Archive | March, 2012

How to Be Happy When You’re Not Where You Want to Be

31 Mar

Selah, a fellow blogger, regularly posts gorgeous pictures of nature.  Today I literally wept as I looked at her images of the great outdoors.  A shot of their campground brought back a flood of delicious memories of childhood in which my daddy brought the family camping every summer at various locations across Texas.  Cousins or friends usually joined us, and the adventures were always awesome.

The desire of my heart is to live in the country and experience nature, but where has the good Lord placed me?  Directly in the heart of the fourth largest city in all of America!  This is literally the opposite of where my heart longs to be.

But don’t get the idea that this is a whining session.  I’m merely stating this fact in order to say that when we moved into our spacious new home, it was with me having decided that I would embrace city life.  I am purposely making it my own.

Before, I think I may have gone around town sort of gritting my teeth and/or holding my breath.  Now, I’ve opened my arms and heart wide to say, “This is where God has placed me, and I rejoice!”

We are members of the Houston Zoo and visit there frequently.

What a difference this decision has made.  My entire being is more relaxed, and the possibility of being an effective witness for Christ is no doubt ramped up.

My family is right here, and I’m sure that’s a great reason for God to have me in Houston.  So for now I will do what my daddy did.  I’ll bring the kids on major outdoor excursions every year, though I doubt we’ll camp the old-fashioned way (I don’t feel safe enough as a single woman in charge…armed with joy as my only weapon.)

A 2009 adventure -- a visit to Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas Hill Country.

 

Hebrews 11:8

New King James Version (NKJV)

Faithful Abraham

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

My Wait That Led to Prison

30 Mar

 

One of the reasons it takes devotion and courage to walk out the Christian life is because waiting is a big part of it.  (Who likes to wait?)  Well, I intentionally waited with patience this week on some pressing issues; by the grace of God, to be honest, it wasn’t even difficult.  Frankly, it has been a special time lately such as I haven’t experienced in a while, as though God’s hand is on me, helping me behave.

My patience this week paid off – all of the issues that were such a problem in my new home were amazingly resolved.  So I’m reminded that waiting really is an awesome thing, if you’re waiting for what God wants you to be patient for.

I once waited for 12 years for the opportunity to minister.  It’s what I wanted to do more than anything, but the good Lord had spoken to my heart that when my (now ex-) husband says it’s time to minister, that’s the same as God saying so.  The day arrived when, indeed, the ex told me I had his full support to go out and share the gospel wherever God opened doors.

God had been inspiring me to write songs ever since I became a Christian.  Somehow, in no time at all, I became a part of a prison ministry.  It was absolutely an amazing time.  I was part of a team of terrific people.  The other singers had far superior talent to mine, but I had a sincerity that seemed to touch hearts.  Not only that, but when I went into the prisons, I felt the love of God poured out through me like a gushing river.  Being a love conduit in prisons was a season that I consider the spiritual highlight of my life.

It wasn’t just the prisons; waiting those 12 years opened a lot of doors.  I prayed about my mediocre singing, asking God to make me more of a blessing in the prisons.  And He blessed me to write some rap songs which I performed, to the shock of inmates across Texas; and I became a huge hit.

Then out of nowhere, God blessed me with a television show ministry for youth, which was a deep desire of my heart.  It was offered at no charge, and God blessed that effort, too.

My waiting produced a whole heck of a lot of fruit during that period of my life.  It produced good results this week, too.

I think as Christians we’re always waiting for something, and that’s what keeps us moving forward in dependence upon God.  Is what you’re waiting for what God has in mind for you?  I think tomorrow I’ll confess here what I’ve been waiting for that God didn’t have in mind and about how now I have a new freedom for letting it go.

Philippians 3:20-21

New King James Version (NKJV)

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Freaked Out by Favor

29 Mar

I felt a little bit like a fraud this week as I stuffed down the inclination of my flesh to have a fit followed by a pity party. But I put on Christ by choosing to submit to the Spirit, believing that I would bear the fruits of the Spirit in spite of myself. God met me more than halfway and blessed me to be a reflection of His peace at home and everywhere else I went. One result of my calm demeanor was what seems to me and my family like a downright miracle.

