I hope to inspire and encourage others through my own life experiences and my faith ...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inspiring Excellence Has Moved ...

You can now find Inspiring Excellence at inspiredbysarah.com ...

A preview of what you will find there ...
"I am so very excited to launch this wonderful new blog! God has always pressed upon my heart the desire to reach out and encourage others in their faith. I believe that this new adventure is one of the unique avenues in which He is enabling me to do so. My hope is that this blog inspires and encourages you in your daily walk. Enjoy devotionals, fun marriage & family focused posts and creative crafting and cooking projects. I am blessed to be joined by two amazing Christian women as regular contributors who I think you will really enjoy following!"

Visit me there today and from now on!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Tis A Season Of Change For Inspiring Excellence

Over the last few years I really struggled to find my purpose ... my own special thing that I could use in this world that was especially mine.  A way to reach others and make a difference.  I prayed and sought and prayed some more.  I knew that God had something amazing planned but I wasn't seeing where or when that plan would ever come forth and bear fruit in my life. 

Suddenly He began to rekindle a passion of mine ... writing and words.  I faithfully started blogging unaware if anyone other then my loyal Mother was reading.  Then out of the blue, after a couple of years of nothing, He began throwing opportunities in my path left and right.  He blessed me with wonderful opportunities to expose my writing to an entire new world of readers.  He brought the most unexpected, random people into my life to encourage me and give me the tools I needed to push my dreams even further then I could have ever imagined.  He also brought old friends back into my life who have had incredible weight in pushing me ahead.  It's been unreal! 

So, I am taking a leap of faith ... it might be too early, it might just be perfect timing ... regardless I am taking off!  I have a top secret project (tease!) that I am working on with one of those unexpected people that God brought back into my life ... a project that I am very excited about and will hopefully be able to share sometime in the fall or winter.  I am also very pleased to announce the coming of a new multi-faceted website for Christian women.  My hope is that this new blog/website inspires and encourages you all in your daily walk.  You will be able to enjoy devotionals, fun marriage & family focused posts and creative crafting and cooking projects.  I am exceptionally blessed to be joined by two amazing Christian woman as regular contributors who I think you will really enjoy following and getting to know!

So get ready ... Monday May 9 (next week!) my new venture will launch!!!  It will be a very fun week full of creative giveaways, introductions to my new fabulous contributors and more of your favorite inspirational devotionals.  Look for the new web address Monday morning and please stop by to check us out and tell us what you think.  *Inspiring Excellence on blogspot will no longer be in use after next Monday*

I am so blessed by the opportunities that God has given me and feel that this new chapter will be a great one!  I hope that you will follow me in this exciting move ... I think you will pleased with what you find!!! 

~Also, check me out at FancyLittleThings.com every Thursday this May under their Faith section.  Another wonderful blessing for me to take part in. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Take A Look At This Beautiful Give Away I Am Entering!

Visit FancyLittleThings.com today for a chance to win a spring-tastic give-away!  Follow this link ... Fancy Little Things

Blessings to you!

Challenge Part V: The Ultimate Challenge (at least for me!)

Grant Cochrane

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!"
Malachi 3:10

As I sat here today paying bills, getting frustrated because there wasn't quite enough this pay period to cover what needed to be covered I found myself wishing there was more. I wished that things could be easier and that finances wouldn't be such a struggle. Then I felt that old familiar tug reminding me of what He has been prompting me to do for the last couple of months- up my giving!  But how on earth can I up my giving when I am already short?!

Let's back it up a bit ... In Malachi God commands us to tithe, or bring our first ten percent, to Him ... Now, I want to know who of you readers gives a full ten percent?  Seriously, if you do it I want to hear from you!  Last year I was convicted to challenge our family to tithe every month for the year and so we did it.  We did not do a full ten percent because that seemed really scary but we did what we could in order to still be able to pay our other bills.  God did AMAZING things in our life financially.  He really came through for us in times of desperate need and every bill that we had last year was paid. 

However, this year He has really put it on my heart to bring forth our entire first ten percent... yikes!  When you look at it as He gets $1 and we get to keep $9, it seems easy.  Giving Him $10 and we keep $90, thats cool. But when you get into bigger numbers and start to look over all your monthly bills, family needs, etc. it can appear more and more daunting. So back to my present situation ... I find myself facing this scary request by God to up what I am already doing ... He is pushing me to do the full ten percent ... [deep breath]. 

Why do we have to even tithe? What do we actually get out of it? If we don't give our ten percent tithe are we cursed? Well, we aren't cursed but we don't get that extra blessing that He promises in Malachi 3:10. When we honor Him by giving Him our first fruits we are allowing Him to take control of our lives. When we give, God has the final word over all we have- all is blessed when His hand is on it.   When we do what He asks we experience the ultimate abundence of life through Him.  If the root is healthy so are the braches. I don't know about you but I want His blessings over everything in my life!  Ultimate abundance in my life sounds pretty appealing right now!

How many of you are scared about giving financially?  Do you give little bits here and there or do you give until it hurts?  I know that I do not give until it hurts.  I'm scared!  I am talking myself into this challenge as I type.  We (I) need to step out in faith and not let our (my) human mind talk us out of things He has called us (me) to do.  It is all about obedience.  When He presents you with a "you want me to do what?!" moment, embrace it!  We might not be able to see how it is all going work out but our God is not one who sets us up for failure.  With God ANYTHING is possible! 

Challenge: So!  I challenge you with what I am challenging myself to do ... give.  Give your entire first ten percent and see what happens.  Let's start by setting a three month time period.  Malachi 3:10 is the ONLY place in the Bible where God tells us to test Him ... so test Him.  Let's step out in faith together and see what happens in our lives when we let go of our control and let Him take over our finances!  It will be scary but I know He won't leave a single one of us out in the rain.  I am SO anxious to hear how this challenge plays out in your life- and if you already give that first ten percent and want to share how God has blessed you through that, please share your story with me!  Stay in touch over the next three months and after that time let's discuss together what we have experienced through this time.

Prayer:  LORD, I want to be obedient to you in all areas of my life.  I want to embrace your challenges rather than hide from them.  I know you have my best interest at heart and that you want to see me living abundantly through you.  Please give me the strength to answer this call.  Please convinct me when I get scared and start to back away.  LORD, I pray that you multiply my tithe so that it may reach many for your greater good .  Protect me, my family, our finances and guide us daily so that we make choices that honor you.  Thank you for the many blessings that you have bestowed upon me.  Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Challenge Part IV- Journal It!

Journaling ... this is not detailed or deep but rather a simple way to open yourself up to Him ... Journal.  Journal everyday. What is the point?  Why do I need a diary?  Well, it isn't necessarily a diary.  It is simply a place to write anything that you want.  I encourage you to write a little something each day in a notebook, on the computer, however you prefer but get words out everyday.  I have been surprised at how much I can hear from God as my thoughts tumble onto paper.  He has various ways of speaking to us and through our own thoughts and words is one of those ways.  Sitting down in quiet to write is a great compliment to the quiet time you are already striving toward. 

I was recently surprised to hear that a close friend of ours had began writing. The person who we would have least expected to write is regularly writing their thoughts and feelings down in an amazing and beautiful way. They admitted that writing was healing and a way to move past prior hurt and pain. Writing can be so freeing!  Getting thoughts, frustrations and ideas out on paper really helps to calm and relax.  Sometimes venting on paper releases feelings that otherwise would bog you down.  Rather then lashing out at people you get it all out in a healthier way. 

