Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Number One Blogging Rule You Can't Break


I read articles about blogging rules with a mix of interest and disbelief.  Interest because, it can’t hurt to know these things, but disbelief because I’m not sure how much “10 Easy Steps to Blogging Success” really helps.

This blog has not followed the “rules” from day one.  More on accident at first, then as I went along, out of obedience.  When I started blogging, all I could offer at the time was what I call my "little homemade blog."  I can clearly recall crying in frustration during it's creation and praying through every step. I learned from Google how to set it up, and make changes in the coding, etc. It took weeks.  

(Lest you think I was all cry, pray for help, succeed, repeat, there may or may not be a story in there about computer-induced rage. Which then led to my questioning how God could call me to write a Christian blog when I couldn't maintain my composure to even set it up, but that's another post for another day. Let's just say God chose the least of these when He called me in front of a computer.)

I’d never written anything, and here I was called to blog.  What could He possibly do with that?

For those unfamiliar with blogging, this spot on the web is quite rebellious.  I don't have a professionally designed blog (I know! Right? I can see the shock on your face.).  I don’t have a “brand” (something people can instantly recognize across all social media, etc.) aside from maybe "The rabble rouser who blogs at Living Joel 2:25 loves donuts." And I'm not even sure that's a brand per se.  I do not blog the required number of times per week because most days I can barely get in the shower much less write.  I rarely participate in link-ups.  I don’t comment like a wild woman.  I use numbers in my web address.  And speaking of which, my address is not my name.  Your address should always, always, ALWAYS be your own name.  And worst of all, I blog on a platform that labels you as “not serious” about blogging, the future of the church, or life in general.  It might also equate to having a full length coat made of sweet baby harp seals in your closet but I could have made that one up.

And social media?  Oh, social media.  I don’t update my Facebook page as I should, and if I could specially request Twitter be thrown into the sea of glass, I would. I can however pin like I’m getting paid for it, so that’s probably worth something, eh?

Worst of all though?  I use the word *that* and I double space between sentences.  OH, FOR THE LOVE.  Look away, Jeff Goins, LOOK AWAY.

Since I started though, anytime I’d even consider a re-do of my blog, I had a strong impression that it’s in the blog’s utter weakness (and mine!), that God was able to shine the brightest.  The more blogging rules it broke, the less credit the blog (and myself) would receive.  And that’s not to say this little blog is breaking records, by any means, it’s just that according to the rules, never should any door have opened.  Period.

Here’s the thing though, my God?  He’s the God of the impossible.  He doesn't follow the blogging rules.  He doesn’t pin posts like, “Mess Up These Blogging Rules and You’ll Never Succeed” or “Put That Donut Down and Write Even When You Have Nothing to Say”.  When He commissions something, no matter how certain we are the whole thing is crazy, and that we do not have the practical things it takes to succeed, in reality, all it takes it our yes.  He puts into motion His plan to open doors we’ll need and make the connections.  As long as we keep following His lead, He takes the least likely people and the most unlikely of circumstances, and somehow makes His plans for our lives succeed.   

He takes: “God, I don’t blog, read blogs, make blogs, go public with MY DEEPEST thoughts about You, and I certainly don’t do it expecting and welcoming persecution for putting it out there!  Nooooo.  Nope.  Not me. I’m good.”  And turns it into, “What’s that You say, God?  You’ve called me and will make it possible?  Sweet mercy. Well, ok, I hope I’m hearing right…”


It comes down to this rule: Listen to God above all well meaning blogging advice and you simply can’t fail. (<==== Click to tweet)

If God is calling you to something, even if the situation isn’t perfect to the eyes of the world, don’t let that stop you.  The world has it’s rules, but God doesn’t operate by those.  God can and will clear the mountains before you.  Don’t be afraid to do as He leads you...crazy though it may sound to others.

And when you hear, “YOU BLOG ON BLOGGER? Well, I bet that means you don't like baby harp seals either…” you'll know there were some rules that were meant to be broken.

