Excuse Me, You’re In My Spot


All companies and organizations have a structure or hierarchy that determines the level of responsibilities and decision-making. An organizational chart is used to diagram the company structure, roles and how they relate to one another. In the military it’s called the Chain of Command. The thing that they all have in common is that there is always a top position. There is someone who is ultimately held responsible for the overall vision or mission and who is in charge of overseeing everyone below them. They are rewarded whenever everything goes well but they are also held accountable when things do not go as planned whether they were involved directly or indirectly. Many times they get the credit for work done by subordinates but they can also take the fall for others’ mistakes. It is a huge responsibility to be at the top of the pyramid.

Marriages and families are like a company in the sense that someone is ultimately in charge. The person at the top of the org chart of a family may rely heavily on their support staff such as their spouse, their children, or extended family. But there really can only be one Head of Household, at least according to the IRS. And just like in the corporate and military worlds, sometimes the lines of responsibilities may be crossed or the 2nd in command may have to step in and take the lead for a period of time due to certain circumstances. But in all families there is typically one person who is considered the man or woman of the house.

In Ephesians Chapter 5 God describes His org chart for a spiritual head of the household when He says “for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.” In a marriage God defines the role of the family CEO as belonging to the husband. However, there are many obstacles that can come between a man taking his designated role within his family. Sometimes he may unwilling or may not be equipped to lead the family spiritually. But in other situations the husband cannot occupy the position that God intended for them to be in because there is someone else already occupying that role. I was one of those people – I complained that my husband was not being the spiritual head of our home yet I was the one standing in the way of his promotion into the position that was created for him. There can only be one CEO or Commanding Officer and until that position is vacated then no one else can be promoted into it. It is the same in a marriage. There can only be one spiritual head of the home and while there are many reasons why the husband may not be operating in that role, in my case the problem was me. I was attempting to possess something that was never intended to be mine in the first place. But my husband was too much of a gentleman to just “put me in my place”. He waited and allowed the Holy Spirit to bring conviction upon my heart.

You may be in a situation where you are the spiritual head of your home because your husband is not willing or able to occupy the position. Or if your spouse is deployed or travels with their job and is unable to operate in their role for much of the time then you may have to step in and be that position until they can and will assume it for themselves. But if you are constantly battling with the question of why your husband is not acting as if he is the spiritual head of your home even though he is equipped to do so, ask God to show you if the position is available to him. It just may be that it’s already occupied and your husband cannot be promoted until you are willing to humbly step aside. There will always be difficulties within a marriage when the husband and wife are not in the role God intended for them to be. If that is your marriage, it may be time to say “I’m sorry, I”m in your spot.”

Prison Break


I confess – I watch too much television. One of my favorite new shows is Alcatraz, a drama that revolves around the prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and the efforts of a team of investigators to track a group of missing prisoners who mysteriously reappear decades after they disappeared from the prison. On a recent episode an inmate appeared at the home of a friend who thought he had died while being held prisoner at Alcatraz. When the friend saw him he said “I thought you were dead! When did you get out of prison?” The inmate answered, “When you’re in prison, you never really get out. You just move from one cell to another.” Many people today are being held in captivity. They are a prisoner to some form of bondage, desperately seeking the key to freedom. They believe the key lies in the “ifs” of their lives. If I had more money. If I was with someone who really loved me the way I deserve to be loved. If I could forgive them for what they did to me. If I could just find a way to overcome this addiction. If I could lose 50 pounds. If I could get a better ____________ (fill in the blank…….job, car, house). If only I were prettier, smarter, funnier, more confident. They keep wandering from one cell to another searching for their elusive freedom.

What I found in my own life is all of your “ifs” can be overcome. You can conquer every perceived obstacle and still be a prisoner. The freedom most find is only a temporary freedom and after the initial break from captivity they find themselves right back in bondage. They may have found short term liberty in a new relationship, new job or a move to a new geographic location, only to find that what they thought was freedom was simply a move from one prison cell to another. There is only one true key to freedom and it is found in Jesus Christ. He alone is the lasting key to a life of liberty. It was never God’s plan for you to be captive. His desire for you is to live a life without limits, an open and expansive life. (2Cor. 6:11-13 MSG).

If you are prisoner to the bondage of addiction, lonliness, insecurity, depression, unforgiveness or anger it is time to be set free. It’s time to break away from that which holds you captive and seek the only One who can truly set you free. All you have to do is ask. Jesus stands waiting to open the door to the wide open, spacious life. (Matt. 7:7). Isn’t it time you break free? You have nothing to lose and your freedom to gain.

