It’s Gonna Take a Miracle

With March Madness in full swing, several shocking losses by top seeds have many teams feeling the weight of defeat. Long before the final buzzer sounds some teams give up and their body language reveals what they have already decided in their minds. They accept defeat before the game ever ends.

We can easily fall into that same trap in life. We start acting defeated long before it’s “game over”. We look at our situation and cannot see any possibility for a victory. We allow ourselves to believe it’s over and our actions and body language shout defeat. It’s not easy to visualize a positive outcome when you’re surrounded by negativity.

But when we proclaim to believe in God but deny the possibility of victorious outcome in our lives, we are denying the validity of what happened on the cross. We mistakenly believe that it’s impossible for God to fix our situation because it will take a “miracle” to fix it. And real miracles are for people with the most serious problems – like a single mom with cancer, a child with a terminal illness, or victims of disasters waiting for days to be rescued in the aftermath. But miracles don’t have to be reserved for only the extreme situations.

While there are still extraordinary miracles happening all around the world like the blind suddenly being able to see and those who can’t walk standing and taking steps for the first time, there are still  remarkable miracles happening each day that we just fail to recognize. The fact that the sun rises every day is a miracle. The birth of a child is a miracle.  I see miracles happening in the lives of people I know all the time. The restoration of broken marriages that don’t stand a chance, the overcoming of anger that can’t seem to be controlled, the receiving of an unexpected financial gift when the gas tank is empty and so is the bank account, forgiveness toward someone by one who could never imagine forgiving the unspeakable things done against them, and healing for wounds of the heart that were thought to be impossible to overcome are all miracles in my sight.

Miracles do happen today – the question is do you believe in miracles? Or are miracles reserved for someone else with a greater need? God does still miraculously heal, it just doesn’t always look like we think it should or how it did in the days when Jesus walked the earth. We’ve become cynical in our day and instead of expecting a miracle we walk around defeated and deflated. But the truth is we are only as defeated as we allow ourselves to believe. When we listen to the whispering lies of the enemy of God, we begin to doubt in our minds and feel the outcome of defeat before it ever happens. But when you are a born again child of God, you are never defeated because the victory has already been won on the cross. Either you trust in the gospel and the power of the cross that you cannot see but is there nonetheless, or you trust in the powerless lies of the devil and what you can see with your own eyes.

In 1980, an unheralded group of college ice hockey players from the United States won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Winter Games. The medal round match on February 22 was of particular interest, as it was played against a heavily favored squad from the Soviet Union in front of an American crowd in Lake Placid, New York who were whipped into a patriotic fervor by the Cold War. Al Michaels’ memorable broadcast of this game, including his interjection—“Do you believe in miracles? YES!”—as time expired on the 4–3 U.S. victory, earned the game the media nickname of The Miracle on Ice.

The situation you are in may be in need of a miracle. You can either believe in imminent defeat or you can fight like you believe in the victory that was won on the cross and start expecting your miracle. The question today is “Do you believe in mircles?” My answer is, YES!! I believe.

Giving Up or Giving In

I used to think that giving up and giving in were essentially the same thing. I thought that both meant you were defeated, only one meant you quit trying and the other was simply admitting you’d been beat. But over the years I’ve come to realize they have two very different meanings. And you can have very different outcomes in your situation depending upon your choice to give up or give in.

Beginning at an early age most children are taught to never give up. No matter how tough things gets, you should never, ever quit – you must keep trying to the very end. I was made to believe that if I gave up it was weakness and defeat. I believed the same about giving in. I thought that giving in meant you were throwing in the towel before things got too ugly. You knew you couldn’t hold off the inevitable so you just went ahead and admitted defeat. Both choices carried such a sense of shame and disappointment.

Today I see the two much differently. I know many people in very difficult situations. Whether marital, financial, health, or relational issues with family or co-workers, it seems problems today have reached an intensity level that is almost too much to bear for those involved. People are fighting for breakthrough in their circumstances but many times they no longer have the strength to continue the battle and they give up. It’s just too hard and we are only meant to take so much. Certainly there are some that can hang in there much longer than others and have a will to overcome that is truly remarkable. But everyone has a breaking point – the point where they say “I give up.” It is difficult to witness that moment when someone quits trying because there is still s0 much shame associated with giving up. When we give up we are admitting that we have failed and we are unable to overcome.

