Expectancy…

For many years now, I’ve heard stories from friends, read countless social media posts, and heard it talked about from the pulpit…”God gave me a word for the year.” Then I would listen as each person unpacked what it meant to them that God gave them a word.  Well, why did I never receive a word from the Lord for my life? For the year ahead?  Goodness sake, for the DAY ahead!

Simple answer.

I never asked for one.

Yeah, I know…kind of a “duh” moment.  Honestly, I never asked for it before because I thought it was just the trend of the decade.  Everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to follow along with the latest “Christian thing to do.” If I’m really and truly being honest with you though, I also never asked for God to give me a word because I was afraid of what it would be and what would be required of me to live into that word He had for me. I’m guessing y’all might be feeling the same way.

So…what to do?

Pray…and ask!

I John 5:14 is quite clear about this and says, Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

There is so much in the Christian arena that has it backwards about asking the Lord for something in prayer.  There is absolutely NOTHING in the Bible that tells us that all we have to do is ask and we get whatever we want.  This is making God into a wish-giving genie and that is definitely who the Lord is.  The verse above says that whatever we ask that is in line with the plan and purpose He has for our life, that is what He will give.  And when we are close to Him, when we lay down our wants and needs at the feet of His throne, then the depths of our heart, mind, and soul are completely immersed in desiring what HE wants for our life…and we in turn want that too.

In January of this year, I went trembling before the Lord and asked Him to give me a word for the year of 2017.  Immediately I heard God breathe the word “Expectancy” into my heart.  “Did I hear You correctly Lord?  Expectancy?  Oh man…what do you mean by that?  As long as you don’t mean that I’m literally going to be ‘expecting’ then I’m good with your plan.”

{I’m in no way diminishing the joy of being pregnant and bringing a child into this world…we have three daughters and they are 23, 21, and 17…our oldest is getting married in November…and I’m 48 years old…that would totally freak me out to have a baby at this stage in my life!}

So, expectancy…okay…

The only questions from above that I felt I had a clear answer about was ~ Yes!  I did indeed hear the Lord correctly.  And No! Not a literal baby would be joining our family.  Whew…okay…lets roll!

This word has lingered in my heart all year long so far and every time something wonderful was about to happen or actually happened, I would smile up at my Father and thank Him.  But I felt like I wasn’t getting the full gist of what God intended with this ‘word of the year’.  I kept feeling like something is coming but I have no idea what that is.

I’m a planner.  I like to make lists.  I like to cross off tasks from my lists.  I am known to add things to my list that I accomplished just so that I can cross it off my list!  To walk around with a sense of expectancy every day is actually kind of frustrating and a bit mentally exhausting because I find myself In a constant state of waiting.

I don’t like to wait.  I really hate waiting.  No, like, I really really hate it!

But that my friend is a HUGE part of being expectant.

The Psalms are filled with wonderful verses to encourage us in the wait…

27:24 ~ Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.

33:20 ~ We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield.

39:7 ~ Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.

40:1 ~ I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.

130:5 ~ I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word.

So much of our life is spent waiting and expecting.

You take a test in school to see if you will pass on to the next grade level or if you’ll make it into a Graduate program…and then you wait for the results…expecting the outcome you hope for.

You find out you’re going to have a baby…and you wait a long 9 months and wonder what incredible miracles are going on underneath the expanding skin of your belly…and  you wait…you are quite literally, Expecting!

You are dating and you are sure that the person you are with is “The One”…you wait for the proposal to come…expecting to have your dreams come true.

But what happens when the waiting lasts way longer than you want it to?  What happens when the outcome you expected to happen, doesn’t?  Do you feel like you’ve wasted your time, efforts, or prayer time? Especially when you feel like the thing you are waiting for, that event that you are so full of expectancy for, doesn’t come to pass…or at least not how you imagined it would?

What do we do then?  I know I have had those seasons in my life when absolutely nothing seemed to be going in my favor in that of our little family. Constant worries about finances, health, personal issues, and the future.  Would anything ever work out for us?  Would life be okay again? What kind of witness am I to unbelievers when they know I’m a Christian but it appears that God isn’t hearing me in the wait.

Look carefully and see the difference between what I just wrote above and the verses I’ve shared with you below.  What do you see?

Psalm 5:1-3, 11-12, beautifully captures the heart of the one who is waiting…

Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. But let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield.

The difference is the focus of my heart.

When it’s all about me, the scope of life is quite small. When I remember that my focus needs to be on the Lord, my whole world opens up to see what it is that HE wants me to be interested in, focused on, who crosses my path that needs encouragement, and so much more.  Suddenly, the wait isn’t unbearable any longer.  I can walk confidently throughout my days and have a heart of expectancy because I know that I serve a God who created the Universe and has created a plan and purpose just for me!  That’s pretty amazing people!!

We won’t always see the fruit of what we’ve been waiting for.  We don’t always get the answers we want.  But we have a secure hope in the Lord that He has the answers and He knows what is best.  We also have the gift of His written Word…the Bible…which is full of encouragement with incredible stories of those who have gone before us in the wait.

