Thursday, October 16, 2014

For A Moment

Today I'm sharing a guest post by my friend Shelley Fisher. 
Shelley is a Wife, Mom to four boys (God bless her) and teaches in Christian Child Care. She has a heart for children and for sharing the love of Jesus with them whenever she can. I'm excited to share a bit of her heart with you here today. 

“We do not see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.  To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment." -Lisa Delpit
This quote rings especially true for me as a Christian believer and how my beliefs affect me as a teacher and as a parent.   
My beliefs not only dictate how I behave personally, but how I interact with children overall.  Teaching children is an extremely high calling and one God takes very seriously.  He places a huge emphasis on this, as He himself said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  
He also states in Luke 17:2, “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin.”  In literal terms, this means to show children the love of Jesus, bring them to Him in the light of our own love and belief in Him, and do not harm them in any way that will cause them to sin.  Sin, in this instance, means to cause them to not believe because our actions prove He is not who He says he is.  
Unbelief is a sin in and of itself… blasphemy.  This command is given to every “teacher” of children...any person who has ever encountered or engaged a child has the opportunity to positively or negatively impact their lives forever.  That’s a long time.   
I work in a Christian childcare center and so I am able to exercise my beliefs in an open environment.  
I’ve also worked in a secular childcare on many occasions where my beliefs are not openly accepted.  To put my beliefs “on hold” is to deny my God and “cease to exist as ‘myself’”.   Even “for a moment” can be life altering to a little one.  I haven’t been allowed to pray during mealtimes with them, read bible stories to them, or, in most cases, even say “Jesus loves you.”  
But…I can for myself.  
I can bow my head and pray for my food quietly.  
I can bring my bible and read during quiet time or lunch break.  
I don’t have to push my beliefs on anyone.  
I simply have to be myself and they will see Him in me.   
Even still, I can show them His love for them through my love for them.  I can pray for them as I go through my day with each one.  I can look for those special moments as I sit and play or dine or even through toilet training, that I can smile, laugh, talk and just be completely devoted to them even if… “For a moment.”  A brief moment in time, that hopefully will plant a seed and they will remember me and see Him.  
Because I wasn’t called to see through my eyes or hear through my ears, I’m called to see children through His eyes and through His ears.  
And so here, I confess, I have blown it.  I’ve blown it big time, both personally and professionally.  
I’ve had bad days.  I’ve said things under my breath and out loud in the confines of my own home.  
I’ve “ceased to exist” around those who I love, who love me, and with the children God has entrusted to me.  
Such a contradiction, isn’t it?  Here I say it’s unacceptable, yet I’ve done it on many occasions and even willingly in the heat of the moment.   
But, I’m not perfect.  I’ve never claimed to be.   I’m a sinner, like anyone else.  So, how do I reconcile that?  
Simple.  I understand and allow the children to see that part of me too. It’s not something I’m proud of or that I like about myself, but it is part of my nature and part of theirs, as well.   Because I do blow it, and so will they.  I do yell at times, and so will they.  I don’t want to share, or obey or honor my father and mother always, and neither will they.  
I teach them by my imperfection, that to be human, is to be imperfect.  But, I’m also able to show them that adults act like fools sometimes, and that adults, too, need to be sorry and ask forgiveness… even by the little children.  
 “For it is by Grace we are saved, through faith, and this is not of ourselves- but a gift from God” and it is by Grace that I intend to lead them. 
It is by Grace I’ve been saved and it is by Grace that I lead them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Definition of You (and Me)

What is it that defines you?

Think about it.

What do the lines that draw the box of your life say about you?

We all have them.

These boxes.

Our 'safe' zones.

Imaginary lines that surround us in the comfort of our personal definitions.

Because that's what they are - personal, imaginary, comforting............limiting.

Are you defined by your pants size?

Your hair color?

Your acne scars?

Your waistline?

Your height, weight, shoe size, curvy, short, tall, skinny, big nose, small ears, round belly, ripped abs?

Or maybe you are self-defined by your college degree, or lack thereof.

Your salary?

Your job title?

Your office size, cubicle space, locker or desk drawers?

Your bank balance, unpaid bills, new car, old clunker, 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedroom house with a 2 car garage and a white picket fence or your cardboard home under the bridge?

How about your kids?

Your husband? Wife?

Do their accomplishments or failures define you?

Does their status or grades describe what makes you unique?

The truth is that none of these things, or any other labels we apply, define who we are.