But giving in can be very different and depending on who or what you give in to, it may not be a sign of weakness but a sign of great strength. Just like when I was a child, giving in means throwing in the towel before things gets too ugly. When you wave the white flag of surrender, not to defeat but to God, you are admitting you can no longer fight in your own strength and you are putting your trust in God to fight on your behalf. The weight is lifted because you quit relying on yourself and begin to rely solely on Him. It takes faith to give in to God but a lack of faith to give up.

It’s never easy to give in because when we do so it means we have to let go of whatever it is we are handing over to God. It means we no longer have the ability to control the outcome but that we are entrusting that outcome to God and having the faith that it will be far better than anything we could have done. Letting go is difficult but hanging on for dear life to an out-of-control situation will never be a better choice than letting go and letting God.

Giving up is losing hope, but when you give in to God, you haven’t lost hope, you’ve simply shifted your hope from the unreliable to the always reliable Rock. Giving in means to yield in favor of another – you make the choice to give the power to God to move upon your situation. You stop opposing God and begin to work with Him instead of against Him. It is not weakness to give in to His ways, it’s freedom. It requires humility on our part to submit our lives to God and when we do we are set free from the burden of trying in vain to control our circumstances.

Don’t be deceived that if you give in you lose. When you give in to God the victory is already won (Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14) and you are set free from the worry and the weight of going it alone. And remember, don’t ever give up. Not because it means you will have failed but because giving in to God is always better than giving up. If you are in the middle of an intense fight in your life, choose now to throw in the towel and surrender your fight to Jesus. He stands ready for battle on your behalf, “for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2Chron. 20:15)

Line in the Sand

Have you ever had that moment in your life when you just knew in an instant that there was going to be no way around it. You were going to have to take a stand. You just couldn’t sit back and let things go on as they had been. It was time to draw a line in the sand, a line that defined the boundary of that which you were unwilling to cross. And what constitutes that moment is different for each of us. But when you are faced with it – you will undoubtedly know it.

My family has had some “line in the sand” moments recently. One of them came when my youngest son wanted to try out for a part in a play that I was not familiar with. I did my homework and found it was a coming of age story about the lead character’s choice to do something in the moment that would allow him to “fit in” with the popular kids or to make the choice to do the right thing and stand by his not-so-popular friends. He made the choice to do the right thing. I was on the verge of relenting but still wanted to voice my minimal concerns to the director. I fully expected that after we talked my mind would be at ease. But toward the end of the conversation he told me about a particular scene in the play. Ironically, in that instant I went from “pretty sure we’re doing this” to “absolutely not”. We drew a line in the sand we were morally unwilling to cross.

My older son recently watched a video at school on “The Invisible Children”.  They only saw a portion of the video but his heart was stirred. Last night the story behind the children and the atrocities that are occurring in Uganda at the hand of Joseph Kony became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Ryan watched the full video and in that instant he knew – it was time to draw a line in the sand. He had to do something. So he launched into action and made plans to be part of the movement to stop Joseph Kony in 2012.

What is it in us that defines such a passionate discontent with something that we’re willing to risk judgement and criticism by others in order to stand up for what we so strongly believe in. What is it that drives us to take action in a moment in time yet we overlook other seemingly important issues and situations? I don’t have the answer. All I know is that each of us has something – some cause, some situation, some decision that will ignite a holy discontent in us when we come face to face with it. For some it may be a monumental world stance against an evil that must be stopped. For others, it’s a choice to not participate in something that goes against our morals and convictions. But whatever it is for you – never be afraid in the moment to draw the line in the sand. That goes for anyone who is faced with the decision to act when the moment occurs for you.

But speaking solely to those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – if you are saved, should it show? Shouldn’t people be able to tell what you believe in by your actions and not just your words? Shouldn’t the lives of others be enriched because you are born again? Living out your faith is going to take a lot of courage and determination. And not to mention a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit. James asks what good is our faith if we only hear (or read) the word but don’t act on it. (James 1:22-25). God’s word is meant to drive us into action. We were created to bear the fruit of what we believe.

With today’s resources such as news outlets and social media networks, we are much more aware and knowledgeable about what goes on in our world. We live in a time in which we are responsible for things we see happening around us. We are accountable for the issues that are within our ability to act upon. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend like we’re unaware when we are confronted with the issues that call for action. Who needs your voice right now? Who in your family, your community, or the world needs you to rise up into action so that they might have justice. Who needs you to restore hope to their situation? Who needs you to draw a line in the sand?