Writing is refreshing and can inspire you further.  I have gone back various times and looked at things I have written in the past and found new inspirations and ideas that I had forgotten about.  Bottom line, journaling is good for the soul and might just help you in your relationship with Christ!

Challenge: I challenge you to write in a journal of some sort everyday for a week.  You don't need to write pages upon pages (unless you get started and just can't stop!), but even just a short paragraph would do you good.  Write anything from your pain, your joy, your inspirations, your ideas, your fears, your hopes and dreams ... just write!  Pray before you write that God would inspire you and speak to you through your own writing. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Are You Doing?

Have you taken any of my challenges?  If so how are they going?  Have you attempted giving more time to Christ? Have you taken the pride challenge? What about forgiveness? It's hard but I truly believe that by taking small steps such as these we will start to experience Christ in a more intimate way ... If we are faithful to Him in all we do and if we strive to move past our strongholds so that we can honor Him, incredible changes will start taking place in our lives!

It has been a challenge for me to wake up early, and if I am being totally honest, a couple times I didn't make it up early. Mmost days I did great, but a few I stumbled. The great thing is that last week when I woke up early and had that early morning alone time I was blessed with days filled with Him. Did I still face the challenges of everyday? Yes. Was I better equipped to handle what was thrown at me? Absolutely! I am not just saying that, I truly noticed small differences in my day as He led me instead of me trying to micro-manage and get through on my own! Throughout my day I would find little things happening in my favor and couldn't help but to smile and thank Him. I will go at it again tomorrow morning!

The pride challenge is definitely the hardest for me ... I am one of those that always wants to bring up my own experiences when someone is trying to tell me about themselves.  Controlling myself and ensuring that I just listen without bringing "me" into a conversation is hard, but wow have I noticed a change in my relationships when I do that.  It really is a good exercise and helps to make us more aware of putting others first.  Pride is awful but learning to overcome it in small steps makes the process less daunting!

How have you been challenged?  Have you taken these challenges or changed them to tailor fit you?  I would love to hear about what God is doing in your life as you surrender yourself and pursue intimacy with Him!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Featuring Sweet C's Designs & A Fun Give Away!

Good Monday morning to you all!  This week I am very excited to feature a good friend of mine who has been a true inspiration and encouragement to me as I have journeyed through the world of blogging ... Courtney at Sweet C's Designs!  Courtney is a master at unique projects and designs and I highly recommend you check her out today!

Courtney has graciously contributed an adorable Easter tote for a give away this morning.  To enter the drawing for her Easter tote please leave me a comment on Inspiring Excellence's facebook page about something that inspires you AND "like" Sweet C's Designs facebook page and leave her a comment about your favorite project on her blog.  The winner will be announced Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. mountain time ... Happy reading everyone!

After leaving a hectic and high profile career in politics, Courtney is now a recent stay at home mom to an adorable, independent and super-curious little boy and a rambunctious black lab.

She loves to create using her trusty sewing machine and cricut, and find simple ways to brighten up homemade gifts, decorate parties, and entertain friends. She is still involved in a lot of political events in her spare time, and consults for a few people on the side- but her new job as "mom" is the most rewarding thing she could ever do. She enjoys being able to take the time to share fun and inspiring projects with other moms and women like herself.

Courtney also loves taking pictures, and has recently become a photoshop fanatic. She has been working on a series of tutorials for newbies to DSLR photography to debut soon.

Courtney's work can be found at her newly created Etsy shop at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sweetcs, on her blog at : http://www.sweetcsdesigns.blogspot.com/, or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sweetcsdesigns.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Challenge Part III- Forgiveness ... Special Guest Jessica Giadrosich

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people who are holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these things, put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:12-14

Since I became a Christian, I have always really struggled with forgiveness. I know that God commands me to forgive other people who offend or sin against me, just as He forgives me for sinning against him. And I want to do so! I want to pass on this amazing grace and undeserved mercy that I’ve received from him to others. I don’t want to live my daily life in a prison of unforgiveness separated from God and isolated from people. I don’t particularly like the taste of bitterness that resentment causes to manifest over time in my heart. I’d rather experience the freedom that forgiveness produces in my life, even if that person who hurt me isn’t aware, doesn’t care or doesn’t apologize for what they did. I’d prefer to avoid the trap of anger and misery that the enemy hopes I’ll fall into by harboring unforgiveness in my heart. He wants to keep me from living in peace with God, with others and with myself. He wants to prevent me from staying connected to God because he knows it affects how I see myself and treat others. If anything, forgiveness is an attack on the enemy’s scheme to keep me from showing God’s love to others, which could have an eternal impact on their life.

What a waste of my own life to dwell on the sin of someone else! Especially if they’re going about their life without any knowledge or concern of their offense. It’s as though I’m surprised when someone disappoints or hurts me. I forget that all people are sinners and fall short of God’s glorious standard. I forget that he alone is perfect, hence I, too fall into the category of those who hurt and offend others. But my sinful, selfish nature tends to cry out, “It’s just too hard to forgive, God!”

There are times when it’s easier for me to have compassion and mercy towards someone who’s hurt me. I’ve realized that it tends to correlate with the closeness of my relationship with God and my understanding of how great his forgiveness and unconditional love is for me (feeling that I am holy and dearly loved as the scripture says). When I’m able to grasp this, even just briefly, in my mind and feel the gravity of it in my heart, then I’m able to view other people in this light as well.

Other times, my flesh rears its ugly head and I don’t want to forgive! This tends to reflect my lack of closeness to God. I’m too upset to let the offense go because I was needing something from or expecting something of another person and they didn’t come through for me. It’s usually later after I’ve reacted in an unloving way that I realize it was normal for them to fail me, and that God is the only one who can and always will come through for me. It’s especially difficult to forgive though when the person involved is close to me and I thought I could count on them such as my parents or my husband. It seems to hurt worse when someone you love lets you down and causes you pain- whether it was intentional or accidental.

I tend to hold unrealistic, impossible expectations of others to treat me fairly and kindly at all times. My flesh wants to dwell on the situation, replaying the actions or words spoken over and over until the damage done is exaggerated and a bigger deal than it should be. I pick at the wound, making it deeper and larger, instead of running to God immediately for a band-aid so that I can keep playing and go about my day. The glorious thing about God that sets him apart from all others is that he is perfect, incapable of letting us down or hurting us! I subconsciously think that by not pardoning that person’s error and “punishing” them for their sin, I will feel better, they will act better in the future, and justice will be served. But based on God’s word, I know that that’s wrong of me. I’m not the one to judge and I have no right to harbor unforgiveness towards anyone for any reason. Even if a person is continuously sinning against me or they are regularly committing the same sin that affects my life on a daily basis, I’m called to follow Christ’s example and forgive them every single time (Matthew 18:21-22).

It’s an area of constant struggle for me- almost a daily battle since every day there are opportunities and situations that arise when I have to decide whether or not to take offense or let it go. As Joyce Meyer says, let go and let God! Let Him deal with them and be the one who judges. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:6, Ecclesiastes 3:17 and 12:14)

1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.” How often do we want to retaliate right after we’ve been wronged? My initial instinct is to want to punish that person with harsh words, slander, loss of relationship, or the good-old cold shoulder and silent treatment. I no longer have a desire to love, serve or help them anymore because they don’t “deserve” it. How wrong of me! I don’t deserve the treatment I receive from God. He calls us to love one another and forgive each other for our sins as he does to us. I know I would want someone to do the same if I sinned against them. If I allow the Spirit to rule over me instead, maybe I would remember right after suffering an offense that God sees everything. He saw what happened outwardly and what was the condition of that person’s heart inwardly. He sees my hurt and the consequences I endure because of their actions. Also, He alone is the ultimate judge of all persons (including myself, which motivates me to do what’s right before him) and he will see to it that justice is served in due time.