__________________________

Let me add, I’ve not always been patient.  Many times I’ve anxiously questioned God, “Wouldn’t now be a great time for a design/theme/platform/whatever change?” But each time the answer was always along the lines of, “I’ll tell you when it’s time.”  One time, I’m embarrassed to say, I ran ahead and paid for a switch to WordPress anyway!  It wasn’t time, God hadn’t called me to do it, and it was a mess.  A complete mess.  Lesson learned.  Sigh.

Well, since returning from Jamaica, I’ve felt a change stirring in this little place, a direction shift and yes, maybe even a little design change!  I’m not sure what, but I’m excited and praying into it.  Change comes slowly around this blog though (remember - shower - I’m usually just trying to shower…) so I wouldn’t hold your breath...but we’ll see.  :)

Photo Credit: veo_ via Compfight cc

Friday, May 30, 2014

When Perfect Love Really Does Cast Out Fear


"He's taking me to Jamaica to break my heart."

A fairly late addition to the mission trip team, this was the thought that kept wandering through my mind as I quickly made my passport application, sort through the packing list and have what-am-I-doing mini panic attacks.  

Here's the thing, I not a fan of broken hearts.  I've had my share, and each time it's been miserable.  So, when this thought would sweep in, part of me hoped I was making it up, and part of me wanted to run and hide.

But a small part of me wondered just what Jesus was up to.

My word for 2014 is Love.  I've not mentioned here.  It took me weeks to even admit it to myself - it seems all gooey and if there's one thing I'm not, it's gooey.  And then there's the added fact that I found out days after God laid the word on my heart, that sweet Holley Gerth has the same word for the year. (And it seemed so appropriate for her!  Not because she is gooey, but because she is so dear.) So then I seemed like a gooey copy cat.  Crikey

But one of the main reasons was that it seemed too big.  Love.  I will never understand love fully, this side of Heaven, so how can I have a word, I can't even comprehend?  Yes, I am an over-thinker but I couldn't have gotten laughter or doughnut as my word?

Joy was my word for 2013 and that scared me in a similar way.  I was terrified I wouldn't recognize it if it sat in my lap.  But then something amazing happened.  Jesus restored my joy.  And it didn't even depend on me.  Go figure.  While at She Speaks in July. (And I actually did not recognize it until much later!  Ha!)

On the plane home from Jamaica, I realized something as we hit some large bumps.  My intense fear of flying was simply gone.  I couldn't believe it, but I was laughing through the bumps...and not an "OH MY GOSH, (Ha.) WE'RE GOING TO DIE (Ha.) any second now." nervous laughter.  But a "she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25, trust in God kind of laugh. 

We journeyed to a far off island, to build a home for a man who didn't have one.  And in the process, God showed me perfect love and released me.  The beautiful thing is this, love didn't look like I thought it would.  It wasn't gooey after all. 

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, 
we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, 
becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—
our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. 
Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—
fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. 
1 John 4:17-18  (The Message)

Would you pray with me that God's perfect love would have run of the house we built in Jamaica, much like the verse above describes?  Thank you, friends.

If you'd like to read about the heart shaped stone I found while there,
I'm posting today at God-sized Dreams!



  

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Prayer For Those in the Hard Place

I loved this house in Jamaica.  Something about it just captured my eye - the beauty beneath the ruins.
And the beautiful view on each side didn't hurt either!  You can see a tiny bit of the blue sea on the right.
Hi, friend. You’ve been on my heart daily.  I thought about you last week as I journeyed through Jamaica.  Wishing you could have been there too, meeting new friends, praying together, and of course, laughing.  

I know that some of us are in a hard season right now.  It’s one thing after another.  And it might seem there is no end in sight.  I just want to speak these words over you,

Dear Lord,

I thank You for the gift of my friend.  I thank You that no matter what, You have her.  Through the dark days, the low points, the nights that seem to never end.  I thank You that while life in the world is hard, life with You is a beautiful journey.  

