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 has been only a few months since I had 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 a few Wednesday nights ago and loved every minute.

This past week in choir was life-changing. Julie walked into the choir room with Fiesta and sat 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 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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Fruit or Foliage?

The majestic Hendersonville, North Carolina mountains beckoned my friends. The air was fresh; the breeze was crisp; the sun was glorious; the fellowship was easy. We awakened all excited to visit Sky Top Orchard. We were going on an apple-picking adventure. So many lessons came to my heart on that beautiful orchard about bearing fruit or foliage.

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We pulled into the gravel parking lot and my heart beat quickened.  Acres of you-pick apples, jugs of fresh apple cider, and fun hay rides– all waiting for us.

The orchard was brimming with huge apple trees, as far as your eye could see.  It was amazing.  I climbed to the top of one of the apple trees, teeming with ripened fruit. All I had to do was barely shake the tree limb, and the apples fell effortlessly to the ground. The life application came to mind immediately…

How many of us have driven hours upon hours to the mountains of North Carolina or even flown to the Northeast in the autumn to spend a weekend “leaf looking”? The majestic transformation of the leaves in the mountains or in the Northeast is a sight to behold–for a few weeks. It is amazing to think that this beauty only lasts a mere three weeks or so. Then the leaves fall from the trees, withering and dying on the ground, crunching beneath our feet.

As I climbed down from the apple tree to pick up the buckets of apples on the ground, it occurred to me how fun yet full of hard work truly bearing fruit is. Flashy foliage is so appealing from a distance. Unlike the absolute majesty of “leaf looking,” would you make a special trip to see an apple tree ready to harvest? To see apples hanging on the limbs juicy and ripe, enough to feed a family sustainably for days, weeks, or years if needed? Sadly, the answer may be an under-the-breath “no.”

If you’re like me, at some point you may have started off doing a service for God, only to slack off in just a few weeks and get tired. I confess to you that in my past, some flashy foliage resulted instead of long-time sustainable fruit for God. Bearing fruit for Jesus Christ to better God’s Kingdom is exciting, yet not a glamorous job.

“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples….You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.“–John 15:5-8, 16. NIV

May we all take a trip to our own heart’s orchard, knowing we are called to bear much fruit for Jesus. The message is that simple, is that hard. Let’s roll up our sleeves, delve into God’s Word daily, work diligently for the Lord and bear much fruit.

Editor’s Note: Thank you, Patti Lesslie, Lee Warlick, Sarah Lerner, and Renee Konieczny for bearing fruit with me. I love y’all! Photo Credit: Thank you, Renee Konieczny! You are a precious friend and amazing artist.

Reflect:

–What are your plans to bear more fruit? Please comment.

–How can you encourage the “flashy foliage” bearers in your life? Please comment.

Renew:

–“‘ Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.'” –Matthew 7:15-20 NIV

–“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22 NIV

Recharge:

–“If Christ, the heavenly Vine, has taken the believer as a branch, then He has pledged Himself, in the very nature of things, to supply the sap and spirit and nourishment to make it bring forth fruit…The soul need but have one care—to abide closely, fully, wholly. He will give the fruit. He works all that is needed to make the believer a blessing.” –Andrew Murray

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Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely

A Review of Lysa TerKeurst’s new book

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited Book Blog Tour, which I am delighted to be a part of, along with many other inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, click here at www.uninvitedbook.com.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Sixth grade. My best friend and I were inseparable. We rode our bicycles each day that summer, climbed the magnolia tree in her front yard, played on the trampoline, shared secrets. It was the most fun summer. Until school started. Then she ditched me for aonther friend. She didn’t want to sit together at lunch, nor did she seem to have time to ride bikes. I felt totally rejected. It was my first recollection of feeling truly uninvited. There have been many more since.

Rejection happens to all of us in some form or fashion—whether it’s parting ways with the person you loved and thought you would marry; missing a leadership opportunity we hoped for; or feeling left out and less than by a family member or friend.

Thankfully there’s a recently-released best selling book solution called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Our dynamic Proverbs 31 Ministries President and gifted New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst released the book on August 9th. At this writing it has reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List three weeks consecutively!uninvited-3d

This book hits on a raw place inside me, inside each of us. It has been a healing balm for deep places in my heart I didn’t even realize needed healing.

“No person’s rejection can ever exempt me from God’s love for me. Period. No question mark. The most beautiful love story ever written is the one you were made to live with God.   Imagine how differently you might approach each day by simply stating: God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God. And today is yet another page in our great love story.” –(page.25)

We must declare to live a life filled with God’s love.

Lysa declraes in the book, “God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live… loved.” God wants us to live loved. (pages 30-40)

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Lysa also has a way to make you laugh through tears. Right after reading a poignant, tear-jerking prayer at the end of Chapter 2, Chapter 3, entitled “There’s a Lady at the Gym Who Hates Me,” has me laughing out loud…

“There’s a lady at my gym who hates me. No, I’m serious. She sees me coming, and I can feel little poofs of disdain chugging out of her ears as her feet are churning eighty-seven miles per hour on the elliptical machine. I honestly don’t know how she goes so fast. I once tried to keep up with her. It was awful…” (page 27)

This is the secret sauce of Lysa’s writing. Lysa is the real deal. She is real, so authentic., hilarious. She takes us deep, then lightens the room with laughter, then takes us deep again in Biblical Truth.

