Category Archives: Principles of Success

Let the Race Begin.

horse-herd-fog-nature-52500Would it make any sense to give a six-year old an algebra problem? Perhaps not. Learning to count would probably be a prerequisite. How about scheduling a med student to do brain surgery? What if it were just a small brain op? Or what if couples skipped all the long years it takes to have kids and just went and picked out a whole litter at once? Say, maybe a baby, a couple of two-years old – oh, and they wouldn’t want to miss the whole teenage experience – maybe a fourteen-year old? (Fourteen is such a wonderfully expressive age.)

The point is, we can’t just be thrown into the middle of challenges – especially big ones.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, aka “the weeping prophet” (because he was always weeping for the people): the day came when Jeremiah had just had enough. He was tired of people sinning against God and refusing to repent; he was fed up with the unrighteousness and idol worship that had so completely polluted the nation; and he was done with people plotting to kill him. (Who wouldn’t be?) So he went to the Lord with a complaint:

“’Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but in their hearts they give you no credit at all. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like helpless sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! How long must this land weep [from sin]? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. Yet the people say, “The Lord won’t do anything!”’” (Jer. 12:1-4)

Now Jeremiah had a point: the people were evil – and they were good at being evil. In addition, they were mocking God and saying, essentially, “We can sin as much as we want and God won’t do a thing about it!” Jeremiah didn’t like that. One bit.

God’s response? “’If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?’” (Jer. 12:5)

Point? If the job training is more than you can handle, then how will you handle the job?

But – here’s what we say: “Lord, when is my destiny going to happen? Why is everyone else living the dream and I’m still struggling? You know my heart! You see how sincere I am! Why do they get to be happy and prosperous and not me?? They don’t even give You the credit for their success!”

Now, here’s what the Lord might say: “If you can’t balance a checkbook or stick to a budget, how will you manage great wealth? If you can’t give when you have a little, how will you give proportionately when you have much? If you can’t discipline yourself at your job when you aren’t solely responsible for everything that happens, how do you expect to be able to discipline yourself when you’re the boss or self-employed? If you can’t honor your mother and father now, how do you expect to honor a husband or wife later? If you can’t handle the ordinary spiritual warfare and attacks of the enemy in your own life, how do you expect to fend off the enemy if your destiny makes you visible to the community or to the nation or to the world?”

Here’s what the Lord has said: “’Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given’” (Luke 12:48).

This means that the greater your destiny, the more that will be required of you. Pick any Bible character who ever did anything worth mentioning and that will be their story. However, that’s always a choice; never does God force the “more required” part on anyone.

Remember: if you don’t cave in the prep “racing against mere men”, then you’ll win in the battle “racing against horses”.

So then – let the race begin.

“The Wait” or the Counterfeit? Your Call.

Hold Button GoldSeveral years ago, I needed a teaching job. I had switched careers and already had kids, meaning I needed a full-time job, not part-time, and I needed permanent, not temporary. So – I searched and searched, but without experience, it was slow going.

     Nevertheless, one day I got a call from a principal to interview for a high school  English position. I was, of course, all in and set up the interview but then, as we were ending the phone conversation, he said, “By the way, the position is full-time but it’s a temporary maternity leave for the fall semester. Are you still interested?”

     What was I supposed to say? No?  “Of course. Thank you.”

     Well, I have to tell you that for the next two days, the left side of my brain and the right side of my brain did nothing but fight.

     RIGHT SIDE: “Of course we have to try for the job. We have two children to feed!”

     LEFT SIDE: “But we need a full-time, permanent job and this isn’t it.”

     RIGHT: “Yes, but we’re running out of time! They only hire for teachers once a year. They won’t be hiring again till next year!”

     LEFT: “Right, but if we took this job, we’d have to start this whole job-hunting thing all over again in January. And there’s never anything then.”

     RIGHT: “I know but in the meantime, it’s a paycheck.”

     LEFT: “True, but we could miss the job we’re really supposed to have.”

     It was at this point that I finally stepped in and shut them up. But, I had to admit, Lefty had a point: I could miss the job I was supposed to have. I’d been praying for a full-time, permanent job and this job wasn’t that. Where was my faith? Was I going to trust God or was I going to “settle”?