It’s All About the Company You Keep

It has been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. There is no doubt that those who occupy the majority of our time have a direct affect on who we are – good or bad. But the motive behind who you spend your time with can also have an impact on both yourself and others.

There is a deep desire among people today for authentic relationships. Many have befriended a person only to find that their new “friend” was only seeking a relationship for whatever they could get out of it. These types of “friends” are constantly asking themselves “what can she do for me?” The result of these superficial friendships is that many people today are suspect of anyone who desires their company and therefore keeps them at arm’s distance. When people seek a person’s company simply for their own personal gain or just to be able to tell others that they’ve spent time with a particular person, it is no doubt repelling and hurtful. This type of self-seeking friendship is rooted in the insecurities of those searching to find their identity based on who they are associated with. Their identity is found in what others perceive them to be, not who they really are. The outcome will only be temporary because if your identity is found in who you associate with, others may be drawn to you, but only as long as you have a connection to your identifier.

But when the one you spend time with and whom your identity is found in is Jesus Christ, people will easily identify you as such by the time you spend with Him. They will be drawn to God, through you. And those friends who seek your time when your identity is found in Christ are friends you can trust to be authentic and loyal because they are drawn to the goodness of God in you, not just you. They seek audience with you because they desire the qualities and characteristics you possess as a friend of God. Friends like these will not be asking “what can she do for me?” rather, “if He did all that for her, can He do it for me too?”.

So, who are you spending your time with? Through your friend choices, you are literally transforming your life. But most importantly, what image do you portray to those who spend time with you? Are they being transformed into your image or into the image of Christ who is in you? Examine who you are associating with the most. Is it the only One who can enable you toward who you were created to be? Or is it someone you think will increase your value in the eyes of others if you are associated with them? If it’s the latter, it is time to increase your contact with your Father in heaven who created you and knows you – not who others perceive you to be, but the real you. And seek to spend more time with other Godly friends who will enable you to become transformed into the image of Christ as you share authentic relationships together. After all, you are the company you keep. Who would others say you are? And who do you want to be?

Smoke and Mirrors

A friend of mine recently visited the Los Angeles area and decided to go on a tour of Hollywood. As the group approached the heart of Hollywood near the Walk of Fame the bus driver said “Whatever you expect Hollywood to be, go ahead and throw it out the window now. It will be nothing like you expect it to be.” As the driver warned, it was certainly not what she had imagined. The Walk of Fame was a full-blown letdown. She recognized very few of the names on the stars in the area where they were dropped off. When she asked where she could find some of the more well-known stars she was informed they were a few blocks down and were not in an area she would want to venture into as a tourist.

A visit to the famed Rodeo Drive resulted in further disappointment. The high-end designer stores were old, plain storefronts lacking in glitz or glamour. And what appears on TV as an endless array of upscale shopping is merely a small area of uninviting stores. Her next stop was The Grove where many celebrities are spotted shopping or surveying the fresh fruits and vegetables at the local Farmer’s Market. This location proved to be much more desirable and she even saw filming taking place for the entertainment show “Extra”. However, from the celebrities she saw that day to the tour of Hollywood, everything was smoke and mirrors. Nothing that she saw in person, including the celebrities, looked anything like they appear on TV.

As women we often hide behind the same smoke and mirrors. By all appearances everything is fine. People see us and we smile and put up a front that everything in our lives is going according to plan. We seemingly have it all together. But when the smoke and mirrors is gone and the mask we wear is removed, many times what is behind it all is a woman who has been robbed of her identity. She questions who she really is. Her identity has been found for so long in her children, her spouse, her position or her title that she’s forgotten who she really is. Women today are defined by images and portrayals in the media that do not line up with the image in which we were created by God. Among many of us today, there is an insatiable desire for beauty and a longing to “fit in” to a world we were never meant to fit into in the first place.

We place false expectations on ourselves that we must take on many roles (wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, worker, volunteer, student, leader, caretaker) and there is no room for mistakes or weakness. We are drowning in our attempt to be everything to everybody by taking on these many roles, many of which were not intended for us. And in some cases, women spend their entire lives trying to prove their worth and value based on a definition of who they should be and not on the biblical definition of who they were created to be. And in a futile attempt to cover up what society defines as weakness, we pretend that we are effectively doing it all and being it all without any negative consequences.