Lord, we take heart, knowing that in this world we will have trouble, but we thank You for Jesus, who has OVERCOME the world!  Lord, help us all remember to yoke up with You, especially at times we may forget and try to power through on our own.  We pray for more of You, that You would take us deeper into Your Word, that You would write it on the tablet of our heart.  

Even in the difficult times we might be in, help us to recognize our mission field.  Give us eyes to see the hurting in those around us, and make us brave enough to pray boldly for them as You lead.  Break our hearts for what breaks Yours.  

Lord, help us to bring everything to You in prayer, not listening to the lies of the enemy that tell us something is too small, too lost, or even too long-standing, to be helped by prayer.  We pray You would lead us into the plans and purpose You have for our life.  That we would not struggle or doubt.  Rather we would walk by faith.

Remind us that our identity is found in You and You alone. Not in what those around us say.

Thank You for this precious sister, who is standing strong in You.  May she know deep within her spirit that Your Name is a strong tower - that she can run to You and be safe always.

Precious Jesus, we pray all this in Your name,
Amen.

(Please know that if you have a specific prayer, I would love to pray for you - please email me - or leave it in the comments.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Because You Can't God-Sized Dream Alone



It's been two days since returning from the Jamaica mission trip with the young adults from my church, and I'll tell you, it takes a team of true (in)couragers for a trip like that to happen.  I'll be blogging the actual trip more in the days to come - because OH my gosh, did God ever bless it, and the stories are just incredible.  And funny.  And scary.  And one involves me stepping on one of the kind, brave young men, and pulling myself up over a wall, through the mud, to escape the Dunn's River waterfall that I was fairly certain would kill me.

Now that's a story and a half.

That trip was a God-sized dream God laid on my heart.  One I didn't ask for, or even see coming.  I never in a million years would have seen myself going on a mission trip, but it's amazing what you can do with the support of a team standing beside you.  As well as a team back home, praying for you.

God-sized dreaming is tough, but that's why God gives us other dreamers to journey with.


Kristin Smith, from The Riches of His Love, and I will be leading an (in)courage online community group, to cheer on those who are God-sized dreaming.  It's a Facebook group, capped at 30 women, so it's more intimate than the God-sized Dreams website, and will last for six weeks.  Sign up starts today!  It's only open this week - 5/19 - 5/25/2014, then they close registration until the next session starts.

Photo Credit: Crystal Stine

And if you're needing (in)couragement in a different area, there are over 70 different groups, everything from groups regarding specific parenting situations, to groups dedicated to various health concerns. 

If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments or you can email me (christine @ livingjoel225.com  but make sure to remove the spaces before and after the @ symbol).  I'd love to see you join us!  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Houston, We Have Lift Off (And Nutella)

Houston.  With the God-sized dream website team.  


Wow.  It was worth every bit of the intense spiritual warfare that's come up since returning. (And I do mean intense...)

The words are feeling slim, but with so many photos...who needs words?



First of all, because of your prayers, I survived this:



Thank you for praying.  This is Lisa Larson's photo from her flight there.  I couldn't see anything through the clouds, from Atlanta to Houston.  Which is always disconcerting, no matter how much my husband tries to explain the whole thing about not needing to be able to see, to fly.  (And there's probably a blog post in that line somewhere...) 
Praise God, everyone got there safe and by about noon we were all at Gindi's house!

At which point, Mel said, "I want to do a cannonball!"  Delonna decided to join!  Yes!


So, the weekend was kicked off!  : )

What did we do, you ask?  A lot of this:  

Laughing.




Picture taking.











Eating.


Yes, that is the real deal, TEXAS barbecue!!  That right there is reason enough to move.
And no, that is not my plate.  Do you see teeny, tiny amount of potato salad?  And all the carrots?  
My plate was reversed.  Which is also why we shall not discuss the size shorts I had to purchase yesterday.

Whatever.


Well, hello, big tray of delicious-ness.  
Why, yes, we have been dreaming of you.


These cookies were almost too pretty to eat...but we got over it...ha! 