I can’t control what other people choose to do, but I can control how I react to them. I hope that with each opportunity I face I will react better by handing the situation to God immediately and receive healing so that I can forgive that person. Who knows, that forgiveness, which reflects the character of God, could lead that person to understanding and embracing His forgiveness!

I know this calling to love and forgive other people as God does seems overwhelming and, quite honestly, impossible. I think it’s okay and normal for us to feel incapable of fulfilling this high standard. There’s no way we can accomplish it on our own. As humans, we care too much about fairness and it’s hard not to let our emotions control our actions. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Do what you can and let God do the rest. Choose to obey him and forgive the other person, then let him heal your wounds and that person’s heart, too. Let’s work with God (or rather, let His Spirit work in us) to show loving kindness and mercy towards others who need to feel his presence as much or even more than we do! Let’s follow Christ’s example on the cross and walk out the unconditional love and endless forgiveness of God that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and whose mercy is new every morning (we especially need this in our marriages). If anything, we’ll know that we’re in right standing with God (Luke 6:37) and we’ll grow closer to Him as he replaces our weakness with his strength and heals our broken hearts (Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners).

Verses for further reading on forgiveness:
Mark 11:25, Proverbs 19:11, Matthew 6:14, Romans 15:7, Ephesians 4:2-3 4:31-32

By Jessica Giadrosich
http://www.aletterfromchrist.blogspot.com/ Blog
http://www.dailybreadandlivingwater.blogspot.com/ Devotions

Thank you so much Jessica for sharing your heart ... What beautiful and inspiring words!!!

Challenge: A couple years ago my family went through some very difficult times and there was someone who I struggled very much with to forgive for various hurtful things.  I wasn't innocent and contributed in part to the hurt.  After harboring harsh feelings, anger and resentment in my heart for a long time I felt God pulling me to forgive her and also apologize to her for my part.  It was one of those "you want me to do what God?!" moments in life.  She had hurt me and my family too and I didn't expect to ever hear an apology from her so why should I?  God pushed me again saying that it didn't matter if she apologized or not, I needed to do my part to apologize and forgive her in my heart.  I followed His lead and sent a card sincerely apologizing for my part in our situation.  I asked for forgiveness and in my heart forgave her as well.  It was such a freeing feeling!   I was surprised at how good I felt.  She ended up thanking me for my apology, never giving me one in return but at that point I was free of my own feelings of unforgiveness and hurt.  I have had several experiences such as this (times when I reached out and times when people reached out to me) and I was blessed by each.  Experiences that I dreaded and feared turned out to be life changing and freeing.

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone who hurt or offended you.  Maybe you did something to hurt them in return or maybe not ... but reaching out to them in some way (even if it is just sending a card) and truly forgiving them in your heart can be an amazing and freeing experience.  Pray before hand that God will lead you in how to go about this and ask His protection and His guidance.  Let go of your resentment and let God heal your heart!  Watch as this changes your relationship with God as well ... when we let go of unforgiveness He can work even deeper in our lives and bring us closer to Him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Challenge Part II - That Yucky Thing Called Pride

"Humility means continual death of self.  Continual death of self perfects humility.  God honors obedience, not the strife of the flesh.  What you tolerate in the flesh, you will not get rid of - despise your chains." -Jackie Jacobson

Pride is an ongoing struggle that we all face and I feel it is appropriate to touch on it in this series.  I think you will see (and maybe be surprised) how working through pride can help in our journey toward intimacy with Christ.  It is a constant battle in my life and something that takes daily work ...  As a teenager I used pride to cover up my insecurities and make myself feel superior over others.  This carried over into my adult life and I only recently realized that I wasn't just making myself "feel good" ... I was struggling with pride and it was a serious stronghold in my life. 

"Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." Romans 12:3

Comparing myself with others around me I struggled with feelings of insecurity and insignificance.  I was always concerned with what everyone else was doing and more importantly what they thought of me.  I remember telling people who were nervous about going into certain situations to just "follow my lead" and walk into the room and act like a complete snob.  I would instruct, "Act superior to everyone else and look down on them and then not only will those around you feel insignificant, you will feel power."  How terrible is that?!  Unfortunately I believed in this method and used it for years.  My pride went on to manifest itself in new ways as I dealt with different insecurities.  When I began to feel inferior I shut out friends and built walls around myself so it was impossible for them to get in.  I would do things to purposely hurt others so that I wouldn't feel hurt.  [Sigh] ... Sadly, I played this sick cycle game for a long time. 

I took a class last year and one of the topics we discussed was pride.  As the instructor went on and on, I sank further and further into my chair.  My pride was so much deeper than I realized.  It had destroyed friendships and caused much discord.  Areas in which I believed I was stronger and more secure were actually areas of weakness and insecurity.  Pride was not a handle to hold myself up with but merely a stumbling block that was constantly causing me to fall down.  I truly hadn't realized that what I was doing was prideful ... I believed I was surviving the best way I knew how ... I was protecting myself.  Wrong!  I was only hindering myself from discovering the joys that Jesus had for me.  Pride is a serious sin that everyone struggles with in some way or another.  Maybe you do not struggle with pride to the extreme that I had, but I know that there isn't one of you out there that hasn't dealt with it in some fashion at some point in your life. 

Why is pride so awful?  How does it keep us from intimacy with Christ?  What's the big deal?  In the Bible we are called to follow Christ's example by loving as He loves and living as He lived.   When we let foolish pride take over our hearts we are keeping Christ at arms length which leaves Him unable to work at His full potential in our lives. "As believers we are called to exercise humility, self control and meekness. It is humility that triggers God's power to manifest" -Jackie Jacobsen. Christ can do amazing things in our life when we humble ourselves at His feet.  

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10

By humbling ourselves we are admitting to Him that we need Him and that we cannot face our struggles and insecurities alone.  So many of us would like to think that we can handle this life without help, but if we are honest with ourselves we know it is impossible to live a fulfilling life without Him.  When we submit our pride to Him we allow ourselves to grow in relationship with Him.  As we grow in relationship with Him we learn to depend on Him for support and security rather than our own methods.  We also grow in our relationships with others. 

The chief characteristic and root of Jesus' humble character was that He constantly concealed His worth. Being completely stripped and humbled before His Father first and foremost, made it possible for Him to take a humble position before men as a servant. Without the humble and lowly position Jesus took before man there would be: no possibility of sinlessness or righteousness, no crucifixion- no perfect blood sacrifice- no redemption for mankind, and no healings or deliverances; no words of prophecy, knowledge or miracles. - Jackie Jacobson.

Pride is something that will always be a constant battle in our lives.  We need to be adamantly aware of it and put a stop to it when it starts to manifest in our everyday situations.  It can come in big waves like the ways that I mentioned I dealt with it.  But it can also strike in small, less noticeable ways.  I fall under several of the categories of prideful behavior below ... where do you fall?  Do you find yourself constantly giving your own two cents (aka, the know it all)?  When others share with you about their own life do you find yourself comparing your own stories and situations without listening to what they are saying?  Do you struggle with jealousy?  Do you struggle with unhealthy rivalry?  Are you able to give yourself to Jesus, but find it hard to give yourself to others?  Do you drop influential names and connections?  Is it hard for you to take correction or submit to authority?  Do you flaunt money or possessions?

