Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fighting Right: Following God

Normally, I keep my two blogs separated by content. This blog's goal is to serve as a method of encouragement and training for Princess Warriors for Christ who desire to reign real for the King of Kings.
My original Princess Warrior Blog is a bit more personal and features more day to day challenges in my life. However, I still attempt to exhort my readers in that format as well. Today, I posted a response in relation to the current political climate. I usually don't make "political posts," but, I think you will agree after reading the post that it is more a reminder for us to remember who we really serve.
Go on. Head on over and visit my other site. Please, feel free to comment.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Warriors remove your masks!

Ladies, please remove your masks. Yes, your masks. Some of you might be thinking, what in the world is Carol talking about? I haven't worn a mask since, well, since I don't remember when.

Are you sure?

Let me explain. Although masks are fun for costume parties and can make us feel like somebody different, wearing one for days, months, and years would get a little uncomfortable. In fact, if you were to leave a mask on for too long, you just might start to believe you were more like the mask than yourself. Kind of like an actor "becoming" his/her character and allowing that particular character's characteristics to influence his own persona.

As a young teen, I would pretend that I was an older, more mature girl. It wouldn't be uncommon for me at fourteen to tell others that I was sixteen or seventeen. I wore this older, more seductive mask so often that I started to believe that I was an older, more mature woman. Unfortunately, I made some pretty bad choices during my teen years wearing a mask we'll talk about in another post - the seductive mask. If only, I'd allowed myself to simply be me. I could have avoided a ton of tears and tribulation.

As Christian women, called to "reign real" for Christ, it does not behoove us to remain hidden behind phony faces and facades. Reigning real means being real ... the real deal --imperfect women of God, but so loved by Him.

For the next several entries we're going to explore some common masks women tend to hide behind. Let's start with the "poor me mask." Poor me, pour me another drink. This mask could also be referred to as the victim mask.

Ladies, no matter what trials you have endured in your life, you are victorious in Christ. Do not let the enemy of our souls tell you otherwise. You are an overcomer, plain and simple. When we start feeling sorry for ourselves, we end up with I like to call the Eeyore complex. You know, good ole' Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Poor donkey. His head hung low, his tail switching back and forth, he always shared his doom and gloom worries with his friends. Everything was pretty hopeless viewed through our purple friend's eyes.

Maybe you're so scared of being hurt or embracing success that you simply hide behind this dreary mask to avoid more pain and heartache. Unfortunately, when we wear the poor me mask we tend to weight not only ourselves down, but those around us. It's difficult to be around someone who is always expecting the worse.

I think sometimes women put on the poor me mask, initially, for attention, but also, protection. They feel bad and aren't sure how to express their feelings. Rightfully, they desire love and support, yet, for whatever reason they are afraid to ask for it. So, like Eeyore, they walk through life with their heads hung low, hoping, waiting, for someone to ask, "what's wrong?"

We can garner a great deal of attention this way. Unfortunately, over time, we will wear out our welcome with others. People will see us coming and run the other way. Believe me, I know. I've worn the mask and avoided other with this mask on.

Please know, I'm not talking about clinical depression, or grief, or feeling sad. I'm talking about adapting a persona of ongoing melancholy and sadness ... a mopping mask. It's uninviting, and if we keep it on for too long, we will likely become depressed.

As Princess Warriors for Christ, we have every reason to celebrate. Life is hard, but God is good. When we need love and support, we have to learn to ask for it. Mopping around is not the answer. Wearing what my grandmother used to call a "poor, pitiful, pearl" mask will only make things worse.

If this is you, go on, take off the mask. Ask God for help. Reach out to others. Find something fun to do. Help someone else. There is no better cure for the gloomies than helping another person. That's right. Help someone else. You'll be amazed by the results.

Ladies, we all wear a mask, or two, or three, at times. Our world demands that we pretend in order to be successful or well-liked. However, no mask is lasting. No mask can keep us hidden from our pain forever and the friends we "win" while hiding may not be the kind of true friends we hope to attract. We are created in our King's image. When we hide we are basically saying that we don't like God's handiwork.

Friend, you are precious in God's sight. Go on, get real, remove that false face and let God shine through you.

