Following Jesus Takes Grit

Have you ever made a promise to God not knowing what kind of resolve it would take, but you were all in?

In my late twenties, God called me to follow Him into ministry. In yielding to His calling I promised God I would never turn down an opportunity to share with others about the mercy, grace, and redemptive power He granted me. I committed to following Him anywhere, anytime, and at any cost.

Little did I know what kind of grit I would need to keep my commitment.

There have been seasons when I wanted to retract my promise. Seasons that were too hard, too overwhelming, and too painful to forge ahead.

Have you ever wrestled with keeping your promise to God?

Click here and join me over at Contagious Joy ministries to read the rest of the story.2016-06-27-abigail-keenan-barnimages-008

 

Let God’s Voice Be Louder Than Your Fears

 Woman and rain shower

Have you ever felt lost while traveling? You call out for help, but no one answers. My husband had military orders to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and we decided to save money by moving ourselves. He drove the U-Haul truck full of our meager belongings, and I followed in our car. We were all set to communicate freely via the CB radio and use an atlas to navigate. This was before cell phones, y’all! I knew if I could keep the truck in my line of sight, I would be okay. Before we would approach a turn, Chris’ voice would come over the CB radio giving me a heads up. I was comfortable following his lead, trusting he knew the path we needed to take.

It wasn’t until nightfall my comfort turned into intense distress. The heavy traffic caused us to separate, and I could no longer see the truck. I called Chris’ name over the CB radio several times. Panic gripped my heart when I did not hear a response. I had no idea where I was, the traffic was pressing in on me, and I started crying hysterically. My fears of the unknown jammed my logical thinking, and I became a wreck.

Have you ever felt alone in a situation and panic set in?

Have you ever cried out for help and felt like no one could hear you? It’s possible this is something only I have struggled with, right?

When we allow fear to grip us, we tend to react illogically. Analyzing what the outcome could be, we can get overwhelmed and let negativity sidetrack us. The noise we create in our panicked mind blocks us from hearing anything other than our inner voice. This can leave us feeling unheard, alone, and lost.

But here’s the good news: God’s word can comfort us and bring us to a logical state of mind:

  • Be mindful God hears us.

 In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help;             He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (Psalms 18:6)

  • He calls us to be still.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

  • He alone is our calm.

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul. (Psalms 94:19)

  • He is always before us and will never leave us.

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I am a little embarrassed to admit, but that night on the dark highway, when I was gripped by fear, I was not calmly calling out for help-I was screaming! I was screaming so much so that I had to force myself to breathe before I passed out. It was at that moment I heard a voice.  It was Chris calling my name, “Jodi I hear you. You are okay. Please calm down.”

He then proceeded to navigate me to an exit where we reunited. I was so busy crying out for help I did not stop long enough to hear his response. Sometimes we do that when we are crying out to God and wonder why He has not responded. Perhaps during our crisis, if we instead paused long enough to listen for God’s response, calm and peace will fill our hearts and minds.

Let God’s voice be louder than your fears and louder than your inner voice. What He has to say will help you get back on course.

If you are like me and lose sight of God from time to time, just remember He is right there beside you. He is willing to respond to your cry, quiet you with His love, and navigate you to a place where you can become still and know He is God.

He’s got the wheel, and He’s got you, friend!

 

 

 

I See You, But Do You See ME?

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a song to speak peace into my soul. He may not have spoken audibly but I heard Him loud and clear.

I made a trip to the store and prayed before I got out of my car, “Lord, speak. Help me.” I had hoped to make it in and out of the store without anyone seeing or speaking to me. As I pushed my cart along the side of my car a penny on the ground caught my attention. (Side note: The inscription on pennies, “In God We Trust,” reminds me to trust God. I always keep them as a reminder.) As I looked at the penny it was as if God said, “I see you, but do you see ME? I did not want to be honest with God but I was and told Him “No.” I was blinded by my circumstances, emotions, and confusion. I asked Him to open my eyes and mind to be able to see Him. After loading my purchase in the car, I got in and the radio was playing, “Just Be Held,” by Casting Crowns. Here are a few of the lyrics that spoke to me:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

This experience opened my eyes to see Him. To see that He was with me. To see He was in control. To see He was working my brokenness into something useful. To see He is holy and still on the throne. I began sobbing because I felt God’s love and His presence.

I was doing what had brought peace to me in the past: praying, journaling, seeking counsel and exercising. I was trying to trust God with words but not with heart.

When we completely trust in God with ALL our heart, He exchanges our unrest for peace. As I fully abandoned to God my self-reliance, expectations, control, and grip on my circumstances He graced me with peace; A peace that immediately calmed my storm. Though my circumstances did not change, I changed. And because I changed, I can now walk in Isaiah 26:3.

Because I trust in You God, You will keep my mind in perfect peace. (my paraphrase)

Do you see God? He sees you.