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (ranked below others who are honored or rewarded), and he who humbles himself (keeps a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly) will be exalted (elevated in rank)." Luke 14:11 AMP

Challenge:  Day one, go one hour without talking about yourself.  Stay in communication with others but take time to listen to them without bringing up your own experiences even if they are they similar to the story you are listening to.  Do not compare, complain or give advice- just listen.  Day two, repeat the above for half of the day.  Day three, go the entire day doing this.  This small lesson in learning to put others first and setting ourselves aside is hard but it allows us to practice replacing pride with humility.  Watch how people respond when you give them your all.  As we learn to submit our pride in small ways we become more aware when it creeps up in larger ways.  I am going to practice this too and will be sharing and I am so anxious to hear how this experiment goes for you too!  Share your experiences, please!

Prayer:  LORD, I ask that You reveal to me all of the ways that pride is influencing my everyday life.  Please forgive me for the ways that I have allowed pride to rule in my life.  Forgive my unwillingness to let go of self.   Help me to be able to humbly submit my pride at your feet.  Please give me the strength to tackle this difficult area and help keep me on the path to righteousness.  I pray God, that you heal the areas in my life that cause me to be prideful ... shine your grace and forgiveness on me and allow me to experience Your joyful filling up of the Holy Spirit.  Continue to walk with me and lead me to the places where I can grow deeper in my relationship with You.  Amen.

Quotations and italicized segments other then verses and the prayer are taken from Jackie Jacobson's Led By The Spirit book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Challenge Part I - Prioritizing Him

So my journey begins ... I am eagerly seeking to grow closer and develop a deeper relationship with my God.  There is so much that I know I need to do to achieve this but where to start?  Well, I started with the most obvious - making time for Him! 

My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, "LORD, I am coming." Psalm 27: 8

I have a confession to make ... I sleep with my phone next to my bed.  It is the last thing I look at before I go to sleep.  Before I even sit up in bed in the morning I reach over and pick it up to check my email.  Then I go on to look at facebook and then I lazily roll out of bed and scramble to get the kids and myself ready for the day.  I go crazy if I can't check my email right away ... don't even ask how often I check my email throughout the day.  Sadly, I have made technology an idol in my life.  It has come before almost everything and I am not proud to say that.  I badly need to get my priorities in order!  If I checked in with God as often as I do my email and  facebook, I can't even imagine how much deeper my relationship with Him would be. 

So, the very first thing I am doing is keeping my phone plugged into my kitchen wall at night- not next to my bed.  This way I will not need to check in before bed and will not have immediate access to it right away in the morning.  Also, I have pledged to [gulp] get up early every morning during the week to do quiet time.  It is the only time of the day when I can be totally alone in silence to spend quality time with Him.  Today my alarm went off at 6:15 and I sleepily got up, avoided the phone and made my way to my living room couch where I did day one of quiet time. 

Here are my thoughts on the importance of prioritizing Him better ... and trust me when I say I am reaffirming this lesson for myself more then anyone else.  As my bible foot notes put it, "The decision to follow Jesus should not be put off, even though other loyalties compete for our attention."  I really struggle with slowing down.  I am such a go, go, go person and although I try to make what I am doing about Him I fail to actually "check in with headquarters" as often as I should.  How can I make my ministry, my everyday, my life about Him when I fail to put Him first?  I need to be filled up with Him if I want to be my best for the world especially if what I am doing is for His glory.  It is going to be so hard to slow down and rearrange my crazy schedule but doesn't He deserve my best? 

Just think, if we are worn down by life, struggling to make it through each day how much better equipped will we be if we start out  by seeking Him?  I firmly believe that by giving Him the first part of my day He will in turn not only give me blessings but also make time for everything else I need to get through that day.  It's like a balancing act- the scale will always be tipped if I am racing to be super mom, super wife, super writer, super everything all on my own ... I can't possibly keep up.  But if I have Him on my side, making Him my number one I think that the scale will be balanced.  I can accomplish more, achieve my goals and grow in leaps and bounds if I seek and allow Him to guide me. 

"Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day.  Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Me, the King of the universe.  Because I am omnipotent, I am able to bend time and events in your favor.  You will find that you can accomplish more in less time, after you have given yourself to Me in rich communion." -Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Challenge:  I challenge that you sacrifice a part of your day to spend time with Him.  Whether that means getting up a little early, staying up a little late, changing your lunch break routine, etc.  MAKE time to spend with Him.  Read a bible passage or a couple pages of a good devotional.  Give Him precious time in prayer and communication.  You might not see amazing works happen right away but pay attention to what little things change throughout your day.  YES, it will be hard to adjust to making this change.  YES, it may disrupt your schedule and seem inconvenient.  I promise though, you will be rewarded and this is the best first step to deepening your relationship with Him.  Please share what changes you notice as you follow through with this challenge!

Prayer: LORD, I yearn to grow into a more intimate relationship with You.  Please help me to make time for you today, tomorrow and this week. Help me to realize the importance of making You my first priority each day.  I ask that You reveal yourself to me and shine Your face upon me.  Deepen my desire to seek You and give me the strength to follow your guidance.  Give me ears to hear Your words and eyes to see Your works in my life.  Thank You for Your loving patience and for never giving up on me.  Amen.

Photo Credit- http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1701

Monday, April 11, 2011

Featuring Heather Aynne and Serve One Another In Love

My Church Doesn’t Look Like That...

This past weekend, I attended a church growth summit. The theme of the summit was tipping the cows that hinder the growth of your church. The very first cow that needed to be tipped was the “my church doesn’t look like that” cow.

How would you react if you saw someone walk into your shirt wearing a tank top, shorts and bare feet? If you wouldn’t bat an eye, kudos to you! I can tell you from my what happened to me yesterday that walking in that way can be a very intimidating experience, especially if your church has a “mature population.” Some people didn’t notice what I was wearing, but I noticed a number of people who gave me disapproving glances as they walked past me. And this is as an established member of the church. Perhaps their knowledge of me and the memory that I stood before them the week before wearing a nice suit skewed their impression but I didn’t feel terribly welcome.

Luckily, many churches have begun to adopt a more casual dress code for Sunday worship. While some people may feel that this is disrespectful to God, I think it’s positive in the sense that a guest walking through the doors for the first time will not be intimidated by feeling under-dressed. If you see the story I posted today on Serve One Another in Love, you will see that even some pastors have cast aside their robes and suits to place them on the same level as their congregation.

If your church is still slightly more formal, I challenge you to dress down for church next week. Wear something that you would never think to wear to church and see how you are received. If you feel uncomfortable, I would encourage you to mention that to your church and explain how their views and reactions are holding the church back from growing. More importantly, they may be driving people out of the church who are in desperate need of the lessons that are being taught. If you attend a casual church, perhaps next week is the week to go all out and dress nicer than you ever would. Judging others based on how they dress when they walk through the doors is a problem at both ends of the spectrum.

It seems like common sense that we would accept guests for who they are but we are often clouded by our own perceptions of what our church looks like. In order to open our doors wide and accept everyone, we need to tip the cow of our own views and simply thank God that He led them to your church family.

Throughout this week, I am going to be posting more information that may help you help your church experience growth in a time when every day there are churches closing their doors. We all need to start taking action if we want God’s kingdom to thrive!

By Heather Aynne

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Are You Up For A Challenge?

