True Vision

I admired her from a distance  as she walked into church with her guide dog, Fiesta. Julie was so joyful, wearing a big smile. Several excited children ran up to her, wanting to pet her beautiful Labrador Retriever guide dog. Julie let them pet Fiesta. Julie was confident, comfortable, effervescent.

It had been only a few months since I joined our church. They said I could show up on Wednesday nights to sing in the choir. Although not formally trained, I love making a joyful noise and singing those beautiful words of hymns, as well as praise and worship songs. I showed up to choir practice the next Wednesday night and loved every minute.

Choir has been life-changing for me. I’ll always remember the first time I saw Julie walk into the choir room with Fiesta and sit beside me on my left. Fiesta sweetly and obediently laid down on her left. And then I saw it.

As we opened our songbook binders, Julie opened hers. A lump formed in my throat. Braille song sheets, printed out on card stock paper and perfectly three-hole-punched, filled her binder.

The musical accompaniment started for our first song. I watched closely as her hand gently started at the top left and followed every word and note. She sang beautifully, joyfully, confidently, not missing a beat.

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Tears welled up in my eyes. I immediately thought of the Philippians passage:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:12a-13.

After we practiced in the choir room and were about to process into the sanctuary choir loft, Julie asked if she could hold my left elbow as we walked. What a gift to me. I looked down and Fiesta patiently walked to the left of her master.

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As we walked down the hall to the church sanctuary she told me of meeting her husband in college, who is also blind. I watched her face radiate as she described her family.

Both their precious sons are sighted. The two boys had joined us in the choir room, the children’s choir practicing one beautiful song with the adult choir.

I found out Julie is also a top seller of Mary Kay cosmetics. She even walks her sons to Taekwondo in downtown Matthews. Is there nothing this girl can’t do?

Julie, Fiesta, and I made our way up the two steps into the choir loft. We stood together to sing. We sang the hymn with passion, feeling the presence of the Lord in a way I can’t describe.

She had told me she would dismiss herself after the first hymn to go to her Sunday School class. She graciously declined needing my assistance. Julie is a woman on a mission.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

Julie has more vision than most sighted people I know. She is content in her circumstances.

She is such an inspiration and true ambassador for Christ.

It is an honor to sing off the same song sheet with Julie.  Thank you, Julie, for bringing more vision and clarity in my life. I pray to be more like Julie, my sweet new friend and sister in Christ.

Reflect:

Who is the Julie in your life? How can you be more liker her? Please comment.

Would you say you are content in your circumstances like Julie? Why or why not?

Renew:

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” –John 9:25b

“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'”–John 9:39.

Recharge:

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all. —Be Thou My Vision (4th verse)

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Keeping The Passion Burning In Our Hearts

Mary Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic Gold medalist and Christian, said “Each of us has a fire in our heart for something. It should be our goal in life to find it and hold on to it.”

What is your passion?

Webster’s Dictionary describes “passion” as:

  1. a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept;
  2. the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death.

Harriet Tubman, the courageous abolitionist, said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Any good leader has passion and fire in his/her belly for a cause. Nehemiah in the Old Testament is a leader who definitely had passion. I love learning from him. His name means “The Lord comforts.”

Four Leadership Lessons of Nehemiah we can draw from on how he kept his passion are:

  1. Prayer, fasting, mourning
  2. Participation from others
  3. Protection from opposition—half to watch, half to work
  4. Prompting of revival

Nehemiah was the cupbearer in King Artaxerxes’ court. His position was one of high honor. Even with his title, he remained humble.

While Nehemiah was on duty, brother Hanani and several men came from Judah, and Nehemiah asked him some questions. I love that Nehemiah was so inquisitive. He was compassionate about his roots.

The Jews had not been back home to Jerusalem in close to 100 years. Their enemies made it virtually impossible to build Jerusalem back after King Nebuchadnezzer had broken the walls down in 586 BC.

The report Nehemiah received was that the survivors were in trouble. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and it gates have been burned with fire.” –Nehemiah 1: 3b. Nehemiah sat down and wept when he heard this news. Then he prayed fervently.

Nehemiah was humble. He mourned and fasted for days, then prayed fervently before the Lord. His prayer is one of the most humble, sincere prayers in the Old Testament.

Prayer is the first leadership lesson we learn from Nehemiah to maintain passion. Prayer is the cornerstone of passion and leadership. It’s truly the cornerstone for everything .

President Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Nehemiah heard a vision from God. Nehemiah cast the vision to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and created passion among the Jewish people.

In Chapter 2 Nehemiah not only casts the vision to rebuild the wall, he humbly enlists participation from others. They replied “Let us start rebuilding. So they began this good work.” –Nehemiah 2: 18b.

I love how Chapter 3 of Nehemiah describes all the builders of the walls, including those who didn’t work hard, like in verse 5. One guy named Shallum in verse 12 is mentioned because he used the help of his daughters. Another guy Baruch is mentioned in verse 20 because he zealously repaired his section. He was passionate.

In Chapter 4 we see opposition and Nehemiah’s protection from that opposition. Nehemiah kept praying, stayed humble. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half of its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” 4:6.

Protection is the 3rd Leadership Lesson we learn from Nehemiah. “Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.” Nehemiah 4: 17.