Please feel free to comment and share any mask that you might be wearing or have worn in the past. What are you hiding from? Let's share and pray for each other. Shall we?

God bless you, daughters of the King.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Taking Home the Gold ... or not?

Have you been watching the Olympics? Seen the women's gymnastics?
I've been utterly amazed by the sheer strength, skill, and grace these women posses as they twirl, swirl, and flip through their routines. Wow! I'm continually awed by what the human body can actually do. I'm not particularly "awed" by my own right now, but those gymnasts do things that are mind boggling and even mind blowing.
Then, after all the spectacular events, we were treated to tears of triumph as the competitors received their medals, in particular the always coveted Gold.
For many athletes, only the Gold matters. Nothing else will suffice. This year the US set records gallore and we saw history made as Michael Phelps took home eight gold medals, finally achieving his longtime, personal goal.

Now what? If your goal is a specific award or title and you finally obtain it, what remains to accomplish? Is that achievement going to bring lasting satisfaction and peace?

Sorry, I don't mean to sound so gloomy, but when we as Princess Warriors for Christ focus all our attention and efforts on winning a wordly prize, we miss the mark.

Actually, if all we want is Gold here on earth, we may miss the lasting rewards of Heaven. When we leave this life, we can't take any oscar statues, olympic medals, or pulitzer prizes with us. In fact, without the Internet or news, I wouldn't even remember a quarter of the past Olympic champions or Oscar winners. Okay, so we'll remember Phelps for years to come, but you know what I mean.

When we set our sights on worldly success, we always end up suspicially empty down the road. The spotlight will eventually dim and the applause will cease. Life will go on and our achievements will be forgotten by many. So, then what?

I remember the excitment when my words were first published in an article and then a book. I thought I'd finally "made it." My goal was met. I was published. And ... I was published. So? The next day I was still me. My bills still had to be paid and I felt like I had to accomplish more. Because the truth remains, if we expect our accomplishments to fill us up, we will discover a simple truth: they don't.

Now granted, achieving success is awesome, but unless it is done for God's glory, unless we put Him centerstage, we will find ourselves seeking bigger and better accomplishments to, well, accomplish. When we're not doing what God has for us to do, and storing up rewards in Heaven, we're not doing what we're suppossed to be doing.

There are so many "good things" that we can do. Yet, if they're not the "God things" we're called to complete, we will fall short.

When we walk into eternity someday, laying our medals, trophies, and awards at the feet of our King will not be enough. They will not survive the fire. God values our love and service. Did we feed the hungry? Visit those who were imprisoned? Help widows? Provide for children? Love our enemies? Forgive others? Speak the truth? Practice grace and giving? Those are the things that bring our King glory and us His pleasure.

I want to hear my Lord say, "Well done, Carol, my good and faithful servant." He will look at what is in my heart, not the things I won on earth. Earthly prizes will not impress Him; love will.

I don't know if Mr. Phelps is or isn't a Christian. If he is, he can use his new platform as a famous athlete to bring glory to God and help others. He can ask God how to best use his athletic achievements to bless others and expand God's Kingdom.

Ladies, we can do the same. Whatever we do let us do it all for God's glory and purpose. Let us remember that the finish line we are running toward is very different from the one the sprinters crossed in Bejing. For if we belong to Christ, and are running the race for Him, in the end, we will all win Gold, or should I say "win" God? That's right. We get the biggest award of all -- eternity with the King of Kings.

So let us throw off all that so easily entangles us and run the race set before us, trusting that what we seek is far better than any reward this world has to offer. Amen!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sisters in Christ

Hello Princess Warriors! I'm back! I have been out of town speaking at a women's retreat. I'm happy to report that my sisters in Christ discovered on a deeper level how to reign real as priceless princesses and worthy warriors while learning how to better love and support each other in the process.

I am always amazed by how God can invite so many delightfully diverse women into His Kingdom and how we can become sisters sharing God's love.

We serve a God of relationship. When Jesus walked the earth, He had a close circle of friends and an expanded group of disciples. He knew when to be alone with the Father and when to minister with others. When we can discover that same balance, we, too, can become more effective in our Kingdom work. Ladies, we need each other! We need to let go of petty female competition and jealousy, learning instead to lift each other up closer to Christ.