Apple iPhone 3GS, Motorola Milestone and LG GW60

Apple iPhone 3GS, Motorola Milestone and LG GW60 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I actually thought I had a visitation from heaven when a man at a certain phone store gave me a replacement of a nice smartphone that I purchased 50 days before and that was now completely inoperable. The tricky part was that I bought the phone at one of the “unofficial” outlets, and they wouldn’t do what was right (I’m sparing you all the details of what happened).

So an angel by the name of Lamont did the right thing with essentially no questions asked and gave me a brand new smartphone to replace the one I bought on Groundhog Day. I literally thought this guy would soar back into heaven when I walked out, having completed His special assignment from God.

The favor of God is always a wondrous thing, especially when it’s the last thing you expect. I think I actually failed in my faith here by being so very shocked by the blessing. God is my heavenly Daddy. He cares about every detail of my life, and even the hairs on my head are numbered. This phone miracle was, of course, the way He’d want to bless one of his own.

Why am I so suprised?

Ephesians 3:20-21

New King James Version (NKJV)

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Testimony of a Human Bruise

28 Mar

I currently look and feel like a human bruise.  During my little family’s move into a larger apartment with nice wooden floors, I suffered two bad falls and simply got seriously banged up.  The amazing part, though, was that my arms and hands which had failed me so completely just days before held up just fine.

For the second time since beginning this blog, I feel numb.  There’s so much to be thankful for but at the same time so much is just plain difficult.  I find myself wondering if I took a wrong step or if I’m simply in the midst of a refining process.  The deed is done (the move), and I’ve discovered that as I face a flood of new challenges, God is faithful to keep me from drowning.

A natural tendency I have is to fight for what I think is right.  While fighting is definitely a part of the Christian walk, such as to war against the powers of darkness through prayer, I believe we’re supposed to be careful about the fights we choose to engage in.  So while my apartment has an unpleasant odor, my pricey new smartphone is forever dead, my washer and dryer are currently useless, and the second bathroom’s toilet seat is completely detached and a danger to use, what should my mind dwell upon?  Is there peace to be found in Jesus Christ?

Yes, God has given me peace; and I’m happy to testify that His presence is a perpetual comfort.

Philippians 4:4-9

New King James Version (NKJV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Meditate on These Things

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Bumper Sticker That Says it All

26 Mar

You know how a person’s tongue will sometimes stick out a little when they’re concentrating really hard on something like threating a needle?  That’s how my life as a Christian was for years.  I was trying to do things God’s way, but I couldn’t seem to do it.  Something was blocking my progress.

Then one day I was driving from Orange, Texas, to Galveston Island on a long stretch of road and I read a bumper sticker that said, “Let Go and Let God.”  Immediately, I recognized that the words were supplying the answer I was looking for.  I didn’t know why right away, though.

Gradually, I understood that the Christian life isn’t about trying to do things God’s way.  It’s about letting go of the steering wheel of our lives and letting God take control.  This is what the Holy Spirit is for.  We get out of the way and let the fruits of the Holy Spirit become manifest in our lives.  This kind of surrender yields fruit, and we always know that it was God and not ourselves that accomplished the love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

How do you let go and let God?  By taking up your cross daily, denying yourself – which means refusing to live for the purpose of fulfilling your personal agenda – and following the example of humility left by Jesus Christ.  A lot of prayer and meditation on the Word of God is required to get the Spirit to have more control than the flesh.

When I let go and let God, it’s like jumping into a river that has a powerful current and that sweeps me downstream in a joyous rush.  I’m usually most aware of God being in control when I’m doing things I believed to be impossible.

Life at its best is when we allow God in us to push against the boundaries of everyday ruts and pull us onto a new course.  It requires spiritual devotion and is so worth it.

Philippians 1:21

New King James Version (NKJV)

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

 

The True Test of Friendship: Help With Moving

23 Mar

My move is practically upon me, and all of the extra help fell through.  I’m a tad discouraged by this fact because of this new problem with my health, in that my hands in addition to my elbows hurt constantly.  I’m not just being whiny.  Tendonitis and debilitating arthritis combined would be a pain challenge for anyone.  But, anyway, I’ve lived long enough to know that anyone who makes the necessary sacrifice to help you move is usually a rare and fiercely loyal friend.  Now, help could still be forthcoming; the move hasn’t happened yet.