We like to think they do and we've become very skilled at wrapping ourselves up in the pretty patterned paper or plain brown wrapper of perception.

The truth is that sometimes we cling to the comfort of our self-definition - even when it hurts - because it's easier and more familiar to us than the beauty and freedom offered by the definition of our Maker.

Our Creator.

The one who spoke us into existence.

God Almighty.

This is how He defines you (and me):

we are "...fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14

we are " his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

we are "...God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved...." Colossians 3:12

don't miss this "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..." 1 John 3:1

When I see how we are defined by God, when I read the love He has for us in the words He's spoken to us, I have to ask myself how much longer can I thumb my nose at Him and say:

"I don't believe you."

"You're wrong."

"I'm not good enough."

"I'm not smart, pretty, funny, thin.......worthy."

I really don't want to be defined by the perceptions of the world around me anymore, I want to be defined by who God says I am -

"fearfully and wonderfully made"

" His own image"

"dearly loved"

"child of God".

It's time to re-draw the lines of my box.

Time to break out of the limits and barriers I've placed around myself and allow the story that God has written about me to be the truth that defines me.

Psalm 45:11 says:

"Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord."

Define myself, or honor my Lord.

What will be your choice?

With a Courageous Heart,


Friday, September 26, 2014

Because - A Five Minute Friday Post

It's been a while hasn't it?
I've not met you here since the beginning of August and honestly, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find my voice again.
But I'm back and I'm staying and it has made my heart infinitely happy today to write again.

Today I used the word prompt from the Five Minute Friday Blog.
It was perfect for what was tumbling around in my heart and my head this morning.

I was chatting with a friend today about extending grace. 

Giving grace to someone when we don’t want to. 

And not just the ordinary don’t want to, but the digging in our heels, gritting our teeth, fighting with everything in us to not have to be the grace-giver. 

It’s hard isn’t it? 
So very hard to be graceful to someone who has hurt you deeply. 
Someone who continues to hurt you deeply even when they’ve beaten you up and left your heart in a broken, bloody mess on the ground. 

We may never know what drives someone to lash out in anger. 

To deliberately cause pain to another, especially those they claim to love. 
To enjoy the power and control that their words and actions have over our hurting hearts. 

But as much as it hurts us, as much as it grieves our soul, Jesus says we are to extend grace. 

To forgive and continue forgiving. 

Why Lord would you want me to show grace to someone who has hurt me so deeply? 

Because, He says, you know what grace extended can do to change a life. 

It changed yours. 

With a Courageous Heart,

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fill - A Five Minute Friday Post

It's a challenge to sit down and write. To create pictures in the mind from words on a page, from the heart. It's even more of a challenge to explain it all in just Five minutes.
Once again I've stepped out of my comfort zone and written based on the word prompt from the Five Minute Friday Challenge. I invite you to walk with me today and see if you can envision what I'm seeing in my mind's eye.
Soli Deo Gloria

I fill the hours of my days with tasks that carry me from place to place.
In and out of doors.
Up and down stairs and roads and emotions.

Each day starts with my mind filling up with ideas and plans and dreams, almost all to be left behind in the aftermath of my place to place.
My in and out.
My up and down.

I want to be filled with You, Lord.
Filled to the brim with your grace.
Your peace.
Your purpose.

Too often I am filled with everything but....

Fill me up today Lord.
Fill me with vision to see what you see.
Fill me with heart to love what you love.
Fill me with more of you Lord.

Empty me of......

With a Courageous Heart,

 "For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." 
 - Psalm 107:9 (ESV)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Begin - A Five Minute Friday Post

As a writer, it's always good to challenge yourself, to step out of your comfort zone and explore the new, so today I've taken the challenge - to write a blog post based on a journaling prompt in just 5 minutes. I've set my timer and we're gonna see what happens.
Ready? (Click HERE to visit Five Minute Friday)

That's the prompt, BEGIN.

2014 has been full of new beginnings for me and for my family. I've been making a real effort, most of the time, to stop and be still and to listen to God's whisper as He guides us through these beginnings.

I'm not always successful at the listening part, definitely not the be still part, but it's a process, right?
I begin.

I start, I plan, I get ready, set, GO!
And I get sidetracked, derailed, off pace - distracted by those "squirrel" moments.
It's human nature I suppose, to allow yourself to be sidetracked from your beginnings. From your set goals.