     I picked up the phone, called the principal and thanked him for the interview opportunity but explained that since I really needed a permanent job, I didn’t want to take up his time interviewing for a job I knew I couldn’t take. He thanked me for calling – and that, as they say, was that.

     I was nervous. All I could hear was Righty saying, “That was dumb.”

     Until the phone rang again. I was offered an interview for a full-time, permanent job which, I’m happy to report, I got and have had for sixteen years.

     Truth: if it’s an important decision in your life, the enemy will often fix you up with a counterfeit thing before God offers you the real thing.

     A “counterfeit” is, by definition, a fake or phony something or other intended to deceive and/or derail. In this case, it was a counterfeit job. Think about it: not only would I have had to begin the whole long, arduous job-hunting process all over again in January, but the job God had intended for me would have been taken by someone else. 

     Fast forward to 2012: I wanted a pre-owned Camry Hybrid with no rust and at an affordable price. I know – tall order. And I learned one thing: there aren’t too many Camry Hybrids out there – rust or no rust.

     So I shopped around, found one and it looked good (even though it was gray) so I got set to make an offer. But before I did, I took it to my mechanic to get it checked out. (Can’t buy a car not checked out.) Turns out there was some rust on the undercarriage. It wasn’t much but there weren’t any other Camry Hybrids around so I had a decision to make: take this car or take a chance and keep looking? (Did I mention that I had promised my son who needed a car for college that he could have mine when I got my new one? All I heard for three months was, “When are you going to get a new car??)

     And then I remembered the job and so I prayed, “Lord, I’ve been believing you for a car with no rust, I know that’s not too hard for You, and so that’s what I’m going to wait for.” (Son wasn’t happy about that.)

     Long story short, shortly afterward, I bought a beautiful, rust-free, red Camry Hybrid from a dealer in Pennsylvania (where they don’t use road salt). And I picked it up one week before son left for college.

     Lesson? The enemy will often offer the counterfeit thing before God reveals the real thing. Why doesn’t God come through sooner? I asked Him once while in the middle of “The Wait,” and He assured me that things were “in the works” but that the other people involved weren’t yet ready. In the job situation, I found out later that the opening didn’t happen until nearly August when another teacher waited longer than usual to announce her retirement. I got the job right before school started. Listen – the Lord will often test our faith and allow the waiting to go right up until the last minute. But, as they say, “He’s rarely early, but He’s never late.”

     So – if you’re sick of waiting to see your dream realized, your vision fulfilled, your destiny unfold, understand that God has the perfect thing (or person); he/she/it simply may not have their circumstances aligned yet.

     In the meantime, remember Abraham who got tired of waiting and took matters into his own hands. Now we have war in the Middle East.

     Do not fall for the counterfeit. Your destiny is well worth “The Wait.”

What are you waiting for? Let me know here.

Let’s Ride.

 

Arthur and KnightsYou’ve probably not given it much thought lately, but a warhorse is an amazing thing. They’re not just what the warrior rides on – they are the warrior. They have, of course, strength, they have incredible instincts, and they are fearless. Why am I rambling on about warhorses? Because they weren’t born that way.

Warhorses are made.

I’m reminded of a scene in the best rendition of the King Arthur legend that I’ve ever seen called, not surprisingly, King Arthur (starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley). In a nutshell, Arthur is a Roman commander and all of his knights, before they were knights, were Sarmation boys who were forced into 15 years of brutal servitude in the Roman army. Essentially, because the Sarmations were known to be valiant warriors, the boys are taken from their homes and become slaves.

Nevertheless, they come to love Arthur because, unlike other Romans, he believes all men were born free “from their first breath”. These men fight alongside Arthur for 15 years until the day comes when they’ve all earned their freedom; they have the papers and everything. The problem is that the Saxons are invading Britain from the north and the Saxons are evil. Everything and everyone they don’t murder, they burn. However, now that his knights are free, Arthur will not order them to fight the Saxons. They ride off to return to their homes, taking the townspeople to escape with them, and Arthur rides off to face the Saxons alone (with a little help from Merlin’s druids but how much good will that do?). But as the knights are riding merrily away from the battle, the sound of the Saxons’ war drums can be heard in the far distance. The Saxons are coming closer. Nevertheless, the knights ignore them and keep riding south.

Except that their warhorses don’t.

