It Starts Here

November is here! It’s a month that has become synonymous with the attitude of giving thanks. In a world where too often we hear complaints more than we hear admonition, having weeks of listening to people talk about being thankful is like a breath of fresh air! Yet, as Christians, a lifestyle of thankfulness should be a goal we are actively pursuing.


In Thessalonians 5:18, Paul admonishes us to live a life of giving thanks. As we read the passages connected to the well known verse, we see that he also is painting a picture of a life that walks in both joy and thanksgiving.


“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (v16-18)


This passage was written by a man who was beaten often and faced jail time repeatedly. But he still says, “Rejoice, pray and give thanks!” How can that be? He had found the key in his relationship with Jesus.
Imagine a person that is always rejoicing. Or that person who spends so much time in prayer that as they just walk in a room peace follows. It often is easier for those who are happy to show a heart of thanksgiving. And when you find a person who make prayer a part of their daily focus, you also find a person that walks in more peace and joy. It all ties together to complete an attitude of being grateful.


Last night I sat at a table with a family who had just walked through a devastating trial this weekend. Fighting back tears, the husband opened up with thankfulness of how God has carried them and has taught them so much about the body of Christ through this hurt. What is their key? They leaned on Him. They live a lifestyle of prayer. They chose to not push Him away but allow Him to hold them. Are they walking through some of the “why?” questions right now? Yes. Daily. It is literally one foot in front of the other, slowly, to get through each day. But they still are thankful for His amazing love. As we sat there surrounded by cousins, laughter was abundant in the midst of pain. It reminded me of Proverbs 17:22 “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” That’s the beginning of thankfulness.


Like both this family and Paul, we are not promised a rosy path in this life. But as we choose time with Him over all other life events, we find a thankful heart for His promise to carry us through. That’s where it all starts….time with our Father.


Let’s start this thankful month with Him and watch joy and peace follow. He is worth it!

Childhood Reboot

“If I could only go back…..” How often have we heard this phrase spoken by someone who want a reboot?Yet none of us can actually move back the hands on the clock of time to an earlier moment of life. So why does God continue to encourage us to do just that?

In Genesis 35, God tells Jacob to go back to Bethel. Throughout Exodus and even into the New Testament, the Israelites are reminded of where they came from. What is so important about the past? It’s the experience. The past represents encounters we have with our Maker. God wanted Jacob to get back to when he had heard God’s voice. A time to remember the covenant he had made with God. To get back to what had been seeded into him years before.

Recently, God gave me a vivid dream. It was as if He culminated my church experience into one event. The buildings were a combination of the ones I had attended during childhood and people were from every season of my life. All around me, leaders and people were pushing their desires and way of ‘doing church’. It finally built up to where I had enough and passionately stopped it all. I took one person with me and, with tears and much passion, led him to the old church building. Passionately, through streaming tears, I voiced, “You want to draw people in, get back here. To the altar! I never needed any of the other things being talked about because the power that was here made me excited to attend church!” I awoke from the dream and was still feeling the heart of God crying out to His people, “Return to your passion for Me!”

My favorite memories of church was what happened at the altar. From our senior women dancing in the spirit up front to the people whose lives where changed as they prayed through. I can still see the night as an 8 year old when I received the baptism of the Spirit. I see the altar in the small white country church, us kids and youth kneeling in prayer with the adults around us. My life was forever changed. Communion as a family around the altar. Everything of value happened around that altar. And I know from my dream that God is crying out, “Get back to My altar!”

The words I heard from a local pastor a few weeks ago still is reverberating in my spirit. “God never visits an empty altar. You want the fire of God? Live at the altar.” (Lee Shipp) Think about it! Throughout scripture we see God visiting the altar. We see His purifying fire on the altar.

God Himself is the one who ordained the altar in the tabernacle. Moses understood the significance. David yearned for time at the altar and was called “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet today we heard people in and out of our buildings by groups. We offer people to pray where they are and then send a text to receive follow up. But what about leading a people to that altar of incense. Yes. It can happen at home. But for a people who have never experienced that amazing, heart changing encounter of altar time, who will lead them?

I am so thankful for my dad, and pastor, who taught me the importance of time spent at the altar. It’s time for a reboot in our spirit! It is time to go back to that ‘Bethel’ moment in our lives. Clear away the schisms and seek His face! To cry out saying, “Your face, Lord, I will seek!”

Where did He first change your heart? Have you drifted from that intimate time with Him and been distracted by life’s events? Let’s reboot today!

Wounded Soldiers

……”for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”   Philippians 1:19

Intercession. What does that really mean to us as Christians? First, let’s look at the definition:

in·ter·cede– /ˌin(t)ərˈsēd/ verb         intervene on behalf of another  

That definition brings the thought of standing in the gap for another person. Taking action on their behalf when perhaps they are too weak to fight it alone. Intercession is coupled with prayer as we do battle on a spiritual level. Yet too often we forget that just as much as our enemy is spiritual, our own actions can wound those that need our intervention.