Ask God to speak, and then listen and look for Him in the simple things. He is there!

Winning Ground in the Battle Field of the Mind

seeds-in-handsMy greatest battle takes place within my mind. It is where truth and lies, right and wrong, reality and fantasy fight for ground; Ground that is fertile, ready to sprout whatever seed is planted.  My mind is fragile and I must protect it! I fight to keep it in perfect peace which only comes from trusting God with all of my heart, mind, and soul.

Are your greatest battles fought within your mind?

Maybe you struggle knowing what the truth is anymore because the lies of the enemy have taken root.

Maybe you find yourself analyzing things to the point you become confused not knowing right from wrong.

Maybe your reality is fogged with fantasy in hopes to release the pain in your life.

The battle is real y’all and it can be exhausting as we fight to protect our minds. But wouldn’t you much rather fight for peace than live in bondage? As Christ- followers, God has already given us peace but we forfeit it when we stray from keeping our minds fixed on Christ. The verse I love to pick apart as I battle is Philippians 4:6-8.

“6 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praisedwell on these things.”

With that scripture, I am reminded to pray with all of my heart, trust God for His promises, praise and exalt Him for who He is.  That is when my soul is revived with His peace.

As I was reading Deuteronomy 11:18-22 it reminded me of the importance God placed on the Israelites to impress His words on their hearts and souls. He instructed His Word to be seen and taught throughout the day as a reminder. I laughed as I realized our 3×5 cards and sticky notes with scripture was not a new concept. 😉

It was so important to God for them not to lose the battle of the mind! He had them place His commands and promises all around them in the following ways:

  • On your hand and frontals on your forehead
  • When you sit- teach them
  • When you walk- teach them
  • When you lie down-teach them
  • When you rise up-teach them
  • Write them on the door post
  • Write them on the gates

If this was an effective strategy then, I believe it still is for us today. Though it may look different, the concept is the same. God knows what we battle. He knows our thoughts. He also has equipped us to have victory. Don’t give up! Your mind is fertile ground and you get to choose what kind of seeds sprout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Steps To Keep Yourself In Check

woman-on-stepsHave you ever been caught in the middle of a conversation between your doctor’s office and your insurance company? What a nightmare! What the doctor’s office knew to be normal procedure did not apply in my case. I only needed them to call the number the insurance company had provided, but they would not. I felt anger and indignation rise up in my heart.  I wanted to prove that I was right and defend myself. I wanted them to care and respect me by making that phone call. I felt my face getting red and heart beating faster. My frustration level was maxing out!

Can you recall a time of emotional frustration? Maybe with a friend, family member, neighbor, or in regards to a bill… You knew you were right in the matter, but the other person was stiff-necked, prompting ugly emotions to rise up within you.

We can allow our emotions to drive us to say or do things that are contrary to our character. We can even justify our actions and feel righteous. With this confidence, we may even stand taller with chin lifted, feeling good that we showed them who was boss.

God’s word has challenged me regarding this kind of assertiveness and pride. Because I was feeling weary and burdened by all of this, I opened the Word to Matthew 11:28-30.  I had read it many times but on this day, something caught my attention.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is more than exchanging yokes with Jesus. We must also learn from Him how to have a gentle and humble heart. Then, we will find rest. That is a tough one! I knew I was not displaying this kind of heart and knew exactly what I needed to do.

I have a three step process to keep myself in check. I love how my husband says, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” 🙂

  1. What is the condition of my heart? Is it clean or is there sin I need to repent of? What are my motives?
  2. I ponder the truth from the word. In this case, I asked myself if I was displaying a gentle and humble heart. Am I being Christ-like in the situation?
  3. I put into action what God has revealed to me. Sometimes I need to repent for wrong heart motives. But the greatest action to apply is loving others as God loves them.

By the third step, my entire attitude and heart has changed towards that person or situation.  Instead of letting our frustration level max out, let’s aim for a gentle and humble heart so we can remain a light in this dark world. Confrontation does not have to be ugly when you approach it with a gentle and humble heart.

Are you keeping yourself in check today? What scripture are you pondering to do so? I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Romanticizing The Past

romanticizing-the-pastHer eyes danced with wonderful memories as she reflected on the good ole days; days full of happiness, fun, adventure, and freedom. I could tell she was reliving some of the fun when her mouth smirked with a grin. She knew that God had led her to where she is today, however, her present hardships left her thinking that maybe the past was not so bad, after all.

Has God ever delivered you from a difficult, painful, or unhealthy situation and yet you find yourself grumbling in your present circumstances?

  • Maybe you are minimizing the pain of a previous marriage because the new one feels hard.
  • Maybe you are minimizing the toxic relationship you were once in because you now feel lonely.
  • Maybe you are minimizing the difficulties of your childhood because being an adult stinks.

When the present feels difficult, we often romanticize the past. 