The identity crisis among women lies not in our inability to do all and be all. It lies in our inability to believe in the truth of God’s word. We have allowed ourselves to believe in the altered images we see and the false words spoken to us. Our own insecurities have kept us from the power and joy that comes from walking in the unity of authentic relationships with our sisters in Christ. God’s word says that those who believe in Jesus Christ are the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus became sin for you so that you might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21). And that you are a child of Abraham by faith and therefore an heir according to the promises God made to Abraham. (Gal. 3:27, 29). You are blessed, chosen, predestined and adopted as one of His own and accepted in the beloved. And in Him you have redemption through His blood and forgiveness of your sins. (Eph. 1:3-7).  You are holy, chosen and a special treasure for the Lord. (Deut. 14:2).

Which definition will you choose to believe? The one masked in smoke and mirrors that isn’t what it seems to be or the one that says you are a treasured possession chosen by your Father in heaven? If your identity is in your role or title or how someone else defines you, you will always question your value and your worth. But when you know who you are in Christ you will know the peace that comes with knowing your true identity. You will know that you are valued and will find unspeakable joy in knowing that you are a treasured possession in the eyes of God. You are not who this world says you are or who someone else says you are. You are who God says you are. Isn’t it time you started believing it?

Destiny Fulfilled

It’s the most basic question people face in life and the reason Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for one of the longest periods in history.  Why am I here? What is my purpose?  Many people spend their entire life chasing after what they believe is their destiny, their purpose. They search for that thing that will bring them a sense of fulfillment. And many end up at the end of their lives looking back with much regret as they think they missed out on the one great job, the one exciting adventure, the once in a life time relationship or the one esteemed calling that would have made their life complete.

Still others believe that they found fulfillment during their lifetime. They do the great things and even the small things that bring them the happiness and satisfaction of a life that did in fact have a purpose. Whether it’s a mother who raised well-rounded, successful children or the doctor whose research led to the cure for a disease, many reach the end of their lives with a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

But while many of them may have fulfilled a great purpose in their life, they may be completely unaware that they may have missed the purpose for which they were created. If asked, they would tell you that they had reached their destiny and accomplished their personal goals for their life. But I am not talking about the destiny measured by the standards of this world. I am talking about the destiny for which they were created. The destiny measured by eternal standards.

The recent death of Whitney Houston has once again revealed that no matter how much money, fame, power or success you achieve, we all deal with the same insecurities, addictions, demons, unhealed hurts and deception, especially us women. But aside from the differences in our lives that are visible on the surface, when it comes to who we are at the very depth of our soul, we are all on a level playing field. Whitney Houston’s tragic death is proof and begs the question “how can someone who seemingly has it all still appear to be so incredibly unhappy?”. The answer is really quite simple. We will never experience complete peace and joy by fulfilling any destiny other than our God-given destiny.

When we allow our identity to be determined by what the world defines as successful, powerful, important and worthy then we will take on a false identity and our purpose in life will never be completely fulfilling. But when our identity is in Christ and we know by Who and for what we were created, then we can truly reach our full potential. We were created to glorify God through our love for Him and our love for others. Created in the very image of God, our creator, we will never find satisfaction in anything other than the fulfillment of that purpose. When we respond to the message of the gospel and Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, our lives are “conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). It is in this transformation that we are able to glorify God through the way we live our lives. And when we live a Christ-like existance, others will take notice and will be drawn to His goodness, mercy and love. And until you discover that God-given purpose for your own life you, will never fulfill your true destiny.

Each of has a unique set of giftings, talents and skills that drive us to choose the path which our life follows. Sometimes, not by our own choice, our paths take unexpected turns. But we each have different things that will occupy our time here on earth such as a career, family, goals and achievements. It is through these contributions that our lives are intended to glorify our Father and draw those within our circle of influence to Him. Are you spinning your wheels chasing after dreams and a purpose you chose or someone chose for you that only leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled? Have you reached a point where you look back on your life and while you should be feeling  fulfillment and satisfaction with all you’ve accomplished, you still feel like something is missing? The reason may be that you are pursuing a purpose but not the God-given purpose you were placed upon this earth for. It’s not too late to realize your true destiny and to begin to chase after the goal which God set before you when He formed you. Your life was meant to glorify the One who created you. And if your purposes are anything less than that, you will never fully experience the internal joy that comes from a destiny fulfilled.