When we are in the middle of God’s will, we will experience opposition and spiritual warfare. The Lord protects us with wisdom and the Ephesians 6 armor of God. Helmet of Salvation. Breastplate of righteousness—integrity. Belt of Truth. Absolute Truth. Shoes of peace. Shield of faith. Sword of the Spirit. It all faces the front as we face our opposition.

Some of those opposing the rebuilding of the wall began wanting to meet with Nehemiah.

I LOVE how Nehemiah responded. It’s one of my favorite passages.

Nehemiah responded by saying, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’ Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.’” –Nehemiah 6:3-4

That is like us as leaders. No matter what the enemy throws at us, will not waiver from His Vision. Don’t let the enemy squelch our passion.

As God guides us and progress is made, the Holy Spirit will Prompt revival, as it did with Nehemiah. Prompting of Revival is the fourth leadership lesson we learn from Nehemiah to keep the passion fueled.

In Chapter 8, the book of Law is read from dawn till noon.

”…and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen! Then they bowed down and worshiped.”—Nehemiah 8:6

One of my life verses comes next. A few verses later in Nehemiah 8:10 they are repenting so much, Nehemiah says, “This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The day in Nehemiah was sacred to the Lord because His people repented from sin and turn back to Him. Today is also sacred to the Lord.

Is there anything we need to repent from? Let’s examine our hearts and make any necessary changes in us as He prepares us for our sacred day. The Holy Spirit will change our hearts, refueling our passion even more and prompting revival in countless hearts.

Let’s keep the fuels of passion burning in our hearts for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

The good news is that that Jesus Christ is our ultimate Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer.

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls; Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

The same God for Nehemiah as the Repairer of Broken Walls is the same God who will continue to lead us passionately in our God-sized visions.

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The Sign That Freaked Me Out

It happened in the winter. It freaked me out so much I have told hardly anyone. It’s time to tell the story.

I was going through a “dry-spell” in my faith–going through the motions. I needed a revival inside my soul.

Winter sometimes gets me that way. The long nights and short days at home affect me. Seasonal Affective Disorder “they” call it. SAD is a perfect acronym for it.

The Lord called me to Proverbs 31 Ministries almost three years ago. It is a high calling, and one I don’t take for granted. I love where I work and the people with whom I work.

With the rapid way the Lord is growing us,  it makes us desperately dependent on the Lord. I call it “growing pains.” The kind of growing pains that sometimes leave stretchmarks.

We have a God-sized vision to eradicate Biblical poverty–to inspire people to become passionate about Jesus and reading God’s Word. Once that vision is cast and people engage with our Proverbs 31 Ministries resources, then they can influence their hearts, homes, communities, cities, and states around them.  Although I know God’s provision follows God’s vision, raising the funds to do God’s work weighs on me sometimes.

That freaky incident, mentioned above, happened in February of this year.  Our amazing Proverbs 31 Ministries President Lysa TerKeurst was the only female keynote speaker at the wonderful Kingdom Advisors Conference in Orlando. More than 1,200 Christian financial advisors attended this conference.

It was holy ground and such an encouragement to attend. Lysa delivered a powerful message on the spiritual continuum of only needing God, trusting God, and wanting God.

Afterward, I went to my hotel room that night totally convicted, crying out to God. I apologized to Him that He was not my sole heart’s desire.  I confessed to God that He is all that I need. All that I trust. All that I want. At that moment, peace came.

The last day of the conference was filled with worshipful sessions, praise and worship. I couldn’t take notes fast enough as I was hopeful about implementing some of these ideas professionally and personally.

When it was time to leave the conference hotel and head to the Orlando airport, a gentleman from Black Cab picked me up. I thought I’d have time to reflect quietly on the 45-minute drive to the airport. He seemed talkative.

“Oh Great,” I thought to myself. I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to marinate on all that I had learned and experienced. Then doubt set in again.

Questions flooded from within me. “God, why did You choose a women’s ministry like us at Proverbs 31 Ministries to eradicate Biblical poverty”?

“Why us?”

“Why me?”

“Please give me a sign that I am right in the middle of Your will. I need You. I trust You. I want You.”

And then it happened. At that moment, I looked up out of my window. Written in the sky just as clearly as could be, was the word “Trust.” Shocked, I asked the driver, “Why do you think that word is written in the sky”?

The driver replied, “Oh, he’s not finished. Each day the skywriter writes a message. It’s different every day.”

The skywriter started the next word. “J.”

We were getting close the airport.

“E” was formed. Then an “S.” My heart is skipping a beat by this time. No way.

Then the rest of the word. The Name. Absolute shock. Tears formed.  I was speechless.

The driver must have sensed my emotion.

He said, “Today’s message is just for you.”

Teary-eyed I said, “Yes, He knows what we need just when we need it.”

Okay, Okay, I get it.

Yes, sir, Jesus. I Trust YOU with all that I am.

Friend, if you have doubts, like I sometimes do, please be encouraged that God is with you.  He will reveal Himself to You when you need it most. He is the ultimate Skywriter on our hearts.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek You.” –Psalm 9:10.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. ” –Psalm 20:7-8.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” –Proverbs 3:5

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