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?

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?

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.

Misplaced Trust


During a recent thunderstorm I was lying in bed listening to the heavy rain and wind outside. Although the wind made it sound like there was complete chaos going on just outside my window, I felt an unusual peace in the moment. I began to think about how people react when a “life storm” hits their otherwise calm existance. Do they experience that same peace I felt that night or is their response something much different. How you react during the storms of life greatly depends on who your trust lies in.

Whenever there is a big thunderstorm at our home my grandmother who lives with us reacts with worry and fear. She can’t sit still. She comes in and out of her room as she tries to stay calm but she can’t help but keep looking out all the windows to make sure everything is still ok. If she was in the middle of something and a storm comes up she stops everything to direct all her focus and attention to the storm even though she’s in the safety of our home. She prepares for the worst possible scenario by readying her flashlight and ensuring that if it gets too bad we’ll all head to the basement for safety. She wants to talk about the storm and relay all the information that the weatherman has communicated on TV. She thinks there’s no chance that the storm will quickly blow over and fully expects it to last a very long time. Even if there is no severe weather in the forecast, if she sees clouds outside she assumes that a bad storm is coming. And although at 99 years old she has been through many, many thunderstorms and has come out of them completely unscathed, she still becomes consumed by the most current one.

Even as Christians don’t we respond that way many times to the storms of life? We worry, we can’t be at rest, instead of being full of faith we fully expect the worst case scenario, we put all our focus and attention on the storm and we are fearful of what’s going on around us even though we’re under the covering of God’s protection. We expect our storm to last a very long time and we quickly forget the previous storms we’ve been through and survived. Yet we proclaim our belief in Jesus, the very One who calmed the storm by rebuking the winds but like His disciples we lack faith and are fearful when the storm hits. We put our trust in our own abilities to overcome our storm. We become consumed by it and allow it to steal our focus away from the only place it should be. We too easily brush off the promises of God’s word that says that we are to be without fear because God is with us wherever we go. (Joshua 1:9). We forget that His word also says “When I am afraid I will trust in you”. (Psalm 56:3). Our trust is completely misplaced if it is anywhere but in God and the promises of His word.

When our trust is in God, not only can we experience a calm before the storm, but we can experience complete calm during the storm. When we surrender control of the situations and circumstances in our lives that usher us into the darkness of a storm, there is an inexplicable peace that overcomes the effects of the storm. And when we can continue to rejoice in the Lord even when things are spiraling out of control, His grace will sustain us through the storm. Philippians 4:6-7 promises “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He is faithful in His promises. If you are in a storm and everything is raging around you and fear and worry are consuming you, it’s time to put your trust in the Jesus. Cry out to Him and ask Him to calm the storm. Then praise Him that He is the only One who can. The storm may continue to rage all around you but the storm within you will subside. That’s a promise.

Christmas is like a magnifying glass


For most of us our Christmas memories as children are good ones. I’m not sure if that’s because Christmas was really better back then or if we were just oblivious to what was really going on around us because we were so excited for Santa to come.

But as we get older it seems like Christmas becomes a time of stress, sadness and disappointment for many of us. The reason holidays can be such a difficult time is because Christmas is like a huge magnifying glass that magnifies everything that is wrong in our lives, especially when it comes to relationships. Christmas seems to cause us to be so much more aware of the enormity of the fact that all the expectations we had of Christmas as a child are now mostly unmet in our adult life.

It’s the time of year when it’s never more obvious to the divorced parent that they had a failed marriage when they have to put their child on a plane and send them off to the other parent for the holidays. It’s more evident to those whose families are estranged when every commercial on TV seems to show happy families all gathering together and everyone is enjoying each other’s company. It’s never more lonely on Christmas day for the soldier who is deployed away from family as they sit alone a million miles from home. Or for the single person who has no one special to share the holiday with, Christmas is the longest day of the year.

For those who have lost loved ones the loss is magnified when the realization hits that they will never again celebrate the holiday with the one they miss so much. For the families whose marriage is in crisis, Christmas magnifies the brokenness in the home and ushers in a new level of hopelessness when everyone else seems to have it all together – or so it seems when you’re the one who’s marriage is falling apart. For the child who is on the Angel Tree because his single mom cannot afford to buy gifts, his situation is magnified as all the other kids in class talk about what they’re getting for Christmas this year. He just hopes he gets picked so he’ll get something and won’t be embarassed when everyone asks what he got when they return to school.