Delayed Destiny

How many times have you asked a child “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I wonder how many times I was asked that question growing up. Are you doing now what you dreamed of doing as a child or as a teenager? I began thinking about this recently and wondered just how many young people have God-sized dreams of being something when they grow up and how many of them ever have the chance to see that dream fulfilled. And I wondered just how many people like me, believe God placed a dream in their heart as a young person that is still yet to come to pass. I believed that dream would never be fulfilled but then through a series of life events I found myself walking in, albeit delayed, the destiny that God placed in my heart 32 years ago.

I was in 7th grade and I distinctly remember our new English teacher handing me back an assignment. She looked me in the eye and said “you’re going to be a writer some day”. I remember exactly how I felt in that moment as an insecure and self-concious 13 year old. I believed her. I wanted so badly to be a writer and in that moment I believed I could be. In the spring of that same year the 7th and 8th grade classes spent a week at a nearby natural, lakeside retreat where we held our classes outdoors and enjoyed the many activities that were available all while spending the week in rustic cabins. The girls were in one cabin and the boys in another. That very same teacher who had told me in the fall that I would be a writer some day boldly shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with some of the girls one night in our cabin. I was one of those girls and that night I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. But the teacher who had such an impact on my life that year did not return the following year to teach at my school. After just one year she left and I quickly forgot about her. I began to make wrong choices and I headed down a path that would lead me away from the commitment I had made to follow Jesus. In my 8th grade year while at the same retreat, I made a decision that was in total opposition to the one I had made when I had asked Jesus into my heart just one year earlier. And it was a wrong choice that would mark a turning point in my faith. Following my 8th grade year, I spent the next 15 years running and hiding from the God I had professed to believe in.

Over the years there were glimpses of the dream of writing. I majored in English in college with the idea in the back of my mind that it would some day lead me into that dream. But my lack of commitment once again brought about missed opportunity and I dropped out of college to join the US Navy. Several years later I once again approached the dream and submitted a writing to a magazine on a whim. I thought that would be my chance to keep the dream alive but the rejection of my story made me once again give up and lose any bit of hope I had left. But God, who is ever faithful had never given up hope that I would some day turn away from my sins and turn back to Him. And when I reached that point when I knew I couldn’t take it any more and I had no where else to turn, I cried out to God for help. And He answered. I recommited my life to Jesus and made the choice that I would offer my heart completely to God and follow Him for the rest of my life.

Since that time 15 more years have passed. I gave birth to another son, worked in corporate America for many years, was a homemaker for a time period and have worked at my church. But 8 months ago God awakened that dream again to be a writer. The dream I thought was long over was starting to stir in me again and over the next few months things began to happen and doors began to open for me to be able to see that the dream was not dead, it was simply delayed. I began to write. And shortly after I did I began to think of that teacher who had told me she believed in my abilities as a writer and more importantly had shared the gospel with me. I felt like God was nudging me to look her up, contact her and tell her thank you. I went to my basement and started going through my yearbooks to see if I could find her because I couldn’t remember her name. When I opened up my 7th grade yearbook to the faculty page I found something I’d never seen before. The teacher I was looking for had signed my yearbook and she wrote “I really believe in you and think you have a genuine ability as a writer. Don’t cheat yourself of that talent.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Almost 32 years after God had placed the dream to be a writer in my heart, I was finally walking in the destiny. I sat in my basement and cried at the goodness of God. I thanked Him that He never quit pursuing me and that He was showing me in that moment that no matter how many bad decisions I made, that it’s never too late to walk in your destiny. I created a website and continued writing but I was still reluctant to make it public. I made excuses and reasoned why it wasn’t time yet to do so. The truth was I was afraid of what people would think and I still dealt with the same old insecurities. But on New Years Day I heard God say “no more excuses” so that day I posted it on social media sites. The response was immediate. I received so much positive encouragement from my friends. I wondered why I had not done it sooner. But I knew the reason. We have a very real enemy who will do whatever it takes to keep us from walking in the destiny God has called us to. And if he can’t stop us, he’ll stall us for as long as he can in order to delay our destiny.