The world presents women, so often, as hostile, jealous, and coniving creatures bent on getting what they want when they want it, regardless of cost. You only have to glance at an afternoon soap opera to see the lies, betrayal, and relentless competition portrayed between the female characters. Nothing is off limits. No wonder women have a hard time trusting each other.

In order to live effectively for Christ in this world, we must release our desire to be the best. We need to stop judging our sisters and take a look into the mirror of our own hearts and take the planks out of our own eyes rather than purposefully seeking out what is wrong with our peers. True Christian friendship is a gift worth unwrapping.

I hope you enjoy the following story of true friendship:

You are familiar with Albrecht Durer’s famous painting "The Praying Hands," but do you know the story behind it? The painting was inspired by the sacrificial, loving acts of a friend. Durer and an older friend were struggling to make a go as artists. Recognizing Durer’s talent, the older man took a job to provide for both of them until Durer could complete his art studies. The work was labor, but he did it gladly for his friend. Finally, Durer made a sale. The money was enough to care for both of them for several months. Now his older friend could resume his painting, but the older man’s hands had become so stiff from the hard labor that he was unable to paint. One day when Durer returned home, he found his friend in prayer, his work-worn hands folded reverently. Durer painted a picture of these hands, capturing them for ages to come as a memorial to the love and sacrifice of his older friend." (Frank Morgan, Jr. Keys To Unlock Yourself. Nashville : Braodman Press, 1985, pp. 75-76). Durer’s friend was a friend who went the extra mile in friendship. No one will argue that he lovingly went the distance for his friend Durer.

Greater love has no one than this, that she lay down her life for her friends.
Adapted from John 15:13

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bride of Christ

Wow! Has my life been busy. I have missed blogging more than I expected. I was at the Oregon Coast for the past several days. It was lovely. Even more lovely, though, were the two "beach weddings" that I had the honor of witnessing. I think because of the date 8/8/08 many couples decided to wed on that particular day.

As I struggled up the beach, dragging my chair, over-sized book bag (filled with heavy books) and a pile of wet towels, I was stunned to see a gorgeous bride, in a magnificent, traditional, wedding gown, gripping her father's arm at the top of the stairs leading to the beach.

On the beach, I could see a man, her groom, looking expectantly toward his betrothed. What made the procession even more interesting was the girl's father had his other hand occupied with a leash holding a regal white dog. This "dog" looked like a white wolf. This unusual entourage stopped me in my sandy tracks.

The early evening sunlight gave the ocean a mystical glowing appearance that only added to the intimate event. I stood respectfully and watched the father lead his bride and place her into the care of her future husband. Breathtaking. So breathtaking that everyone on that beach had stopped what they were doing and turned to observe this couple's wedding vows. It was if they couldn't keep their eyes of this pair. I know I couldn't.

So it will be someday when Christ returns for His bride -- the Church. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Every eye will rest upon this groom as He escorts His bride to her ultimate destiny. It will be one of the greatest events of one time, only equaled by the groom's holy birth, His tragic death on the Cross, and His Easter morning Resurrection. History will cease and new future will commence for those who belong to Him.

Remember precious princess warriors, no matter what is going on in your life in this moment, you King will come. He will carry you over the threshold into eternity. So do not despair; cling to the One that will never let go.

Be blessed as you go about your day and live your life one step and a prayer at a time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

God Knows Best

God Knows Best

Carol Van Atta

God says, “This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord you God…” Duet. 30:19-20a NIV

I grasped on tightly to the reins and lowered my head into a flowing charcoal mane, as the jet-black stallion pounded down the hard damp sand. To an onlooker, it might have appeared that I was having the time of my life racing down the seashore that sunny, summer afternoon. but, as we all know, perceptions can be very deceiving.

No…! Stop!” I screamed at the snorting beast, as he barreled forward. This black-beauty had earned his name, Streaker, on more than one occasion. At fourteen, I believed I could handle anything, even a horse known for his unpredictable and often dangerous antics. Just an hour earlier, as me and my mother stood at the horse stable, I had been given the option to select a well-behaved mare, or, this now devilish creature charging forward with no regard for the terrified teen on his back--me.