I recently heard about a book called Radical by David Platt.  I have not read the book although hearing what the author is challenging people to do moved me ...  "Take back your faith from the American Dream."   The American Dream ... doesn't that represent everything that we live and work for here in the United States?  Isn't the idea of the American Dream meant to inspire and motivate, not only us citizens, but people world wide who have hope for a brighter future?  It's painted on billboards, portrayed in movies and written about in books ... who would want anything more then to achieve the goal that we all desperately strive for?  I am not promoting this book as I have not read it.  I think it would be wonderful to read sometime and I have heard amazing things regarding it although the book is not what I am writing about today- just the idea of taking back our faith ... taking it back from whatever it is that is overshadowing it.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). 

I have felt a relentless desire to grow deeper in my relationship with God.  I love Him.  I want my life's work to revolve around Him and bringing others to Him.  I know He desires more of me then I am currently giving.  Right now my walk is less exciting and moving then what I would like for it to be.  Life is going wonderfully.  I am busy doing things that I love doing and all because He has blessed me with amazing opportunities- He is beginning to lead me down a path that I have been prayerful about for so long.  I am just missing one little thing ... fulfillment in my everyday walk.  I know that He not only wants me to be happy and content, but to be filled to the brim- overflowing with Him.  I desire for that fire, that excitement that can hardly be contained!

So, in my quest to light that fire and grow deeper in relationship with Him I have decided to challenge myself.  I have identified some of the major areas that I feel keep me and others from getting closer to Him.  Yes, there are things that I am not thrilled to work on ... things that will take even more of my time and energy, but I know it will all be worth it in the end.  I know that I can be better then I am now if I strive to be the best that I can be for Him; that means giving Him my all- not just my leftovers.  I am really excited to start this journey and I can't wait to see what He has in store for me.  How much more will I experience when I am giving Him my all? 

Maybe you are in a great place and life is going well.  Maybe you aren't and your life is in turmoil and distress.  Maybe you're simply bored in your everyday walk.  Maybe you're desperately seeking. We are all in different places spiritually but I believe that we can ALL do more to grow in our faith.  Take back your faith!  Take it back from whatever is keeping it from being what it is meant to be.  Take it back from your desire to achieve success and the American Dream. Take it back from depression. Take it back from fear. Take it back from the boring and mundane.  Take it back from self service.  Take it back from the easy going.  Take back your faith!  What can God do when we give Him our all?  What can we experience?  How can we grow?  I am up for the challenge and I hope that you are too!  It excites me so much to think of the possibilities  ... I am expecting the unexpected and eager to follow where He leads. 

I will be doing short devotionals on different areas of struggle and will finish each off with a challenge for you and I to pursue.  I would love to hear your thoughts along the way.  Where are you struggling?  What is He doing in your life as you challenge yourself to take back your faith?  What praises do you have to share?  I ask that you prayerfully consider journeying through this with me.  Leave me a comment on Inspiring Excellence's facebook page letting me know that you are taking the challenge!  We can encourage each other along the way. 

Take back your faith and watch your life radically change!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Featuring ... Fancy Little Things!

This week I am excited to feature Fancy Little Things!  This blog is a wealth of information for women which features multiple different topics - there is something to meet everyones interests!  Please stop by FancyLittleThings.com and check out all they have to offer.  You won't leave dissapointed!

About Fancy Little Things:

FancyLittleThings.com is a brand new blog featuring 8 topics for women: Projects, Home & Garden, Faith, Relationships, Food, Health, Style & a Book of the Month. This blog is the idea of Editor & Projects Author, Aimee Steckowski of byAimee.com. She’s a writer & website developer with a passion to encourage woman to share their ideas and for small businesses & entrepreneurs to be successful. Also, selfishly, Aimee was eager to find a place to share her simple craft projects & connect with a bigger community. She rallied her friends & mom to take on a topic that they felt passionate about and to begin sharing their thoughts, ideas & photos!

Each day of the week focuses on a different topic:

• All project tutorials, project giveaways and other fun handmade-related things will always be posted on Monday.
• Tuesdays will feature our Home & Garden topic where you will see different projects & d├ęcor ideas for both the interior & exterior of your home.
• Each Wednesday will be a guest-featured series on Faith; a Bible study series, sharing of their personal story connected with Bible verses or a chance to dig a little deeper in your Christian walk.
• We have Relationships on Thursday that will answer reader’s questions 3 weeks each month.
• Friday is all about FOOD! Recipes, kitchen gadgets, how-to’s and ideas for how to feed a family on a regular budget!
• The end the week with Health & Wellness tips, exercise advice and activities on Saturday.
• Style will make a splash on Sundays with tricks and ideas to be trendy, modern & still keep your personal style at the forefront.
• Our Book of the Month will be featured on Saturdays a few time each month. A new book will be introduced along with discussion questions and other reading-related articles.

You are sure to find something on this blog for you! You can check them out by going to their website, subscribing to their blog, “liking” them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Am I Waiting For God or Is He Waiting For Me?

"But those who wait for the Lord (who expect, look for and hope in Him) shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up (closer to God) like eagles.  They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired" -Isaiah 40:31 AMP.

I have journeyed a long road in trying to figure out who I am, what I am meant to be, where I am supposed to go.  I knew He had amazing plans for my life, but what those were exactly was a mystery to me.  After wishing and hoping that God would reveal to me His great plan for my life and then not seeing any results, I became discouraged.  Why was it so hard to find the answers to my questions? 

After reading Isaiah 40:31 many times and really applying myself and my life to it, I gradually began to see that it would take more then "wishing" to get to where I wanted to be.  Those who expect something to grow or happen over night are foolish and I had been that fool.  Faith comes gradually and by practice. When we plant a seed does it sprout as we sleep that very same night? No, we must care for it by watering it and giving it sun light.  It is a continued cycle of dedicated time and attention. If we devote our efforts to this plant, we can proudly watch it sprout, grow and become something beautiful and fruitful.  If we neglect it, it withers away to nothing.

The same goes with our faith.  I had been expecting to grow by starving myself spiritually and became frustrated when I didn't get the immediate answers that I was after.  I can understand Jesus, love Him, desire to be in relationship with Him, but if I'm not willing to do what it takes to have relationship with Him I am lost.  In Revelation 3:20 Jesus calls out to us saying, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."  If I'm not willing to open the door, how will I have community with Him?  After all, Jesus never forces His way in, we must invite Him. 

By learning to expect, look for, listen and hope my faith began to grow exponentially.  It is exciting  knowing all that can happen and be revealed by Him by simply following through and giving myself ample opportunity to learn and grow.  We aren't born mature Christian individuals.  Hearing God's voice takes practice.  Without really learning to tune into Him and listen to His words, we cannot honestly hear Him.  When we are open and willing He can work in marvelous ways!   Can I now see every step where He is leading me?  No, but aren't we called to walk by faith?  Do I know exactly the plans He has laid out for me?  Not exactly but I have a better idea.   I am at peace knowing that His plans will come to life and in the meantime I am loving the growth and closeness of our relationship.

Do you struggle with figuring out the plans God has for your life?  Do you feel like you are stumbling around in the dark waiting for Him to shine the light down on you?  I encourage you to invite Jesus in and find new ways to grow in Him.  Try a new bible study, read a new book in the bible that you have never read, start a journal (!), try out expecting Him to move in your life rather then wishing, read one encouraging verse every morning before you start your day, ask Him to reveal Himself to you everyday ... there a many ways to grow, you just need to find them and dedicate yourself to them- then watch things happen!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Give Away Winner ...

Heather at serveinlove.net ... you are the winner!!!  Thanks to everyone for your comments and everything ... I hope you enjoyed learning more about some of the different names of God.  I encourage you all to read the book Trusting In The Names Of God by Catherine Martin ... it is seriously life changing and can deepen your relationship with Him so much.  Stay tuned for more give aways to come at the end of April! 