Abraham and Sarah were actually told what they could expect to happen…but they had to wait for decades to see the promise. (Genesis 12 and 21).

Moses was saved from certain death because his mother hid him, Pharaoh’s daughter found him, God called him, he came up with every excuse in the book, and then trusted God would give him the strength to accomplish the task of setting the Israelites free. Although Moses knew the promises that would happen, he was disobedient in the wait and was able to move fully into the fruit of the promise. (book of Exodus). But he remained expectant.

Saul (of the New Testament) had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus ~ WHILE he was still beating and torturing Christians. Immediately Saul was blinded by the glory of the Lord, soon after was healed through prayer from a man who feared him (but completely trusted Jesus), and became Paul…a man whom the Lord built His church (Acts 9).  In Acts 9:15-16 says of Paul, But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” This is just one story proving that God sees the whole picture and He is trustworthy in His promises, His decisions, His plans, and in what He asks us to be expectant for.  It is not an easy task to do what God has set forth for us to accomplish, but it’s not about us and it won’t be easy!  That’s why we must constantly lean into the Lord and follow His plan!

Today, be bold in the Lord and ask Him to whisper to your heart what He wants for you.  Be it a word for the year, a task He wants you to undertake, a promise He has for you in the future…whatever it is, ask Him to show you how it is you are to move forward in the time of waiting, in this season of expectancy. When you are in line with His plan, He will be oh so good in showing you HOW do wait in Him.  How to rest in Him.

He will be faithful to bring you a sense of peace and calmness while you are expectantly waiting for His promises to come to fruition.  If for no other reason that your faith in the Lord will grow by and extraordinarily large amount!!

And whatever it is, it will be well worth the wait.

Blessings,

René

~~ Psalm 37:5-7a ~~ Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him;

Psalm 37 verse 5

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t pay for the Fancy Water…

On our recent trip to China {totally love that I am able to tag along with Tony on his business trips} I noticed something at each of the hotels, each room we were in had at least two free 16oz. bottles of water. With tags or coasters that encouraged the guests to take the water with various sayings…”stay hydrated” ~ “water is life” ~ “hydrate your mind”.  Although they offered these free water bottles, that  by the way, were replenished daily whether the original bottles had been drank or not, there was also one illustrious extra-large bottle of “fancy water” – a well known name brand.  But that one you would have to pay for.

So each day, the guests have to choose – drink the free water or pay a ridiculous amount of money for the name brand water.

Hey, I was just excited that all of these hotels offered the choice…and yes, I’ll take the free water. Every. Day.

Once we arrived at our 3rd hotel, and the free bottles of water continued to appear, I couldn’t help but think about the life-giving water that we are freely offered by Jesus.

How often have I gone for “the fancy water” & by-passed what the Lord is offering to me as a gift?

So what do I exactly mean by “fancy water”?

I want to be very clear here that the examples I’m about to give are NOT bad or wrong…it’s just that sometimes we place a higher level of dedication and interest in the name brand stuff.

When an author comes out with a new book, I’m clicking on amazon to buy it faster than I should. {Seriously…if y’all are interested in reading/studying just about any Christian book/devotional/study that’s been released in the last ten years, I’m sure I have it & I’ll let ya borrow it!} Sometimes I make myself stop & simply place it in my “book list” for a future purchase.

  • I’m on email lists for online bible studies and daily/weekly devotional.
  • I’m in several different bible study groups on Facebook.
  • I follow a myriad of amazingly gifted & talented speakers, authors, and singers.

All of these things are good.  All of these groups are beneficial to my spiritual growth. All of these people speak/share scriptural wisdom, and are also vulnerable enough to share with thousands of strangers via their insta-stories, what God is helping them work through in their life at the moment.

However…..

When I count on scrolling through social media to get my fill of God’s word through inspirational quotes, meaningful scripture verses, or heartfelt stories ~ I’m drinking the fancy water. 

But wait you say…social media is free! 

Yes ~ but I’m paying with my time.

I’m paying with “quick fix” mind set. 

Let’s be real, if someone were to ask you at the end of the day what the most inspirational post you “liked” that morning was…would you be able to answer them? I know most of the time I couldn’t. I might remember the basic gist of a few but not word for word.

John 4:10, “Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

So what’s the “free water”?

It’s Jesus. It’s Him as the Living Word. It’s Him as the fountain of Living Water.  

It’s Jesus. The One with whom we will never thirst again.

When I spend my time reading the Bible ~ apart from bible study time ~ and truly dig in deep asking God to reveal to me what I am to learn that day about His character, then I am truly refreshed. 

The best moments of reading my Bible come when I am searching to know more of who God is and not “what’s in this for me” mode.  The more I know about God, about the Bible, about the story of the Bible…the more that God will reveal to me about who He wants me to be…who He has created me to be for Him.

The Living Water Jesus freely offers to us came at a great price.

It is free to us because we can never {like. Ever. Ever. Not. Ever.} come close to living a life that would earn our way to eternity. Jesus died on the cross, along with all our sin, and rose again so that we could have the gift of bring free of the death that sin brings…the permanent separation from Him will not happen to those who receive the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. 

John 7:38, “ The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Read your books.