Christmas is not easy for everyone. If you are one of the fortunate ones whose family has strong, healthly relationships and the get togethers are special moments where memories are made, please take time to give thanks that you are richly blessed. If you are like so many others whose situation is magnified this time of year and you are accutely aware of the failures, hurts, losses and disappointments in your life please take time to give thanks. No matter what your situation is and no matter how hopeless the holidays make you feel, you can still find hope in the one who’s birth is magnified in the songs you hear over and over every where you go. In the words of “O Holy Night” – long lay the world in sin and error pining, til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born.

You see, this is the time of year that we long for in our souls. We have long been in sin and error but Jesus was born and finally our souls felt worthy. We should feel the thrill of hope, we should be rejoicing and falling on our knees because our Savior was born. We no longer have to live feeling hopeless and in despair because, through His birth, everything is new and glorious. We don’t have to live consumed by our circumstances and the enormity of our failures, shortcomings and mistakes. We can seek the One who came to save us and in Him find the peace that we so long for. Don’t spend another Christmas feeling overwhelmed at the magnitude of this life and all it’s shortcomings. The things of this world will never bring us the joy our soul seeks. It’s only in the Savior, the Christ who was born on that holy night so long ago that we will truly find the peace and joy we so deeply long for. Let this Christmas be the one that you fall on your knees and receive His forgiveness and salvation. You can awaken tomorrow to a new and glorious morning where the only thing magnified in your life is His love for you.

Behind the Scenes of An Extreme Makeover


For my son’s birthday we decided it was time to redo his bedroom to give it an updated and age appropriate look. So we set out to perform a much needed extreme makeover. We started by removing three layers of wallpaper then painting the room a warm shade of blue. We bought a new bed, new bedding and a new rug. We brought in a floor plant and changed the ceiling fan to a more modern one. And a new lamp and some new wall hangings finished out the job. His room now looks completely different than before. But the thing is, nothing has really changed. If you remove all of the new items from the room, what’s left underneath the surface is still the same. Many people live their lives much the same way. They try to cover up the pain they feel on the inside by changing things on the surface. They change their appearance. They change relationships, jobs, homes, surroundings, and spouses. They do so in hopes that if they make “surface” changes then they will feel a change on the inside that will overcome the wounds and hurts that nobody can see on the surface. But when you strip all of that away, nothing has really changed on the inside. The only option for real transformation on the inside is when we are born again and become a new creation through Jesus Christ. We keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. But the truth is nothing will change until we surrender our lives to the only One who can bring about real change. Jesus came in human form so that He could die on the cross the death that we deserve. He gave His life so we don’t have to give ours as payment for our sins. So as you give and receive gifts this Christmas, receive the gift of salvation, eternal life and a new life transformation so that you may be healed of the hurts and pains that have held you captive for so long. It’s time for a real change, a below-the-surface life transformation that is found only in Jesus Christ. Ask Him into your heart and to forgive your sins and you’ll have the joy this season of receiving a real Extreme Makeover.

The thing about Christmas


Over the years I’ve come to realize that the excitement and anticipation most of us feel about Christmas is not because we are going to get presents, although they are always fun to receive. It’s not about eating a big meal and then napping while watching football. It’s not about being with family and friends, the lights and decorations or the time off from work or school. I believe the reason there is an excitement in our hearts is because our hearts belong to the One who’s birth we celebrate during this season. The anticipation we feel inside is by design. We look forward to this holiday more so than any other because we all have an internal longing to be with the One who created us. And because we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas the longing is more evident because the holiday is all about Jesus and the fact that He came in human form so that He may die for us because of God’s overwhelming love for us, His children. That longing we feel is purposeful so that we may seek God to fill the empty places in our hearts. But many people search to fill those places with a variety of things like relationships, food, alcohol, material things, power or position. And it is never more evident than at Christmas of how empty we are without Christ. What should be a happy time is a time of great sorrow for so many because the excitement and anticipation build and once Christmas comes and goes those without a Savior are left to realize that once again their expectations are unmet and the emptiness remains. If that is you, let this Christmas be the one where you have great expectancy not for the holiday to bring about the happiness you long for but expect God to fill the empty places in your heart and allow Him to give you the gift of eternal life through His son Jesus Christ who’s birth we celebrate. Simply ask and He will freely give you the peace and true joy you seek.