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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.

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.

 

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.

The Fog Lifted, and I’d Forgotten What Was There

14 Mar

Life has been clouded a bit by the pressure of challenging circumstances, which I know is typical of the human experience.  Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to just keep up with the day-to-day grind, I miss out on the good stuff.

Then suddenly God blesses me with a moment of grace, and I remember to just take a breath.  When I exhale, the fog is pushed away, and I see that God has given me opportunities to love. Being an expression of God’s love is more important than anything else I keep myself busy doing.

It’s past time for me to pray more.  A few years ago, I didn’t have the same level of responsibility; and I had the joy of reading spiritual volumes and the Bible and of worshipping to my heart’s content.  Now I have little people counting on me and Jesus as my only partner.  But I’ve been forgetting to communicate with the One who says He’ll be my husband and father and mother when I have none.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve been living in a fog and carrying around wrong attitudes that lead to impatience with others.  But I know I’m not the only person with these struggles.  I believe the blessing of this hole I’ve dug for myself is that I can share the victory God gives to me as I climb to high ground.

These are the faces of the little ones God is giving me the clear blessing of helping to raise.  They are what I see when the haze clears.  I pray that the fog will be a lot more intermittent than it has been of late.

What Happens When You Say “Yes” to God

5 Mar

Do you have a favorite source for daily encouragement?  I do.  It’s the devotional book My Utmost For His Highest, which shares the wisdom of Oswald Chambers on the topic of giving your absolute all to God.  I’m personally convinced that doing exactly that is the secret to a successful life.  How much do I believe it?  The license plates on my car read:  “Ys 2 God,” which stands for “Say Yes to God.”  This is what the Utmost devotional is all about.

This is what my personalized license plates look like.

 

So in today’s reading from Chambers’ book I find a reminder that what surrendering to God basically amounts to is living for the purpose He has for your life.  If you choose your own way, if it’s not what God wanted, you’ve stepped off the path of his blessing and empowerment for daily living.

That’s the amazing payoff to doing life God’s way.  You are not only free from the stupid things of the world that do nothing but weigh you down, you also have the grace of God, which is the will to do what He wants and the power to do it.

Since I’m surrendered to God, when I find myself with a strong desire for something that comes out of my heart but not as a result of focusing on the world, I know that God intends for me to have whatever I’m longing for.  No, really!  It’s pretty amazing to walk with an ear for God.  Without fail, when I suddenly “long for” something or another, I soon thereafter find it on an incredible sale or it’s given to me as a gift.

This all means that my desires expressed on this website, I believe, are inspired by Almighty God.  He’s spurring me on to rise up and take hold of that which He has already given to me (I just need to bring it into the physical world from the spiritual).  At some point I’m going to do something very right or an amazing door will be opened to me.  I don’t have to sweat it.  Simply obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit (not the promptings of the flesh!), and it will happen.

That’s what happens when you say yes to God.