Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real

Survivor Eva Hart remembers the night, April 15, 1912, on which the Titanic plunged 12,000 feet to the Atlantic floor, some two hours and forty minutes after an iceberg tore a 300-foot gash in the starboard side: "I saw all the horror of its sinking, and I heard, even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people."

Although twenty life-boats and rafts were launched-too few and only partly filled-most of the passengers ended up struggling in the icy seas while those in the boats waited a safe distance away. Lifeboat No. 14 did row back to the scene after the unsinkable ship slipped from sight at 2:20 A.m. Alone, it chased cries in the darkness, seeking and saving a precious few.

Incredibly, no other boat joined it. Some were already overloaded, but in virtually every other boat, those already saved rowed their half-filled boats aimlessly in the night, listening to the cries of the lost. Each feared a crush of unknown swimmers would cling to their craft, eventually swamping it.

"I came to seek and to save the lost," our Savior said. And he commissioned us to do the same. But we face a large obstacle: fear. While people drown in the treacherous waters around us, we are tempted to stay dry and make certain no one rocks the boat.

Any boat in your life that needs a good rocking?

Also, I was thinking about how God's Word states that He (God) will give His angels charge over us to help protect us. Sometimes, I forget that as a believer there is a heavenly army fighting on my behalf according to God's plan and purpose. The above painting so perfectly illustrates that truth. Consider the first words of the angelic encounters in the Bible: "Do not fear ... " Let us heed God's words. Fear need not paralyze us. We can step forward in faith, knowing that God is stepping with us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From Fragrant to Foul

I have to tell you, praising God every moment can be just a tad challenging when your roof is falling down around you -- literally. I live in Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. Although beautiful, this is the place where all the news trucks gather during inclement weather. And we've had our fair share of inclement weather this year.

We survived the heaviest snow fall since the 1950's and this week has brought a whole new blast ... of WIND. We've had house-shaking, window-rattling, gusts over 50 mph. For two nights we huddled together as our roof collapsed around us. The fence toppled over too. Praise God we have good homeowners' insurance. I can't imagine living in the Midwest or along the coastal ranges where high winds and tornado's make frequent visits. Actually, I'm already eager for spring.

Now that you know where I've been and what's happened, I want explore how -- what initially seems fragrant can ultimately turn foul.

The other day, at work, one of my clients came into my office for a counseling session. As she sat nearby, I noticed a very unique, yet pleasing fragrance. She explained it was a new perfume. She raised her wrist, giving me the opportunity to get a closer whiff. (You know, like taking a closer look!)

We continued talking. Then, unexpectedly, something surprising happened. The appealing fragrance became rather revolting. I tried my best not to gag in front of my client (a small cough managed to escape). My eyes started to water, and I could barely tolerate the perfume that had become nauseatingly vile. It had turned from fragrant to foul in less than thirty minutes.

Thankfully, she had to leave and I rushed to open my window. The fresh (freezing) air worked its way through my office. Eventually, the remaining stench was vanquished for good.

Why am I sharing this story? Maybe it's already obvious what direction we're headed. Regardless, please stay with me. The message, if familiar, will serve as a good (godly)reminder.

Consider sin. Any sin. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe ... let's go with over eating. Yes, a sin that I struggle with on regular basis. A sin that is prevalent in our fast food, super-sized nation. I don't know many women who haven't faced the "to eat or not to eat just one more bite" dilemma.

It starts something like this: Work was really hard today. My boss wasn't nice. I couldn't get my paperwork done. Clients were ultra-challenging. My co-worker stole all the glory for our completed project. I'm so-o-o-o stressed out. Ah ha! I still have that birthday cake ice cream in the freezer. (Of course I do. I hid the carton behind the frozen vegetables so no one would find it) Anyway, I lounge in my favorite chair, feet up, and dig into my bowl of heaping cold sweetness. Those little added pieces of cake make the treat double tasty. Scrumptious!

I complete the dish and feel satisfied. Sure, I have this nagging feeling that maybe I should have talked to God about my "bad day," but the ice cream seemed to do the trick. And ... considering how yummy and soothing the first bowl was maybe another bowl would make me feel even better.

After gagging down the second dish, I realize that I didn't even taste the little pieces of fluffy cake. In fact, I don't even remember eating the second serving. I feel nauseous, depressed, and my stress level has risen to a whole new level of unmanageably. What happened? The simple snack turned into a foul feeding frenzy. I've committed several obvious sins -- gluttony, idolatry, lack of faith, rebellion ... you get the picture. Oh, and the initial problem wasn't solved at all.