I can't wait to feature Heather ... be sure to check her out at Inspiring Excellence soon! 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Abba, Daddy

My husband and I love song lyrics.  They tell such amazing stories and stir up all kinds of great feelings and emotions.  Since our first daughter was born seven years ago we have found a specific song for each of our three girls that described our feelings towards them each individually; a song that we dedicated to them and labeled as "their song".  My husband chose the Kenny Chesney song There Goes My Life for our middle daughter.  She loves listening to it and loves when her daddy sings it to her.  She could listen to it over and over again.

The other day they were out running an errand together and that song came on the stereo.  The part of the song that says,

Oh yeah..........he loves that little girl.

Momma's waiting to tuck her in,
As she fumbles up those stairs.
She smiles back at him dragging that teddy bear.
Sleep tight, blue eyes and bouncin' curls.

He smiles.....
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you, daddy good-night.

My husband was singing along with it and glanced in the rear view mirror and realized that our daughter was in tears.  He quickly asked her what was wrong and she said, "Daddy these are happy tears.  I am happy because you love me so much."  It was one of those precious moments that he will never forget.  Her gentle little four year spirit recognized the great love that her daddy had for her and it moved her to tears ... beautiful!

"Jesus addressed His Father in a special, most intimate way when He was in the depth of suffering- His dark night of the soul.  He was in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest and crucifixion on the cross.  He prayed, 'Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will' (Mark 14:36).  Abba is the Aramaic word translated 'Father' and is used in the spirit of a tender, affectionate child in much the same way as a child today would use the word daddy.  Jesus used Father in His prayers much more often than other Jewish teachers and writers.  Because of our new relationship with God through Christ, we may employ this display of affection, this expression of endearment, Abba, Father." - Catherine Martin, Trusting In The Names Of God Devotional.

The Great Yahweh who created the Heavens and earth is our Father ... our Daddy if you will. We are His precious children and nothing, and I mean nothing, in all eternity means more to Him then us.  He weeps when we when are hurting, He basks in joy and excitement when we are happy, He is heartbroken when we turn away from Him.  His love for us is never ending and pure.  We have the incredible privilege of coming to Him in the intimate way a child goes to their daddy.  

When we are hurting we can turn to Him and take refuge in His loving arms and His arms are ALWAYS open and willing to take us in.  No matter what we have done, even if we have walked away He is still lovingly waiting for our return ... no strings attached.  He provides the most pure love that we could ask for. 

Charles Spurgeon says, "If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care, how much more does our heavenly Father?"  Maybe you have experienced unconditional love through your earthly father, maybe you haven't ... no matter the circumstance you have Abba who loves you dearly.  Get to know Him, rest in Him, delight in Him.  There is nothing He desires more then you.  He gave His precious life so that you may have life.  Catherine Martin asks, "Will you  crawl up into the lap of your Abba, Father now and lay all your cares and worries in His loving arms?"   

In Closing This Series:
I encourage you all to read the book Trusting In The Names of God by Catherine Martin.  I have explored in my blog, Yahweh, Yahweh Nissi, Yahweh Jireh and Abba which are some of my favorites.  Her book explores many more of His names that are so incredible.  When your really get to know our LORD in all His different elements, it allows for such a deeper understanding and appreciation of Him.  Dig into this book and watch your faith grow in beautiful strides.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give Away & Chance To Promote Your Blog!

I am finishing up my short series on some of my favorite names of God inspired by Catherine Martin's, Trusting In The Names of God. I am ending it with a fun giveaway that I think you will LOVE!

This Friday I will be doing my first drawing ... The winner of my drawing will recieve a copy of Martin's, Trusting In The Names of God and a featured guest spot on my blog!

How do you enter to win? #1 Leave a comment on any of the Names of God posts. #2 Subscribe to my blog OR "like" my Inspiring Excellence facebook page (see link in the right hand side bar of this page).

I will announce the winner this Friday at noon mountain time. If you win, you will recieve the book and be scheduled for a featured spot on my blog this April. If you are looking to bring new readers to your blog, this is a great opportunity! Can't wait to hear from you ...

The Eternal I AM

But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.” -Exodus 3:13-15.

Until I read Martin’s chapter on Yahweh, I never really grasped the power behind His name. Yes, I "feared" God and I knew that He was the Almighty, Most High, Creator of heaven and earth but the power never really hit me until I learned more about it.

A little background on the name Yahweh: The Hebrews revered His name as so incredibly Holy that they would not even write or speak the name Yahweh in its entirety. The name held such importance and power that they felt unworthy to let it roll off their lips. They usually replaced it with Adonai or my lord.

If you think about it “god” is a general term. Many cultures worshipped different gods. A god was, and still is, considered a greater power and an unknown deity. Around the world different cultures claim to worship the same god but through a different name … but He isn’t just a god … He is THE GOD. He has ONE name. I think it’s fascinating that God showed the world who He was through His name. He isn’t known as just “God” the unknown deity. He personified himself by using a name. He is set apart.

I always think of Moses asking God who he should call Him when addressing the people of Israel, “I AM, WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Or when Jesus said, "'I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!'" (John 8:58).  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). It literally gives me chills to think about those words. My lowly words cannot even express the significance of what that means.  HE WAS, HE IS, HE IS TO COME.

Think of Him … His power, His image, His ultimate majesty ... If you truly grasp and understand the depth of His being, how could you not fear Him? I know that for me personally, after I recognized the significance of His infinite power I dropped to the floor on my knees, head buried in the floor. I felt so unworthy and small. It’s unreal to imagine that He in all His glory could love me, little ol’ Sarah, but He does … The "I AM" is my God and though unworthy, I am so grateful of His love and adoration of me. 

There is a song out there by Phillips Craig and Dean that I think truly puts into words Yahweh in all His greatness. I highly encourage you to read the lyrics or listen to the song here . Draw near to Him and give Him the praise and adoration that He deserves. Thank Him for simply being Him.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yahweh Jireh, The Lord Will Provide

The six month of his unemployment was about to dawn.  We had used what little savings we had to cover our costs for the previous five months and we were literally down to the last few dollars.  He had sent out hundreds of copies of his resume, been on dozens of interviews and nothing ... We had made it this far and been ok but what next?  What happens when those last few dollars are spent and our income is non-existent?  There are three children here .... How will we feed them?  Will we lose our house?  An indescribable fear hung over our heads as we contemplated our future.  I pleaded with God saying, "Please, please, please God open up doors of opportunity.  Take care of us as we continue through this time of uncertainty.  Please provide for our family and don't let us drown."

And then a day like any other day came upon us.  He was off to yet another interview.  His stomach was in knots as he believed that this interview, like all the others would result in nothing, leaving us at the bottom of an empty well.  I went about my afternoon caring for the girls as usual when the phone rang ... "Well ???"  I asked expecting to hear another "we'll call you if we find that you're a fit".  He answered back, "Well they loved me.  They took me right in to talk to the Colonel and he hired me on the spot!  I start immediately."  My heart lept as relief washed over me... Amazing!   He got a job- and not just any job, a job in the field that he had been pursuing.  A job that would not only take care of our family, but that he would be extremely happy in- something he hadn't been in years.  God answered our prayers ... He provided for us in our deepest time of need.
Can you imagine how Abraham felt as he traveled up Mount Moriah knowing that he was about to sacrifice his son?  To lose a child is a tragedy in and of itself but to lose a child that God blessed him and Sarah with, a child that fulfilled such a significant promise ... I cannot imagine that angst he felt as he made that journey.  Despite everything he obeyed God and didn't question His command.  When Abraham reached the point where he was instructed to sacrifice Issac he laid down his son and raised his arm, knife in hand ... "Lay down the knife, " the angel said.  "Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God.  You have not withheld even your beloved son from me."  Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush.  So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the alter in place of his son. Abraham named the place, "The Lord Will Provide" ... (Genesis 22:12-14). 