This is Gindi's mom's buttermilk pie (above). I could cry just thinking about it.  
Someone took a video of the pie. 
I'm serious.  
We might give it it's own page on the website.  
Heck, we might give it it's own website.

We went out on the town.


To the Galleria.  Which is a Texas-sized mall.  And inside the Saks, is a restaurant.  
A girl's dream come true...


We were seated a long table, in front of the Rose Wall.  Very dramatic, with it's changing lights,




We had a wonderful waiter, named Manuel.  At the beginning of the dinner, 
he asked who was celebrating a birthday.  Elise, joking around said, "Everyone!"


Manuel takes birthday seriously.  He brought out three desserts for us!  So sweet!  

We watched (in)RL.


Not sure about the rest of the team, but I felt at home with the dead deer on the wall.  
(We have one too.) 



And yes!  We actually worked on the website!




I look like a technical guru here.  If you need to look smart, take a photo in front of not one, but two computers.  But don't do it in your pajamas and your ugly glasses.  That's usually gives things away.

And let me take a second and explain one more reason why I LOVE THIS TEAM.  We did our website work with many of us in our pjs.  They are the real deal, friends. 

The photo above is me trying to use an Apple computer.  I almost tossed it in the pool, it made me so crazy.
So much for that possible sponsor.



I tried not to be in photos...


I finally figured it out though.  QUICKLY pick up any random camera, 
and take photos of the one taking the photos.

This was a photo taking crew.  So there was always a camera within reach. 


Even Delonna tried me, at dinner.  You think you know someone...
(Hey, is that a wall made of roses?)


Uh huh...


I see how you are!

Nutella.  Do you like it? 


 Chelle Wilson and I are the last hold outs on the team.  We've not tried it.
It just never looked that appealing to me.  
And between Dunkin Donuts and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, I have enough food loves. 

But I feared a website rebellion if I didn't try it... and Chelle wasn't in Houston to save me...so...


And was pretty good!  I'm not sure I'd buy it on my own or anything.  

Gindi was a wonderful hostess.  She thought of everything...just look...


LOVE!!!

So, that's the weekend in pictures!  Sorry it was so delayed, but you know, that's how I roll lately. Ha!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When Your God-Sized Dream Involves Your Greatest Fear


I haven’t always been afraid to fly.  I actually grew up flying.  And I loved it.  Every part of it.  Take off, landing, everything.

In elementary school, on a trip to Hawaii, we visited many of the various islands, and I don’t know how many times we took off and landed, just on that trip alone.  

But once I had kids, something changed.

And then September 11th happened.

And then a flight to Miami, in the world's tiniest plane (that was probably only a glider in disguise) nearly brought me to my knees.  That trip ended with a rental car being driven back north...because hours in the car were much better than dying in the Florida swamp, covered in palmetto bugs, after a fiery crash.  (Palmetto bugs - my other great fear…)

Since then, every now and then, I’ve had to fly.  So, I do it, but I’m not happy about it.  God gets me through, but there is no part of me that enjoys any of it or the head and chest cold I usually get as a souvenir.

My husband even got his pilot’s license a few years ago...and I’ve yet to go up.  I told him the only way I would go is if his dad was in the cockpit, or our pastor.  My thinking, of course, is that his dad was a pilot in the Marine Corps and could surely stop any crash from happening.  And I have a funny feeling we're still such a motley crew, that God isn't taking our pastor away now, so that plane would stay up...

Hey, just trying to stack the odds….

Well, you know when you just *know* something?  And it doesn’t make much sense at the time, but you know?  Maybe you trust a few people with this secret, maybe you don’t.  Either way, you don’t have much to back it up, except a feeling deep inside.  

Well, I’ve known 2014 would be the year to fly. To surrender this fear.

Except, wasn’t that just dumb?  Where would I go, because PRAISE GOD, the Allume conference moved to South Carolina, the very year I began to go! And I'd also managed to convince myself I might be able to live my whole life and not see France or Italy.  If that wasn’t proof that I would never, ever - EVER, NEVER - need to fly, I don’t know what was?  Yet, I just knew.