When we sin, no matter how insignificant the the action might seem, there is a pattern in place. In the beginning, we experience pleasure. To put it another way ... it seems so fragrant. Yet at some point, it turns foul. You simply cannot turn crabgrass into a rose bush no matter how hard you try. The pesky weed spreads through the lawn making the grass look un-kept. Sin spreads through our lives, and no amount of trying harder or pretending will make things better.

Thankfully, we have God. Like the fresh air that whisked away the putrid perfume from my office, Jesus Christ wipes away our sins. As Princess Warriors for Christ, we can open our hearts and let the cleansing power of God remove any foulness from our lives. He is always fragrant. His ways are fresh, clean, and redeeming.

I guess the question is: What things in your life have gone from fragrant to foul? Is it time to invite God to do a new work in your heart? I know that everyday is a day that I need His forgiveness and grace. In our weaknesses He is strong. When we are inadequate He is more than adequate. His mercy is new every morning.

Lord, so often I seek what I know won't relieve the pain in my heart. I tell myself that it looks, smells, feels, or tastes good. I imagine that just a little of this and a little of that will somehow mend the ache in my soul, an ache that only you can heal. I know the truth; yet at times I believe the lie. Forgive me for seeking what turns foul.

For a moment, sin may seem fun, but it can never bring joy. You alone are the source of my joy. You are my hope and my future. In You, I Iive, breathe and have my being.

Your Word reminds us that we don't live on bread alone but every word that comes from You. What the world offers is never enough. Help me remember that You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen. Love Your daughter, Your princess warrior.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Loving Life

Ladies, my topic today may tug at your heart strings in some unexpected ways.

If you've been visiting my blog for any length of time, at some point you've likely heard (read!) me referring to Bethany House, a specialized maternity program for single, expectant, young ladies.

I've been on their Board, currently serve as their Outreach Coordinator and Spokesperson, Grant Writer, Fundraiser ... a number of overlapping positions. Life is important to me. I believe everyone is created in God's image and that He has a plan and purpose for all His creations. That of course includes you and I. I've also done a number of speaking events focused on this topic and have written several articles relating to the painful effects of abortion and God's amazing forgiveness.

Maybe you've experienced the horrors of abortion or know someone who has endured the pain of making a decision to end their baby's life. There's no comfortable way to talk about this subject. Unfortunately, it's a reality for more women that we can imagine, many professing Christians.

Sadly, many such women (and I was one of them) saw myself as an unforgivable failure. I somehow believed that abortion was the one sin that God simply could not or would not forgive. After becoming a Christian, my head understood that His grace covered everything, including abortion, but my heart said otherwise.

As Princess Warriors for Christ, it is imperative that those of us who have chosen abortion fully embrace God's forgiveness and love. For others, who have not made this tragic decision, you, too, can learn how to gently guide wounded women into the arms of the Savior.

Please click here to read my latest article - Tears to Triumph - on Campus Crusade for Christ's newest online magazine -- The Life. http://thelife.com/experience/life/redeemabortion/

Also, if you live in Oregon, on the evening of January 22, 2009, Rolling Hills Community Church is hosting a very special movie and pro-life event. A wide range of ministries will be on hand, including Bethany House. This is a family appropriate event. To learn more, visit: http://comewhatmaypdx.com

Please consider this acronym for GRACE:

G: God

R: Redeems

A: Abortion

C: (with a) Compassionate

E: Embrace

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are you keeping up on confession?

Greetings Princess Warriors!

Are you as close to God as you'd like? Do you feel connected to Him? Or is a seemingly insurmountable wall keeping you from drawing closer to your King?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to make sure that you are "current" with confession.

Let me explain! So often, we hurry through our lives and on some days we fail to confess our sins to Him. If too many days add up, the Holy Spirit prompts us to get busy and get confessing. Imagine if you failed to brush your teeth. After a few days, your mouth would feel more than a little disgusting and gross. You'd hopefully get busy brushing. So it is with sin, but on a much more serious level. When we fail to awknowledge and release our mishaps to God, we start to feel guilty and out-of-balance. Our enemy, the devil, is quick to shoot his fiery darts our way when we fail to let go of our secrets.

For some of us, we have secrets we've held on to for months, years, even decades. Like a splinter buried beneath your flesh, these secrets will fester if left unattended and unremoved.