Attend bible studies in your church or online.

Follow your fave people on social media.

Just don’t stop there. 

Actually, don’t start there either.

I’m guilty of this more often than not, so this blog is for me just as much {or more!} than maybe for you. I honestly appreciate the time you have given to read along with my musings of the day. 

Stay hydrated with the Water of Life and your heart and mind will be hydrated as well.  Enjoy the time you spend with  the Lord, praying & reading scripture.

You will come away refreshed without one iota of regret for the time spent with your free water. I promise!

Blessings,

René

John 7 verse 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations and Preparations…

I absolutely LOVE to have parties & get-togethers!! To the point it drives my sweet husband a bit crazy. 

I mean, what better way to get your house clean than to prep for a party! Right? In our almost 27 years of marriage, we have moved 14 times…yep…fourteen! And every single time, we’ve hosted family & friends for a birthday party or holiday celebration within a month of our move in date. My family indulges me, even in the midst of my crazy, to help get the house in order.

Boxes are unpacked, items put away, pictures are hung on the walls, and drawers are filled. And okay, whatever I don’t know what to do with in the moment, stays in the box and goes into the garage! Come on…you’ve got a few (or 20!) of those boxes in your garage too!! 

But inevitably, “crazy-town mom” would rear her ugly head & the beautiful event we were preparing for would be scarred with one of my freak outs. It’s hard sometimes to look at photos of various events from past because they are marred (in my mind at least) by my unrealistic expectations that I poured out on my family like boiling tar over the walls of a castle onto the enemy. It still makes me cringe, and I once again have to give those guilt feelings to the Lord and ask Him to touch my heart & mind with His grace…and grace for my family too.

Over the years, the intensity of planning parties has lessened for me because the true value of these times of celebration is about the people. It’s not about the platters & bowls matching perfectly on an expertly laid out serving table.  And thank the Lord, I stay away from Pinterest…no judgement for you if you have all kinds of things ‘pinned on you party boards’…I just know that for me, it would be more of a burden than a joy.

But I LOVE to celebrate….like, EVERYTHING!  I have boxes in the garage for every holiday…Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Fall, Thanksgiving, and of course Christmas (those take up the most space).  And yes….there is a difference between “Fall” and “Thanksgiving” decorations!!

I’ve been known to put in silly  notes to my kids lunches all the way through high school!  I love to arrange tea parties and coffee dates with friends, just because. Surprising a special teacher at school with treats or their favorite Starbucks drink. Baking cookies during the holidays and throwing old-fashioned “cookie exchange” parties.

I simply LOVE to CELEBRATE!  After all these years, I’m finally getting better at the “pre-celebrations” part!

Several years ago, September 9, 2013 to be exact, my husband’s first book was released!  It was so exciting!  He had worked on it for over two year in-between his day job and keeping up with all of our family adventures.  So of course, I wanted to throw him a party to show him how proud we all were of him.  We wanted to celebrate his accomplishments!

He wanted to go out to dinner with just our family.

So of course, I organized a surprise party for him with our friends and family!  Appetizers for the guests to enjoy until we got back home and yummy desserts to enjoy after we arrived.

I had the task of making sure he didn’t go out to our “garage fridge” so he wouldn’t see all the goodies. Then, I had to figure out how to get him out of the house. The errand I created wasn’t one where we would get dressed up, and I thought, “What does it matter? We’re celebrating his achievements, not our wardrobe!”  I had our three girls ready to spring into action to set up food & decorations after we left. I remember how surprised they were when I told them, “Y’all know where all the serving platters are, you know what food we’re serving, have fun with it, get creative & use whatever you want.”

They just stared at me like I’d spoken in a foreign language. Finally one of them spoke up and said, “Anything? Are you sure? I mean, usually you want things in a specific way.”  And they were right…they’d seen “crazy-town mom” one too many times. I assured them that I would be happy with whatever they did & wanted them to use their creativity. The best part…I meant it…and they believed me.

Oh, and my sweet husband was completely surprised & loved the party. No stress. No craziness. Just celebration!

But what really has spurred my recollection of that party was the “party weekend extravaganza” we recently enjoyed. 

Yes…ENJOYED…every minute of it!!

I enjoyed it thoroughly because I let go of my unrealistic expectations & control. I remained completely present at every event. Not allowing myself to jump to the next one. Each celebration was unique unto itself & could not be repeated.  The help that was offered, was gladly received.  The friends who helped set up and clean up were immensely appreciated. Dirty dishes in the sink for days…didn’t matter because that’s what a dishwasher was for and there was plenty of time later for that.  The people were the important parts of each celebration to focus on.

Within three days, these were the fabulous memory-making parties our family was involved with:

Friday night – High School Baccalaureate for our youngest daughter, followed by a family dinner, and a 10pm showing of “Wonder Woman.” ~ which was amazing!!

Saturday morning/afternoon – High School Graduation (our last daughter graduated..so this was really “it” for high school!), followed by her party.

Saturday evening ~ drove an hour-ish to my nieces “California Baby Shower”…she is such a cute pregnant momma!  So wild that I’ve known her since she was 3 months old and now she’s married and about to become a Mom!