Human nature and fear.
And that's the truth of it.
Somewhere along the line, I allow the doubts and 'I can't' moments to creep in on the truth of God's voice and his word in my life and my beginnings become stalled.

Today, I begin again.
Once more.....

“But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."
- Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT) 

With a Courageous Heart, 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Truth is Never Grey

"And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32

Right this minute, in the living room of a suburban home somewhere in America, a family is falling apart.
And they aren't even aware.

There's a fit for prime-time show on the flat-screen tv, but no one in this family is paying any attention to it.
Because even though they are all together in one room, they are each wrapped up in their own private entertainment choices.

The husband is sitting in his chair in the corner, viewing a movie on his laptop. He has his ear buds in place, preventing anyone from hearing the sound but himself.
The wife is curled up on her end of the couch reading a popular paperback novel and their 15 year old daughter is on the other end of the couch, smartphone in hand, reading fan-fiction she's found on the internet.

A typical, modern day family, right?
Spending a quiet evening at home together.
Quality time, some would say.
But it's the secrets this family is keeping that are tearing it apart.

You see, this husband is cheating on his wife.
The wife is cheating on her husband and their daughter is damaging her future marriage before she's even thought about saying "I do".

What's even more concerning is that this could be any family, in any home, in any neighborhood, anywhere in America today.

It could even be yours.

How do I know?

Because at different times, the parts of this scenario have taken place in my home.
In my family.
In my life.

And if you think it can't or won't happen in your family, then you're kidding yourself.

It's time we had a talk.
And it's time we stopped believing the lies being fed to us by a culture that has chosen to ignore truth. Lies that convince us that wrong is right and cause us to stubbornly defend our poor choices.
Choices that don't honor the God of the universe who created us to be so much more than what we have become.

Yesterday I posted a blog link on my personal Facebook page that got a bit of attention.
It was a commentary written by popular conservative blogger Matt Walsh and addressed the latest darling pet of the entertainment world - the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (Click HERE to view his commentary.)

If you've been alive and over the age of 7 since the initial book was released, my guess is that you've at least heard of this book, it's two sequels and now, predictably, the upcoming Hollywood movie.
But in case you've been living under a rock over the past several years - allow me to enlighten you.
It's not a decorating book, or design publication extolling the virtues of the color Grey.

It's a book about sado-masochistic sex between two unmarried people; an 'experienced' dominating male figure and a young female college graduate.
And that's probably the least offensive way to describe it.
According to a February 16, 2014 article in the Hollywood Reporter, the sales of the trilogy have topped 100 million dollars worldwide. In addition, the original book was listed at #18 in the Nielsen Book Scan Top 20 for 2013.
That's 2 years after it's initial print publication.
I'd say that it's pretty popular, wouldn't you?
However, as we all know, being popular doesn't mean it has redeeming value.

I'm not writing today to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of this particular book.
In fact, I haven't read the book.
However, I have read many 'romance novels' over the course of my lifetime, many of which dipped their 'literary' toes into these waters.
Starting with Harlequin Romance novels when I was 13.

That may seem awfully young to some of you, but consider this - today's children are being exposed to hard-core pornography as early as age 7. Any child who has access to the internet in any form is likely to have been exposed to some type of pornographic image or writing. And sadly, for many of our children, this initial exposure is leading to addictions and behaviors that are damaging their moral compass and leading to a lifestyle that can only bring regret and shame.

If you've read my own story (click HERE if you have not), then you know how my poor choices affected me and my loved ones. And truly, it's only by the awesome grace of our loving God that I am still here to write this today.
But as I've looked back, I realize that it was the unrealistic expectations that those 'romance' novels created in my mind that caused me to look for similar ideals in my own relationships.
The mystery of tall, dark and handsome coming to sweep me off my feet and make me feel like the woman I was meant to be was seductive to an awkward and unpopular teenage girl.
In truth, not so much.
For me that led to losing my innocence at the age of 14 and an unexpected pregnancy and my first abortion at the age of 17.
Not so romantic after all. 

Let's fast forward to what is happening today.
When our young daughters - and I say WHEN because it is happening, don't be fooled - when our daughters read the material in 50 Shades of Grey, and books like it, what ideals are being planted in their impressionable minds?
Minds that are already being told by the media that they are not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not sexy enough unless they meet an unrealistic standard set by a culture that has no moral standard.
Is Christian Grey this generation's mystery man?
Is sado-masochistic sex this generation's romance?
God have mercy on our children if that's true.