I knew God was calling me to hand over this fear that had controlled me.  So, I did.  

And wouldn’t you know it, then He called me to fly.  Funny how that works, huh?  But the reasons why have His fingerprints so all over them, that I couldn’t say no, even if I wanted to.  

This Friday, I’ll be flying to Houston, to meet with the Godsizeddreams.com website team.  We’ll be planning, and laughing, and celebrating how God has moved in this last year.  (While the site actually launched in December, it’s been in the works for almost a year.)  Even the gathering itself is such a huge blessing, that only He could bring about.

Shortly after returning from Houston, I’ll be going on a mission trip with our church.  I’ve always considered myself more of a “sender” - as in, “I’ll stand on the shore, and seek God and pray, while YOU set sail to spread the Good News!” but, whew, if God didn’t knock that long-held belief on it’s ear.  

We’ll be going to Jamaica, to love on His people there.  It will have been 30 years - give or take - since I’ve been there, and on much different terms.  Then, it was with my mom and dad, and I was feeling quite safe!  This time, well, I don’t think I can talk my mom into it and never mind her passport probably expired in 1958.

So, another flight.

Another chance for God’s glory.

{I am sweating just typing it.  So, there will be much glory for Him, if this big chicken survives, of that I’m certain.}

Sometimes our God-sized dreams involve our greatest fears.  

Wait, let me try that again.  

Usually our God-sized dreams involve our greatest fears.  But something happens when we surrender even those.

{Don't ask me what - I'll let you know when I get back...oh, please, no palmetto bugs.}

______________________

Linking up with other God-sized dreamers, at www.Godsizeddreams.com - won't you join us?


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When Your Miracle Walks Beside You



Last Friday was a difficult day for many bloggers.  Those who tossed their hat into the (in)courage ring, hoping and praying they might be one of the five chosen for a permanent position on their writing roster.


I can’t imagine what a difficult decision it was for those at (in)courage.  475 applied, and only 5 could be picked.  


The "no" emails went out on Friday morning. {And yes, one wiggled it's way into my inbox! Darn!}


Later that day, a friend’s words got caught in my ears. She was explaining her sadness over receiving one of the no emails, “I had so hoped that this was it…”


I couldn’t place exactly how I was familiar with the phrase, but I knew I’d said the very same words.  Many times.  In prayer, in tears, in conversations…


And then yesterday I remembered...  


It was the story of the walk to Emmaus.  Two disciples were walking and discussing their sadness over the crucifixion and how hope seemed lost.


The chief priests and our rulers handed him over 
to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 
but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”


They had hoped.


Had.  (Past tense.)


Oh, that point when hope is gone.  When it’s past tense.  When the thing you think is it, turns out not to be…


It’s simply heartbreaking.  

Here’s something I noticed. Those disciples?  They were in the process of walking with their Miracle.  (Present tense.)


Jesus was walking with them, talking to them even, but they couldn’t see Him.  Not until the time was right and their eyes were opened.

I prayed those verses back to God at times when it felt like my dreams were shattered. It was the only thing that gave me comfort. Now I know, just beyond those times, God had so much in store for me.

I was walking beside my Miracle, not always aware of it.


Despite a broken heart, is it possible you could be walking beside your Miracle?  Deep in the midst of His presence, even though hope might feel lost?  

For you, sweet friend, who hoped {past tense}, He is there {present tense}. Right now. Every step of the way.

___________________

"I've learned that God sometimes allow us to find ourselves in a place where we want something so bad that we can't see past it.  Sometimes we can't even see God because of it.  When we want something that bad, it's easy to mistake what we truly need for the thing we really want. When this sort of thing happens, and it seems to happen to everyone, I've found it's because what God has for us is obscured from view, just around another bend in the road.
-- Bob Goff,  Love Does (affiliate link)

Photo Credit: marfis75 via Compfight cc