Their warhorses hear the sound of the drums in the distance and begin to fight their riders to turn around. The knights have a hard time reining them in as the horses are pawing and snorting and trying to gallop away. The horses are fearless.

They hear the sound of the battle and they want to run to it.

Horses don’t become warhorses the moment some warrior throws a saddle on them and rides off into battle; warhorses, like the warriors themselves, are trained. They’re taught to run to the battle and through the thick of it, never slowing down. They’re taught commands, battle maneuvers, and defensive strategies. They’re trained in battle skirmishes so that they get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the battle. And they’re taught to keep on fighting – even when they’re wounded.

Warhorses begin as wild horses – whether they’re captured in the wild or born in a stall. And yet it’s that wild spirit that’s not broken but honed, trained and refined. The warhorse learns who its master is and, when submitted to the master, then becomes a partner with him and the two accomplish more together than either one could ever do alone. Submission to the training of its master does not beat the horse into a wimpy little nag; rather it makes the horse into a warhorse – more fearless, powerful and magnificent than it could ever hope to be in the wild.

You and I are like those wild horses. We may have some skills on our own, but submitted to the Master, we can become more than we’d ever have dreamed – fearless, powerful and valuable resources in the war for the Kingdom on earth.

There’s a reason Jesus will ride to victory in the final battle on a warhorse instead of in an F-22 fighter jet or an Apache helicopter. A warhorse is His partner, it fights with Him and for Him. And a warhorse never runs.

If we listen, we can hear the sound of the war drums. Are you ready?

Spiritual Warfare vs. Your Destiny – Part II

Keira Knightly
The bigger the destiny, the greater the battles. And how can we handle the bigger battles for the greater destiny if we can’t handle the smaller battles?

    Last post I shared my memorable last week and the barrage of “unfortunate” experiences that just kept coming – a.k.a. “fiery darts”. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s in reference to enemy attacks launched in the spiritual realm, in short, “spiritual warfare”. 

I shared how things had begun to break and needed to be replaced or repaired. Quick review: the electric stove kept shocking us; the pool motor shut down and had to be replaced and installed (idk which was the bigger pain); the car had chlorine spilled all over the trunk; the car was splattered with tar all over – not the usual spatter, mind you; this particular mess gave me a two-toned car; had to buy a new phone (the other one just quit) and then lost all of my contacts and had to input them manually; and, last but not least, my computer shut down and wouldn’t fire up (panic!). Turns out I needed a new charger. (Did I forget anything . . . ?) Oh, right – it all cost lots of money. However, all of that happened in context of making real progress on the book on – guess what? Spiritual warfare.

   So – what can you do when the darts start flying?

   First, remember that “We battle not against flesh and blood [people], but rather against rulers, powers, and spiritual forces of darkness in high places” (Eph. 6).  What that means is that even if people are involved in the attack, fighting with them isn’t going to end it. That’s because they’re not the source of it.

   Second, doing the usual is not going to work in a spiritual war. Of course problems need to be attended to but to end them is an entirely different game.  It’s similar to a soldier being wounded: one treats the wound but doing so doesn’t end the battle. We have to fight. And the fact is that we can only fight a spiritual war with spiritual weapons. So . . .

   Thing #1: Pray. Now before you say, duh!, pray the right way. First, pray Scripture. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is literally a spiritual sword – meaning it annihilates all attacks – whether in the spiritual or physical realms. A friend who sees into the spiritual realm once told me that he’d seen fifteen-foot angelic warriors come to full attention when anyone proclaims scripture. This happens because the angels don’t hear the person talking; they literally hear the voice of their commander, Jesus Christ, giving them orders. And they act on those orders. If you want to activate angels on your behalf, pray scripture and personalize it:

  “It is written: ‘No weapon formed against me will succeed; every tongue that rises against me in judgment will be condemned; and if anyone does attack me, they will surrender to me.’” (Isaiah 57).

   Thing #2: Pray in unity. Find a prayer partner and either meet regularly or as needed. The Word tells us that “One can put a thousand to flight, and two can put 10,000 to flight” (Deut. 32:30). Praying in unity is a spiritual firebomb!

   Thing #3:  If you know how, pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is willing to intercede for us and often prays for things that we have no idea we should even be addressing. I’ve heard of amazing breakthroughs coming after people spent time praying in the Spirit.