Sunday morning ~ Family Wedding Shower for our oldest daughter.  What a joy to meet with all of her fiancé’s side of the family.  And seriously….my first baby is getting married!  WOW!!!  This shower was lovingly given by his side of the family,  and it was truly a blessing to simply “showing up” and celebrating my girl and seeing how loved she was by her new soon-to-be family.

Sunday afternoon ~ Visit with my father-in-law for his 94th Birthday.  It was worth the hour long drive to see him for a quick bit and tell him how much we love him.  He is not a great health right now, so it was important we go and see him instead of just calling.

Sunday evening ~ Visit with my parents, brother and sister-in-law to celebrate and early Father’s Day (another hour-ish drive).  Our middle daughter was in town for the graduation and Tony and I would be out of the country on the actual day.  Since this was the busiest day, we decided that we would have dessert and coffee instead of a full meal.

Then….back home! Exhausted but happy!

Each of these events were special and worth celebrating fully!  We made it to each one on time (um…yeah….first time to get to graduation ceremony and did NOT have to take the satellite parking shuttle service back to the venue thank you very much!) and I allowed myself to have fun at each one.  Because I was not thinking of the next one!

It was a whirlwind weekend for sure, but absolutely none of the photos that were taken have even a hint of “crazy town mom.”  I love that!

I’m thankful that the Lord is helping me to grow in this area because He created me with a love for celebrating my people!  What I do with that gift is either honoring to Him or honoring myself.  We all know which attitude is better to have.

When I’ve tried to prepare for a party with the intention of impressing those in attendance, it has rarely gone how I expected it to go and end up regretting choices, being ashamed of a negative attitude I allowed to take hold of me, or worse yet, making my family feel like they cannot do anything well enough or good enough simply because it’s not how I would have done it.

I believe God will bring back this “Celebration Weekend” to my mind whenever I start giving “crazy town mom” the keys to the party bus!

God wants us to celebrate…it’s in our nature because it is in HIS nature to celebrate!  The Bible is full of celebrations and feasts, and not one of them was to glorify the host or the party planner.  They were to honor Him….for His goodness, His mercy and grace, His protection, and His joy and love that He has for us.

In no way have I reached perfection in the party planning adventures…but I’m getting much better. I’ve become an expert of the “quick clean” ~ which is nothing to really be proud of…just being honest here…seriously though, don’t open my bedroom door!

But when people leave my home, I want them to go away from the house with a smile on their face, a lightness in their heart, and a feeling of being refreshed because they had been celebrated…they had been warmly embraced and made to feel welcome.

Don’t be afraid of the celebration…of the party planning…of the organization of it all.  Once you have the idea of a party, give it back to the Lord and He will guide you in the steps of the preparations. He really does care about you and how you want to celebrate the people in your life.

So go plan that party!  It’ll be fun!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Celebrations blog

 

A New Calling…

Today, I am living in an “in-between” frame of mind. It is Wednesday morning in Shanghai and it is early evening at home in SoCal. My mind is in two places at once and so is my heart.

I had to write this fine before the memory subsides…that is, if it will.  I wasn’t even sure that I was going to post this for “all to see” but that is the point of sharing what God has laid on your heart.  Let others know so that they can partner with you!  Our stories and our experiences are meant to be shared.

I left the hotel after having breakfast with Tony (my man!), to walk down to the local Starbucks. Yeah, I know….but sometimes you just need the smells & tastes from home.

As I stood outside at the corner waiting to cross the street (or should I say, waiting to play tag with the myriad of cars, pedestrians, scooters, and bicyclists) I was struck by this thought….

“How many of these people know the Lord.” 

I can tell you that I normally don’t have that question running through my mind unless I’m in a situation that I’ve prepared myself to be in. Does that resonate with anyone else? I think living in America, I just figure that everyone at least knows who God and Jesus are. They may or may not believe in Him as their Savior, but they have heard His name.  I mean, I am a “tag along” on Tony’s business trip, not on a purposeful, planned for, missions trip.

The next moment, the Holy Spirit begins to whisper a directive to my heart…a promise of sorts. One that I’m totally unprepared to hear. 

“These are my people and I am calling you to love them. I am calling you to be available to serve my people in ways you have only begun to imagine. I am calling you to love my people around this world who are desperately seeking Me but don’t know how to find me.”

I began to feel completely undone in my heart, the tears started to well up in my eyes, and I was both thrilled and terrified to begin to ponder what all this means.  So I guess I was terrifrilled?

So, not wanting to scare anyone around me as I walked down the street, I let my heart ask the questions.  I was already crying, talking out loud would bring way more attention than I wanted to garner.

“What are You talking about Lord?” 

~ I’m telling you to love my people. You have Me so you have the ability to do that.

“How am I supposed to do what you’re asking?”

~ I gave you the gift of writing and conversation, so use that.

“Do you mean I’m literally going to travel the world?”

~ You have a passport & a 10 year travel visa to China, don’t you?

….ps….I love it when the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor in His answers…

“Okay, what do I do now?”

~ Just listen to My voice and you will know My plans for you.

Um….okay….