You may look back and see exactly where you made a wrong turn or where the enemy tried to derail you. But it’s not too late. And you don’t know who may have been praying for you for years to know God and to walk in your destiny. I found out when my son was 16 that the lady who babysat him when he was just a newborn baby used to pray for him regularly. Her daughter was going through some of her things after she passed away and found a picture of him when he was only 3 months old with a bible and her hand on his chest as she prayed over him. It’s God’s plan for you to walk fully into the destiny He has for you. He places people in your life to pray over you and to encourage you. Don’t ever believe that the promise of a dream that God placed in your heart, whether it was last week, last month or 32 years ago, is dead. It may only be delayed. So, get back on track and back to believing in the destiny on your life. Cry out to God to awaken the dream and to reveal the obstacles within you that are preventing you from reaching that dream. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you the dream is dead. If God placed it there, it’s very much alive. And in His perfect timing you will see how God’s hand was upon your destiny all along and what seemed dead was only delayed.

Missed Destiny

In this election year the political rhetoric and attacks are running high, especially among the Republican candidates campaigning in primaries. The most common form of attack I’ve notice in the advertisements and during the debates is when the focus is on the candidate’s past. They dig up every inconsistency in their opponent’s past, every word they misspoke, and every personal mistake they ever made. The attacks on their personal life are the most vicious and cruel but unfortunately seem to carry the most weight among voters. Focusing on a candidate’s past is so widely used among the candidates because it’s proven to be effective in selling short the political future of the one under attack and in many cases causing them to never reach their longterm dream.

Focusing on the past and attacking someone for who they used to be instead of who they are now is as old as time – it’s creator is the devil himself. His most effective method of attack is to keep us focused on our past so we’ll fail to move forward toward our destiny in Christ. When we are preoccupied with looking back to events and people who have caused us pain, hurt or anger then we cannot look forward to see what our future holds. We become blinded to the promises of our future by the obstacles of our past. When we become obsessed with the past in the form of unforgiveness, guilt, hatred or consuming sorrow, we miss the opportunity to be set free from that which keeps us held captive to the past. And when we fail to move forward in these areas we become an easy target for spiritual attack. The enemy will begin to constantly remind us of who we were in our past in order to ensure we keep looking back instead of keeping our focus forward on God. Staying focused on the past is the single most common cause of people missing their destiny in Christ.  

But God’s plan is to keep us moving forward toward the destiny He has called us into. And Jesus is the key to our being released from our past and being able to move forward. He is the key that sets us free from the weight of our past that holds us back. Many try in their own strength to break free from their past but find the chains that hold them there are too strong. And each time they start to make forward progress the devil is right there to remind them of their failures and shortcomings.  He uses doubt, insecurity, unforgiveness, guilt and even hurtful reminders from others to keep us looking back and focused on our past. But when you reach the point that you realize you are powerless to break free from your past on your own and you surrender your life and your past to Jesus, He can give you the power you need through His Holy Spirit to have the strength to forgive and to begin to heal from the hurts of your past. Then you can begin to move forward into the destiny you’re called to. You no longer have to fight the distractions of your past. And you have freedom from the chains that have kept you bound. It’s time to stop looking back and focus on your future in Christ. You have a destiny awaiting your arrival.

Who’s the Boss?

One of my favorite TV shows in the 1980’s was the sitcom “Who’s the Boss”. As the title eludes, the show was about the clear role reversal of the two lead characters, where a woman was the breadwinner and a man (who was her live-in housekeeper) stayed at home and took care of the domestic duties. As their friendship and trust in each other grew and the lines became crossed, there was an underlying tension between the two of them of who was really in control of the decision-making in the home.

We live in a world that constantly attempts to remind us through all forms of media that we are in control of our lives. That we are the ones with the power to direct our path in life. Actress Drew Barrymore once said “I don’t want to sit around and hope good things happen. I want to make them happen.” She clearly believes she is the one who ultimately determines the outcome of her life. We all have seen or experienced marriages in which husbands and wives fight for control of each other. Or parents who try both successfully and unsuccessfully to control their children. In the workplace and in the school classrooms it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s in control. And while it’s true that we are, for the most part, in control of the choices we make, it is in those choices that we are ultimately giving up control. We falsely believe that because we are free to make our own choices then that means we are in control of our lives. There are much bigger forces at play and much more at stake than we realize.