For a moment, we can forget we were once crying out to God for deliverance, begging Him to rescue us from our darkest time.

The Israelites forgot the bondage from which they had been delivered, and consequently, rejected a Holy God.

Their deliverance:

God heard their cries for help and saw their affliction. He delivered them from bondage, oppression, and great sufferings. As God led them to freedom, they journeyed through the desert and wilderness experiencing His presence, protection, and provision.  In their forty years of traveling, they never once ran out of clothing. Their shoes remained intact. Their feet did not swell, and water and food were provided.

Their rejection:

They felt reprieve as God led them from all their hardships. But something happened that caused them to romanticize their past.

They focused on their provisions instead of their Provider. This is shown throughout the book of Numbers.

We read in Numbers 11:5 how the Israelites recalled the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they received in Egypt because their stomachs were tired of eating the manna and quail God had provided for them. They felt so deprived of the luxurious foods that they wished they were still in Egypt. Their time in Egypt was full of traumatic experiences and yet they felt it was better than their current circumstances.

I have a name for them, “Whiney Hineys!”

Let’s not be too quick to judge them, though. Have you been a “whiney hiney” lately? Are you romanticizing your past instead of remembering your deliverance?

When we begin to feel our current circumstances are worse than our past ones, we ought to turn to God. Ask Him why. Ask Him to show us the good in the NOW. Ask Him if our feelings are lying to us. Seek Him in His Word for truth, direction, and wisdom. But, what we should not do, friend, is reject God by romanticizing what He has delivered us from. When we do that, we are saying to God that He is not worthy to follow and that He has made a mistake.

Is that what you really mean to say? I hope your answer is no.

So, let’s stop minimizing what He has brought us from, and start maximizing what He is seeing us through, NOW! He is worthy! He is forgiving! He is in control! He is who you need Him to be right now so, cling to Him like never before and rest in Him. And by the way, God never makes mistakes!

What are you thankful for in your present circumstances? I would love to hear from you. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is More To It Than You Think

Crevices of heartWhen I take a test I look like a scared, wet cat clinging to a tree branch. The anxiety causes my stomach to knot up, my eyes to bug out, and I become paralyzed. Talking myself down, I imagine scooching over in my chair, and having Jesus sit beside me so He can see my exam. I take deep breaths asking Him for help. I am a realtor, which requires continuing education courses from time to time. Well, it was time! After finishing my course exam, I took another deep breath and faxed it to my instructor. I felt good about the answers I submitted. Then, the phone rang.  My instructor called to tell me I had failed the test! Confusion, doubt, and low self-esteem crept back into the crevices of my heart.  I would have to take the test again! The following four days, I rehearsed what I might have answered incorrectly. I drudged up self-talks I promised myself I would never listen to again.

Can you relate? You know the ones? Self-talk that convinces us to grab a shovel, dig a hole, and bury ourselves with lies. Lies validating our insecurities and incompetence. Lies convincing us failure will always be our companion.

In those four days, I found myself engaged in a different kind of test.

A heart test … the kind God gives.

“The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, but the LORD test hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3)

Silver and gold are refined through a purification process extracting impurities, which are then scraped away. The process is repeated until what is left shines in its purest form.

melting-gold-300x223

When God test hearts, impurities are exposed, as well.

Such as:

  • Control
  • Motives
  • Perfectionism
  • Lust
  • Codependency
  • Idols
  • Covetousness
  • Comparison
  • Jealousy

Why does God test hearts?

  • To purify us that we might walk in His ways.
    • God tested Abraham with his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1)
    • God left King Hezekiah alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:31)
    • God tested the Israelite’s as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
    • You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. ” (Deuteronomy 26:17)

 

  • To teach us to love Him with all of our heart.

…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

  • To shape us to the image of Christ.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… (Romans 8:28-29)

  • To prepare us to be light in a dark world.

To quote Lysa Terkeurst, “God often meets with us in the quiet darkness of adversity just before taking us out into the light. He must strengthen the light in us before the spotlight is placed on us.”

You may not believe what I am about to share with you, but it really happened. On the fourth day, I received a second phone call from my instructor. With an electric excitement, he explained that there was a printing error on my exam and I had actually passed!

I told you that it’s hard to believe! 🙂

All of the anxiety, negative self-talk, confusion… was not wasted. God tested my heart and exposed what did not belong.

He loves us too much to leave our hearts tainted with impurities. The pressures and afflictions of life not only expose the hidden crevices, they strengthen our walk with God, and allow us the opportunity to be light in a dark world.

Can you remember the last time you were tested by God?

Did it purify your walk with Him?

Did God teach you to love Him with all of your heart?

Did God reshape you to reflect His image?

Let’s put down the shovel and not bury ourselves in lies any longer. Let’s allow God to use our trials to refine us … becoming the people He designed us to be.

dirty-shovel-sand-old-65166435