   Thing #4: Be grateful for what you do have. Bless the Lord and keep an atmosphere of praise in your home. In short, the enemy can’t stand listening to it. “Resist the enemy and he will flee” (James 4:7).

   Thing #5: Proclaim the blood of Christ upon the people and situations involved. The blood has power!  The enemy cannot stand an atmosphere “soaked” in the blood of Christ because it has defeated him and he must retreat from it.

   In short, the way to victory from attacks is spiritual warfare: the Blood, the Word, and the Spirit are our weapons. No matter what form the attack takes, it’s a spiritual attack.

   Nevertheless, some folks just don’t like conflict; they don’t want to fight a battle – spiritual or otherwise. The only advice I can give is that you’re already in it. And unfortunately, the only two choices are to fight or surrender. Ignoring it never seems to work.

   Another reason to do battle? Your destiny is at stake.  I once heard someone say, “The bigger the destiny, the greater the battles. And how are we going to handle the bigger battles for the bigger destiny if we can’t handle the smaller battles?”

   When you’re under the gun, remember what that means. Something really big is coming . . .

The “Insignificant” Days of Your Destiny

           The Beginning Book Cover 2 A lifelong relationship begins with a “hello”.  A business begins with the very first customer.  A mighty oak tree begins with a small acorn.  Writing a book begins with the first word.  A concert pianist begins with “Chopsticks”. Losing pounds begins with the first day of the diet.  A dynasty begins with one man and one woman.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10).

            God rarely begins a person on the highway to his or her destiny in a big way.  Not that He can’t, but there is much to be learned on the road from small to big. And depending on what our dreams and destinies are, lessons will vary. 

            For example, how to manage people is a big lesson for anyone wanting to own their own business. Businesses rarely begin with more than a handful of employees so that owners learn how to hire wisely, manage workers with the right balance of respect and authority, and handle personnel problems.  Imagine trying to learn all of that with dozens of employees. Or a military service member – he or she begins as the lowest-ranked soldier or officer and grows into more responsibility through promotion.  To begin as an admiral or general would probably not work. Many other examples come to mind. Talents for writing or music or art must be developed; one begins small, writing for a school paper, performing in a music recital, or painting a school mural.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

            We often want to start big and then get frustrated when we can’t.  Or, we get tired of working, practicing, doing and re-doing and so we quit, thinking the dream will never happen.  But here’s a principle: the bigger the destiny, the long the prep time.  Oak trees take decades to become full grown.  Masters take decades to perfect their crafts.  Multi-million dollar companies take many years to become that profitable.

The fact is that to appreciate the value of “small beginnings,” we have to realize that all of life is about “becoming.”

            We make the mistake of asking children what they want to “be” when they grow up.  Rather we should be asking them what they want to “become.”  Small distinction but the message is huge: “becoming” takes time and work.  Fortunately, the Bible contains many examples of “becoming” from small beginnings.

            David, for example, spent years by himself learning to shepherd sheep and fight the lions and bears.  After that, he spent 16 years hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him.  What did he learn from all that trauma?  Warfare, leadership and honor. And what did he become?  A mighty warrior and a king. 

            Joseph was sold as a slave to a rich Egyptian (not fair), during which time he rose to favor for his ability to organize the entire estate and business, causing both to grow and prosper.  And what did Joseph learn?  He mastered the Egyptian language, culture, customs, and upper class etiquette as well as how to manage an estate, its staff and businesses.  God was training him to become an administrator.

            But then Joseph went to jail, accused of something he didn’t do (also not fair.) But while there, Joseph exhibited his talent for management and so the chief jailor put him in charge of all of the prisoners and prison affairs.

            But why prison?

            In prison, Joseph had become one of the “lower class,” the prisoners, and so he learned about their ways of thinking, their culture and customs.  He learned how it felt to be them.

            Needless to say, it was quite the coincidence that he’d need to know all of that as Joseph became Egypt’s second in command to Pharaoh.

            Esther is another example – my favorite.  Esther was among the young women “kidnapped” and put into the Babylonian king’s harem so that he could, he hoped, find his next queen.  But before Esther could even hope to become queen, she first had to spend a year in the king’s harem – not, generally speaking, the first pick for a virtuous young Jewish girl.  But in the midst of the beauty treatments, Esther learned the Babylonian language, culture and, I’m certain, a great deal about how to navigate the politics of a royal court and its country.  And as we later find out, she needed that intel to become the one to save her people from annihilation. 