Our military has a motto to leave no one behind.  But what about the body of Christ?  Do we fight just for ourselves or for each other?  And when we see others wounded, do we run to their assistance or sit back to analyze why and how they ended up on the ground bleeding?  I recall a time early in marriage when we were praying for my husband’s healing.  As we continued to stand in prayer and not yet seeing healing, the more advice we received from others  Advice such as, “Just claim it!”  “Rebuke the enemy.”  “Maybe you don’t have enough faith.”  “Maybe there is sin in your life.”  And the list goes on.  So does the dying process of the wounded.

Having walked through this several times during tough seasons in our lives, I’ve learned the power of having someone to walk beside me……..and to just be there!  Often I have cried out, “God, please stir someone to pray for me as I have nothing left to give.”

There’s an old Steve Green song that puts it so well —

See all the wounded
Hear all their desperate cries for help
Pleading for shelter and for peace
Our comrades are suffering
Come let us meet them at their need
Don’t let a wounded soldier die

Chorus:
Come let us pour the oil
Come let us bind their hurt
Let’s cover them with a blanket of His love
Come let us break the bread
Come let us give them rest
Let’s minister healing to them
Don’t let another wounded soldier die

Obeying their orders
They fought on the front lines for our King
Capturing the enemy’s stronghold
Weakened from battle
Satan crept in to steal their lives
Don’t let a wounded soldier die

Did you catch that? Obeying orders……for our King.  In real life we recognize that if a soldier in battle is on the front lines, he might be paying the price with his life.  But we fail to see this in the spiritual war.  Instead we judge and analyze the ‘why’ of someone’s situation. We pick apart every move the person makes trying to determine where they are doing something wrong, as if they are choosing to live under constant attack.

Let’s not let others die on our watch. Declare today, “Not on my watch!” Too often ministers, leaders, and  fellow Christians are wearied from the fight due to the battle. They need someone to walk WITH them, and sometimes FOR them. Do you know a single mom fighting to keep food on the table for her kids? Intervene. Pray for help and round up others to stock her pantry. Know a teenager who is being bullied? Pray with them for strength and speak affirmations to them. Know of a minister who is bearing bruises of battle scars? Pick up the phone. Call them and let them know that their ministry matters to you and to God.

Intervene on someone’s behalf. Stand in the gap. Pray. Intercede. Leave no one behind on the battle field bleeding. Fight in the spirit while the warrior is being mended and made whole. Be a battle buddy. After all, we fight better together.

All Inclusive

Highlights and disappoints. Both were seen this past weekend during Mother’s day. For me, it was a full weekend with family events. Yet sitting now and reflecting on our time, it is not just the activity with family that stands out to me. It is also posts and videos. Stories shared by others which left an impact. Family at times is complicated. Messy. Joyous and heartbreaking. But it all becomes a blanket of fabric that has been woven together and wrapped around us.

One post this weekend was from someone I admire, Tracey Mitchell. Tracey and her husband have a ministry headquartered in Dallas. Not only is she a powerhouse speaker, but she also has a writing style that grabs your heart and pulls you into the story. This weekend she had a post that spoke volumes:

As Mother’s Day approaches and pictures of smiling families fill my timeline my mind and emotions drift in countless directions. My heart goes out to the seven-year-old girl who will put on a brave face and battle through feelings of abandonment and rejection. She hasn’t seen her mother in years; may never see her again. My stomach feels tied in knots when I think of the young woman whose husband was unexpectedly killed last month. This will mark her first holiday as a single parent. She now carries the weight of being mom and dad all rolled into one. Tears begin to form as I think of my dear friend who will be unable to hug her incarcerated son. I cannot tell you the number of sleepless nights she has lost to grief …


Life is messy. Special days aren’t always special. For many, Mother’s Day is a complex time of reflection. It is a mixture of heartfelt memories and pain filled moments. What matters most is not what we have experienced but what we are yet to encounter. Maybe you need to experience the freedom of forgiving someone who wounded you or was simply never there for you. Trust me, the joy that comes with forgiveness is far better than a tear stained past. Maybe you need to bridge the gap in a distant or strained relationship. The initial step is always the hardest. Be brave. Be bold. Be daring enough to make the first move. Motherhood is not limited to birthrights or DNA. A mother is anyone who helped birth a better you. As you take a trip down memory lane pause and thank the women who supported you, defended you, created space for you and loved you unconditionally. Celebrate them. Love them. Honor them.

Such powerful truth! This is a Mother’s day message I have spoken on before. I can still see the faces of moms in one church I was speaking at who had lost kids to death. And the woman who was barren due to her husband’s cancer. Too often on Mother’s day we forget those women and they sit in our services hurting or feeling ‘not enough.’ But God makes His acceptance all inclusive and loves to show us creative ways bring this balance to our ministry.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Proverbs 31:31 NIV

Another post that grabbed my heart was from my own daughter, Lauren Nelson. Although she has a son almost three and another who is just eight months old, God told her to go to Haiti. Alone. He was calling her to ‘come away’ with Him. After much struggle and tears to leave her babies, she obeyed. While planning the trip, she decided to surprise the other eleven kids that she has mothered in Haiti. The video of those surprised kids was priceless!

