over.

Chelsea, that is the absolute worst way to start a blog post. Yep, that’s probably right. But it’s honest. This is me being honest right now.

I can’t do this. I absolutely can’t do this. And then I remember the quote that I have been preaching to myself all week: “You will be the most tempted to quit when you are the closest to your calling.” (Steven Furtick).

Like, dude. What? I used to think that quote was so true, except right now when I’m in the moment and I feel the farthest away from accomplishing my objective. I came here to finish this, not dig myself deeper into a hole. I’m sitting here staring at pages and pages of great material and it feels empty.

Why does it feel empty? I’ve written a great class…awesome for study. There’s one problem: it’s not me. This isn’t who I am. This isn’t my style. This whole thing is put together the way I think it SHOULD be done…not the way I would teach.

I wonder how often this happens for us in life. We are frustrated in certain areas, not because we are doing something badly, but because we are doing things the way we think they SHOULD be done, rather than the way we were uniquely created to do them. Then we end up in Starbucks at the end of our rope, and no one wants to be there…at least at the end of our rope…although we might still should end up in Starbucks.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you’re going to end up in Starbucks, make it a happy thing. You don’t have to do things the way they have always been done…or even the way they have ever been done. God created you unique, so be unique. Love Jesus and disciple others…and do it in the way that only YOU can do it.

So today, if you are finding yourself at the point of giving up on a project or calling…ask yourself the question, “Am I frustrated because I am limiting myself to the way I think it SHOULD be done?” Then go get some Starbucks (preferably a Chai Tea Latte with six pumps of vanilla…just kidding…get what you want) and do it like only YOU can. Ready…set…GO!

I Want to See

I want to see Jesus lifted high. I want to see brokenness made whole in the presence of God. I want to see hearts renewed. I want to see hope rise here…right here…in North Platte.

It’s amazing how God can change a person’s heart.

Six months ago I would have said, “Never again will I live in North Platte.” I should have known better, really.

So God called me back to my hometown, the one place I always swore I would avoid. He gave me a vision of His power and love being poured out on the people of this town, with a light radiating from the lives transformed by His Spirit. In the name of Jesus, North Platte will be a beacon of hope to a watching world.

I was like those cynical people that said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” So God attacked my pride.

Yesterday as I was praying in the sanctuary of my church, I saw in my heart streams of people rushing in the doors. I saw them worshiping God, hungry for more of Him. I realized how much I want to see that, right here.

And so I am praying that through me or someone else, that God would shake North Platte with His love. I am praying for an awakening of His Spirit, and I am praying that my heart might be ready.

A few days ago a sudden storm ripped through our town, tearing down dead branches and knocking over dying trees. Only the vibrant remained.

The Holy Spirit has often been compared to a mighty wind. May He sweep away all that is dead and dying within me, within our church, and in our community. May the Breath of Life once again raise up the dry bones of fallen soldiers and fill their lungs with power. I want to see Jesus lifted high. I want to see brokenness made whole in the presence of God. I want to see hearts renewed. I want to see hope rise here…right here…in North Platte.

So Satan, bow down before the Lamb, for this city is no longer yours.

In the name of Jesus may the Church rise up and fight for a world that needs salvation. May we hit the streets with His mighty love. May we not be hidden away in neat corners, but out touching and transforming messy lives. May we feel the urgency of the times and stop at nothing to share the hope that we know. Lord, give us Your vision. Fill our hearts with Your passion. Lord, may we see Your hand move, and not later. I want to see it now.

Will you pray with me?

Wherever Is Trevor

{ he asks himself the same }

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