When the movers come, I’ve already decided that I’m going to allow the nature of Jesus Christ to shine through instead of my usual nervousness caused by some horrible moving experiences.  God is the one who provides for me, and my being upset and edgy about spending extra money on a move doesn’t help anything.  When I accomplish this goal, I will give all the glory to God because I think it’s impossible for me to do it myself.

Calm washes over me when I think about the fact that no matter what else happens with this move or in life, God is the most faithful friend.  He has never let me down, and I know that He never will.  He is Love; and I can trust that if anything bad has touched my life, He allowed it for a good purpose.  With God on my side, I’m never alone or without help.

Psalm 46:1

New King James Version (NKJV)

46 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

 

Are You Standing on the Right Soapbox?

22 Mar

I am often tempted to get up on my soapbox and wage a campaign for change about things like ridiculously long lines at Walmart after 9:00 pm, the bashing of Christianity in the media, the exclusion of genuine Christianity in Hollywood, and more recently why a company like Brach’s would stop making my favorite Easter candy which I’ve been eating since I was a little girl.  (Those marshmallow eggs are unavailable in all of Houston.)

But none of us can fight for every cause.

Backed by the favor and empowerment of God, I once organized a rally in support of our troops and in doing so was part of what began the “Support the Troops” movement that swept across America during Desert Storm in 1991.  (Read about my rally on the Congressional Record the day of 1-22-91 where Congressman Tom Delay spoke about the Alvin, Texas, rally and me, Stevie Johnson—before I took back my maiden name.)

At that event I got on my soapbox for the purpose of turning around the threat of treating soldiers the same way they were treated during Vietnam, and it made an impact on society (made national news, etc.).  So I know that one person backed by the support of God and the city she lives in can change the country.

That was a miraculous event, though.  I’d love to write about it more some other time.  The point is that when you get up on the soapbox that God is leading you to stand on, you are standing on the right soapbox.  But other efforts based on personal opinions and frustrations are not what we’re supposed to expend our energy on.

I believe that the biggest impact we can possibly make with our lives is to take the path God directs us to pursue.  When we go off on a tangent, we’re stepping off that God-empowered journey which will lead to ultimate success.  The results of our obedience won’t be known until we get to heaven; I have no doubt that standing in the right place at the right time will reap eternal reward beyond our wildest imaginations.

 

Matthew 17:19-21

New King James Version (NKJV)

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief;[a] for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”[b]

Paraffin Bath Prayers: Get on the List!

21 Mar

Did you ever come to the conclusion, when a life crisis stops you in your tracks, that God is sending you this message?

 

Slow Down!  Quit neglecting

the things of the Spirit!

Me, too.

Quiet time spent reflecting on God and praying has been a rare occurrence compared to the years when I commuted to Houston from the Clear Lake, Texas, or Alvin area.  All that drive time in bumper-to-bumper traffic was my big opportunity to sing, worship, and listen to sermon tapes.  Lately I’ve been missing all that time with God.

And wallah!  God arranged for me to have those times back, though in a different way.  Thank the Good Lord that, with these gas prices today, I don’t have to commute.  Instead, I will be dipping both of my arthritis-riddled hands in hot paraffin wax up to twice a day for 20 minutes per hand.  (Such wonderful pain relief!)

As I sit at my desk with one hand coated in lavender-scented wax, wrapped in a sandwich bag, and inserted into a thermal glove, I shall focus on God!  Okay.  I’ll also play some Words with Friends on my mobile phone.

But mostly this will be a ministry time.  I’m going to keep a running prayer journal and spend that time lifting people up.  I’ll also be writing down answered prayer.

Have you ever heard of Lakewood Church of which Joel Osteen is the pastor?  (It’s the biggest church in America.)  I’m a trained Stephen’s Minister there, which is comparable to a deacon in a Baptist church.  To be honest, I am switching to a smaller church.  But when I go to Lakewood, I am free to wear my badge and help pray, as needed.

In other words, I am a minister; and I’ve been a part of numerous prayer groups through the years.  I’ve seen God amazingly answer prayers, and I’m not shy about believing for miracles.