Thoughts of my mom’s earlier warning echoed through my mind, as I waited for the inevitable fall…

"Honey, I don’t have a good feeling about this. Why not pick her? She’s such a pretty horse.” My mom attempted to redirect my attention away from the feisty stallion to what I considered an obviously docile old horse. Sure, she was a pretty chestnut, with soft eyes, but I wanted speed and excitement. Streaker was for me!

“Young lady, this horse has had some problems. He is really only for a highly experienced rider.” The cowboy-clad-gentleman warned.

“But, Mom, I am experienced. Tell him.” I pleaded. My mom just shook her head, surrendering to the fact that this was a battle I was determined to win and a situation where I was bound to become the chief looser.

“Alright then, sign here. It’s ride at your own risk.” The cowboy shrugged.

Well, it was too late now. I would have to find a way off this horse, and fast. My saddle was slowly inching its way over to the right side of Streaker, who displayed no sign of tiring. Soon, I’d be hanging upside down between his churning legs. With a heroic push, I threw myself off his back, just avoiding the deadly flying hoofs. As I thudded onto the hard-packed sand, I wished one more time that I had heeded my mom’s advice.

“Where’s my mom?” I cried as a crowd formed around my still form. I couldn’t move, and fear had replaced my earlier bravado. It was then I saw them, the blue tennis shoes racing toward me. It was her, my mom, who had been watching me from a safe distance.

“Oh honey, lay still. I’m here. It’s okay.” She gently stroked my hair.

Later, as I journeyed back to the city, courtesy of a local ambulance company, it again occurred to me, how little I knew. I was also surprised. My mom never once said, “I told you so,” or “how stupid can you be?” No, instead she just loved me in spite of my own poor choice.

I wish I could say from that day forth, I listened to my mother’s sound advice. But, sadly, it has taken me close to forty years to realize just how right she often was. Amazingly, today I see so much of Jesus in her. God too guides, directs, and demonstrates to me what path will be the most fruitful for me to follow. But so often, I choose to take what I consider the more thrilling road, only to discover, as I did that day so many years ago, high atop a horse named Streaker, I still don’t always know what is best for me. But God does. I don’t fall off horses anymore, but I still “fall” in other areas of my life. It is as I brush off the dirt of life’s hardships, when the following thought comes to mind -- God knows best.

I learned in the Old Testament God continually warned the Israelites about the consequences to their poor choices. They would remember, listen, and obey Him for a season, and then return to the old pattern of doing what felt good, or seemed right, for the moment, only later to find they had again traveled the wrong road, and had fallen into captivity. Instead of wagging my finger at my rebellious ancestors, or shaking my head in amazement at their stupidity, I believe God would rather have me take a long look into the mirror of my own life, where I can examine the state of my own heart.

I have learned that I cannot climb onto the back of an untamed stallion and expect not to fall. Today, I try to heed the many words spoken through Moses in Deuteronomy. Here, God clearly explains the consequences of choosing to disobey His Word, and also describes in great detail the incredible blessings available to us if we will follow our Lord’s leading.

Today, when I fall, and we all do, I remember I have something the Israelites didn’t have. I have the love and forgiveness of Christ.

1 John 1:9 (NIV) declares, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. So, today I confess!

John 16:33 (NIV) reminds us, I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. I have hope! Because…

Now, when I am tempted to head down those roads not safely selected on my Heavenly Father’s divine map, I can choose to turn around, immediately, and go the other way—His way. After all, He has clearly shown us the right way to travel; it is up to us follow His directions, because God does know best … always.

I hope you enjoyed this article that I wrote several years ago. Its message remains unchanging. God always knows the best way for His princess warriors to travel. When we seek our own agendas, we so easily trip and fall, finding ourselves wishing we'd consulted and obeyed our King. If you're on a wrong path today, it's not too late to make a change. Turn around! Call out to your King. He will guide you back to the right road. Don't wait, sister!

Also, I'd like to invite you to visit my other blog. I'm currently asking readers on that site to share personal stories of how God speaks to them. Please take a peek and share your experiences.