But being me, I want to know and I want to have it all figured out…now. 

I will tell you that even now, sitting at a window table in Starbucks, the tears are once again pouring down my cheeks. My heartbeat quickens as I think again about what I feel God just told me. And once again I think, “But what does that mean??” 

The Lord is so good…because as soon as I ask that again, He begins to bring memories to my mind of past conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had this past September with a sweet godly woman, Mrs. Trevor Yaxley, as I sat with her in a lovely restaurant overlooking a small pond that was mostly covered with water lilies. I met her because I had the privilege to travel with Tony on a business trip to Snells Beach, New Zealand.  {seriously…it’s so cute!}

Her husband owns a Christian animation company that Tony is connected to via one of their films.  On one of our last days in town, she asked to take me to lunch. It was one of those moments where you meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve known them your whole life.  

We talked about our kids, stages of life, and what we saw the Lord doing in our life.

If you know me, you know that I love to write and speak/teach within church ministries to women of all ages. My hearts desire is to be a published author and speak to women all over. Admittedly, when I shared this with her, I meant “all over” to be just around the country…the US…safe places. 

She said to me, “Why not the world? What about China?”

{insert sound of tires screeching here}

Wait now…what?!

I just about spit out my coffee! What in the world was she talking about?? What do I want to do that for? I’m a stay at home mom with stuff to do at home. {side note…don’t let anyone make you feel like you are “just” a mom….it’s the hardest job!}

You see, she & her husband have contacts all over the world including China. With their company, they do a lot of business with people in China. That coupled with knowing that Tony travels to China sometimes, she said, “The next time Tony goes to China, you should go with Him. God has a plan and I see you speaking to women all over the world about how much God loves them & wants to pursue them.”

Women from all over the world? Well, living in Southern California, that is definitely possible because of the melting pot of culture we live in. So, okay, sure…women from all over the world.  Check!

To be honest, when Tony found out that I could accompany him on this current trip to Shanghai, I didn’t remember that conversation with this lovely woman. I thought… “Yay…free trip to China? Let me go get my travel visa!”

Which brings another memory swirling to my mind.

When I picked up my Visa at a little Chinese travel office in Pasadena, the man & woman that were there were so happy to see me. I was greeted with smiling faces, “We have been waiting for you Miss René.” What? They are just being good business owners. But still…it totally caught me off guard. I got my wallet out of my purse to show them my ID & receipt of purchase, they checked all documents, and handed me my passport back. 

It was open to the page where my new 10 year visa had been secured. The gentleman said, “You have many trips ahead of you. Please enjoy my country and my people.”  

Um….okay….

Is that something he said to everyone? The woman behind the desk seemed just as enthusiastic in wishing me many good travels ahead.

Back to reality….My heart is once again struck with this memory, more tears are threatening to fall down my face. 

Isn’t that basically what the Holy Spirit just whispered to my heart a short bit ago as I decided to take a walk instead of going back to my room to read?

“These are my people and I’m calling you to love them.”

Right before we left for this trip, I took a friend out for a pre-birthday lunch at one of my favorite places in San Marino called Julienne’s. {If you go…buy a loaf of their Rosemary Currant bread…it’s amazing!!}

I was telling her about a funny thing that had come up for the trip. Tony actually has events & meetings set up with three different companies & the schedule was packed! So much so that he was double-booked one of the mornings. Lo and behold, the contact for one of the meetings asked if I would go in Tony’s place. Well sure, happy to help out. 

Then a few days later, I found out that I was expected to give a speech…in front of 50 members of the press, and about 150 other attendees. Good thing I’m not afraid of public speaking!! Thank you Jesus!!

I shared this with my friend at our lunch, and jokingly said, “My first speaking gig in China.” Haha!! She finished her bite of meatloaf and said, “Why are you laughing. It could be the first of many. You don’t know what God is going to do.” My friend Carla is one who hears so clearly from the Lord, speaks with conviction, and does so carefully as to only share what she hears the Holy Spirit says to her. When she has prophetically spoken over me, I know it’s something to pay attention to.

I didn’t end up giving my 5 minute speech but that was fine.  However, I felt a stirring in my heart during the mtg, but didn’t know why…until I heard God tell me that Tony & I would soon visit this city. Really? Me too? That doesn’t make any sense?  Tony is the business guy. What will I be there for?

Nonetheless, I did my job as VP of our Animation company, and all was good. Then our contact came over to me & said, “Come over here. Someone wants to ask you a question.” Turns out that “someone” was a local newscaster from the city that was hosting the press conference; and along with my interpreter, we had about a 5-7 minute interview. All I know is, there were far more then 200 people who saw that.

What does God have planned??? 

I don’t have anymore to go on right now, but I tell you what…I’m gonna be paying extra attention from now on!  I never have really had an experience where God’s plan has been perfectly laid out before me to follow.

I’m not nervous about the future. I have lived enough of life’s joys and challenges, that I EXPECT to be surprised by God and how He chooses to work.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit sometimes I wished that He worked according to my time table; but I’m always more grateful that He doesn’t. My journey of faith has been one of great triumphs and desperately low defeats. But my faith has grown stronger with each step. Strong enough that even when I get freaked out about life, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that His plans are the best…that His direction for me is the most fruitful.