If you have a prayer need in your life, please consider sending me a specific prayer request.  Or, if you’d rather keep the details private, you can simply give me a person’s first name and I’ll lift them up before the Lord (He knows what’s going on, and that’s the important thing).

My hands may hurt, but I’m truly thankful that God has shown me that He’s blessing me to slow down and engage in a daily prayer ministry.

What on this earth is more powerful than a prayer of faith?  It’s crucial business and worth the suffering that drove me to my knees.

James 5:17-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Are You Ready for Life’s Fast Curve Ball?

20 Mar

Good thing I dabble in sports euphemisms because this one is perfect for the topic, which is about those times when life throws a practically impossible pitch that you weren’t expecting.  Such as a sudden death in the family or a diagnosis of cancer.  God has allowed me (though hasn’t caused me) to develop a debilitating condition in my fingers.  It’s most likely osteoarthritis, and I’ll find out officially from a doctor soon.  My digits have knots on the joints, and my right middle finger has already become slightly deformed.  My fingers gradually got worse and now my job of writing is sometimes excruciating.

Unless God decides to do a miracle, which I believe he might, I’m looking at a whole new level of chronic pain that will worsen until I finally go to sleep and wake up in the presence of Jesus.  This disease is so serious, I will qualify for disability; but I will continue to work and write no matter what.

God has blessed me with a lifetime of good health, though I did experience enormous pain for many years due to endometriosis.   When I finally had everything related to the pain removed, I felt like a little girl.  It was so freeing to be released from the prison of pain I’d been locked in for so long.

I believe that when God allows a hardship it’s because He has a blessing bigger than I would have been capable of receiving without having gone to that particular school of suffering.  Even though the pain is so bad that when I wrote my first article this morning, I experienced the strangest thing—tears just streamed constantly down my face because of the pain–I am as confident now that I’m in the palm of God’s hand as I was before my health took this devastating turn.

There’s a whole lot that I’m ignorant about, but two things I do know:

  1. Dipping your hands in hot paraffin wax greatly relieves joint pain, and I’m going to invest in a small paraffin bath tomorrow; and
  2. No matter what life throws at me, I’ll never catch God looking the other way when I need Him (which is every millisecond of every day).

Job 1:21

New King James Version (NKJV)

21 And he said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 

How I Sort of Stopped the World’s Clocks

19 Mar

Do you know about the guy in the Bible that God turned back the clock for?  (Related scriptures are below.)  It was very cool and the reality of the “missing time” has been proven by science.  Well, God did a similar trick for me today; it’s like the earth actually stood still.

Say WHAT?

I started praying for today yesterday; and I continued with prayer and meditation on the scriptures this morning.  As a result of prayer – because this is no coincidence (I’ve experienced this exact thing before) – I was more productive than I’ve been in ages:

  • Wrote 10 assignments
  • Went for a long walk
  • Spent quality time with the kids
  • Prepared for and completed a radio broadcast Bible study with the kids
  • Did a lot of work on my blogs
  • Played Word With Friends with lots of friends
  • Got a real inspiration for an invention that’s very clever (I hope it’s not like the other things I “invented” and then found out they already existed…lol)
  • Did laundry
  • Made an online friend (Hello, Bird!)
  • Worked on getting prints of Logan’s birthday party so that I can give prints to his friends (40 downloaded so far)
  • Exhibited complete patience with the kids without any edgy moments

Another factor about the day that made it all the more amazing is that I experienced excess pain – I actually cried from the pain.  What’s going on is that, besides my chronic tendonitis in both elbows, more and more finger joints are being plagued with osteoarthritis, which is quite painful.  (I’m very allergic to glucosamine, which fights the effects of this disease.)

So, yeah, it’s really as though God stopped the world’s clocks and let me accomplish a great deal on a very satisfyingly productive day.

The only thing is, I hope this clock miracle doesn’t mess up my schedule even more, what with “spring forward” still confusing my sleep schedule.  (lol)

I totally recommend praying passionately.  Just watch and see what happens.

 

2 Kings 20:8-11

New King James Version (NKJV)

And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?”

Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?”

10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.”

11 So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.