I am a self confessed control freak. I get it when people tell me it’s hard to give up control and to trust in someone else to guide their decisions. I was one of those people who held on to control of all areas of my life (my marriage, my work, my money) even as I was watching them all slowly spiral out of control. People who were far wiser than I ever will be told me to surrender control of my life to God. To trust in Him to “fix” all the areas of my life I was incapable of fixing myself, as long as I was relying on my own strength and abilities. I held on tight-fisted to control until I almost lost it all. I believed that I knew what was best for my life and thought “how in the world can I just release all this to God? It’s too hard!” Even though I believed that I was the one in control and that the choices were either “I’m the boss” or “God’s the boss”, the truth was that I was never in control. Either I was going to surrender and allow God to be in control or I was going to continue to give into my own desires and allow the enemy of God to be in control. We are extremely deceived if we believe we are ever truly in control.

It isn’t easy and I use the present tense because it is a daily surrender to the desires of my heart and of my flesh. But thankfully I don’t have to rely any longer on my own strength or on my own abilities to do so. And I now know that God’s ways are always better than my own. I made the choice about 15 years ago to surrender my life to Jesus Christ, to relinquish the burden of control to Him. And since that time I have learned that what our world would perceive as weakness was the single-most freeing thing I’ve ever done. I believed the lie that freedom was found in being in control of my own life and on not relying on anyone but myself to make the decisions that affected my destiny. But the truth was that I was enslaved to my need to be in control. (Gal. 5:1) Now, I no longer have to carry the burden of trying to fix everything, do everything, be everything or know everything. I have the joy of experiencing freedom from being in control – yes freedom from not freedom in being in control. It is bondage to hang on to the belief that you are in control of your life. (1Kings 18:21). Remember, either you have surrendered to God and He’s in control or you’ve surrendered to your own desires and the enemy is in control. So, who’s your boss?

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

Over the Christmas holiday my family and I went to see “We Bought a Zoo”. This was a great movie for our family and we really enjoyed it. But there was one line in the movie that I could not stop thinking about. The father, played by Matt Damon, was talking to his son and told him “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” His family had been looking for a home and had found the perfect one. The only problem was that the house came with a zoo and he knew nothing about running a zoo. But in a moment of insane courage he decided that he and his family would purchase the house with the zoo and would figure it out as they went along.

I thought about how there are lots of things you can do in 20 seconds that takes insane courage. And many of them will reap huge benefits if you are willing to do something you never thought you would be able to do.

I thought about how I was not really that type of person. I’ve never done anything that really took insane courage. I’ve done plenty of things that required insane stupidity on my part but nothing that I could think of that would qualify as courageous.

Then God so lovingly revealed something to me. I had done something. Many years ago an amazing teacher of mine shared her faith and what God had done in her life. She shared that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She said that He chose to die on the cross for all of our sins so that we could be forgiven and could spend eternity in Heaven. She said that if we wanted to accept His forgiveness and to spend eternity with Him all we had to do was believe in our hearts that what she was sharing was true then raise our hands and pray a prayer asking for that forgiveness.

I was a 7th grader at the time and what my peers thought of me was crucial to my existance. I was insecure and didn’t want to be made fun of. I was terrified. But there was something in me that desperately wanted to experience the love and acceptance she spoke of. I wanted to be forgiven of all the wrong things I had done and choices I had made. I wanted to have the assurance that I would spend eternity in heaven with the One who loved me completely. I was so afraid of the consequences but in those 20 seconds of insane courage that it would take me to raise my hand I knew something great would come of it so I did it. I raised my hand and boldly chose to say “I believe”.

My life has not been perfect since that 20 seconds of insane courage. I’ve certainly had my share of ups and downs. But what happened in that moment to a scared middle-schooler forever changed my life. There has never been a moment of regret in that choice. It took courage. It took making the choice that I didn’t care what other people thought – I wanted everything that teacher told me the bible promised. I wanted to experience that kind of love and peace and joy. I wanted to change and not be the person I had become anymore. And 32 years later I still want Jesus more than anything else. It’s a choice every day that I make to follow Him and not follow my own selfish ways. But there is nothing this world can offer that will ever compare to the love of Jesus.

If you’re like I was as a scared 7th grader and you’ve heard the gospel that promises forgiveness, eternal salvation and a new life in Christ but you’re afraid of the consequences to responding, know that there is no other 20 seconds of courage decision you can make that will impact your life more than choosing to follow Jesus and make Him the Lord and Savior of your life. And the best part about it is you don’t have to step out in that decision alone. He will be right there beside you every step of the way. (Joshua 1:9). You’ve got nothing to lose and I promise you, something great will come of it.