So now, I wait. And I watch. And I dig deeper into God’s word to receive His direction.

I share this with you to ask you to join me in prayer ~ to see God’s path & to boldly walk through doors of opportunity, to love His people all over the world. 

Thank you for reading this & thank you for your prayers!!

Blessings,

Rene’

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Hope is like a belt buckle…

Yesterday, heard a pastor on the radio talking about hope. In that same day I visited my daughters’ high school to watch her sing with the worship team in chapel, and the teacher that spoke to the student-filled auditorium that morning… You guessed it – it was on hope. Later in the afternoon I read several posts from different Christian authors that I follow and all of their messages were about hope. In the evening on my drive home, the host on the radio program I was listening to was talking about hope. So it seemed very clear to me that God was calling me to investigate hope a little bit more and write them down for today.

Now I know my Bible enough to know that in terms of clothing analogies the “belt” in the Christian armor of God, is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). But as I heard the pastor speaking about Hope on that first radio program, he mentioned that hope is really the connection between the past and our future.

Whether it is something that is happening later in the day or even the next day, that is our future because it hasn’t happened yet.

Hope is something that is look forward to.

The radio pastor was encouraging us to remember what we have hoped for in the past and how God has answered those prayers, so that can fuel our hope for whatever it is we are looking forward to in the coming days, months, or years to come.

When I heard this analogy I have to admit that I immediately pictured one of those huge cowboy belt buckles! All blinged out and personalized for the owner.  Come on ~ you know what I’m talking about!!

I got to thinking more of the function of a buckle. The belt buckle must be connected to both ends of the belt fabric, in order to be effective. If we as believers are putting on our spiritual armor every day, which must include the belt of truth, we can in a sense, buckle that belt with the power of hope. Hope in the Lord!

When we know the truth of God’s Word then we can increase our confidence and walk in the hope that the Lord provides us. It says in Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  And not only that,  but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character,  and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (emphasis mine).

All of these things rest upon the other. Instead of looking at this list of virtues as a list as if they were all separate, imagine something different with me. Imagine the wood-shake siding of a cute little beach cottage. Each layer is built upon another to create that effect. So it is the same with all the characteristics that are named in this verse. We don’t get to skip some and just choose the ones that we want, or the ones that we think are going to be easier to attain.  That would leave holes in the siding and make the house susceptible to outside dangers.  So it goes with our spiritual life.

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Honestly, we can hope for a great many things. But hope is nothing if we do not have truth to base it on.  Hope is not effective in our life if we do not have faith in the one who gives us that Hope.

I think Romans 5:2 summarizes this concept beautifully ~ “We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

One way to promote the growth of hope in our own lives is to be immersed in community with other Believers.  I have had a variety of experiences in my life that caused great suffering for me.  Had I not had the partnership of those around me to pray for me and lift me up when I did not have the stamina to do so on my own, I shudder to think where I would be in this life.  In fact, scripture tells us of the joyful command from God to be in community.

Hebrews 10:23-25 says, Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering,  for He who promised is faithful.  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

A pastor at my church is well-known for saying, “remember in the dark what God has done in the light.” When we feel that we are in a dark place, that we are suffering, that we are feeling alone, we can take that walk of faith to remember all of the other times that God has lifted us out of a dark place. The moments of suffering that are replaced with rejoicing.

As we think on these things and as we look to scripture to bolster our spirits, we have our faith renewed and that will give life to a new hope in our heart for whatever it is we are trusting God for in the future.

With trust, faith, and hope…these three characteristics in our life are not a guarantee of ease or of even getting what we want or hope for. They are there to sustain us no matter what the outcome of our situation is. It is very difficult when the prayers that are lifted to the Lord from a heavy heart come back to us with the answer of ‘no’ or even the answer of ‘wait’. We do not have any guarantee of comfort, an easy life, or a life without suffering in various degrees.

What we are promised is that no matter what we go through, Jesus will always be by our side.

Forever and ever, Amen!

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Each New Year {especially} starts off with so much anticipation of what is yet to come. Sometimes the year ahead turns out exactly how we had hoped. Sometimes there are tweaks here and there, and sometimes our life is turned upside down.

These are the moments to choose to hold tightly to the hope that is in Jesus Christ. To choose to praise and worship the Father knowing that He truly does have the best in mind for us. God is not in the business of granting wishes or making our dreams come true.

But He will absolutely {and every time} give us what we need.

And what we need is to be filled with His Spirit so that we can shine the light of His glory to the world around us. The people in your realm of influence: be it in an office, a classroom, your own home, or your neighborhood. The Lord has put you right where you are for a specific purpose.

He has a plan for you, and it is good.

Blessings,

René

I Told You So….

So when you read the title, did you immediately picture a charming little scene of one child saying this to another?  Hands on hips, chin jutting out, smirk on face…with the sing-songy lyric, “I toooolllldddd you sooooo!”  Oh man, did I get in trouble if I ever said this to one of my siblings, or worse…if I said it to my Mom!  Yikes!  Just had to happen once and that swat cured me for life….or at least within earshot of my mother.