Yahweh Jireh, The Lord Will Provide.  Throughout the Bible we see other examples of God providing for needs that seemed otherwise impossible to meet.  Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes.  After a night of catching nothing, Jesus instructed His disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and they were overwhelmed with the enormous catch.  Peter caught a fish that held a coin, a coin that would pay his taxes.  The Lord will provide!

Today we still face various needs.  Whether the needs be monetary, emotional or physical we all have them!  Take heart that God is a God who provides.  God does not wish to see you drown in your troubles.  He has the ability to help you through anything and He wants to help you through everything.  Trust in His provisions.  When you think that there is no hope and that there is no way that life could iron itself out trust in His provisions!  Seek Him and make your requests known to Him and don't get discouarged if His provision isn't exactly what you had in mind ... He sees things crystal clear and His plan and provisions may be better then what we expected!  I close with a verse that so simply expressess His desire and intent to provide for us ...

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?" Matthew 6:26-30

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trusting In The Names of God - Intro

A couple of years ago I read the book, Trusting In The Names Of God by Catherine Martin ... if you haven't read it already I highly recommend it!  God has recently put that book and its message on my heart again so, I am going back through it and want to share some thoughts with you along the way.  To start, I am re-posting an old post I wrote on my favorite name of God.  I hope that you enjoy these next couple weeks as I journey back through Trusting In The Names Of God ... God has really placed this topic on my heart and encouraged me to share!  Stay tuned for a fun give-away coming soon!

In my quiet time today I was led to read my Trusting In The Names Of God book by Catherine Martin. The book talks about all the different names of God and what they mean, how to use them, etc. I turned to the chapter on Trusting in Yahweh Nissi – He is your Victory. It spoke to me and a dozen of you came to mind. I felt called to speak this message, if you will, to you. I thought I would highlight some of what the chapter talks about and hope that I don’t bore you but instead inspire you to know that despite your present circumstances Yahweh Nissi (God) is on your side fighting your battles and if you let Him, He will bring you victory!

“What does knowing Yahweh Nissi tell you about yourself? You need someone to fight for you and bring victory in your life. The Lord is the one who fights for you. Run to Yahweh Nissi when you need victory in the battle you face today. What will the banner of the Lord look like in your life? Some scholars suggest that Moses’ upraised hands represented prayers and petitions and intercession on behalf of the people of God in the heat of the battle.

What banner do you hold in your life? Is Yahweh Nissi your banner? Or do you carry the banner of self, believing you are the only one to fight the battle? Or do you carry the banner of money, believing if only could be a millionaire, you could win your war? Or is the banner of position your reliance, believing if only you could have the perfect job, your problem, whatever it may be, will be solved?

When you are in the heat of the battle, think of Moses and the staff in his hand. When he had the staff high (trusting and following God’s commands) in his hands, Israel won, and when it fell, they began to lose. And so it is with you – defeat is sure if you hold up any banner but Yahweh Nissi. Victory is certain if you hold high your banner, Yahweh Nissi. Look to the Lord to fight your battles. Cry out to Him. The Lord will give you wisdom every step of the way as He leads you.

Pray in the heat of the battle and watch the Lord win the battle – He is victor! Oh, how exciting to watch Yahweh Nissi gain the victory in a life, whether that life is your life, a family member’s or a friend’s. Joy is your great response in praising Yahweh Nissi. Nehemiah taught the people of God, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength!’ How can you rejoice in Him today? ‘Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work and His righteousness endures forever!’ Psalm 11:2-3” -Trusting In the Names of God, Catherin Martin.

Last words – from ME!

Times are tough for everyone right now. We are all facing different battles today, this week, this month and this year. I feel pledged to tell you that you are not alone! Ask Him to help you, stay in His presence, petition your needs to Him, and intercede for those around you who are struggling … He will answer. Our God is not a God who neglects or turns His back. He LOVES us and He wants us to succeed and prosper. He does not desire to see you bound to the ground in hopelessness and despair. He desires you to stay with Him and trust Him. If you let Him, He will bring you out of your battle as the winner!!! And most importantly, it is so easy for us to come to God with our problems and plead for help (He wants us to!) but even in the midst of our battles we need to praise Him! Like the last couple of sentences above we must have joy in the Lord as that is our strength! I encourage you read the words of the song, ‘Praise You In This Storm' by Casting Crowns.

I encourage you friends and family who are struggling to turn to Him, don’t turn away, place yourself closer then ever before and He will show you a victory in your battle. You, my friend, cannot win it yourself, you are simply incapable, but with Him you can do anything! I will remember you and your situation in my prayers this week …

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Deep Understanding

I woke up today with a heavy heart.  My dreams often haunt me and expose the darkest parts of my soul.  Sometimes I remember the dream while other times I have no recollection of them although I wake up utterly shaken and the darkness of it weighs heavily.  I awake with feelings of deep sorrow, confusion and pain.  Where did this come from and why did it have to plague me today?  Why when everything is good and right do these dreams come in and stick a knife in my heart? 

I opened up my Jesus Calling book after I got up and came across this: "Come to Me for understanding, since I know you far better then you know yourself.  I comprehend you in all your complexity; no detail of your life is hidden from Me.  I view you through eyes of grace, so don't be afraid of My intimate awareness.  Allow the Light of My healing Presence to shine into the deepest recesses of your being- cleansing, healing, refreshing, and renewing you ... I speak to you from the depths of your being.  Hear me saying soothing words of Peace, assuring you of My Love.  Do not listen to the voices of accusation, for they are not from Me ... My Spirit convicts cleanly, without crushing words of shame.  Let the Spirit take charge of your mind, combing out tangles of deception" (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, p80 & 82). 

Wow, so beautiful!  I often forget the depths of His understanding.  It is easy to remember that He created me and breathed life into me- those truths were drilled into my head as a child.  What I tend to forget is that not only did He create me but He knows me better then I know myself.  He sees and understands the complexities of my heart, which so often I don't even understand!  As I wake up and relive these huntings I am not alone; He is right there next to me.  What a comfort to know that there is another who can feel my pain, see my struggle and truly understand it.  I may not immediately resolve the issues that these hauntings root from but I am learning how to peacefully put them to rest and move forward with my day.  I am able to take comfort in His presence and fill up with His strength. 

There is something incredible about His intimate knowledge of our hearts.  I think it brings us to a whole new level and awareness of His love.  He sees those dark things that plague us.  He understands them.  He STILL loves us despite them.  He doesn't grow tired of our constant inward battles, in fact He lifts us up and carries us through them if we allow Him.  If you struggle with similar hurt and pain remember to take comfort in His understanding and seek refuge in His arms.  Draw from His strength and find peace. 

"O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away ... Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." -Psalm 139 1-2, 23

Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Answered Prayer

"Thank you, Thank you, Thank you God!"  These are the words that were excitedly running through my head as it hit the pillow last night.  I probably fell asleep with a smile on my face. This week has been an answer to prayer in so many wonderful ways and I am thrilled to say the least.