And how about you Mom?
And you Wife?
Have you read this book, or others like it?
Can you honestly say that the scenes you have created in your mind out of what you've read haven't appeared again when you are spending time with your husband in the confines of your bedroom?
Because that's what 'literature' of this type is intended to do - or so the authors tell us.
As my daughter's boyfriend commented on my Facebook post yesterday - "It's porn aimed at girls. It's the same thing as videos and images aimed at guys." "Girls function a different way than guys, therefore porn is going to look different."
If a 17 year old young man understands this, why ladies, can't we?

Let's take a look at what Ms. E.L. James herself says about her books.
In an article published in the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain - 4/18/12, quoting Ms. James:
"[she] describes her novel as a ‘romantic fantasy story’, which offers women a ‘holiday' from their husbands."

Listen up Christian women - I'm talking to YOU here.  
Is this what we are about? 
Taking a 'holiday' from our husbands?  
If that's the case then it's no surprise to me that the divorce rate within the church is higher than that of the unchurched.
Why do we believe that what we do in secret won't eventually come out in the light of day? 
Do you want to destroy your marriages? 
Go for it. 
For the cost of a Chick-Fil-A combo meal, you can download this 'romantic' drivel onto your e-reader and start the process. 

No one will suspect a thing until one day your sex life with your husband is no longer satisfying enough. 
One day you'll wonder what's wrong with him. 
And the next day you might start looking twice at the fellow in the cubicle next to you at work. 
And how many days will pass before you pick up the phone and make an appointment with your attorney?
You want a 'holiday' from your husband? 
Well, according to Ms. James, you can have it by reading her book.
It's just entertainment, right? 
You should be able to read what you want without being shamed for it, right?

Let's consider something else ladies, why are we hurt and disappointed when our husbands look at pornographic videos and images when we ourselves are reading pornographic stories? 
Is there really a difference in the result?
The medium is different certainly - images versus words - but as my daughter's boyfriend so accurately pointed out, "Girls function differently..."
We know this, it's nothing new; men are visually stimulated by what they see; women are emotionally stimulated by what they read. 
Quoting my Pastor: "When men are addicted to sex, they are scum bags, adulterers and perverts. When women are addicted to sexual content, it's art, women's rights, and love. I'm not shouting double standard, I just see a need for ladies to protect their hearts." 

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." - Proverbs 4:23

What Ms. James and other authors of her ilk have done is simply wrapped up deviant sex acts in a pretty 'romance' story that captures our hearts and sadly, we take the bait.
Hook, line and sinker. 
Problem is, we get caught on that fish hook, find that we can't wriggle away so easily and then spend a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves that being there isn't so bad after all as we get reeled in towards a certain demise. 

You know, because it's your life, right? 
It's not illegal, is it? 
It doesn't hurt anyone, does it? 
It's just entertainment, right?  

Hmm, isn't that the same justification husbands use when they are watching that movie on their laptop in the corner of the living room? 
"No one can see what I'm watching." 
"I'm not hurting anyone."
"I still love my wife."

Do you honestly believe that when you are enjoying intimacy with your husband that the images he's ingested don't come flashing across the flat screen in his mind? 
Because they do. 
And because of the magic of photoshop, the more visual stimulation they ingest, the more you come up lacking. 

You won't suspect a thing until he stops desiring those intimate moments with you. 
Because he's wondering what's wrong with you
He's finding the new intern at the office very attractive. 
And one day, he's picking up the phone to call his attorney. 

But, it's just entertainment, right?

There was another quote by Ms. James in the same article that really captured my attention. Let's take a look: 
"The only two people she has refused to share the book with are her sons. ‘Thank God, they don’t want to read it,’ she says. ‘They’re very proud of my success, but it’s not for them to read.’

That gave me pause, and it should you as well. 
If she doesn't want her teenage sons to read her book, then why would we want to read it? 
If it's too much for her teenagers in a world where sex sells and morals and truth have taken a back seat to personal gratification with no limits, shouldn't it be too much for adults? 
Those of us who are purportedly raising the next generation of leaders?

Sadly, if you aren't aware already, I need to enlighten you - our teenagers are already reading it. 
Not only are they reading this book and books like it, they are reading hard-core porn on the internet everyday. 
How do I know? 
Because my own beautiful daughter was caught in that trap - at the age of 15. 