            What do David, Joseph and Esther have in common?

            While they suffered much in the circumstances they were thrust into, each one still made the best of the situation by doing the best they could.  They exhibited humility, excellence and honor despite their long periods of hardship.  And here’s the endgame: each of them was promoted to royalty.

            They did not despise their days of small beginnings.

             Don’t be discouraged at the small beginnings of your dream or destiny. It can seem overwhelming when you envision how far you have to go so, as Michael Hyatt says, “Just do the next thing in front of you.” Then trust the Lord to grow the dream.  Remember: “the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

            Your work.

It’s Time to Cast Your Net.

Casting NetsLynn had failed over and over. Not once or twice but multiple times she’d pitched her business idea to investors and each time was rejected. To say she was disappointed is hardly an exaggeration. All Lynn had ever wanted to do was to open her own business so she took business courses, researched different opportunities, and developed a business plan.  

Lynn believed!

But no one else did. Finally, after several years of trying to secure funding and failing, Lynn quit.  She was heartbroken.  It was the death of a life-long dream. Until one day when, out of the blue, the Lord said to her,

 “Now go out where it is deeper and cast your nets.”

“Who? Me?” Lynn responded, somewhat bewildered.

“Yes, you,” said the Lord.

“But Lord,” answered Lynn, “I’ve worked for many years searching for investors and failing. But, if you say so, I’ll try again.”

So Lynn set out once more to find investors for her company except that this time, she sought bigger, more lucrative investors. After all, the Lord had instructed her to fish in deeper waters.

The next day, Lynn got a “bite” from an investor saying he was definitely interested in Lynn’s company and suggested even more money than Lynn had sought. Not only that, but two other investors had heard about Lynn’s business and were interested in investing as well.  In the end, Lynn ended up with two investors and her business – Chinese restaurant trucks (just like ice cream trucks except with egg rolls, General Tao and chopsticks) was a huge success!

So okay, yes – this is the same situation in which Jesus directed Peter to “’go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

Peter, at first though, isn’t so sure. He responds, “’Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’”  Then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

What’s it all mean?

First, the Lord tells Peter to “’let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky (although I hear that’s been known to happen).  Rather Pete had to work for it.  The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to have partners.

Moreover, sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity – to go big!  At the same time, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and require more faith.  However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter.

Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish (idk) but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned – even ridiculed.  Often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong.  However, He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not.

Finally, notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out . . .’” When God says “now,” it’s best to move.  Considering that God often saves the “now”s until we don’t expect them, it never hurts to be prepared. (The virgins and their lamps come to mind . . .)

So – even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to be – or God wouldn’t have called you to be that, would He?

So get ready to cast your nets. Get ready to go deeper.

Life Lessons Worth Remembering.

Charlie Brown
Lessons by Omer B. Washington

I’ve learned- that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I’ve learned- that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I’ve learned- that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learned- that you can keep going long after you can’t.

I’ve learned- that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned- that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned- that it takes years to build trust and only a few minutes to destroy it.

I’ve learned – that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learned- that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts.

I’ve learned- that you should never ruin an apology with an excuse.

I’ve learned- that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something.

I’ve learned- that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I’ve learned- that either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I’ve learned- that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I’ve learned- that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I’ve learned- that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I’ve learned- that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be the ones to help you get back up.

I’ve learned- that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I’ve learned- that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.

I’ve learned- that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learned- that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I’ve learned- that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or ridiculous. Few things are more humiliating or tragic if believed.

I’ve learned- that your family won’t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren’t biological.

I’ve learned- that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I’ve learned- that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I’ve learned- that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I’ve learned- that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And just because they don’t argue doesn’t mean they do.

I’ve learned- that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I’ve learned- that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

I’ve learned- that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I’ve learned- that no matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get hurt and you will hurt in the process.

I’ve learned- that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I’ve learned- that it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice and not hurting people’s feelings, and standing up for what you believe.

I’ve learned- that people will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

By Omer B. Washington

“Do Not Fear the Work.”

          FearHave you ever felt that your dream is too big?  The task feels so monumental, the job so impossible that you begin to wonder if the one thing God got wrong in all eternity was calling you to do it?