When I was a child I wanted to be a writer.  As I grew up things began to change and I didn't think I had what it took to accomplish that dream.  Without encouragement and also a lack of practice for that matter it became more and more of a vague dream and soon I totally forgot about it.

Over the last few years I really began to become aware of  my gift of exhortation.  God gave me something beautiful ... something that I could do so much with.  As I prayed and prayed that God would build this gifting up in me I wondered how He would use me ...

About two years ago I randomly started a blog ... My husband was in military training and away from our family for six months and I found that writing really helped ease my loneliness.  I quickly fell in love with blogging, the only problem was that nobody really read it.  Never the less I kept going and God kept working in my heart.  He gave me so much to say.  I began to see that I could use my exhortation through writing. I didn't write fluffy things to make my people feel sunny and bright but instead I used my own life circumstances to try to relate with people.  I'm a real person going through real struggles.  It isn't always sunny and bright- it's hard and sometimes it sucks- BUT He is always there to walk me through those struggles and He gets me to the other side safely.  I've learned that by humbling myself (which is a HUGE ongoing process in me!) and letting people see my struggles I am offering something that other people can connect with. 

Still, I didn't really have any readers other then a couple good friends and of course my family.  It kind of got frustrating and I felt like I was wasting my time.  Writing had again become my passion and yearning, but I had nobody to share in it with.  But, I still kept writing.  After a year and a half I stumbled across the incourage submission page.  I half heartedly submitted something that I wrote last summer and then didn't think about it again.  Although I was enjoying writing, I was very insecure about my writing abilities.  I didn't think anything would come of it.  Boy was I surprised to get an email saying that I would be posted in March ... I was elated!!!

Having my article up on Thursday literally changed everything.  It was an amazing feeling to have so many strangers from around the world reading my simple words.  I was so blessed by the response!  The next day, yesterday, I found the incourage community site ... (smile and emotional tears) ... I can't express to you the sheer joy and excitement I have for this treasure.  I have been searching and praying for something like this community for so long and at last He brought me to it.  The immediate response from all of the wonderful women was amazing.  I felt apart of a family right away.  Knowing that I can write the things that He has laid on my heart and be able to reach even a couple of people's hearts and encourage them is enough to happily sustain me for a long time. Likewise, I am so thrilled and honored to be able to return the favor and enlighten myself through their writing and words!  I am so very excited for the opportunity be apart of this group of women and to share among them. 

Sometimes God renews childhood dreams ... Sometimes He closes doors for a while so that He can mature us so that when the door re-opens we are better equipped for what He has in store.  It's an exciting journey and I am so blessed to be on it.  This week has comforted me, inspired me and proved to me once again that He knows what He is doing! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stand By Me? Ok ... Maybe ...

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "So encourage each other and build each other up ..."

I hate going to the gym ... you practically have to tie me up and drag me there.  You would probably never see me running on the treadmill if it were up to me showing up on my own.  I know it's good for me and that it's important but I don't like it ... plain and simple.  The times that I am there and stick with the routine of going are when I am with my girlfriends.  There is something about having that support person with you that makes it so much easier to endure.  She encourages me while I trudge through and provides the support that I need.  In the end I feel so great about going and doing something good for myself !

The same can be true in other areas of our life.  We all face struggles at some point in our lives ... whether it be the struggle of a hard day at home with the little ones, the struggle of a crumbling marriage, the struggle of a daunting project, the struggle with a loss of a job or a loved one ... Who can you turn to when those issues hit?

I am a very independent person.  I don't like to accept help, I don't like people to know when I am struggling and I often times try to resolve my issues on my own in the quiet of my own little world.  It is very hard for me to let people in and see me when I am weak.  If I let my guard down, won't people see my vulnerability and look down on me?  Isn't it safer to just keep it all in and try to get through it on my own?  It is certainly more comfortable to do things that way ...

Over the last year God has been teaching me so much about humility.  I've learned that keeping my insecurities, fears and struggles inside just because I am afraid of what people will think about me is pride.  Maybe He is letting me face these struggles because my experiences will help me make an even more powerful impact on someone else then if I just try to comfort alone.   

I've been blessed with some amazing friends who have patiently watched me slowly break down the walls of my pride.  They stand by me and support me through my struggles, encourage me when I am down and make me comfortable enough to open up about the hard things.  When they see me open up and share they are comfortable to do the same.  We tackle life so much better in teams and it is so much more joyful to share in celebration when we have made it through together. 

God has blessed us with community.  He wanted us to have fellowship with others and be able to lean on each other in good times and bad.  We aren't made to sit alone and try to fix our problems ourselves.  Isn't it awesome that He has given us such a wonderful gift?!  Next time you are facing struggles that you are scared of sharing or seeking support about, consider letting someone in.  Sometimes He uses other people as tools to do His mighty works in our lives.  As with the gym situation, sometimes having a companion walk with you through the daunting situations in life allows things to be so much easier and more manageable.  Likewise, we should remember to be on the watch for our friends facing difficult times.  Offer encouragement, lift them up in prayer and be the friend that you would want there for you. 

What impact has supportive friends had on your life?  Do you find that the dark situations are easier to handle when you let someone in rather then dwelling in them alone?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Battlefield For Our Minds

One of the strongholds that I face in life is looking backward rather then forward.  I am often tormented with the "what if's" ... What if I had made different choice's? What if I would have taken another road? What if I would have worked harder in this area? What if I would have just waited? What if I had been more careful about what I said? ... When I get into these ruts I begin to quickly drown in depression and anxiety.  It is not a good place to dwell.

I recently started reading The Rules Of Engagement by Cindy Trimm.  Cindy showed me that my "what if" problem was much easier to overcome then I thought.  "The most precious commodity in the earth realm is the mind.  Not only is God vying for our minds, but the enemy is vying for your mind as well" (Trimm, 40).  So often we forget that there is a spiritual battle going on around us.  Our souls are constantly being fought for. 

Ephesians 6:12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The enemy is always there whispering lies into our minds.  He too knows our weakness, our hurts, our desires and he slithers his way in and feeds on that.  He takes advantage of that knowledge and creates thoughts in our heads to make us believe that they are our own and that we should act on them.  He plants ideas, strife and confusion and if we are ignorant to his deceitful tools we fall victim and are seduced in.  Isn't that a horrible thought? 

It sounds so daunting and dark ... how can we escape it?  How can we take control of our minds and keep the enemy out?  The great news is that God is all powerful and will always prevail and win out in the end.  He is all we need and He will conquer.  When we immerse ourselves in His Word and stay prayerful in all things, we silence the enemy.  Prayer invades darkness.  Through prayer and petition we should seek daily protection from God, that He would not only keep us physically safe but also protect our mind and spirit. 

Ephesians 6:13-18 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Now when I start to dip into the "what if's" I quickly turn my thoughts to the Lord.  He knows every detail of my life ... where I have been, where I am going, my heart and my desires and He has my best interest at heart.  I am His precious child and He LOVES me deeply.  So, the "what if's" don't matter anymore.  They aren't healthy, they aren't me and they don't root from God.  I prayerfully submit those thoughts to Him, put Him back in control and breathe a sigh of relief.  It is wonderful to feel those burdens lift and have His peace wash over me. 

Be adamantly aware of the enemy and his influences.  Don't go through life oblivious to his deceitful demise or he will get the best of you.  Cover yourself in the Holy Spirit and keep your thoughts centered around the Lord.  The difference that it makes is astounding and so freeing!

Can you think of times when you were all of a sudden consumed by depression, regret, anger or anxiety? How do you fight back and surrender mind control to the Lord?