Today, I want to linger on this phrasing in a positive way.  The Lord Jesus tells us, in so many words, “I told you so” in a variety of circumstances throughout His word.  A more “biblical” way to say it is in all of the “I will” statements the Lord makes.  It is really exciting to me whenever I read the words “I will” because I know that if the Lord said it, He WILL do it!  Most of these verses are positive, but there are some that are in a tone of warning.  But the same is true for both statements ~ what He says He will do…He WILL DO IT!

As early as in Genesis chapter 2, the Lord tells Adam that He will create for him a special helpmate…and He created Eve (vs. 18). Throughout the entire book of Genesis, you can read mulitple accounts of God saving those who worship Him, destroying the earth He made because the people had become so evil, God promising Abraham & Sarah that they would have a child from whom a multitude of descendants would come from including Jesus, God comforting His people when they were discouraged, the promise of new land ~ and that’s just in Genesis!

Of course, the “I will” promises are much easier to take to heart but we have got to be fully aware of the “I will” warnings. We cannot simply go through life taking scripture out of context because it makes us “feel good.”  We cannot twist things around that are meant to be a warning into some kind of proof that we can do whatever we want because Jesus has said that once we confess our sin and our need for a Savior, that He will save us.

Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely and wholeheartedly believe that once we are saved by Jesus Christ, we do not lose our salvation.  We do not have to repeat the salvation prayer, “just in case” it didn’t work the first time.  In the same vein, we cannot ever do anything to earn our salvation either.  Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can do that.

The Lord brings us to Him to be saved, not so we can remain living in our sinful ways…so we can become like Him.  The world is so backwards right now saying that Christians aren’t fair.  True, there are some who call themselves christian and act nothing like the Lord teaches.  And it is true that Jesus will accept everyone exactly as they are.  However…Jesus will not abide by us STAYING exactly as we were.  He calls us to Himself to learn who HE is and how we can mirror His character.

We cannot be a light to the world if we haven’t changed our power source!

Let’s go to the scripture so you can see a few verses showing some of God’s “I Will’s…”

Romans 9:14-16 (HCSB) says, What should we say then? Is there injustice with God Absolutely not! For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.”

I love this because it reminds us that there is nothing that we can do on our own human efforts to change God’s mercy, blessings, grace, or discipline…it will be done as He sets forth.

Genesis 17:2 (HSCB) shows what God the Father says to Abram (aka Abraham after this blessing is spoken over him) when He calls him to leave his comfort zone, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”  And He did.  There were definite hurdles in the story (if you haven’t read it, go now and see how even though Abraham tried to hurry up God’s plan, God still had the final say on it all!)

Psalms 91:14-15 (HSCB), is a promise from the Old Testament as to how God will act toward His people when they believe in Him, Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he knows My name. When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor.” Even when we feel we are not being heard by God, or answered by Him, He does in fact hear our every cry.  He is in tune with our hearts because He loves us.  Remain connected with your Savior and trust that He has your best at heart.

Jeremiah 30:11 (HSCB), (spoken to Israel and Judah through the prophet Jeremiah after the Lord freed them from captivity) For I will be with you— this is the Lord’s declaration— to save you!  I will bring destruction on all the nations where I have scattered you; however, I will not bring destruction on you. I will discipline you justly, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”  The Lord God does not take joy in disciplining us, but because He loves us so much He will do what is needed.  Our lives are to be a reflection of Him and if we are not living out what scripture teaches then we are not representing Him properly to the world.

I love this verse in Isaiah 41:10 (HSCB) because it is a faithful reminder to me that as a believer, I have the power of the living God inside me and I can trust that what the Lord says here in scripture is true, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

On the other hand, Matthew 7:23 (HSCB) reminds us that those who choose in this life to ignore the authority of Jesus Christ and the fact that they need a Savior, He will have no choice on the day of Judgement but to say, “Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!'”  It is difficult to think of this sometimes, but the world has an opportunity every day to choose Christ and choose to serve Him.  When we do choose Him, Matthew 10:32-33 (HCSB) tells us what we will hear, “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.”

John 14:27-29 (HSCB) speaks beautifully to the peace that only God can give us. While John 4:14 (HCSB) shares the promise of the New Testament that the living water of Christ will well up in our soul.  Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB) provides the encouragement that following the Lord is the best way to become unburdened.

Perhaps one of the best “I will” statements that the Lord makes in Scriputre is found in Mark 14:36 (HCSB). “And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Even now as I read this it brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.  Because Jesus showed us that His heart was breaking for the task ahead, He ultimately was letting us know that the will of the Father is what is the most important to follow.  Jesus chose to live a human life that was destined for death in order to bring us eternal life that we don’t deserve.

As you read the Bible in your quiet times ahead, look out for those “I will” phrases (the “I told ya so’s). You will never find a promise that is unfulfilled.  You will never find a contradiction of God’s love and grace for us. Rest in His promises!

Blessings,

René

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* (HCSB) ~ Holman Christian Study Bible version *

Becoming UNentitled…

As I sit at my desk, on the cusp of a New Year, there are many thoughts rushing through my mind.