            King Solomon certainly wondered.

            Back story: King David had always wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but God told David that he would not be the one to build it; rather his son Solomon would build it.  Not surprisingly, Solomon was somewhat intimidated by the importance and scope of the task.

            It is at this point that David tells Solomon:

“’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work is finished’” (I Chron 28:20).

            Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with what the Lord has called me to write – a book series – and I feel I’m in way over my head.  There are times I feel lost in a maze, not knowing which direction to turn or what comes next.  The research, the jigsaw puzzle that it is, the writing, the rewriting and sometimes, when the Lord decides to change things up, the starting all over.  I’m sharing this because my experience with this process is not unusual when the Lord gives us an assignment. 

           For example, when I wrote the first book, it seemed to flow right out of the pen. I’d finish writing a scene or chapter and then go, “Where did that come from??”  It wasn’t me.

           Enter book #2 – not so much. 

           Before I even started, the Lord said to me, “I gave you the first book. Now you’re going to have to seek me for the second.”

           “Okay,” (I naively replied), “how hard can that be?”

           Well – writing the next one has been a totally different experience.  Sometimes I just stare at the page, waiting for something, anything.  That’s when Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins’ advice kicks in: “There is no such thing as ‘writer’s block”.  Now sit your fanny in the chair and pick up the pen.”  I’m paraphrasing (but not much).

           Some time I’ll discuss the process of writing this series because, despite all that, it’s been such a God-thing that I can’t possibly convey it in a few words. However, suffice it to say that, in the past few years, the Lord has prompted me to do things which I had no idea would ever be part of a storyline, much less a series of books. I didn’t even know why I was doing the things at the time.

           For example, a few years ago, the Lord directed me to get in the car and drive to New England. Why?  Didn’t have a clue.  So I rounded up a friend and drove.  On the way (another principle entirely), we were directed to go to Salem and Plymouth and pray for the nation.  Odd, right?  No kidding.  But then, two years later, the Lord began to show me that that trip was a prophetic action that would become part of the series’ plot.

           A couple of takeaways: first, you may not have a clue what you’re doing – you only know that you have to do it. It’s kind of like salmon fighting their way upstream because well, just because. They don’t know why either.

           Second, you know that no matter how hard the work is, you can’t quit because – then what would you do? You were born for this and nothing else.

           Third, it’s only when the task seems impossible (or really is) that we depend completely on God.  Why?  Because seeking God is hard – the praying, the waiting, the trying and then trying again . . . You know.

           Jesus said we would do greater exploits than He did. He just neglected to mention how overwhelming that would feel at times.

           I know you’re called to “impossible” things. Maybe it’s raising children that make your life a challenge every single day – their needs or their rebellion or even their heartbreaking rejection.  Maybe you’re running a business, but it’s been one obstacle, setback or failure after another.  Maybe school is a real struggle.  It could be anything that, at times, leaves you feeling depleted, discouraged and totally inept. Maybe you’ve reached a point, as I did in the middle of fighting through the first year of the Common Core high school English modules, when you simply say, “God, you’ve got the wrong girl.”  I was so done. 

           In those moments, it’s good to remember Joshua, charged by the Lord to go into the Promised Land and clean it out – even after the spies came back saying, “’We saw the Nephilim there’ (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)” (Num 13:33). (The Nephilim were the giants born from the unions of the naughty angels and the daughters of men.)

           We know Joshua was shaken (who wouldn’t be?), but it was then that the Lord said to Joshua, “’Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’” (Jos 1:9).

           That scripture always re-sets my perspective. If Joshua had the courage and the faith to battle the legendary Nephilim and win, then I can certainly manage to buckle down, pick up the pen, and do the thing that God has called me to do.  And so can we all.

           “Do not fear the work.”

“The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Green LightHave you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God about it – and then waited? And waited. And waited.  There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night.  God didn’t give you a prophetic word – even though you hit 7.5 prophetic meetings (you know you did).  And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’.  Got it.”  And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

Ever been there?

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that when he came back, he would expect to see a return on his investment.  Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities.  But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them is the point.

The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents – and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.  The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents – as long as the results benefited his kingdom.  So what did they do?  The best they knew how to do.

Except for one of them.