And if you think it can't or won't happen to your daughter, or your son, think again.
In a home where both parents have a law enforcement background; where the tightest controls possible were on our internet; where our rules for her smartphone included random checks of content and messaging, our daughter was able to read hard-core pornographic fan-fiction on her phone and completely hide it from us for months.
And if that doesn't break your heart, then you don't have one.

Listen, Christian ladies, and yes, this post is for YOU because as Christians, we are held up to a Holy standard. A standard we can't expect the world around us to understand or uphold until their lives are invaded by the same Jesus who bled and died for each of us.

As Christians, we claim to believe the Bible. We claim to believe that it is God's Holy word, his love letter to us. His sacred text that is just as true and relevant as it was when he breathed it into life through his scribes.
So if we as Christian women believe in Jesus, believe that we are held to a Holy standard and believe that God's word is true, then why do we choose to ignore the parts of it that so clearly define God's perfect design for our homes, our marriages, our families and our standards.

In the article I shared yesterday, Matt Walsh quoted several passages of scripture that cannot be mistaken in their intent. Yet many of the commenters on his article chose to not defend and uphold the scripture, but instead chose to defend the book and it's contents and someone's right to read it.
Call it what you will, but I call it justification and it has no place in the Christian life.

Ya' know, I'm not pointing fingers at you without pointing one back at myself - none of us are innocent of sin, the least of all me.
But when we as Christian women chose to follow Jesus, we also made a choice to follow his teachings and his word.
Even though I fail him every day, I don't ever want to thumb my nose at his holiness or make a conscious choice to live in and defend the very sin that put him on the cross to die for me.
To do that is so much more than an insult, it's blasphemy and it's tragic and you can't call yourself a Christ follower if this is the way you choose to live.

To some of you, that may be harsh, it may sound judgmental (but please remember that I'm putting myself in this mix too - I'm forgiven, not innocent).
But there are no Grey areas in scripture.

The truth is there to see in Black and White.
The question is, what do you choose to see?

With a Courageous Heart,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Much?

 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" 
- Ecclesiastes 3:1

There's a lot on my "to do" list today.
Too much.
Way more than I'll ever get done today.
I stare at that piece of paper and practically burn a hole through it with my gaze. It's almost paralyzing because there is no clear starting point in the chaos.
That "to do" list is like an annoying splinter in my finger - painful with no relief until it's gone.

And yet, could it also be like a badge of honor I'm carrying around?
Don't we spend copious amounts of time comparing our busy-ness with others?
"Wow, you're so busy, but you'll never believe what I have to get done...."

Yes, it's the game of one-up between Moms and Wives and Friends the world over. 
I think we secretly love our "to do" lists. 
Love the rush we get when we compare notes and realize that we are WAY busier that our friends. 

We love the fact that we are obviously needed more, we can accomplish more - since we have SO much to do, and we are way more important because of it. 


You know, that's a lie. 
A big, fat, juicy, throw it on the grill, cook it and eat it kind of lie.
And we fall for it. 
Every. Single. Time.

Want to know why? 
Because we are filling up the empty space that pride has left behind with busy-ness. 
Busy work to distract us from what's really important. 
Stuff that we think if we don't get a jump-start on will overtake us and overwhelm us. 
Tasks that if we can manage to complete them will finally give us the super-woman cape we've secretly been craving. 

We idolize that "to do" list because it makes us feel important and needed and special. And if ours is longer or more complex - we idolize it more. 

On Sunday, the guest pastor at our church was speaking about how God hears our prayers in spite of the sin issues in our life. 
His last point was "in spite of - Service to Idols". 
He asked, "Do you know what your idols are?"
"Do you recognize them?"

Good questions. 
Very good questions.
So, I asked God about that yesterday. 

Is my "to do" list my idol? 
Having too much to do?

How often am I too busy for you?
How many times do I say "I'll pray later?"
How often do I read a devotion or listen to music and call that my "quiet time"? 

I push you away God - YOU. The most important presence in my life. 
The One I claim holds my life together. 

Reality is an embarassing truth - I fit in time with you and in your word when I can manage it
When I have time
When the conditions are perfect

This is so humbling. 

You managed to find time to DIE for me. 
You had time to reach out to me and offer me new life.
And considering how messed up my life was - the conditions were less than perfect. 

But you did it anyway - 
because YOU love me. 

So the question becomes, "How much do I love you, God?"
More than my "to do" list?

With a Courageous Heart,