There were other posts that spoke as well. A niece who is a stepmom. A friend rejoicing over reconciled relationships. And the silent posts – those empty spaces where many hid from ‘mom notes’ which would be a reminder of abuse or neglect.

Yes. May has become a month for moms. But let’s not forget to minister to ALL women and recognize the spiritual moms among us. May our churches and lives be all inclusive when showing gratitude to those who serve among us. Honor the women who have chosen to foster, adopt, or just be that mom chosen by our hearts. And if that is who you are, we honor you as well for taking the step to mom whoever comes in your path.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxVSXEvHsjH/?igshid=1hddi7089q86b

Embrace the Moment

May has arrived! And with that comes thoughts of spring flowers, kids finishing their school year, and Mother’s day. For some, Mother’s day brings families together to share love and memories. For others, they feel the emptiness in their life due to losing their mom to eternity. Still others choose to hide on that day because their memories bring pain of an abusive or abandoned childhood. But in each situation, God chooses to hold us and teach us to make Him our first love – even above our earthly family.

One of the greatest joys I have had in life so far is that of being a mom. My outlook for raising my kids was to catch each possible moment I could with my children individually. I loved having them next to me while working in the garden. During those times I would teach about the death and burial of a seed in order for us to later enjoy the beauty of the flowers.

Now that they are adults starting their own families, it still amazes me how quickly it seems that time has passed by. But the memories we made as a family are treasures to hold.

When thinking back on the younger years of my kids, one of the sweetest moments that comes to mind was the evening my oldest son could no longer contain his true feelings. At the time we were on staff as youth/young adult pastors. One of the college age young men had come over to assist my husband in painting the house. After staying over for supper, my husband needed to drive him home as he had no car. Thinking of giving me a quiet moment and time to clean the kitchen, he decided to load our three kids in the car and take them along.

Once the door was shut, I turned to the dishes in the sink and began the task of seeing each one cleaned. Within minutes, our door flew open. In walked my 6-year-old son with alligator tears rolling down his cheeks. The door shut solidly behind him as he plopped down on the couch and continued crying.

My mind was whirling. What could possibly have happened to change him from laughter and smiles to tears so quickly? When he finally paused long enough to talk, all he could say was, “I like dad. But I love you!”

My heart melted. This young boy had found a way to let me know his heart for me was more than for dad or a ride in the car. He put aside time with his dad, who he enjoyed having fun with, because of his love for me. Dishes were forgotten. It was time to put aside the duty of cleaning and sit with my son enjoying a movie.

It is the same with God. He longs to hear us say, “But I love You more!” And as we make that statement and choose time with Him over other things, He, too, will shower us with His love and presence.

“Therefore, let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…….. Hebrews 12:1

Today, let’s embrace each possible moment with our Heavenly Father. That might mean putting other things aside – even good things – to show Him we love Him more. But every moment with Him will be a treasure held for eternity.

Our crazy family! Love each of them!

He Folded the Garment

“Where have they taken my Lord?”

Mary’s heart was broken at the loss of her teacher……the one who had changed her life. And now, not only had she watched Him die, but the guards at His tomb were gone…..and so was His body.

She had gotten to the tomb early and what she found left her wounded heart bleeding more. The body, the one earthly connection she still had to her Teacher was gone. In her grief, she didn’t notice the folded garment. In her Jewish roots, she knew this to be a sign that a person was coming again. But her grief shielded the truth that was so delicately folded before her.

But then she heard a voiced whisper, “Mary.” She knew that voice!!! And He called her name! What joy! What amazing realization that Jesus really had fulfilled every prophecy.

And He called her name. He gave her an assignment, “Go tell……”

It was a new assignment. A new season. It began the breaking forth of the early church.

Today, He is still calling our names. He still has an assignment for all who turn and recognize that Voice.

Don’t let the grief of your season block out the truth of His promises to you. His voice is whispering, and something new is about to be resurrected!!

He did it for me!

Dreamers

“Realists know where they are going. Dreamers have already been there. ” ~~ Robert Orben

I came across the above quote of Robert Orben and it stood out to me as being profound. To dream, to REALLY dream against all odds and not give up, takes faith. To believe that dreams can happen means you can already see it as if you have been there before. 

When someone has a dream, we have a choice to either speak life or death to their dream. Joseph had dreams and his brothers attempted to kill it. But God was the author of the dream so it couldn’t die. If God has birthed a dream within someone’s heart, let’s roll up our sleeves, look them in the face and ask, “Can I run along beside you to help build this dream?”

Disappointment. Hurt. Betrayal. Humiliation. Competition. Comparison. These are all able to kill dreams. 

Affirmation. Love. Acceptance. Believing in someone. These all breathe life into the dreams people carry within the heart. 

Let’s take the dream journey with people today. Let’s speak life until we see their dreams take flight. Agree with the dream God paints for yourself and for others. Speak it forth for the sake of others.