Will I make New Year’s Resolutions?  Will I keep those resolutions?  Should I not make any resolutions?  Do I really have to make any just because it’s “the thing” to do?  Oy vey!

So I’ve decided NOT to make any resolutions ~ I have decided to make an intentional decision to become UNentitled.

Entitlement is a word that is thrown around a lot these days.  Especially in terms of the younger generation of teens and early 20-somethings.  Here’s a shocker for you though…we all of bits of entitlement strewn around our life.  And it’s time to pick them up and get rid of all of it!

Just in case you are curious as to whether or not you walk around with any entitled attitudes, let’s start with my favorite thing to do ~ word study!  To give this little exercise a bit more gravity, insert the word “yourself” in place of  “a person”…if  you really want the impact, read the definition out loud.

Here we go…According to the dictionary, ‘entitle’ or ‘entitlement’ means: 1. to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.  2. to give (a person) the right to do or have something; qualify; allow.

Still don’t see it?  How about this…have you ever said any one (or more) of the following:

*It’s my right to be upset.  That person cut me off on the freeway.

*It’s my right to be offended.  She was rude to me.

*I’m allowed to angry.  My kids don’t listen to me.

*I’m allowed to be irritated.  My husband doesn’t notice what I’ve done all day around the house.  Do the clothes magically clean themselves?

*It’s my right to hurt. No one understands me and no one really cares about me.

*I’m allowed to sit in my pj’s all days, watch my dvr’d shows, and let everyone fend for themselves because I’m just plain old tired. (yeah..no…this one isn’t personal or anything…)

To be truthful and honest…I’ve been there at various points in my life and have muttered these phrases (and probably others that are just as inane) and felt completely justified in doing so.

                      God’s Word is full of proof that the                             exact opposite is true.  

We are not entitled to anything except death, without trusting in the Lord to save us from our sins.

Proverbs 18:2 (HCSB) is pretty clear as to what kind of person we are not to be, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.”

To be even more clear, in Jesus’ own words He tells us how we are to live our life.  Matthew 16:24-26 (HCSB) says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?”

We don’t like words like ‘deny’ or ‘lose your life’ ~ those do not resonate with our sinful nature of doing whatever we want, when we want, and how we want.  The challenge is there but becomes less when we do follow the Lord and take up the things in our heart that are actions and issues that Jesus loves and is concerned about.

Whether you are a parent or not, you have undoubtedly come across the infamous outpouring of emotional trauma when someone cries out to you, “It’s not fair!”  Oh, that’s my favorite (she says with a smirk!)  My girls know what my response to them will be…every time they say it….”The fair happens once a year and it’s where you can get funnel cake.  Move on.  Life’s not fair.”  I know they hate it when I say it, but I say it with a smile.  Most of the time, they have no idea that that little phrase and the half-smile on my face is what is saving them from a total mommy freak out!

There is responsibility we have to take when we sin and are disobedient.  We do not get to pick and choose what rules apply to our lives.  Simply because we don’t like certain scriptures in the Bible, or laws of the land, or rules in a household, does not preclude us from being accountable when we stray from those statutes.

Ezekiel 18:25-27 (HCSB) says,But you say, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’  Now listen, house of Israel: Is it My way that is unfair? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair?  When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, he will die for this. He will die because of the iniquity he has practiced.  But if a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life.”

Our generation of children do not have the corner market on the “it’s not fair” statements. The Israelite’s of the Old Testament have been saying it way before them!

Read that last sentence in Ezekiel again.  What a beautiful promise the Lord gives us!  When we turn away from what we think is our “right” and what we “are allowed” to do, and turn toward the Lord and what He calls us to do, He will ‘preserve our life’ and He will do it immediately!!

On a total side note, a really fun thing that is happening right now as I finish writing this post, is that I have a house full of teens ~ all Seniors in high school…about 25 of them…and they are delightfully loud and full of joy!  They are getting ready to surprise one of their friends for her 18th birthday.  My daughter has been decorating all day and preparing for this event.  The exact opposite of entitlement.  All of these amazing young people have chosen to set aside their own agendas, their own plans, in order to honor one of their friends and make her feel special.  I love this and I’m so excited to be a “fly on the wall” as I listen to them excitedly plan where to hide and when to yell, “SURPRISE!”

How will you lay aside your “rights” this New Year?  How will you decide to set aside your agenda in order to honor your friends? Your family?  What will you do when you feel the ugliness of entitlement begin to rise in your heart?

Stop and breathe and pray!

Whatever we ask of the Lord, that is according to HIS purposes and goals for our life, He will easily and surely give to you.  When you ask Him to give you a patient heart with your children (no matter how old they are!), when you ask the Lord to give you grace with the people driving slower than you on the freeway, when you feel offended by someone does or says, when you feel unappreciated ~ ask the Lord to fill you with His peace…with His goodness…with His grace.

And He will absolutely and perfectly do just that!

Enter each day with an attitude of service ~ trade out the entitlement and choose to find those ways to bless others.  You will not be disappointed when you follow the path that God has for you.

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Blessings,

René