She is my boss and amazing leader. Lysa is the same, authentic person sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a meeting than she is on stage teaching God’s Word to thousands of people. She and her husband Art have been married 24 years and intentionally plan date nights on Sunday nights and family supper nights on Mondays. She and Art have five children–three daughters, and two sons adopted from a Liberian orphanage. She is an amazing wife, mom, leader, Bible teacher, friend, and sister in Christ.

Now back to the book. Of the 19 non-fiction books Lysa has written and two children’s books, she will call this her favorite. It’s mine also. She said recently that she didn’t realize how much this year she would need these words she wrote last year to heal her.

If your church is considering a new Bible study, I encourage you to order the “Uninvited” DVD Bible sessions and accompanying Bible Study Guide. The Bible study sessions were filmed in the Holy Land last year, and I had the blessing of being right there as she filmed. We had taken a group of 125 to the Holy Land for Lysa’s daily Biblical teaching in amazing venues. It was the most meaningful experience of my life. I pray you enjoy the teachings as much as I did.

Just like my “uninvited” friendship in sixth grade and countless rejections since then, I remind myself daily to live loved.

Even when we are overlooked by others, we are handpicked by God. In her new book, Uninvited, New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst will help you live like you really believe that truth! You can get your copies by going to www.uninvitedbook.com or to www.proverbs31.org.

*This message is reprinted from the Charleston Mercury’s Carolina Compass, September 2016 Edition.

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It’s Electric–A Lesson on Light and Darkness

Understanding electricity is not a top priority for me. Please don’t get me wrong–I love light. I like to see the results of inserting a light bulb… and voila, let there be light. I learned a humbling lesson recently about photocells, yes, photocells, and how they relate to our faith.

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In my front yard is a cool “dusk-til-dawn” lantern. It’s peaceful to drive up to my home at night and see it shining brightly.

Recently it burned out. Bummer. Taking the step ladder, I gingerly removed the globe and old light bulb, replacing it with a new. Waiting for the light to radiate immediately, I waited and waited. Still darkness.

Remembering the GFI circuit thingy inside, I went inside the house and reset that little button. Craning my neck to look out in the yard, the lamppost was still dark. I even flipped the breaker switch doo-dad, still nothing. Obviously I had maxxed out any slight inkling of electrical knowledge I had, which wasn’t much.

The next day when telling my dear friend about my yard light situation, her husband remarked matter-of-factly. “Some debris may be blocking your light’s photocell, keeping it from shining.” Wait. What? What in the world is a photocell?

He explained that a photocell is a sensor that detects light. The photocell is what makes my lamp know to shine in the darkness. Ahhh. Once the debris was cleaned from the photocell, my lamp miraculously began shining again.

So what does all this mean? How is our faith’s “photocell?” What “debris” in our lives may be keeping us from shining our Light of Jesus? Could our debris be busyness, unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, jealousy, envy, a critical spirit? Ouch. Any of one these and so many others could be the debris blocking the Holy Spirit’s “photocell” connection in our hearts. God desires a total heart connection with us.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16 NIV

Anne Graham Lotz, in her book Just Give Me Jesus, tells this story I’ll soon not forget.

“One night when author Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy, his nanny called him to come to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he was staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny walked over, stood at his shoulder, and inquired patiently, ‘Robert, what are you looking at?’

The little boy, without taking his eyes away from the window, exclaimed in wonder as he pointed to the lamplighter who was lighting the streetlamps. ‘Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!’

With the Holy Spirit as our faith’s “photocell,”and with Jesus as the Light of the world, may we each be totally empowered to go “put holes in the darkness!” You shine!

Reflect:

–How is your light of faith shining right now?

Renew:

–“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12 NIV.

–“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” –2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV

Recharge:

–What is one action item you will accomplish this week to get rid of any “faith photocell debris” you may have?

Resource:

–What is a photocell?

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An Attitude of Gratitude

As the summer winds down and the school year starts up, my mind and heart are grateful. Time passes so quickly. Evening comes sooner now. Have I savored the precious moments?

Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, challenges us to write 1000 things for which we are grateful. This list could contain: a breathtaking butterfly flitting amidst colorful echanacea; a beautiful sunrise; morning dew; birds chirping; sun shining through the window across the hardwood floors; dear friends who open their lovely homes; fun co-workers; a cozy bed in which to sleep. What are you grateful for today, this summer? May each day our hearts, my heart, have an attitude of gratitude.

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” –Philemon 4-7 NIV.

Reflect:

–For what, for whom, are you grateful? Please comment with at least one thing/person you are thankful for.

–Consider making a list of 1000 gifts today.

Renew:

–“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” –Philippians 3:11b

–“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.”  –Victor Hugo.

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