God's Word gives us example after example of men and women who have confessed their sin and returned to right standing with their King. Jesus Christ sacrificed His life in order for us to be free from sin and death. Yet, for some reason, we still cling to sour emotions and sinful secrets, refusing to release them into our Savior's capable hands. Believe me, I've done this more than once. (More than a few times)

Sisters, please don't wait another moment. Turn to God and share everything with HIm. After all, His Word says the following:

If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:9

People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the LORD ." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

Therefore, let all the godly confess their rebellion to you while there is time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. Psalm 32:1-6

Monday, January 5, 2009

Extreme Makeover for the New Year

Don't you love a professional makeover? getting your nails done? relaxing as a hairdresser washes your hair? Ah-h-h-h Good stuff!

I remember as a teenager the fun my friends and I had playing around with cosmetics and making ourselves into gorgeous and glamorous gals all with innovative makeup techniques and hair style products. Sometimes we were a little too creative. But, hey, it was fun. After all, having a new fresh face feels good; helping a friend achieve a new look can be pretty exhilarating, too.

Not only do I enjoy a personal makeover, but also I thoroughly enjoy watching those TV makeover shows. On the original Extreme Makeover, a team of specialists redesigned their clients in some pretty drastic ways, including surgery to correct or enhance their physical appearance. Today, we have the Extreme Home Makeovers where a family's home receives a much-needed face lift. In both cases, the results are dramatic, even jaw-dropping. I must admit that I've shed a tear or two over the incredible changes produced on these shows. But ...

There is an Extreme Makeover that far exceeds and outshines the above examples. That's right, it gets better! As Christians, we receive the best makeover of all, by the best Creator, Artist, and Designer of all -- Jesus Christ!

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: If anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

We're not talking about an old outdated hairstyle getting an "upgrade." Oh, no, we're talking about a complete and total mind, body, and soul makeover. This isn't an improved version of the old. God's Word tells us we are totally NEW CREATIONS IN CHRIST.

The old is gone. Gone. We are brand new ... born again.

It's so common this time of year to start making those New Year's resolutions. Many of us seek out information to help us make the changes we desire. But, friends, as my pastor put it so perfectly this past weekend -- Mere information won't bring life transformation.

That truth hit my heart right on target. The only book that truly is alive is God's Word. Within its pages we will discover what it means to be new creations and how to live out our new identities right here, right now. Yes, the Bible is a book with information, yet a story of complete and total transformation in Christ. You can experience your very own transformation story.

Keep in mind, when Christ makes us over, we might not see the visible work right away like we do with a home makeover or face lift, but, over time, our "newness" will shine through in our character; we will produce the fruit of our new nature -- The Fruit of the Spirit. And amazingly, for many of us, our outsides start changing right a long with our insides.

Friends, receiving a master makeover from the Master Makeover Artist is reason to cry tears of joy and celebrate for eternity.

I usually don't share the following photograph, but a picture is worth a thousand words, right? You might remember me sharing that before Christ I was addicted to heroin, cocaine, cigarettes, destructive and promiscuous relationships, and a ton of other sinful junk. It's been eleven years, this month, since I've used drugs and I've been walking in sexual purity for almost as long. Oh, the cigarettes went goodbye around the same time, too. Praise God!

In Revelation we are told that the enemy, our enemy, the devil, is defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. I guess a simple paraphrase might be: Our extreme makeovers inspire others to turn their lives over to the Master Creator. If you feel like God can't change you. You're wrong. He can. He will, if you'll let Him.

Carol before Christ: Not a pretty picture. Addiction is not attractive. Eventually, our rotting insides (that's what sin does rots our souls) become visible on the outside.

Keep going ...

To see the after Christ photo.

Carol (me) now ... after the ultimate Makeover. Yes, I'm wearing Princess Warrior attire -- Crown, Scepter, and Sword (all the royal trimmings). After all, in Christ, we're royalty!

Don't give up. Let God make you over into the woman He's called you to be. 2009 is a great year for a fresh start.

God bless you!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year -- A New Dawn

I AM THE NEW YEAR I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months. All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination. All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires. All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have -- these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose. I am your opportunity to renew you allegiance to Him who said, "Behold, I make all things new."

SOURCE: Jeffery Anselmi A New You For a New Year. Citation: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=37760

Take a peek at the following video link for practical tips for making 2009 a better year.