When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back.  The master, not pleased, asked him why.  The man’s response?  “I was afraid.”  Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

Want a message from God?  He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

As Pastor Andrew put it, “The light is green until it’s red.”

In other words, go.

The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something). Recently, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point.

Last week, I decided I wanted to take a reputable on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. S0 – should I or shouldn’t I?  I checked in with the Lord (in case He had any thoughts on the matter) but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close.  So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it.  By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it.  Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

Red light.

Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving.  As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

“But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?” You probably will.  Everybody does (it builds character).  But then you get back up and try again. 

Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams – regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer.  However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY.  No harm, no foul.  I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.”

The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t happen?  If not, then don’t do it.  If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light.  I once turned down a job because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

Red light.

What college should you go to? Any one you want – if you can afford it.  Don’t risk going to a college where you’ll rack up 100K in debt for a major that won’t allow you to make enough to pay that debt.  Not an acceptable risk.

Should you marry a particular person? Not without considering Biblical principles such as being equally yoked and seeking wise counsel.  And if you consider marriage an “acceptable risk” (meaning divorce is an option), then that’s a red light.  A really bright one. Continue reading “The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

           What do you call a man who, when asked for food and drink by an army of 400 warriors, deliberately refuses them and then insults them? 

            How about “fool”? Sierra Exif JPEG

             Coincidently, that was the meaning of the name of Abigail’s husband, Nabal. Backstory (I Sam. 25): David and his mighty men, hungry and thirsty, had come upon Nabal’s men shearing his hundreds of sheep (Nabal was rich) and asked them for food and drink.  Since David and his men had often protected Nabal’s herdsmen from danger, it wasn’t therefore asking too much for David to make such a request of Nabal.  What was unusual was for Nabal to refuse David – especially considering that Nabal was plenty rich enough to provide food for David and his men.  And most especially considering that it was – well, David and his men.  Four hundred of them.  With swords.

             But – was Nabal’s foolish behavior really so coincidental?

             Perhaps not. It’s difficult to imagine the impact of growing up and hearing yourself called “fool” every time anyone mentioned your name.  Consequently, Nabal might simply have become convinced that that’s all he would ever be – whether he tried otherwise or not.  So (I’m speculating), consciously or not, Nabal began to imitate other fools.

             That’s what’s known as a “word curse”; we tend to become what we’re told we are. Jesus referred to such words as “idle words” and said that we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak.  Why?  Because people believe what they hear about themselves – for better or worse.

             Take Jacob, for example, who was born grasping his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25). His parents named him Jacob, meaning “one who takes by the heel” or “supplants”.  They must (I speculate) have jokingly surmised that, at birth, Jacob was trying to pull his brother back so he could be the first out the door, the firstborn.  Thus, he was trying to “supplant” his brother, which means “to trip up or overthrow”.  Now, imagine Jacob hearing that story his whole life; possibly he came to feel that one day he would, in fact, supplant or replace his brother.  By the time he did deliberately set out to steal his brother’s first-born status, was it really a surprise to anyone?

             So – what are you saying about yourself? About your goals and visions?  Are you saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?  Or are you saying, “I’m not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or financially stable enough or experienced enough or – whatever enough?”

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING YOURSELF CALL YOURSELF?

             Is it fool? Or liar/deceiver?  How about stupid? Ugly?  Loser?  Worthless?  Evil?  Failure?  Hopeless?  If so, you need to get a new vision of yourself.

            “Yeah,” you say, “been there, heard that. But I just can’t.” 

            Why? Jesus died to give you a new vision of yourself. And if His death isn’t powerful enough to re-write your identity, then Christ died for nothing. 

             Of course, you don’t believe that. So do you really believe then that there is any “case” too impossible for the Lord to re-define, to make new?  Of course not.  But you have to believe that that power applies to you.  Is that always easy?  No – as Jacob proves.

            I should point out here that Jacob was not a nice person. Not only does he deliberately deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright (Gen. 27) but, after a nasty conflict with his father-in-law over wages, he decides to take all his wives and children and return to his homeland.  Fair enough.  However, on the way, he’s afraid of running into his brother Esau (!) and so packs up a bunch of presents for him and sends all of them, along with his wives and children, across the river ahead of him.

            Not exactly a model of integrity.

             But what happens next always kind of baffled me. Continue reading THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have